Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Madama Butterfly, Opera Holland Park
14 Jun 2013

Madama Butterfly, Opera Holland Park

There is a sense in which it all began in London, Puccini having been seized in 1900 with the idea of an opera on this subject after watching David Belasco’s play here.

Madama Butterfly, Opera Holland Park

A review by Mark Berry

 

London, in the guise of Opera Holland Park, certainly repaid the favour on this occasion. Not only, vile weather notwithstanding, did it aid my already rapid thawing towards Puccini; it offered a production and performance which, considered as a whole, were probably the finest I have yet seen at Holland Park.

It was certainly a relief to be spared the vulgarity of a Zeffirelli-like production. Paul Higgins’s staging and Neil Irish’s designs were not abstract, but they were (at least by some standards) relatively spare, offering a space in which the action may unfold rather than overwhelming it. The screens at the back of the stage both facilitate comings and goings and offer a welcome impression of Japanese or at least Orientalist stylisation; likewise the costumes are ‘faithful’ to time and place, without becoming an end in themselves. The American flag is as noticeable on stage as it is in Puccini’s score, perhaps a little less, but the effect in both is as much exotic as straightforwardly anti-imperialist. I cannot help but wish that Puccini had been a little more restrained in his use both of the ghastly Star Spangled Banner and those too-obvious pentatonicisms, but at least he, like the staging, is relatively even-handed. (I suppose we should remind ourselves that what has become wearily commonplace for us was still very much new musical territory not so long after the celebrated Paris exhibitions.) Higgins also reminds us and holds in our mind that Cio-Cio-San is a dancer, Namiko Gahier-Ogawa’s movement working well in context. Nothing peripheral, however, is permitted to obscure the central tragedy: a signal achievement from which many directors could learn.

That also depends, of course, on a convincing assumption of the title role. Anne Sophie Duprels offered something rather more than merely convincing; she inhabited the role completely, offering a rounded portrayal in dramatic and vocal terms alike. Not a single false note, in any sense, was struck, and one sympathised to a degree beyond the expectations engendered by what can often seem a silly role. Butterfly’s delusion, then, convinced at least as much as her attraction. There was strength without steel, nobility without hauteur. Joseph Wolverton’s Pinkerton occasionally sounded a little too Italianate in the pejorative sense, and proved somewhat lacking in stage presence; still, with the American flag on his side, perhaps he did not need them. Chloe Hinton offered hints of something far more in the role of his wife, but given the nature of that role, they could be little more than that. Patricia Orr, however, impressed greatly as a wise Suzuki, beautiful and graceful of voice and movement. David Stephenson’s Sharpless likewise made much, though never too much, of words and music. The suitors’ and other smaller roles were all well taken.

The chorus sang and acted creditably throughout, clearly well trained. I was surprised by how little I missed the sound of a larger orchestra, the losses proving largely cosmetic rather than fundamental. Indeed, one heard in the City of London Sinfonia’s performance (strings 8.6.4.4.2) a great deal more of the inner workings — more than once I found myself recalling aspects of Die Meistersinger — than one might in a larger-scaled, conventional account. (That is not to claim that I think chamber orchestras should become the norm, but simply to note that, given a high enough level of performance, virtue can arise from necessity.) Manlio Benzi shrewdly marshalled his forces, imparting dramatic tension throughout and steering as clear as might reasonably have been expected from sentimentality.

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Butterfly: Anne Sophie Duprels; Pinkerton: Joseph Wolverton; Suzuki: Patricia Orr; Sharpless: David Stephenson; Goro: Robert Burt; Kate Pinkerton: Chloe Hinton; Bonze: Barnaby Rea; Prince Yamadori: John Lofthouse; The Imperial Commissioner: Alistair Sutherland; Butterfly’s Mother: Lindsay Bramley; The Aunt: Loretta Hopkins; The Cousin: Maud Millar; Yakuside: Nathan Morrison; Sorrow: Ben Bristow. Director: Paul Higgins; Designer: Neil Irish; Lighting: Richard Howell; Movement: Namiko Gahier-Ogawa. Opera Holland Park Chorus (chorus master: Holly Mathieson); City of London Sinfonia/ Manlio Benzi (conductor). Holland Park, London, Wednesday 12 June 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):