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 Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Der Rosenkavalier: Welsh National Opera in Cardiff

Olivia Fuchs' new production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company's first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).

Don Giovanni takes to the waves at Investec Opera Holland Park

There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary - the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors - perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.

"Recreated" Figaro at Garsington delights

After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele - an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms - the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

Semele: star-dust and sparkle at Garsington Opera

To open the 2017 season at Garsington Opera, director Annilese Miskimmon and designer Nicky Shaw offer a visually beautifully new production of Handel's Semele in which comic ribaldry and celestial feuding converge and are transfigured into star-dust.

La rondine at Investec Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park's 2017 season opened on 1 June 2017 with Martin Lloyd-Evans's new production of Puccini's La Rondine, designed by takis, with lighting by Mark Howland and choreography by Steve Elias. Elizabeth Llewellyn was Magda with Matteo Lippi as Ruggero, Tereza Gevorgyan as Lisette, Stephen Aviss as Prunier and David Stephenson as Rambaldo, Matthew Kofi Waldren conducted the City of London Sinfonia.

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):