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

Don Giovanni, Bavarian State Opera

All told, this was probably the best Don Giovanni I have seen and heard. Judging opera performances - perhaps we should not be ‘judging’ at all, but let us leave that on one side - is a difficult task: there are so many variables, at least as many as in a play and a concert combined, but then there is the issue of that ‘combination’ too.

A dance to life in Munich’s Indes galantes

Can one justly “review” a streamed performance? Probably not. But however different or diminished such a performance, one can—and must—bear witness to such an event when it represents a landmark in the evolution of an art form.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Béatrice and Bénédict at Glyndebourne

‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

L'elisir d'amore, Opera Holland Park
17 Jul 2013

L’elisir d’amore, Opera Holland Park

Pia Furtado’s production of Donizetti’s gentle rom-com, L’elisir d’amore, opens in the greenhouse-laboratory of a sunflower factory — all steel trolleys and agronomic apparatus.

L’elisir d’amore, Opera Holland Park

A review by Claire Seymour

Above image by Opera Holland Park

 

A rather prosaic setting for this tender tale of amorous affection, one might think, but in fact the backdrop of infinite fields of golden-headed sunflowers aspiring eagerly towards the fresh azure above, was a neat complement to the scorching summer sun outside.

Back in the factory, the workers busied themselves with seeds, samples and solutions, clad in trademark royal-blue industrial overalls, overseen by two advertising trailers bearing the portrait of the sunflower-goddess, Adina, amid a sunny pastoral paradise. Ordering the workers back to work, the boss herself overlooked the sneaky entry of a ragged brigand, one Dr Dulcamara, who proceeded to pilfer the pods and potions for his own chemical cocktails.

An interesting start, but sadly, despite designer Leslie Travers’ appealing vistas, one which didn’t really add up and quickly ran out of steam. By Act 2, with the ‘peasants’ stripped of their boiler suits and arrayed in their finery for the wedding of Belcore and Adina, the sunflowers seemed pretty irrelevant and the tray-laden trolleys, clumped together centre-stage, a redundant intrusion.

The charm of the work lies in its perfect balance of tenderness and wit, and both were somewhat lacking in this production. Only when Nemorino suggestively sponged the larger-than-life mascot-Adina — an endearing moment of naïve, dreamy wish-fulfilment — was a chuckle raised. Elsewhere the comedy — goose-stepping soldiers, some ‘racy’ goings-on in the trailer — was too slapstick, at times Monty Python-esque, and didn’t allow the humanity of the characters to shine through. The Holland Park Chorus, although accurate and well-marshalled, lacked the brightness of tone that was such an invigorating force in the season’s earlier production of The Pearl Fishers. There was little sense of a community of friends and fellows having fun, and too often the chorus were arranged in static clusters. Even the final chorus, when the opportunistic Dulcamara coolly cashes in on the success of his miracle medicine, was rather muted and restrained.

The sluggish tempi adopted by conductor Steven Higgins didn’t help matters. Higgins was practical and precise, and the players of the City of London Sinfonia performed, as they have done throughout the season, with customary clarity and a sure sense of a well-turned phrase. But Higgins used large gestures when small ones would have been more efficient, and didn’t quite pull off the Rossinian crescendo-accelerando, often labouring in four beats in a bar when slipping into two would have spurred things along more swiftly and slickly.

Fortunately a saviour was at hand, in the form of Sarah Tynan’s wonderful Adina. Following two recent, stellar turns in the role at English National Opera, Tynan is a total natural as the capricious minx with an essentially good heart. Factory owner or foreman, it wasn’t quite clear, but she was certainly master of the proceedings, the absolute star of the show. Coolly confident, there was not a note or nuance that was not fully in her command and, although Furtado seemed to have offered little direction, Tynan used every shade of her luscious soprano to sparkling dramatic effect, her voice agile, vibrant and unfailingly sweet.

She was well-matched by Aldo Do Toro as Nemorino. Returning to Holland Park after his well-received performance in a darker Donizettian mode, as Edgardo in Lucia, Do Toro once again revealed a warm, well-focused tenor, well-equipped to rise to the heights with no sense of strain. Simple and trusting, moving easily about the stage, he was an engaging and lovable dolt although, despite the pseudo-scientific interventions of Dulcamara, there was not much chemistry between Do Toro and Tynan.

Paradoxically, when things needed to settle back and unwind more languidly, Steven Higgins hurried along. Do Toro’s lines were smooth and well-shaped in the sentimental ‘Una furtive lagrima’, but he needed a few moments of relaxed expansion to do full justice to the Italianate lyricism.

Baritone George von Bergen was a consistent Belcore. One of the troops, as opposed to the commanding officer, this Belcore was more bluff and bluster than military might, but in his Act 1 aria, ‘Come Paride vezzoso’, von Bergen demonstrated a resonant lower register. An overly heavy vibrato occasionally marred the focus though, dulling the brightness and diminishing the impression of Belcore’s swaggering self-adulation. Rosalind Coad was a characterful Giannetta with an aptly mischievous tint to her voice.

Which brings us to the calculating chancer whose medicinal machinations are honoured in the opera’s title. Standing in at short notice for the indisposed Richard Burkhard, Geoffrey Dolton presented an idiosyncratic, but not wholly successful, interpretation of Dulcamara, far removed from the usual glib self-publicist and confident conman. Low-key, preferring to skulk in the shadows than parade in the spotlight, Dolton sang competently but rather blandly; assuming that the factory workers had a little scientific nous at their disposal, being familiar with tinctures to ‘make the garden grow’, it was hard to believe that they would be duped by Dulcamara’s rather lacklustre sales-pitch, ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’ (the anachronistic term ‘peasants’ being typical of the disappointing surtitles which also at times took considerable liberties with the libretto).

Dolton’s duet with Tynan, ‘Io son ricco e tu sei bella’, is intended to wow the wedding-feast guests and should be a show-stopping party-piece, but on this occasion there was little festive fizz; with his light and flexible baritone, Dolton can despatch Donizetti’s decorative flounces, but his voice does not really have the weight for this role. He was probably hampered too by Furtado’s sometimes underwhelming direction, particularly in Act 2, but this was a shame for an ironically masterful Dulcamara can convince us all that the tale is more than mere barmy nonsense.

L’elisir d’amore continues in rep until 3 August — go for Tynan’s dazzling Adina alone.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Adina, Sarah Tynan; Nemorino, Aldo Di Toro; Belcore, George von Bergen; Dulcamara, Geoffrey Dolton; Giannetta, Rosalind Cold; Director, Pia Furtado; Designer, Leslie Travers; Lighting Designer, Colin Grenfell; Conductor, Steven Higgins; City of London Sinfonia; Opera Holland Park Chorus. Opera Holland Park, Tuesday, 16th 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):