Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



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


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):