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

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Leo Nucci as Nabucco [Photo © ROH / Catherine Ashmore]
31 Mar 2013

Nabucco, Royal Opera House, London

“Gli arredi festivi giù cadano infranti, Il popol di Giuda di lutto s’ammanti!”. Verdi’s Nabucco at the Royal Opera House respected the spirit of the opera.

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

Click here for cast and production information

Above: Leo Nucci as Nabucco

Photos © ROH / Catherine Ashmore

 

The people of Judah are in mourning. The Overture is heard against a simple backdrop, focusing attention on the music, and not on the “false idols” of decorative frippery.

In this time of crisis, the people concentrate on the fundamentals of their religion. In this production, we concentrate on the fundamentals of the opera: on Verdi, and on his music. We listen to the orchestra, contemplating what the Temple means . When the chorus gathers and bursts into song, the impact is explosive.

NABUCCO-2587ashm_0939.gifLiudmyla Monastyrska as Abigaille

This production, a joint venture between the Royal Opera House and Teatro alla Scala Milan, is strikingly perceptive in musical terms. This staging takes its cue from the invisible images in the orchestration. Daniele Abbado, the director, observes how Verdi contrasts large form against detail. The people of Judah worship a single, austere God, not multiple false idols. The director, Daniele Abbado, observes how Verdi builds the concept into his orchestration. Just as solo instruments are heard at critical moments in the drama, .individual voices stand clear against the background of massed chorus,. This contrast runs throughout the opera. Abbado’s staging reflects musical form : densely concentrated choruses, principals weaving in and out of the mass. When the crowd parts, and Leo Nucci’s Nabucco emerges, the effect is humbling. The King of the Babylonians is supposed to be all-powerful, but the God of Judah strikes him down. Nabucco isn’t divine, but human.

Leo Nucci has been singing Nabucco for decades. It is a privilege to hear him sing it again in this musically-informed production, where we can concentrate on his true artistry. He’s no longer young, but neither is Nabucco. Nucci brings out the depth of personality in the role. Babylon is a violent kingdom, and Nabucco sanctions savagery. It’s statecraft, after all. He plays a political game of public bluff, placing the crown on his head to assert authority. Nucci is small of stature, but his voice commands authority. Wisely, in this staging, he’s costumed in ordinary clothes, stressing the private side of his character, highlighting his misery and his love for his daughter. Nucci can create the role through his voice, and Abbado, who respects the drama in the music, lets him do so. When Nucci sings “una lagrima spuntò” he suggests that the madness is the first stage in a journey towards redemption, which culminates in the superb Act Four arias.

Forceful, impressive performances from Marianna Pizzolato and Ludmyla Monastryrska as Fenena and Abigaille respectively. The women represent dual personality, which Verdi emphasizes in his showpiece writing for the parts. The drama is in the music, the stage directions in the score fairly circumspect. Vitalij Kowalijow sang Zaccaria with great intensity. His High Priest is a force to be reckoned with, inspired as he is by his profound faith. Andrea Caré sang Ismaele. Robert Lloyd sang the High Priest of Baal. Two singers from the ROH Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, Dušica Bijelic and David Butt Philip sang Anna and Abdallo. Young as they are, they have great promise, justifying the investment that’s being put into developing them.

NABUCCO-2587ashm_0361.gifMariana Pizzolato as Fenena

Nabucco, though, is nothing without the choruses. As always, the Royal Opera House choruses, directed by Renato Balsadonna were excellent. Because they weren’t required to flaff about “acting”, we could cherish their singing. “Va, Pensiaro” was staged so simply that we could listen to the way the voices blended like instruments in an orchestra. Pure, clean light shone from above, truly “ove olezzano tepide e molli, l’aure dolci”. Much effort went into getting balances and positions right. These choruses, and the orchestral playing around them illustrated the meaning of this opera.. The gods of Babylon are hollow structures that cannot endure. The Hebrews survive together because they have higher, nobler ideals.

Verdi’s writing is so inherently dramatic that in some ways, the plot is just a frame for a powerful expression of spiritual values. In this case, the religion is Judaism, but the plight of the Hebrews would have had relevance to the Italy in which Verdi lived, fractured as it was by faction and foreign rule. Abbado’s Nabucco is well informed, true to the wider context of Verdi’s music and ideas.

This Nabucco won’t please audiences who need to follow graven images. There isn’t much bloodthirsty violence, and some details are hard to follow. But that’s all the more reason to appreciate what Abbado and conductor Nicola Luisotti are aiming at : a staging based on the music itself. Even the colours in the staging reflect the subtlety in the orchestration. We don’t see black and white but gradations of shades within the spectrum. Far too often, productions are slammed because some people resent a director having an opinion other than their own. But there is no such thing as non-interpretation in performance. Even when we read a score, we are “interpreting” the way the notes relate to each other, and making unconscious decisions about meaning. Sometimes productions are extremely interventionist but popular because they fit assumptions shaped by convention. Such is the hold false gods have on us. All the more reason, I think, we need to appreciate productions like this which highlight the music and its inherent drama, and connect us to the composer and the ideals he believed in.

Anne Ozorio

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):