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

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rolando Villazón [Photo © Gabo / Deutsche Grammophon]
21 May 2013

Rolando Villazón: Verdi (International Opera Stars Series 2013)

It’s Verdi’s bicentenary year and Rolando Villazón has two new CDs to plug — titled somewhat confusingly, ‘Villazón: Verdi’ and ‘Villazón’s Verdi’, the latter a ‘personal selection’ of favourite numbers performed by stars of the past and present.

Rolando Villazón: Verdi (International Opera Stars Series 2013)

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Rolando Villazón [Photo © Gabo / Deutsche Grammophon]

 

Add these two factors together and the result is a 15-day tour with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Guerassim Voronkov, presenting a combination of lyric and dramatic numbers which largely eschews the ‘popular hits’ in favour of the less familiar Verdian territory.

The selection has been carefully chosen to avoid potential technical pitfalls and reveal Villazón’s diversity and dramatic assurance. Each aria or scena in this engaging performance was individualised and differentiated — in terms of both musical characterisation and dramatic tone; all were marked by intelligence, composure and much vocal beauty. Villazón may have lost some of the warm lustre and ease which characterised his voice prior to his pre-2009 operation, but he is still capable of producing some lovely shading of the top notes and spinning a wonderfully long line.

Following a well-shaped, deft performance of the overture to Nabucco, Villazón began with the relatively brief cavatina, ‘La mia letizia infondere’ from I Lombardi alla prima crociata. Despite its succinctness, Villazón left us in no doubt of the readiness and ease with which he can adopt a persona — like an actor slipping on a hat or coat to indicate a change of role — and, although the performance was fairly reserved and contained (we’d been pre-warned that he was suffering from a slight cold) the voice was agile and bright.

The Act 3 scena from Il Corsaro, ‘Eccomi prigioniero!’, afforded more space for vocal expansion and dramatic development, moving from an intense accompanied recitative as the imprisoned Corrado laments his lost dreams, to a lyrical outpouring of poignant disillusionment as he realises that his visions of freedom are simply dreams. Here, the pulsing orchestral motifs, echoed in the tenor’s voice which trembled with emotion, presented a complementary contrast to Karen Stephenson’s affecting cello solo. There was both lingering pain in Corrado’s recognition of his own “vane lusinghe!” (“flattering delusions”), and muscular assertion in his desire for the body to be granted a moment’s rest.

Verdi’s output is almost wholly operatic — even the Requiem is dramatic in essence and effect — but in both 1838 and 1845, the composer published sets of six songs for voice and piano, eight of which were later orchestrated by Luciano Berio. In ‘Il mistero’, which tells of a lover’s hidden passions, Villazón combined long-breathed lines with buoyancy and forward motion, although at times the rather dense orchestral textures and pedal points absorbed the voice in its middle to lower registers. The final phrase, “Chè alimento da sè stesso/ Prende amore in nobil cor” (“Because love feeds itself in a noble heart”) was heart-breakingly tender and sweet.

An urgent, nimble rendering of the overture from Luisa Miller — noteworthy for the clarity of the clarinet and flute solos, and for striking dynamic and textural contrasts — was followed by ‘Quando le sere al placido’ which Villazón infused with sustained burning emotion and drama, demonstrating confident breath control.

The ‘Preludio’ to Otello opened the second half, Voronkov drawing, as throughout the evening, a precise account from his players, one characterised by a diverse expressive range and well-crafted overall form. With ‘Ciel, che feci … Ciel pietoso’ from Oberto, Villazón began to relax, building Riccardo’s aria to a powerful climax in the central lines, “Ah no! l’ultimo lament/ è del misero che muor” (“Ah no! These are the last lamenting tones of the wretched man dying”), a full-hearted outpouring of anguished guilt and regret following the duel which kills the eponymous protagonist. After the tenor’s convincing and moving expression of genuine remorse, the legato celli arpeggiation brought some sense of ease as Riccardo prays for pardon for his murderous act.

The concluding number, the rarely heard ‘L’esule’, confirmed — if it were necessary — Villazón’s ability to build broad structures and sustain a firm line, losing nothing of the vibrancy and impact within the longer, substantial form.

Three encores, including a beer-swilling brindisi, allowed the effervescent tenor to indulge in some hyperactive acknowledgement of the audience’s adulation — Villazón leapt about like an irrepressible jack-in-a-box, roses were strewn far and wide, and a female violinist was waltzed from the stage! Jolly japes which seemed to go down well with the tenor’s affectionate fans.

So, having presented ‘The Genius Of Verdi’ on BBC television just five days previously, Villazón now offers us, ‘The Gifts of Villazón’: singer, actor, entertainer, communicator. His passionate belief in this music was evident from the start, and he communicated this conviction with unfailing directness and immediacy. Villazón has recently explained: ’for me the most important reason why he remains modern and popular is because he wanted to reach his audience. He did not want to impress his listeners; he did not try to gain the acceptance and praise of musicologists or critics. His goal was always to serve the drama, to give music to the feelings of his characters and above all, to move us.’ He might well have been describing himself.

Claire Seymour


Programme:

Overture, Nabucco; ‘La mia letizia infondere’ from I Lombardi; Prelude, I masnadieri; ‘Eccomi prigioniero!’ from Il corsaro; ‘Il mistero’ from 8 Romances for tenor and orchestra (orch. Berio); Overture, ‘Quando le sere al placido’ from Luisa Miller; Prelude, Otello; ‘Ciel, che feci!’ from Oberto; Baletti. ‘O figli, o figli miei!’, ‘Ah,la paterna mano’ from Macbeth; Overture, I vespri siciliani; ‘Deh, pietoso, oh Addolorata’, ‘L’esule’ from 8 Romances for tenor and orchestra (orch. Berio), Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre London, Wednesday, 15th May 2013

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):