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Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
16 Jan 2013
A Noteworthy Chicago Revival of Don Pasquale
In its recent run of Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale Lyric Opera of Chicago has taken the 1973 production from Covent Garden, via Dallas Opera, and revivified it with the efforts of an excellent cast and the local directorial debut of British bass-baritone Sir Thomas Allen.
The title role and Doctor Malatesta were sung by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo and Corey Crider respectively, each making his role debut in these performances. Soprano Marlis Petersen performed the role of Norina and her beloved Ernesto was taken by tenor René Barbera. Stephen Lord conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra with the Chorus prepared by Martin Wright.
During the orchestral prelude to the performance the lines delineating melodies associated with individual characters were nicely shaped. Don Pasquale’s opening monologue, in which he comments on his imminent meeting with Malatesta and plans for his nephew Ernesto, could have been fully appreciated if the orchestra had played its accompaniment less forte. From the start D’Arcangelo’s demeanor and conception of the role of Don Pasquale were not only dramatically but also vocally convincing. Equally suited to his part on both grounds is Corey Crider as Dr. Malatesta. When he describes the bride whom he has found for the aging gentleman, Mr. Crider inflects the word “angelo” with a rich, baritonal resonance while further executing accomplished runs in his aria “Bella siccome un angelo.” Both performers show an inborn sense of comic timing in their delivery of lines and interaction. When left alone Pasquale reveled in the prospects of his “angelic” bride, while Mr. Crider’s Malatesta watched through a curtained window in self-satisfied approval of the forthcoming masquerade. In a subsequent exchange Pasquale’s nephew Ernesto refuses to abandon his beloved Norina although he faces the prospect of disinheritance by the old gentleman. When Ernesto now learns of his uncle’s plan to marry, with the unexpected assistance provided by Dr. Malatesta, his disappointment is unleashed in the aria “Sogno soave e casto.” Barbera demonstrated a sure sense of legato in his approach, whereas individual pitches could be softened in order to express the fervor of Ernesto’s plight.
The following lengthy scene of Act One offered both Ms. Petersen and Mr. Crider the opportunities to delineate their characters through musical decoration. After Norina’s introductory “So anch’io la virtù magica,” which Ms. Petersen embellished with exquisite, light touches, Malatesta introduces his plan to fool Don Pasquale. Malatesta quiets her initial misgivings due to Ernesto’s emotional quandary and wins Norina over to the masquerade. As she agrees to play the part of Malatesta’s sister and supposedly marry Pasquale in a contrived ceremony, Norina declares “Pronta io son” at the start of their duet. Petersen and Crider here joined in a bel canto synthesis with Malatesta’s declarations of “Brava” ringing out in decorative anticipation of the comedy to be staged.
At the start of Act Two Ernesto’s well-known scene beginning “Povero Ernesto” was touchingly sung by Barbera. Since he has not yet been informed of the ruse, the nephew laments his loss of Norina and plans to leave Rome forever. Barbera invested his line with a graceful piano on “sorte,” then sang his cabaletta with a spirit of determination. At the entrance of Malatesta with the bride, now named “Sofronia,” Don Pasquale is eager to impress the naïve maiden. In this production Sofronia concealed herself demurely behind a screen, a hiding place to which Pasquale will later have access when fleeing his bride whom he can no longer control. The trio “Fresca uscita di convento” was used to enhance the comedic exchange and to tempt Don Pasquale yet further. Here Petersen’s runs were especially well executed, in this way using her voice to add to the character’s attractiveness. At the start of the marriage ceremony Ernesto’s arrival nearly spoils the ruse until he is warned off by the clever Malatesta. From this point until the start of the final scene in the opera comedy is paramount for among the principals only the duped Pasquale will continue to take his altered domestic life seriously. The quartet concluding the act showed a transformed Sofronia already making extravagant orders to improve the household, while Mr. Crider’s excellent passagework continued to guide the charade with masterful vocal control.
As Act Three begins the chorus of servants issues its comments on the new lifestyle in Don Pasquale’s domain. Throughout this scene D’Arcangelo showed his talents especially at acting and singing the part of an emotionally wounded signor without resorting in the least to buffo cliché. The confrontation between alleged spouses leads to Sofronia proclaiming her momentary dominance with a slap to Don Pasquale’s face. At this point the screen provided refuge to D’Arcangelo’s Pasquale as he sought escape from the wife whose acquaintance he now regrets. The final chapter in the charade is set in motion by Sofronia: upon leaving the house after the altercation with her husband, she drops a note intentionally from a presumed lover in which an assignation at night in the garden is suggested. Don Pasquale, no longer cowed and now furious, seeks out Malatesta for counsel, as the chorus, here quite effectively prepared, comments further on the house gone topsy-turvy. During the meeting between Pasquale and Malatesta, in which the gentleman is once again prepared unwittingly to be fooled, D’Arcangelo and Crider sang a model example of the challenging duet “Cheti, cheti, immantinente.”
The final scene indeed rights relationships as Petersen and Barbera sang an especially moving duet, “Tornami a dir,” in which their voices combined in a rush of emotional commitment. Don Pasquale appears and is compelled, again at the instigation of Malatesta, to give his blessing and financial support to the young couple. Yet in the finale relief and joy were palpable for all, including the now transformed Don Pasquale, at the close of this delightful production.
Click here for cast and production information.