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

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.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

11 May 2013

Mulhouse: Rare Britten Well Done

National Opera Company of the Rhine has marked this year’s Benjamin Britten celebration with a remarkably compelling, often gripping new production of the seldom-seen Owen Wingrave.

The pacifist Britten wrote the piece for BBC television in 1971, partly as a response to the lingering Viet Nam War which was still raging. The structure of the dramatic episodes, the cross fades written into the transitions, and the contrasting instrumental sounds in the sparsely-scored work were all a consideration of the medium.

Indeed, my one and only experience with the piece was when PBS broadcast the original production in the early 70’s, when television sound was still rather rudimentary. Now encountering the work live in the theatre, I was not prepared for the rich diversity of the instrumental writing, nor for the sonorous ensemble effects. Britten was, of course, not only a master orchestrator, but quite adept at setting texts to good dramatic effect. He was well-served in Mulhouse by cast, band, and production leadership.

L’Opéra national du Rhin has wisely chosen to feature the excellent young members of their Opera Studio program and if the result is any indication, opera has a promising future in France. The title role is a Big Sing, with lots of it lying in the middle voice, and Laurent Deleuil essayed Owen with a well-schooled baritone that boasted a solid technique wedded to a (not overly) warm tone that had substantial presence. If the very top money notes pushed him to the limit, Mr. Deleuil nevertheless had the full arsenal of gifts necessary to score a considerable success as he anchored the production. Laurent is possessed of an easy, unaffected stage deportment and has very clear diction. If ultimately he didn’t yet quite feel the character’s convictions deep in his gut (especially at the start), this was nonetheless a memorable role assumption.

The towering Sévag Tachdjian gave much pleasure in his commanding turn as schoolmaster Coyle. Mr. Tachdjian’s orotund bass-baritone was passionately deployed and was evenly produced throughout the rangy part. But he needs a little more coaching on his pronunciation, since his somewhat odd-sounding vowels and soft consonants made me wonder at first if he was singing, in English. Handsome Jérémy Duffau was a lanky, coltish Lechmere, and his buzzy lyric tenor was engaged, solid, and fluid. He might check his tendency to appear too balletic in his movements in his embodiment of the young soldier.

Mélanie Moussay proved to be an imperious Miss Wingrave, with a distinguished vocal instrument of unanticipated maturity, resonance and power for one so young. Kristina Bitene combined excellent elocution and a wiry, committed demeanor to make Mrs. Julia a riveting personage in the unfolding drama. She also proved to have a reliable, wide-ranging soprano of pleasant bite and with a rock solid technique. Mmes. Moussay, Bitene, and the evening’s “Kate” made their extended trio “(“He will listen to the house”) a real musical highlight.

And speaking of Kate, Marie Cubaynes had much to offer with her dark-hued mezzo including a consistency and pulsing forward motion that served the opinionated, head-strong lass well. Her final duet with Owen was another highly affecting emotional landmark. Guillaume François proved a real “triple threat” as he took on the three roles of Sir Philip, Narrator, and the Phantom. His promising tenor sported a pleasant, steady tone, even if it had a moment or two in legato passages that were a little rough around the edges. Still, his rendition of the unaccompanied “folk song” was hauntingly beautiful, and very well controlled, especially at opera’s close.

Conductor David Syrus had a remarkable night in the pit, wringing every last variation of color from his talented, small band of musicians. That Maestro Syrus is a noted Britten specialist was self-evident based on the exceptional aural results of this performance. Just listen to the nuanced interweaving of text and orchestra, the gossamer sheen of the signature repeated chords, the rhythmic storm of effects he churns up, the inevitable unfolding of the conversational phrases, the effortless deliberation and weight of the ensembles. This was a wholly mesmerizing night of persuasive music-making.

Stage director Christophe Gayral, in tandem with set and lighting designer Eric Soyer were admirable models of restraint, and their modus operandi of “less is more” paid huge dividends. The set was all black legs, sliding doors, levels, and carefully chosen set pieces. On occasion, it suggested an Advent-calendar approach with insets (and characters) revealed, but only as long as they were pertinent.

The evening opened with a dumb-show, first revealing the boy dropping dead to the floor then effectively blending into a foreshadowing of Owen’s funeral. Especially telling was Kate’s fainting with guilt as she goes to place a rose in the blood red funeral spray (in the form of a cross). Of course, we don’t know any of these characters yet, but the scene cleverly gets us to speculate and anticipate the mysteries to come. Renaud Rubiamo has devised a number of gorgeous still projections and video effects, the most stunning being the requisite hall of portraits that at one point come eerily to life.

The only downside of the night was that the seats were only half-filled for this significant musical-dramatic achievement. But there is another chance to partake of its glories. Owen Wingrave will play two more performances this summer in Strasbourg (4 and 6 July). It would be worth the trip.

James Sohre



Cast and production information:

Owen Wingrave: Laurent Deleuil; Spencer Coyle: Sévag Tachdjian; Lechmere: Jérémy Duffau; Miss Wingrave: Mélanie Moussay; Mrs. Julian: Kristina Bitene; Kate: Marie Cubaynes; Sir Philip, Narrator, Phantom: Guillaume François; Boy Ghost: Victor Collin; Conductor: David Syrus; Stage Director: Christophe Gayral; Set and Lighting Design: Eric Soyer; Costume Design: Cidalia Da Costa; Video Design: Renaud Rubiamo

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):