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

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Angela Gheorghiu as Magda [Photo © ROH / Catherine Ashmore]
07 Jul 2013

La Rondine, Royal Opera House

La Rondine isn’t Puccini’s finest moment. As drama it’s a retread of La Bohème. The music resembles out-takes from Madama Butterfly. What holds it together is Magda.

Giacomo Puccini : La Rondine

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Angela Gheorghiu as Magda [Photo © ROH / Catherine Ashmore]

 

So when an artist like Angela Gheorghiu revives the role, she brings a much-needed extra dimension to the opera. This is the role that helped propel her to stardom together with Roberto Alagna. Now they’re having a bitter divorce, fanned by media sensationalism.

Art imitates life. Ironically, that human background adds poignancy to what is essentially, a fluffy vacuum of an opera, despite its surface charm. Magda sings of her first love, and the kiss that sealed their passion. When she sang this with Alagna the extra-musical frisson must have been intense.It must take incredible courage to revisit this role now, when every note tears open old wounds. For that alone, Gheorghiu deserves respect. So what if her voice isn’t at its resplendent peak? She creates a far more accurate Magda because she accesses the underlying pain that animates the character. Gheorghiu shows that there is more to Magda than her fawning, false friends realize. Pretty and superficial might apply to them. But not to her. When Gheorghiu sings the long sequence beginning with “Ore dolci et divine” the strain isn’t vocal, but emotional. She breaks off the last lines a little abruptly, rather than letting them linger. But that’s far truer to Magda’s true personality.

Artists are not gladiators in an arena. They exist for their art, not for the mob. Some singers attract nastiness that goes far beyond artistic criticism, and descends into vicious personal abuse. It’s bullying, and usually the abuse of women, worse than anything Alagna may or may not have done. If opera is based on human feelings, sensitivity is essential. If we care about opera as art, we should respect the human beings who sing and create it. Gheorghiu is in a difficult position at the moment, so it’s all the more to her credit that she went on at all.

Having braved the personal demons Act One would have awakened in her, Gheorghiu settled into the role ever more comfortably as the opera continued. In the Second act, she felt genuinely fresh, and by the end, she was almost radiant. Her Ruggero, Charles Castelnovo, supported her well. If his voice isn’t quite as lovely as many who have done the part before, he compensated by being a solid foil to the lead. Perhaps the all-important kiss worked its magic, for Gheorghiu’s Magda blossomed again, like the roses in the song. Castelnovo seems genuinely nice, so Magda’s eventual renunciation seems quite natural. Magda has come to terms with her past and doesn’t need illusions of youth and love. Gheorghiu seems to find strength in Magda’s maturity. For once the ending convinces, even though it’s not written with the depth Puccini might have given to his other heroines.

Sabina Puertolas sing Lisette, Magda’s maid. The rapport between Gheorghiu and Puertolas seems genuinely affectionate: they bounce off one another merrily, singing with palpable warmth. The dynamic lifts the opera , defusing the mood. Some of the wittiest musical passages illustrate Prunier’s attempt to turn Lisette into what she can never be. Edgaras Montvidas sang a very good Prunier. He made us hear the “Poet” who thinks in terms of dreams, not reality, casually changing names and identities. Ultimately, La Rondine is a warm-hearted, humane opera where pretensions are overturned. Lisette goes back to being a maid, and Magda (presumably) goes back to being Rambaldo’s good friend. Good nature prevails over delusion.

Marco Armiliato conducted. The production is the Nicholas Joël perennial, as flashy as the life Magda and her friends seem to live. It’s telling that when Magda and Ruggero share their brief happiness that the backdrop shows fake flowers. The real beauty in La Rondine lies in the portrayal of Magda as a human personality. As such, Angela Georghiu is truly vindicated.

Anne Ozorio


Cast and production information:

Magda de Civry: Angela Gheorghiu; Lisette: Sabina Puértolas; Ruggero Lastouc: Charles Castronovo; Prunier Edgaras Montvidas; Rambaldo Fernandez: Pietro Spagnoli; Périchaud: John Cunningham; Gobin: Pablo Bemsch; Crébillon: Ashley Riches; Yvette/Soprano Solo: Dušica Bijelic; Bianca: Hanna Hipp; Suzy: Justina Gringyte; Conductor: Marco Armiliato; Director: Nicolas Joël; Set designs: Ezio Frigerio; Costume designs: Franca Squarciapino; Lighting design: Vinicio Cheli. Royal Opera House; London; 5th July 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):