Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese

Strong music values in 1940's setting for Handel's opera examining madness

As part of their Madness season, presenting three very contrasting music theatre treatments of madness (Handel's Orlando, Bellini's I Puritani and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd) Welsh National Opera (WNO) presented Handel's Orlando at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 3 October 2015.

Bostridge, Isserlis, Drake, Wigmore Hall

Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

Falstaff at Forest Lawn

Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare: the two Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Music and Drama Interwoven in Chicago Lyric’s new Le nozze di Figaro

The opening performance of the 2015-2016 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago was the premiere of a new production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro under the direction of Barbara Gaines and featuring the American debut of conductor Henrik Nánási.

La traviata, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia mixes boutique performances of avant-garde opera in a small house with more traditional productions of warhorse operas performed in the Academy of Music, America’s oldest working opera house.

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.



A scene from Die Walküre [Photo courtesy of Paris Opéra]
05 Apr 2013

Die Walküre, Paris

The Paris Opéra has not staged a full Ring Cycle since 1957, but its current season will conclude with a correction of this grand operatic gap.

Die Walküre, Paris

A review by Paul du Quenoy

Above: A scene from Die Walküre [Photo courtesy of Paris Opéra]


Full cycles are unfolding in monthly installments this spring, and there will be one complete, composite cycle in June. Each of the four operas that comprise the Ring premiered in previous seasons, beginning with Das Rheingold in March 2010. Die Walküre, which opened in May 2010, is now revisited, starring some of the principals who will take the role in the summer.

Günter Krämer’s productions have been criticized both for being too dark and for excessive whimsy. To cite a few of their more bizarre affectations in his Paris Ring, the giants in Das Rheingold lead a revolt of aggrieved union workers carrying red flags. Mime in Siegfried is a 1950s beatnik who grows a marijuana lab. The musical postlude to the Immolation Scene in Götterdämmerung is accompanied by a video game-style projection of a burning Valhalla, in which a laser gun icon blows away Valkyries. Walküre is not immune to these problems. For much of the performance the stage is barely illuminated against a dark background. In some scenes the set is dominated by a steeply ascending metallic staircase that resembles athletic bleachers. The Act I prelude shows a group of nude actors being chased up the stairs and then slaughtered by warriors with swords. Wotan’s vicissitudes in Act II are highlighted by giant letters spelling “Germania,” the old Roman designation for Wagner’s country and the putative name for a new Nazi German capital to be designed by Hitler’s top architect Albert Speer. When Wotan really gets upset, he knocks down the first three letters, rather obviously leaving the rest to spell “mania.” In Act III the Valkyries are tough nurses who revive their fallen heroes and refit them as soldiers.

It is always possible for a fine musical performance to take us beyond a fractured production concept. There were hints of that here. Stuart Skelton well deserves his frequent Heldentenor casting. His Siegmund was a skilled and clarion vocal performance. It was only disappointing to see how little it was reflected in his dramatic abilities, which left this dynamic character wooden. Günther Groissböck’s menacing Hunding revealed a strong, stentorian bass and a refreshingly powerful characterization. The fine baritone of Thomas Johannes Mayer rests a bit too high for this incarnation of Wotan (he is more successful in the Rheingold version) but still delivered with the necessary authority. Martina Serafin’s passionate and strident Sieglinde showed off this rising star’s accomplishments. And the grand mezzo Sophie Koch sang a poignant and convincing Fricka; she steadfastly avoided the easy temptation to reduce the role to a shrill hag. The weakest link was the production’s Brünnhilde, sung by Welsh soprano Alwyn Mellor. At times it was hard to hear her over the orchestra, but a general tonic pallor led one to wonder if Wagner is truly for her.

Paris’s young music director Philippe Jordan brings a crisp approach to Wagner that is often lighter than what one usually hears. Acts I and III featured some truly exhilarating orchestral playing. Inexplicably, however, Act II seemed to drag at an extremely slow pace that lost or passed over the tension of its most dramatic moments. The enjoyable acts that bracketed it should have set a more consistent tone.

Paul du Quenoy

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):