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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Charles Castronovo as Tamino [Photo © ROH / Mike Hoban]
23 Apr 2013

Die Zauberflöte, Royal Opera

Back for its fourth revival, David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte has much charm, beauty and artistry.

Die Zauberflöte, Royal Opera

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Charles Castronovo as Tamino

Photos © ROH / Mike Hoban


But, with the oft-exhumed sets now looking rather creased and crumpled, on this occasion some of the sparkle seemed to have rubbed off.

ZAUBERFLOTE_ROH_1197.pngEkaterina Siurina as Pamina

Dedicated to the late Sir Colin Davis (who conducted the premiere and the most recent revival in 2011), this performance was at times disappointingly lacklustre: the crescent moon gleamed and glinted, the sumptuous tableaux impressed, the choreography was slick, but overall there was an absence of simple youthful vitality and dreamy enchantment.

Conductor Julia Jones established some brisk tempi; she was perhaps a bit too swift for her players at the start, for the opening three ‘knocks at the door’ were rather messy, lacking in masonic authority and imperiousness. Certainly there was tension and anxiety during Tamino’s tussle with the serpent, but elsewhere Jones might have adopted a more spacious, composed approach — for there the opera presents much farce and fury but also sobriety and solemnity.

Reprising the role of Papageno, Christopher Maltman was in superb form, relishing the physical and vocal humour and winning over the audience with his mischievous appeal and essential good nature. Maltman’s duet with Ekaterina Siurina (Pamina), ‘Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen’, in which they reflect on the sacred duties and divine purity of marital love, was one of the highlights of the evening — although it did unfortunately expose Siurina’s somewhat unidiomatic German pronunciation alongside Maltman’s immaculate diction.

ZAUBERFLOTE_ROH_0587.pngChristopher Maltman as Papageno and Ekaterina Siurina as Pamina

Siurina’s soprano is wonderfully rounded and rich — and she possesses a similarly beautiful, touching pianissimo too, as she proved in a deeply heart-rending ‘Ach, ich fuhls’. She can bring a characterful glint to her voice, but to my ear the overall tone was a little too full for the role and her stage persona rather too assertive and spirited.

The same was true of her Tamino, Charles Castronovo, who strode the stage with the same confident ease with which he vocally assailed the melodic heights; but, while his athleticism and purposefulness brought some expedient dynamism to the production, surely Tamino is a prince learning his heroic craft rather than a king who has already earned his stripes. After a slightly hesitant start musically, Castronovo’s tone was gracious and dignified, and his articulation of the text matched Maltman’s for clarity. Technically secure throughout, his Act 1 aria ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön’ was certainly ardent but a little lacking in youthful freshness.

Albina Shagimuratova was a pitch-perfect Queen of the Night, dispatching the coloratura extravagances of ‘O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn’ with grace and buoyancy. Her effortless runs did not always convey the necessary glint of latent malevolence, however, and she made a less striking dramatic impact than one might have expected. ‘Der Hölle Rache’ was less polished technically but the tone was still gleaming and sweet.

ZAUBERFLOTE_ROH_0565.pngAlbina Shagimuratova as Queen of the Night

As Sarastro, Brindley Sherratt, singing with rich lyricism and poise, was suitably dignified but like Shagimuratova, at times needed more stage presence and profundity. Peter Hoare deftly emphasised the hyperactive hypocrisy of the villainous Monostatos.

The minor roles were all laudable with Sebastian Holocek a distinctive Speaker, and David Butt Philip and Jihoon Kim commendable in the roles of the First and Second Armed Man respectively. Susana Gaspar overcame the ugly inaptness of her Essex-girl attire as a perky Papagena who wins over her Papageno.

Overall, this production is beautiful to the eye and ear, but despite the zippy tempi it felt rather weary; time has dulled the magic dust.

Claire Seymour

Cast and production:

Tamino — Charles Castronovo; First Lady — Anita Watson; Second Lady — Hanna Hipp; Third Lady — Gaynor Keeble; Papageno — Christopher Maltman; Queen of the Night — Albina Shagimuratova; Pamina — Ekaterina Siurina; Monostatos — Peter Hoare; First Boy — Archie Buchanan; Second Boy — Luciano Cusack; Third Boy — Filippo Turkheimer; Speaker of the Temple — Sebastian Holecek; Sarastro — Brindley Sherratt; First Priest— Harry Nicoll; Second Priest— Donald Maxwell Pagagena — Susana Gaspar; First Man in Armour — David Butt Philip; Second Man in Armour — Jihoon Kim; Conductor —Julia Jones; David McVicar — Director; Leah Hausman — Revival & Movement Director; John Macfarlane — Designs; Paule Constable — Lighting Design. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Tuesday, 16th April 2013.

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