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

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

A beguiling Il barbiere di Siviglia from GTO

I had mixed feelings about Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia when it was first seen at Glyndebourne in 2016. Now reprised (revival director, Sinéad O’Neill) for the autumn 2017 tour, the designs remain a vibrant mosaic of rich hues and Moorish motifs, the supernumeraries - commedia stereotypes cum comic interlopers - infiltrate and interact even more piquantly, and the harpsichords are still flying in, unfathomably, from all angles. But, the drama is a little less hyperactive, the characterisation less larger-than-life. And, this Saturday evening performance went down a treat with the Canterbury crowd on the final night of GTO’s brief residency at the Marlowe Theatre.

Brett Dean's Hamlet: GTO in Canterbury

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet,’ says Matthew Jocelyn in an interview printed in the 2017 Glyndebourne programme book. The librettist of Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera based on the Bard’s most oft-performed tragedy, which was premiered to acclaim in June this year, was noting the variants between the extant sources for the play - the First, or ‘Bad’, Quarto of 1603, which contains just over half of the text of the Second Quarto which published the following year, and the First Folio of 1623 - no one of which can reliably be guaranteed superiority over the other.

WNO's Russian Revolution series: the grim repetitions of the house of the dead

‘We lived in a heap together in one barrack. The flooring was rotten and an inch deep in filth, so that we slipped and fell. When wood was put into the stove no heat came out, only a terrible smell that lasted through the winter.’ So wrote Dostoevsky, in a letter to his brother, about his experiences in the Siberian prison camp at Omsk where he was incarcerated between 1850-54, because of his association with a group of political dissidents who had tried to assassinate the Tsar. Dostoevsky’s ‘house of the dead’ is harrowingly reproduced by Maria Björsen’s set - a dark, Dantesque pit from which there is no possibility of escape - for David Pountney’s 1982 production of Janáček’s final opera, here revived as part of Welsh National Opera’s Russian Revolution series.

The 2017 Glyndebourne Tour arrives in Canterbury with a satisfying Così fan tutte

A Così fan tutte set in the 18th century, in Naples, beside the sea: what, no meddling with Mozart? Whatever next! First seen in 2006, and now on its final run before ‘retirement’, Nicholas Hytner’s straightforward account (revived by Bruno Ravella) of Mozart’s part-playful, part-piquant tale of amorous entanglements was a refreshing opener at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where Glyndebourne Festival Opera arrived this week for the first sojourn of the 2017 tour.

Richard Jones's Rodelinda returns to ENO

Shameless grabs for power; vicious, self-destructive dynastic in-fighting; a self-righteous and unwavering sense of entitlement; bruised egos and integrity jettisoned. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was the current Tory government that was being described. However, we are not in twenty-first-century Westminster, but rather in seventh-century Lombardy, the setting for Handel’s 1725 opera, Rodelinda, Richard Jones’s 2014 production of which is currently being revived at English National Opera.

Amusing Old Movie Becomes Engrossing New Opera

Director Mario Bava’s motion picture, Hercules in the Haunted World, was released in Italy in November 1961, and in the United States in April 1964. In 2010 composer Patrick Morganelli wrote a chamber opera entitled Hercules vs. Vampires for Opera Theater Oregon.

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If a credible portrayal of the title character in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is vital to any performance, the success of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current, exciting production hinges very much on the memorable court jester and father sung by baritone Quinn Kelsey.

Wexford Festival Opera 2017

‘What’s the delay? A little wind and rain are nothing to worry about!’ The villagers’ indifference to the inclement weather which occurs mid-way through Jacopo Foroni’s opera Margherita - as the townsfolk set off in pursuit of two mystery assailants seen attacking a man in the forest - acquired an unintentionally ironic slant in Wexford Opera House on the opening night of Michael Sturm’s production, raising a wry chuckle from the audience.

The Genius of Purcell: Carolyn Sampson and The King's Consort at the Wigmore Hall

This celebration of The Genius of Purcell by Carolyn Sampson and The King’s Consort at the Wigmore Hall was music-making of the most absorbing and invigorating kind: unmannered, direct and refreshing.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Amanda Echalaz as Tosca [Photo by ROH / Kenton]
05 Mar 2013

Tosca, Royal Opera

Puccini’s “shabby little shocker”, to quote Kerman, does not invite subtlety. For those who feel that opera — a hybrid art form encompassing all the arts and embracing all of life and love, transfiguration and tragedy — is ideally suited to depicting the excesses of human ecstasy and suffering, Tosca epitomises the immoderations of the genre.

Tosca, Royal Opera

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Amanda Echalaz as Tosca [Photo by ROH / Kenton]

 

The dramatic pulse certainly runs high in Jonathan Kent’s ROH production, first seen in 2006 and here receiving its fifth revival under the direction of Andrew Sinclair. Kent’s approach is characterised by two principals: tradition and realism. This is no bad thing: we’re given an experience which, one imagines, must be just as Puccini imagined it — all visual extravagance, dramatic intensity and musical emotionalism. Kent combines the universality of the emotional drama with the particularities of the time and place, costume and setting unambiguously announcing the Napoleonic context.

