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

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

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):