Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rebecca Nelsen as Konstanze [Photo by Johan Persson courtesy of Garsington Opera 2013]
10 Jun 2013

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Garsington Opera at Wormsley isn’t Mozart as you’d expect but it’s true to the spirit of Mozart who loved witty, madcap japes.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Rebecca Nelsen as Konstanze

Photos by Johan Persson courtesy of Garsington Opera 2013

 

The Singspiel is a comedy with an improbable plot. How did a nice girl like Konstanze get mixed up with a Turk? How does a tyrant suddenly turn into Good Guy? Daniel Slater’s imaginative invention might not follow the score note by note but it reaches the free-wheeling, zany spirit of the comedy Audiences should have the maturity to realize that the opera is strong enough to support different perspectives. Beckmesser would explode in a frenzy of fury. Mozart, though, would be cackling with delight.

Mozart didn’t encounter many real-life Pashas. Selim is a man of formidable wealth and power. Men this rich aren’t in touch with reality. They’re isolated in their places, guarded by paranoid henchmen. They don’t do things like normal people. Turning Selim into an oligarch isn’t mere updating. It’s a perceptive reading of the personality type. This Selim (Aaron Neil) likes football. “I built my house near the stadium. Or did I build the stadium near my house”. This deepens the portrayal and is an opportunity for good visual effects. The backdrop suddenly opens and a real Jaguar is driven onstage! This is Wormsley after all, where they do things in grand style. Football also serves as plot device. It makes Selim human. Osmin (Matthew Rose) can see through Belmonte (Norman Reinhardt) and Pedrillo (Mark Wilde), because they know his weak spot. When Selim’s team win a match, he drops Konstanze, as easily as a child moves on to a new toy. The contrived ending becomes perfectly logical.

Slater replaces the German spoken dialogue with multi-lingual banter. Why not ? How did the “Turks” communicate with the “foreigners”? When Osmin says “Ich hass Englander!” the audience laughs, but the idea springs from the original libretto. In the Vienna of Joseph II, England represented liberty. Osmin isn’t so much a Turk as an agent of repression. Thus Blonde sings “Ich bin eine Engländerin, zur Freiheit geboren”. It’s doubly funny when we know that Susanna Andersson is Swedish and is cooking up a sokker kaka. Her mistress is being preened in a spa where calories are seditious. The new dialogue is fast-paced and funny even when the jokes are deliberately hammy. Comedy subverts.

“Ein Herz, so in Freiheit geboren
Läßt niemals sich sklavisch behandeln
Bleibt, wenn schon die Freiheit verloren,
Noch stolz auf sie, lachet der Welt!”

Matthew-Rose-Osmin-Susanna-Andersson-Blonde-Garsington-Opera-Chorus-in-Die-Entfuhrung-aus-dem-Serail-Garsington-Opera-2013-credit-Johan-Persson.pngMatthew Rose as Osmin and Susanna Andersson as Blonde

Garsington Opera at Wormsley is a good size for Mozart and Douglas Boyd, the new Artistic Director, has spoken of its potential as a house for Mozart. (read the interview here). The musical standards in this Die Entführung aus dem Serail were very high. Matthew Rose’s Osmin was so well-defined that his performance would be impressive even in a much larger auditorium. He has been singing with Garsington Opera since the early days of his career. The company prides itself on nurturing young talent and singers remain loyal. Rose and Susanna Andersson made a striking pair. He’s very tall, and she’s very short, reflecting the imbalance of power. Both are equal as singers. Together they duelled as much as duetted. Although the bigger ensembles usually attract more attention, the conflict between Osmin and Blonde is the critical heart of the opera.

Rebecca Nelsen sang a feisty Konstanze. In the torture scene, she’s seen sitting in the same reclining chair she used in the spa. Now it’s an instrument of torture, the ideas not unconnected. Mozart writes tension into the music to suggest extremes of pain and screaming. Nelsen’s “Marten aller Arten” felt vivid, as if she were shaking with the effect of electric shock, though she maintained the proper flow.

Mark Wilde’s Pedrillo was as well acted as sung, with sharp control of fast-paced dialogue. Incidentally the speech rhythms in the dialogue mirrored the way Mozart sets the brisk, punchy vocal lines. Norman Reinhardt sang a laconic Belmonte. William Lacey conducted with brio.

Much credit must go to Francis O’Connor who designed the set. There isn’t much backstage area at Wormsley, since the pavilion was designed as a temporary structure. O’Connor’s simple backdrop suggest an impenetrable wall when Belmonte stands alone before it. Later segments pop in and out through recessed compartments. One becomes a lift which suggests movement beyond the stage, though it’s of course illusion. When the conspirators escape the guards, the guards are seen watching football in security control. The torture scene was particularly well executed, though that’s perhaps the wrong choice of words. The same compartment which had served as the lift and the entrance for the Jag became a claustrophobic room in stark black and white. Stagecraft rarely gets the attention it deserves, but it makes good drama possible. At Garsington Opera at Wormsley, technical facilities may not be huge, but they are used very effectively.

Anne Ozorio


Production and cast information:

Belmonte: Norman Reinhardt; Konstanze: Rebecca Nelsen; Pedrillo: Mark Wilde; Blonde: Susanna Andersson; Osmin: Matthew Rose; Bassa Selim: Aaron Neil. Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Conductor: William Lacey. Director: Daniel Slater. Designer: Francis O’Connor. Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher.

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):