The opulent rococo interior of Paul Brown’s gilded church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act 1 makes a bold visual statement, its split levels shimmering in the lavish glow of a multitude of sacred candles. We are behind the high altar, the crypt visible below; the effect should be one of spaciousness but in fact the numerous balustrades and balconies restrict the stage space available, and it feels rather cluttered and overly fussy. Moreover, the chorus are pushed to the back, which diminishes the impact of the Te Deum.

Scarpia’s sordid study in the Palazzo Farnese is dominated by a huge statue, a striking symbol of domination and intimidation. The bookcases are empty, save for the single set of shelves which hide the door to his torture chamber. In contrast to the baroque splendour of Act 2, the Castel Sant’Angelo in the final act is more sparsely adorned save for a gigantic statue fragment that flies aloft. Mark Henderson’s beautiful lighting design skilfully paint the expressive colours; most strikingly, in Act 2 Henderson atmospherically conjures the shadowy recesses of Scarpia’s psyche.

The main roles in this production have previously been inhabited by Gheorghiu, Kaufmann and Terfel — modern operatic titans. But, while there were no ‘superstars’ this time around, the cast is strong-voiced and dramatically convincing, and both Amanda Echalaz and Massimo Giordano have of late established themselves on the international stage, as Tosca and Cavaradossi respectively. Indeed, having won acclaim on the other side of town, at ENO and Holland Park, Eschalaz also stood in for the indisposed Gheorghiu at Covent Garden in 2009.

Echalaz used her weighty voice and full vibrato to portray a Tosca equipped with feisty self-belief, her petulant exchanges with Cavaradossi in Act 1 revealing a woman who knows her own mind and who has a short emotional fuse. She was at her best in this opening act, and during her agonised resistance to Scarpia in Act 2, where her rich legato and dramatic commitment won our full compassion. Perhaps this Tosca lacked a little of the frail vulnerability which contrasts with her impetuousness, and which underpins her tragedy? That said, ‘Vissi d’arte’ was quietly understated but deeply felt and affecting, as Echalaz convincingly conveyed the poignant destruction wrought by Scarpia’s ruthless cruelty.

Just as Echalaz has visited this production stage before, so Massimo Giordano also stepped in for the Marcello Giordani back in 2009 and is an experienced Cavaradossi. Giordano looks and sounds the part: young and handsome, he can embody the fervent swagger and heroic self-belief of the painter, and this demeanour is matched by a warm, smooth tone and firm vocal weight. However, while volume was never prioritised at the expense of dramatic engagement, Giordano’s characterisation seemed somewhat superficial. There was much Italianate grace in the tenor’s singing, but also a few unsteady swoops up to the top: while his big Act 1 aria, ‘Recondita armonia’ was full of impact, it was low on delicacy and subtlety.

In ‘E lucevan le stelle’ Giordano more successfully balanced power and feeling, and the moments as he waited for his execution, on the roof of the Castel Sant’ Angelo were painfully fraught. Together Echalaz and Giordano told a convincing tale without really tugging at the heart-strings.

Michael Volle’s Scarpia was a more commanding presence, all sneering contempt and brooding evil. Volle was no cartoon-villain: his gestures were discreet but his moral ugliness and perverted desires were chillingly apparent. This was a man as devoid of humanity as his library is barren of books; his Act 2 duet with Echalaz built to an almost unbearable point of psychological repulsion, as his depravity was exposed for both Tosca and us.

The minor roles were all excellent; well-sung and charismatic. Jeremy White as the Sacristan engaged naturally and convincingly with the other personnel, and Hubert Francis was a nastily predatory Spoletta. Best of all, Michael Clayton-Jolly gave a wonderful rendition of the shepherd boy’s song.

After a rather understated opening, conductor Maurizio Benini revealed a sure ear for a diversity of Puccinian textures, proving alert to the details of the score and conveying a strong sense of the grand sweep of the musico-drama. There was much superb playing from the pit, although I’d have liked a bit more rawness and concentrated intensity at the climactic heights.

Overall, a revival worth seeing. Musical and dramatic standards are consistently high, sets and costumes are captivatingly luxurious and, however familiar, there’s nothing like Tosca to stir the passions.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Floria Tosca — Amanda Echalaz; Mario Cavaradossi — Massimo Giordano; Baron Scarpia — Michael Volle; Spoletta — Hubert Francis; Angelotti — Michel de Souza; Sacristan — Jeremy White; Sciarrone — Jihoon Kim; Gaoler — John Morrissey; Shepherd Boy — Michael Clayton-Jolly; Conductor — Maurizio Benini; Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera Chorus; Director — Jonathan Kent; Designs — Paul Brown; Lighting design — Mark Henderson; Revival Director — Andrew Sinclair. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Saturday 2nd March 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):