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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Marco Berti as Calaf and Lise Lindstrom as Turandot [Photo © Tristram Kenton]
10 Sep 2013

Turandot, Royal Opera

The Royal Opera's production of Puccini's Turandot is nearly 30 years old. Created for the 1984 Olympics, Andrei Serban's production has been revived 15 times.

Turandot, Royal Opera

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Marco Berti as Calaf and Lise Lindstrom as Turandot

Photos © ROH / Tristram Kenton

 

This latest revival opened on September 9 2013 and featured the Covent Garden debuts of soprano Lise Lindstrom in the title role and conductor Henrik Nanasi. The production is in good health and the revival, directed by Andrew Sinclair, was as crisp and involving as ever.

Serban's production, in striking designs by Sally Jacobs and with extensive choreography by Kate Flatt, is lively, busy and full of incident, so that the principals need to give strong performances otherwise the production itself dominates. There was a feeling of this in act one, as if the principals had not quite found their form.

But the opera opened well, with Michel de Souza (on the company's Jette Park Young Artists Scheme) giving a commanding performance as the Mandarin.

ROH_642.gifEri Nakamura as Liù and Raymond Aceto as Timur

Marco Berti, singing his first Calaf at Covent Garden, had a robust and thrilling tenor voice thankfully also with a willingness to moderate his tone and sing with a degree of subtlety. But his stage demeanour was rather stiff and failed to catch fire in the first act. Non piangere Liu though nicely shaped, did not touch the heart. His diction throughout was superb and it was great to hear Italian sung by a native.

The three masks, Ping, Pang and Pong were performed by three young singers, Dionysios Sourbis, David Butt Philip and Doug Jones. David Butt Philip is also on the Jette Parker Young Artists programme. In this production the roles are very active and all three brought and admirable physicality to their performances, but I found that they did not seem entirely threatening enough. Balance also was not ideal with the middle of the three voices not quite projected enough, seeming slightly weaker.

Eri Nakamura, a former Jette Parker Young Artist returning to sing her first Liu at Covent Garden. She has a vibrant lyric voice with a warm vibrato, which she makes intelligent use of. She made a touching Liu giving a finely shaped performance of Signore ascolta. She was well supported by the noble Timur of Raymond Aceto.

The first scene of act two gave the three masks a chance to show their individual talents. Dionysios Sourbis as Ping had a fine, strongly projected baritone voice and impressed with his solo, both David Butt Philip and Doug Jones contributed nicely turned solo moments. The interaction between the three was lively and well coordinated, the three made a great dramatic ensemble but I did rather keep coming back to the issue of balance of the voices.

But throughout the first act and a half, there was also a slight feeling of marking time, that we were waiting for Turandot's entry. And we weren't disappointed. Tall and slim with a brilliant dramatic voice, Lise Lindstrom made a striking Turandot. The opening of In questa reggia seemed to be threatened with too much vibrato. But she settled down and delivered a highly controlled account of the aria, singing with admirable laser-like brightness and control. Perhaps there was a feeling that phrases were broken down too much into individual syllables, but overall this was a highly auspicious and very commanding debut.

Berti made a strong impact in his decisive appeal to the Emperor (Alasdair Elliott) at the opening of the scene, and went on to join Lindstrom for a thrilling account of the riddle scene. Both voices balanced well and the two artists made this a real dramatic moment, rather than purely a musical one. Whilst Berti remained a bit stiff dramatically, this translated into decisiveness and nobility. Lindstrom, by contrast, was superb at suggesting the neurotic nature of Turandot's obsession. Lindstrom was a traditional Turandot, coolly icy with a definite dislike of being touched.

ROH_942.gifDionysios Sourbis as Ping, David Butt Philip as Pang and Doug Jones as Pong

Act three opens, of course, with the best known aria in the opera Nessun dorma. Berti was robust here, his voice displaying an admirable consistency throughout the range as well as some sensibility and subtlety. Admirably, he did not grandstand, and the ending was neatly done.

In her two solos in this act Nakamura was supremely touching as Liu, characterful and quite strong. But she shaped Puccini's lines finely, with a nice vibrancy, and certainly touched the heart. The torture scene was well shaped by conductor Henrik Nanasi and there was a feeling of the whole ensemble building inexorable, in just the right way, towards Liu's death. As in the first act, the three masks could have been edgier but Lindstrom's Turandot was a wonderfully icy and commanding presence.

Berti almost used his size to impose himself on Lindstrom and her capitulation, when it came, was sudden and total. Not for the first time, I regretted the lack of Alfano's full ending with the extension to the two solo roles.

Conductor Henrik Nanasi displayed a nice feel for Puccini's opera and the ebb and flow of the music, but in some of the early scenes there was a worrying lack of crispness in the coordination between chorus and pit. The chorus did not seem to be on quite top form, and their off-stage contributions in act three were rather rough.

This performance saw some notable debuts and had some powerful individual performances, but it did not quite add up to a complete experience. Though this may develop over the run, and the piece is being broadcast live in cinemas on 17 September.

Robert Hugill


Cast and production information:

Michel de Souza: Mandarin, Eri Nakamura: Liu, Raymond Aceto: Timur, Marco Berti: Calaf, Dionysio Sourbis: Ping, David Butt Philip: Pang, Doug Jones: Pong, Lise Lindstrom: Turandot, Alasdair Elliot: Emperor Altoum. Henrik Nanasi: Conductor, Andrei Serban: Original Director, Andrew Sinclair: Revival Director, Sally Jacobs: Designs, Kate Flatt: Choreography. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 9 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):