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

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

30 Sep 2013

La Traviata, Hamburg

Johannes Erath's production of Verdi's La Traviata opened at the Staatsoper Hamburg in February this year, with Ailyn Perez in the title role. Perez returned with Stephen Costello as Alfredo for three performances in September 2013

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata, Hamburg State Opera

A review by Robert Hugill

 

I caught the third on 27 September 2013, with Alexandru Agache as Giorgio Germont and Rebecca Jo Loeb as Flora. The production was designed by Annette Kurz with costumes by Herbert Murauer. The conductor was Alexander Joel.

As we entered the auditorium the curtain was up and we saw a lone figure sitting on a huge bare stage, black walls, lighting rig visible. The figure started playing the accordion, two figures came on stage, Alfredo (Costello) and Annina (Ida Aldrian), she gave money to the accordionist (Jakob Neubauer) whilst Costello pulled the body of Violetta out of the ground and cradled it. At the conclusion of the prelude, the rear wall opened and the party guests were revealed, coming forward on a platform whilst Costello was still on stage. This was clearly a production which was understood to be happening in flashback.

There were a number of key elements which helped define Erath's dramaturgy. The first was the use of dodgems, these were lowered from the flies for the party scene in act one and the party took place in and around them. Dodgems were the only set, two remained on stage during the opening of act two, and the whole set of them returned for the party at Flora's. The other major element was a set of circus performers, all played by older actors, all in white whom only Violetta could see and whom we had to take as ghosts from her past. They reoccurred at key moments of the drama. Apart from the circus performers, all the cast were in modern dress.

The platform that I referred to earlier contained a revolve and Erath made a too frequent cliched use of it with much walking on the spot. But generally the visual style was very considered with movements and gestures being mirrored in the two party scenes; for example Costello laid Perez in one of the dodgems, in act one prior to an erotic encounter, in act three as she lay dying.

The problem was that Erath used these elements in rather too obvious a way. He clearly took a very particular view of the dramaturgy of the opera and wanted to ensure that we knew what to think. There was something heavy handed about the rather obvious way he martialled his forces to reinforce his ideas, such as bringing on the circus performers with monotonous regularity. For me, though, the main problem was the way that he tried to re-write the ending of the opera. During Addio del passato there was steady, slow progression of the circus performers with a second Violetta at the end. Perez greeted her doppelganger and whilst the second Violetta climbed into her grave, Perez removed her dress to reveal her white shift. She too had become a ghost and we were to understand that for much, but not all of the remainder of the act neither Alfredo nor his father could see her or interact with her. But not quite, as parts of Verdi's score almost forced them to interact. It was very much a cast of forcing the opera to fit a konzept and I could not help wishing that Erath had emulated a director like Peter Konwitschny who has no qualms at separating words and music.

LA TRAVIATA - Staatsoper Hamburg from Theater-TV on Vimeo.

There were odd details too. During act two scene one we saw Annina selling to Flora the dress that Violetta work in act one, and Flora wore it at her party. The entertainment at Flora's party was not Spanish, but a re-enactment of the story of Violetta, Alfredo and Giorgio Germont. At the end of the previous scene, Agache had given his overcoat and hat to Perez, who appeared at Flora's party still wearing them.

The production worked because Perez gave a performance of such brilliance and intensity, clearly identifying with Erath's concept of Violetta. Perez is a lyric soprano and there were moments in act two scene two and in act three when having a more spinto voice would have been ideal, but this didn't matter because Perez used her resources superbly. Technically the end of act one was well done, but it never felt like a coloratura showpiece, Perez simply used the music to further the drama. Common to all her performance was a superb feeling for the line of Verdi's music, with Perez spinning out long phrases in a profoundly moving and expressive manner. She was able to thin her voice to the merest thread, but also revealed a surprisingly rich and warm depth to her voice at key moments. Unlike other lyric colorratura sopranos in the role, I was never aware of Perez managing her voice. Her identification was total and her performance simply mesmerising.

Stephen Costello was new to the production, but is Perez's husband in real life, and the two generated quite a remarkable buzz. Costello's voice is the sort of lyric tenor that might be termed useful. It lacks an Italianate ping but is evenly produced throughout the range and he sang intelligently and never grandstanded, If these virtues seem a little negative, it did mean that we appreciated his Alfredo rather than simply watching Stephen Costello. From the first moment his Alfredo was quite poised, having sex with one of Violetta's party guests and clearly a bit of a shit. This was no eager puppy and the relationship with Violetta, so serious in its intensity was clearly a surprise to both of them. He coped well with the extra drama required of him, the framing device so that we saw things in flash-back, and he cr dled the dummy body manfully during sections of the close opf act three. It says much of Costello and Perez's relationship that they could generate so much electricity during the Parigi o cara duet with him cradling a dummy and her sitting alone on a dodgem.

During Flora's party, Alfredo's treatment of Violetta was profoundly disturbing; Costello did not just throw money at Perex but launched himself at her and in a highly disturbing and rather extended scene, seemed to virtually kill her with Perez only reviving in time to join in the ensemble. For the remainder of the scene Perez was shunned by the party goers. The scene moved into act three without a break (the intermission was in the middle of act two), and the opening of act three seemed to explore Violetta's alienation rather than her illness. It seemed as if, in some way, Violetta died by Alfredo's hand during Flora's party.

Agache made a notable Giorgio Germont. His voice lacks something of the flexibility at the top of his range, and he was clearly making an effort not to simply bark the upper passages. But his stiff-backed, rigid Germont was a notable participant in the drama, unbending enough at the end of act two scene one to give Perez his coat for protection. His duet with Perez was another musico-dramatic highpoint of the evening.

The lack of a set seems to have caused acoustical problems, at least that is what I presume because all the principals had moments of tuning problems in some of Verdi's extended cantilena, because they could not hear the orchestra sufficiently.

Rebecca Jo Loeb was a fine Flora, gamely stripping down to her underwear during her party, and acting as the main focus of the drama during the dance sequence there. Ida Aldrian, a member of the Opera Studio, made a notable Annina, in this version participating far more in the drama than is usual.

Over the conducting of Alexander Joel I could wish I could draw a veil. His speeds were lively and his feelings for Verdi's music was clearly strong, but he seemed entirely unable to keep the stage in time with the pit in the bigger ensembles, something that happened not just once but repeatedly.

This was however, Perez and Costello's evening and whatever the drawbacks of the production I took away the amazing electricity and musicality of the performance

Robert Hugill


Cast and production information:

Ailyn Perez: Violetta, Stephen Costello: Alfredo, Alexandru Agache: Giorgio Germont, Rebecca Jo Loeb: Flora, Ida Aldrian: Annina, Sergiu Saplacan: Gastone, Jan Buchwald: Douphol, Florian Spiess: D'Obigny, Levente Pall: Grenvil, Manuel Gunther: Giuseppe, Gheorghiu Vlad: Un domestico di Flora, Jakob Neubauer: Accordionist Johannes Erath: Director, Annette Kurz: Set Design, Herbert Murauer: Costume, Alexander Joel: Conductor. Staatsoper Hamburg, 27 September 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):