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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

A scene from <em>L’Italiana in Algeri</em> [Photo by Christian Dresse courtesy of Opéra Municipal de Marseille]
15 Jan 2013

L’Italienne à Alger in Marseille

Once a mainstay of the repertory L’Italiana in Algeri now usually gives way to Il Turco in Italia when an opera company wants to give Il barbiere di Sivigllia and La cenerentola a rest.

L’Italienne à Alger in Marseille

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: A scene from L’Italiana in Algeri

Photos by Christian Dresse courtesy of Opéra Municipal de Marseille

 

So a new production of this first flower of Rossini’s comic maturity was very welcome news.

In recent years the Rossini Festival at not-too-far-away Pesaro has focused on very early and very late Rossini, from the first silly commedia dell’arte farces that manage a trio or quartet once in awhile to the mature comedies that are dramatically so complex that the comedy genre collapses into grand act finales of septets at the minimum, with internal quintets and sextets that further complicate relationships. L’Italiana manages a modest sextet to close the first act and allows the pappataci quartet to grow to a brief sextet at the opera’s end. The extended, masterful sextet finales of Il barbiere will arrive three years later.

There was the wonderful just now in Marseille. Italian conductor Giuliano Carella was in the pit. This fifty-seven year old maestro, music director of the Opéra de Toulon and frequent guest in Marseille and Monte Carlo, is one of the treasures of opera in the south of France. As well he makes the rounds of the more prestigious European stages for the bel canto repertory, not to mention the Bellini Festival in Catania.

That he is a master Rossinian as well was apparent from the first moments of Rossini’s overture — an unrushed fleetness, a lightness that would lead anywhere, like the witty interplay of the oboe and piccolo that made you feel the pure joy of making music.

Then the singing, the repeated ragings of an Algerian emir named Mustafa (fed up with a clinging concubine) where the maestro’s ample tempos allowed magnificent fioratura to rip forth. And it all came together in the end with the zany quartet in which Mustafa is made a pappataci (it’s a joke, no one, most of all Mustafa, is sure what a pappataci is), the plot complexities became musical complexities, the confusion became total and the maestro brought it all together into a joyful froth that was pure music. The great Rossini.

IMG_6012.gifFrédéric Antoun as Lindoro, Alex Esposito as Mustafa and Marie-Ange Todorovitch as Isabella

And there was the weird. French mezzo-soprano Marie Ange Todorovitch was the Isabella. Mme. Todorovitch is one of the treasures of the Opéra de Marseille, recently in Henri Sauguet’s Chartreuse de Parme as Stendhal’s splendid Dutchess of Sanseverina inappropriately in love with her young nephew Fabrice, as the cowardly Mother Marie in Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites, and upcoming as Clytemnestra in Elektra. So it was a huge stretch to embody Rossini’s sex-bomb Isabella (role debut apparently) even though Mme. Todorovitch’s roles have included about everything else in her long career.

Mme. Todorovitch possesses a large, roundly mature mezzo-soprano voice with, therefore, minimal flexibility though she did manage a bit of fioratura at mezza voce. Her needed effort to do so deprived Rossini of the joyful unleashing of florid technique that make these passages sheer musical delirium. Unfortunately Mme. Todorovitch’s performance severely dampened the verve that had been established initially by the maestro, by the accomplished Italian Rossini bass Alex Esposito as Mustafa and by the excellent Canadian tenor Frédéric Autoun as Lindoro. Make no mistake, la Todorovitch is an estimable artist. She was flagrantly, inexplicably miscast.

The new production, shared with Avignon, was created by Italian stage director Nicola Berloffa whose major credits seem to be assisting important Italian directors at major theaters. He successfully staged Rossini's Voyage à Reims performed by entry level artists that made the rounds of French stages a few years ago. But here Mr. Berloffa made the usual mistakes perpetrated by directors who do not commune with the comic muse. Mr. Berloffa confounded Rossini fioratura with too bright colors, with busy, cute decor and with catchy staging conceits (chorus and stage hands in drag, among others) that at first glance may be amusing but pall as the evening wears on. Not trusting Rossini to provide the theatrical energy Mr. Berloffa demanded that his actors constantly move and gesture. And as a bonus the action was arbitrarily updated, at least in part, to the flapper era, perhaps so that Mr. Berloffa, who designed the costumes as well, could provide a flashy red flapper dress for Mme. Todorovitch to wear during the finale.

Besides the conducting the evening did have two other quite considerable pleasures — the Mustafa of Alex Esposito was energetically sung in consummate Rossini style. Evidently a committed collaborative artist Mr. Esposito gave his all to realize Mr. Berloffa’s hyped-up stage direction. Tenor Frédéric Antoun as Lindoro, the lost lover Isabella stumbles upon in Algeria, is a cooler performer who struck a less strident tone on the stage. He delivered the brilliant coloratura and hit all the high notes with infectious ease in warm, even tones that prove a Rossini tenor can in fact have a beautiful voice and still be exciting.

Uhm, did I miss the point? Maybe there was a well hidden concept that Isabella was supposed to be a woman in mid-life crisis who conjured for herself a fantasy fling with two fine young singers. Unfortunately she would have had to hold up her end of the deal.

Win some, lose some.

Michael Milenski


Cast

Isabella: Marie-Ange Todorovitch; Elvira: Eduarda Melo; Zulma: Carol García; Mustafa: Alex Esposito; Lindoro: Frédéric Antoun; Taddeo: Marc Barrard; Haly: Patrick Delcour. Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra de Marseille. Conductor: Giuliano Carella; Stage Director: Nicola Berloffa; Set Design: Rifail Ajdarpasic; Costume Design: Nicola Berloffa; Lighting: Gianluca Antolini. Opéra de Marseille, January 2, 2013.

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):