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

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Iréne Theorin a Brünnhilde and Ian Storey as Siegfried [Photo by Monika Rittershaus courtesy of Staatsoper im Schiller Theater]
18 Mar 2013

Götterdämmerung at the Staatsoper Berlin

In the final of scene of Götterdämmerung in a new production at the Staatsoper Berlin, Brünnhilde appears in a flowing pink gown just as the music has modulated and penetrates the hall of the Gibichungs, represented by rows of glowing translucent boxes that preserve the dismembered limbs of their victims.

Götterdämmerung at the Staatsoper Berlin

By Rebecca Schmid

Above: Iréne Theorin a Brünnhilde and Ian Storey as Siegfried

Photos by Monika Rittershaus courtesy of Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

 

She unfastens the ring—here represented as a sequined hand—from the arm of Siegfried’s corpse, and moves regally upstage. When video projections of fire onto a shiny back wall cede to blue swirls of water—the Rhine overflowing after Valhalla has burned to ash—the fading, ghostly image of a woman with her mouth agape hovers like a virtual nightmare. A crowd of Gibichungs, dressed in drab civil suits with touches of barbaric fur, turn toward the back wall and stare at an image of excavated human remains. As their expressions reveal signs of cognizance, a giant replica of the marble relief Human Passions by Jef Lambeaux, a depiction of nude bodies writhing somewhere between heaven and hell, descends and traps the action behind it.

As program notes by the dramaturge Michael Steinberg explain, this image has provided a kind of Leitmotif for the Ring cycle by stage team Guy Cassiers and Enrico Bagnoli, which has unfolded in epic fashion over the past three years in co-production with La Scala. The opening instalment, Das Rheingold, culminated in a video projection of the full image; in Die Walküre, it mutates into a twisting, multi-media pile of bodies. Cassiers, the director, has set out to address globalization in an age of virtual reality and pornographic violence, adopting with Bagnoli a streamlined yet abstract aesthetic. Laser-like red lines that designate warfare in Walküre reappear as the fragile network (or destiny rope) of the Norns in Götterdämmerung, and rows of white spears that serve as a canvas for flickering video projections descend to drive home the notion of human destruction.

While the visual symbolism of Cassiers and Bagnoli is sometimes too conceptual to connect with its intellectual underpinnings—now a black mass which spreads like an expressionist painting when Siegfried makes a blood oath with Günther, now a woman who sticks her computerized tongue out at the audience—the production scores a triumph in the use of light-dark imagery to mirror the archetypal forces at play, underscoring the music rather than overwhelming it with images. The restraint bordered on excessive for the opening scene in the shadowy hall of the Gibichungs, designated by a simple metal wall and a box of glowing limbs, and it took a moment to realize that a group of dancers on their knees behind Siegfried represented Grane, Brünnhilde’s horse. Yet choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was surprisingly effective when the bodies draped themselves in black cloth and transformed into the Tarnhelm, the magic helmet which allows Siegfried to still the ring from Brünnhilde. Costumes by Tim Van Steenbergen, with a modernist take on Lederhosen for the leading Gibichungs and leather motorcycle get-up for Siegfried, add to the dystopic vision.

Goetterdaemmerung_068.gifIan Storey as Siegfried and Marina Poplavskaya as Gutrune with the State Opera Chorus

If the production leans too heavily on the audience’s powers of imagination, Daniel Barenboim, currently music director in both Berlin and Milan, fills the vacuum with the sharpest insight into dramatic nuance. The Staatskapelle swelled and subsided with organic ease as the score soared from subterranean tunnels to celestial plains, mutating like the ring’s magical forces to accommodate each singer. Irène Theorin, the cycle’s Brünnhilde in all instalments, threatened to burst the walls of the Schiller Theater when her seasoned Wagnerian soprano broke out from its round timbre into a screech, but she inhabited the role of the mortalized goddess with an affecting blend of dignity, hysteria and vengeance. In the role of Siegfried, Ian Storey, a tenor of higher vintage than the previous installment’s Lance Ryan last fall, struggled with a wobble in the opening scenes but warmed up to give an indomitable performance of the hero before he is stabbed in the back by Hagen. As the evil Gibichung, Russian bass Mikhail Petrenko was an increasingly ominous presence, spitting out his words with villainous resolve in the soliloquy “Hier sitz’ ich zur Wacht.”

It was a surprise to hear Marina Poplavskaja, a dramatic soprano who has forged an international career in roles such as Desdemona and Violetta, portray Gutrune—who drugs Siegfried with a magic potion in order to separate him from Brünnhilde—but her voice poured out clearly above Barenboim’s sensitive conducting and captured the Gibichung’s wicked wiles. She also gave a pleasant account of the Second Norn. Marina Prudenskaya gave an affecting performance as the Valykrie, Waltraute, who beseeches Brünnhilde to give back the ring to the Rhinemaidens, and as the Third Norn. The mezzo Margarita Nekrasova, in the role of the First Norn, did not blend easily but evoked impending pathos with a more typically Wagnerian voice. Aga Mikolaj, Maria Gortsevskaya, and Ann Lapkovskaja made for a seductive, youthful trio as the Rhinemaidens. Even at the Twilight of the Gods, Cassiers’ vision ends the cycle with the possibility for atonement. Despite the horrors the human race has wracked upon the environment and itself, it can learn from the past and start anew.

Rebecca Schmid


Click here for cast and 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):