Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Malin Christensson as Susanna and Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Figaro [Photo by Craig T. Mathew & Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging]
30 May 2013

“Marriage” at the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Take a pair of peripatetic, sharp witted, libidinous dramatists with deeply humanist hearts, add a brilliant, fun loving young composer, who believed in forgiveness, and you end up with The Marriage of Figaro, a comic, always relevant opera, which the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra presented in Disney Hall, as part of its Mozart/DaPonte series.

“Marriage” at the Los Angeles Philharmonic

A review by Estelle Gilson

Above: Malin Christensson as Susanna and Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Figaro

Photos by Craig T. Mathew & Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

 

It all began with an original French play, titled La Folle Journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (A  Crazy Day, or The Marriage of Figaro), written by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais in 1773. The work,which was not produced until 1778, had strong political and social overtones, which helped disseminate the concepts of equality and individual rights, that led to the French revolution. Note, however, that at during the period that Beaumarchais was writing his plays, he was also employed by both Louis XV and XVI for secret missions in London.  There are numerous sources for information about Beaumarchais' amorous adventures.  For his life as a secret agent, see the CIA's (unclassified) web page titled “Beaumarchais and the American Revolution.” 

Lorenzo Da Ponte, the poet, who wrote the Italian libretto, was also a man given to wanderings and strange connections.  An ex-Jew, and ex-priest, who had been banished from Venice for licentious behavior, not only did he know Mozart, Casanova and Clement C, Moore (of The Night Before Christmas fame), but Samuel F. B Morse, inventor of the telegraph painted the poet's portrait, which once hung in Columbia University.  Da Ponte's autobiography which describes some of his lurid adventures, is not completely to be trusted.

CTM-8844.gifRachel Frenkel as Cherubino and Malin Christensson as Susanna

It was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who proposed using the Beaumarchais play as an opera libretto to Da Ponte, with the stipulation that the harsh political overtones be removed.  Professor Robert Greenberg considers The Marriage of Figaro, which is Mozart's most popular opera, “among the greatest achievements of artistic striving.” Following their collaboration for The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart and Da Ponte produced two more works, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte.

While it is not unusual for an opera company to plan Mozart/Da Ponte festivals, it is  extraordinary for an orchestra housed in a concert hall to undertake the task.  Even more extraordinary are the lengths and expense to which the Los Angeles Orchestra has gone to produce these performances.  The installation and sets for Don Giovanni, which they offered last year, were created by architect Frank Gehry, who had designed the Disney Concert Hall.  Fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, created the costumes.  This year, presumably in honor of  Beaumarchais and the opera's Gallic origins, Jean Nouvel, a French architect created the performance area and Parisian based designer Azzedine Alaïa designed the costumes.  Both operas were directed by Christopher Alden. 

Don Giovanni was set on a narrow strip of stage in an all white, galactic looking universe. The  orchestra was behind the stage, so that singers had to follow the conductors beat on monitors.  Nouvel created a deeper stage in a rich maroon color  At the rear, a staircase rose toward the organ.  The stage surface wound around a newly created orchestra  pit to form an apron that allowed for interaction between performers and instrumentalists - and even with the conductor.   This, in fact, provided some moments of fun, which sadly, was often lacking on stage. 

This was a musically superb Marriage of Figaro.  In direct eye contact with the singers as well as the orchestra, Maestro Dudamel conducted a brilliant performance with the fluidity and precision that Mozart demands.  While he hadn't used a score for Don Giovanni, he did employ one for the Marriage of Figaro, at least for the performance I attended on May 19th.   The large, well chosen cast made for additional musical pleasure.  Baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer was an unusually lustrous voiced, though angry Figaro.  Swedish soprano, Malin Christensson's shimmering Susanna was pert and charming.  As the Countess, soprano Dorothea Röschmann, known world-wide for the role, made her two great arias testaments to her character's deep sorrow.  Christopher Maltman was a suave, elegant, and seductive Count, and Rachel Frenkel offered a charmingly confused Cherubino.  John Del Carlo and Ann Murray, as Bartolo and Marcellina were luxury casting as a pair of unsuccessful plotters, turned loving parents.  William Ferguson, who sang Basilio, and Simone Osborne, as Barbarina, as well as John Irvin and Brandon Cedel, were all excellent.  The Los Angeles Master Chorale was a pleasant but almost invisible presence curtained off high and far behind the stage.

CTM-8946.gifChristopher Maltman as the Count and Dorothea Röschmann as the Countess

While Mozart was well served by the orchestra and singers, our two witty, humanist librettists were not.  When, as the fizzy overture was still being played, the cast wandered onto the stage at a languid, funereal pace. I should have known that this was not to be an entertaining, much less funny theater piece.  The stage though large, was essentially an empty space with no exits or entrances, no place to hide.  Artfully arranged lighting created shaded places, generally on the floor, to which singers retreated in various positions until called upon to sing once again.  In the last act, there were three such bodies on the floor, making the scene appear more like the end of Shakespearean tragedy than an  operatic farce.  One could read titles, and hear voices, but often could not locate the singers.  Figaro sang his teasing, “non piu andrai” to the audience, standing on the apron to left of the conductor.  Meanwhile, Cherubino to whom the words are addressed stood at rigid attention far behind him and the orchestra.  The famous comedic chair scene was performed without a chair or comedy.  I have no idea what the costumer had in mind.  At one point Susanna in a short skirt with cascading blond hair, looked like Alice straight out of Wonderland.  And when she wore her elegant white wedding dress, Figaro, beside her, wore a tight fitting zipped to the neck sweater, looking for all the world like a president about to deliver a fire side chat.  As in last year'sDon Giovanni, the English titles told the audience   things they didn't see.  It was impossible even for knowledgeable opera goers to follow the action, particularly in the garden scene. 

For all its visual failings, however, this staging of The Marriage of Figaro, was more successful than the Don Giovanni.  The use of the large stage improved sight lines.  Placing the orchestra in a pit allowed for freer music making.   Perhaps next year's Così fan tutte, will be ther lucky third that gets it all right.

Estelle Gilson


Production and cast information:

Figaro: Edwin Crossley-Mercer; Susanna: Malin Christensson; Bartolo: John Del Carlo; Marcellina: Ann Murray; Cherubino: Rachel Frenkel; Don Basilio: William Freguson; Count Almaviva: Christopher Maltman; Countess Almaviva: Dorothea Röschmann; Antonio: Brandon Cedel; Don Curzio: John Irvin; Barbarina: Simone Osborne. Los Angeles Philharmonic. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor. Christopher Alden, director. Jean Nouvel, installations. Azzedine Alaïa, costume design. Aaron Black, lighting design.

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):