Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Peter Sellars' kinaesthetic vision of Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro

On 24th May I594 just a few weeks before his death on 14 June, the elderly Orlando di Lasso signed the dedication of his Lagrime di San Pietro - an expansive cycle of seven-voice penitential madrigale spirituali, setting vernacular poetry on the theme of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ - to Pope Clement VIII.

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Stockhausen was one of the most visionary of composers, and no more so than in his Licht operas, but what you see can often get in the way of what you hear. I’ve often found fully staged productions of his operas a distraction to the major revelation in them - notably the sonorities he explores, of the blossoming, almost magical acoustical chrysalis, between voices and instruments.

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

L'ubica Vargicová is Marie and Stephen Costello is Tonio [Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz courtesy of San Diego Opera]
06 Feb 2013

Fille du Regiment from San Diego Opera

Born to a very poor family in 1797, Gaetano Donizetti was lucky enough to become the pupil of Johann Simone Mayr, the Maestro di Capella of his native city, who recognized his talent and made sure he received appropriate instruction.

By Maria Nockin

Above: L'ubica Vargicová is Marie and Stephen Costello is Tonio

Photos by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz courtesy of San Diego Opera

 

As a young composer who came from a poor family, he had to accept every possible commission. In 1822, he began to produce light operatic comedies for Naples. Eventually, he began to write more serious works, but he had an immense gift for comedy as evidenced by works such as La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment), L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love), and Don Pasquale. In 1830, he had a major international success in Anna Bolena. After that he was invited to compose in other countries such as France, where the censors seemed easier to please. In 1838 he left Naples for Paris where, two years later, he produced a trio of successful operas to French texts, La Fille du Régiment, Les Martyrs, and La Favorite. He also did an Italian adaptation of La Fille for La Scala. In 1843, the first United States performance of the opera took place in French in New Orleans.

On January 29, 2013, San Diego Opera offered La Fille du Régiment as its first presentation of the season. Emilio Sagi’s production, originally seen at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna, Italy, moved the time of the action from the nineteenth century to the twentieth, just after World War II. Instead of French soldiers in Austria, we saw American soldiers in France. Designer Julio Galán gave us a bombed out bar for Act I, and a luxurious salon for Act II. His costumes included many dull tan army uniforms, but there were more interesting outfits on the nobility in the second act. Slovakian coloratura soprano L’ubica Vargicovà who was seen in San Diego previously as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, sang Marie. She has also sung the Queen of the Night in Los Angeles Opera’s The Magic Flute, so Marie’s high notes and fioritura held no terrors for her. She sang with great precision and showed excellent comic timing.

jkw_regiment012413_259.gifEwa Podleś is the Marquise de Birkenfeld

As her lover, Tonio, Stephen Costello once again showed us the warm, bright ringing tones of his tenor voice. San Diego has heard him as Romeo and Faust, but the role of Tonio is much more demanding than either. His virtuosic first act aria ‘Ah, mes amis,’ is well known for its nine high Cs and Costello hit each of them exactly in the center of the note, holding the last one with seeming ease. Naturally, the applause was deafening. For the rest of his role he was a charming lover who sang with exquisite lyric tones.

San Diego has heard Polish Contralto Ewa Podleś before, both in recital and in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, but this was her first foray into comedy there. Vocally, she showed the wide range of her color-filled contralto voice. She was hilariously funny when, wearing a gorgeous dark red costume, she quoted a line from Bizet’s Carmen. At the same time she brought out the Marquise of Berkenfeld’s importance in steering the plot toward its jubilant ending.

Opulent voiced American bass Kevin Burdette was an amusing but believable military officer who eventually won the heart of the most demanding, but secretly lonely, Marquise. Soprano Carol Vaness, who is doing more teaching than singing these days, played the speaking role of the Dutchess of Krakenthorp. It did not keep her from singing a phrase from San Diego’s next presentation, Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, however, and that pleased her many fans in the audience. Malcolm MacKenzie was an entertaining Hortensio and Scott Sikon an impressive Corporal.

jkw_regiment012313_241.gifKevin Burdette is Sgt. Sulpice,L'ubica Vargicová is Marie and Stephen Costello is Tonio

The opera’s chorus under the direction of Charles Prestinari moved as individuals and maintained precise harmonies. In his San Diego Opera debut, Maestro Yves Abel conducted with suave French style that brought out the score’s tonal beauty. His brisk pacing that kept the tension tight. La Fille is best known for its uniquely difficult tenor aria, but it has much more to offer than that high wire act. It is filled with glorious music and charming situations that can be focused to amuse a particular audience. In this case the Act II guests, some of them major donors to the opera, were announced as local royalty to the great amusement of many in the audience who knew them personally. This Donizetti opera is perfection in operatic comedy and it was a wonderful start for San Diego Opera’s 2013 season.

Maria Nockin


Cast and Production

Marie: L’ubica Vargicová; Tonio: Stephen Costello; Marquise de Berkenfeld: Ewa Podleś; Sergeant Sulpice: Kevin Burdette; Corporal: Scott Sikon; Hortensio: Malcolm Mackenzie; Conductor: Yves Abel; Director: Emilio Sagi; Scenic and Costume Designer Julio Galán; Lighting Design: Marie Barrett.

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):