Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Patrizia Ciofi as Isabelle and Bryan Hymel as Robert [Photo by Bill Cooper courtesy of the Royal Opera House]
23 Dec 2012

Subject: Aimez-vous Meyerbeer?

Well, so many don’t nowadays, it appears to me, judging by the critical reception of Robert le Diable at the ROH. Rum-ti-tum? We recall Macbeth, Rigoletto, Trov and even Trav being characterised thus, popular fare but risible or blush- making, yet those works now command the highest respect.

Subject: Aimez-vous Meyerbeer?

A review by Kenneth Brown

Above: Patrizia Ciofi as Isabelle and Bryan Hymel as Robert

Photos by Bill Cooper courtesy of the Royal Opera House

 

True, Meyerbeer lacks the high melodic genius of Verdi, whose every work is both obviously his yet paradoxically also has its own unique sound world; but I think the problem is not that. We are out of sympathy with the social world for which such works were conceived.

BC20121203_RobertLeDiable_8.gifMarina Poplavskaya as Alice and John Relyea as Bertram

Long, leisurely five-acters? Plots elevated to the level of the hieratic? Above all comfortable plushness, with little apparent intellectual bite? All that suited opera audiences of the time, but something more is needed for survival, and you don’t have to listen very hard to discern it. Skill in the construction of a theatre piece, to start with: how different do the two long scenes between Bertram/Raimbaut and Bertram/Alice sound, for instance, reflecting Bertram’s manipulation of each of these victims and their differing reactions (no pushover, she); how each character is delineated through the music, their unfolding scenas certainly not generic as is the libretto; how atmospheric are the orchestral passages, even though perhaps some might long for Weber.

All this would go for naught, of course, without a fine performance. Do you ever have that feeling, when the lights dim and the first notes arise, that all will be well this evening, and there is nowhere else you would rather be? It was that way on Saturday last, softly bathed in pellucid sound (Daniel Oren conducting) perfectly judged for the auditorium, without that muddiness that often tells you you’re in for a sticky ride; above all the singers had the measure of the style: to my ear French display opera has a certain chic restraint, without the glitz of its Italian counterpart, and whilst Damrau would have been starrier, Ciofi (yes, an Italian) was most touching, every cadence perfectly placed. Poplavskaya excelled herself, with an unusual combination of staunchness and thrilling ease; Hymel paid Meyerbeer the compliment of taking him seriously, and was utterly believable in the role, which he made seem child’s play to sing; Relyea has been seriously undervalued, and Jean-Francois Borras was a delightful new discovery for me. And the Chorus excelled themselves.

RobertLeDiable_1180.gifA scene from Robert le Diable

Which brings me to Laurent Pelly’s production. When it comes to the chorus, modern directors seem to model themselves on Eisenstein. Here there is a difference: Pelly’s chorus is sometimes Greek, hovering en masse, but always in articulated geometrical forms — think Pina Bausch dance, where we see individuals impelled however to move in unison. So in Act 1 we see the knights tightly choreographed but moving like lava when the occasion demands; later they assume a diamond formation, as if grouped in a giant boardgame. Sounds odd, maybe, but it has the effect of throwing the main characters into individual relief, and aiding the flow of the plot.

The nuns’ music surprised me (I must have been confusing them with Casanova’s); it is hard to guess what the original movement must have been, but the costumes were closely modelled on lithographs of that time, the music perhaps self-indulgently long and unvaried, the dancers nicely distinguished even if all in the same plight. Only ten, on this big space? I thought; but then the whole chorus flooded on, swamping the stage, even more deshabilles, and equally frantic, in a splendid coup de théâtre. Costumes might well have been taken from contemporary miniatures; settings from prints of the time (the stage department excelled itself in their manipulation).

I came away elated, thinking that the composer had achieved an integrated piece of work on a high level, with that afterglow you get following a really good meal. I guess that’s what the original audiences felt too. Will Meyerbeer catch on? Don’t put money on it. Maybe you have to be a bourgeois Marxist to like it?!

Kenneth Brown

Click here for additional production information.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):