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

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.

Dulwich Opera’s Carmen

Dulwich Opera Company’s Carmen was a convincingly successful show.  This was mainly due to succinct musical direction and rigorous dramatic direction.  It also meant that the proximity of the action was a fascinating treat, and by the artists being young, and easy on the eye.

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):