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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

ENO Rodelinda 2014 - Iestyn Davies, Rebecca Evans (c) Clive Barda
03 Mar 2014

Torn Between Rival Loyalties

Handel’s great opus, Rodelinda, at English National Opera on Friday night was the latest in the Coliseum’s recent run of new and co-produced productions, and also renowned director Peter Jones’ latest foray into the world of opera.

Torn Between Rival Loyalties

A review by Sue Loder

Above: Iestyn Davies as Bertarido and Rebecca Evans as Rodelinda

Photos © Clive Barda

 

A full-ish house for the first night seemed from the start inclined to be indulgent and supportive (does a Friday night after a long week in the office in London help a new production? Discuss......) and was helped along by what sounded suspiciously like a small claque cheering from the very first da capo aria (“let’s get this lot going chaps”?) without, it has to be said, that much cause at that particular moment.

ENO Rodelinda 2014 - John Mark Ainsley 4 (c) Clive BardaJohn Mark Ainsley as Grimoaldo

Never mind, the audience did not need much further encouragement to applaud as we were that night treated to one of the finest expositions of handelian singing across the vocal spectrum that we’ve heard for quite a while. A superb collection of the best British singing talent gathered under one roof to show the world how Handel should — ought — to be sung. John Mark Ainsley, (Grimoaldo), Susan Bickley (Eduige), Iestyn Davies (Bertarido), and Rebecca Evans (Rodelinda) took on the leading roles in this tale of loyalty, power, love and lust and gave full measure at every turn. They were supported no less ably by Richard Burkhard (Garibaldo), Christopher Ainslie (Unulfo) and Matt Casio (a non singing, but certainly acting Flavio). One could spend paragraphs praising each performer’s intelligent and musical interpretations, but suffice to say that there was not one weak link in this chain of excellence although inevitably both Evans and Davies, as chief protagonists and with the most sublime and ferocious arias to their credit, did receive the loudest and longest ovations come the end of three plus hours of Mr Handel at his best. And each singer of course supported by the dash, drive and commitment to baroque style that Christian Curnyn supplied from the pit.

I mentioned loyalty as a major driver in the plot: it came through again and again both within the personal relationships of the characters and in their wider political and philosophical concerns but it was loyalty much closer to home which worried this writer most. One wishes only success and financial security for English National Opera as it goes forward from some pretty torrid times; one wishes that Handel’s greatest works should become loved by ever larger audiences in ever more numerous productions; one wishes that more opera house orchestras could adapt as stylishly to baroque details as does ENO’s; and one wishes our British theatrical production talents ever more plaudits both here and overseas as they bring new ideas and angles to old favourites. However, the elephant in the room on Friday night, it must be said, was this very thing. Peter Jones has already garnered many plaudits for his theatrical insight and challenging productions around the world, but on leaving the theatre on Friday night it became clear that this production was splitting people down the middle.

ENO Rodelinda 2014 2 (c) Clive BardaA scene from Rodelinda

A straw poll aftewards produced extremes of reaction: “marvellous, clever, thought-provoking” at one end and “poor singers, how did they produce such excellence within such dire, distracting drivel?” at the other. To be fair, he and his team did (mostly) give the singers both space and focus on the stage for their big numbers; it was all the stuff in between that in this writer’s opinion was either indulgent, patronising or plain wrong. Once again, poor Mr Handel has suffered from a director’s inability to trust the music, an inability to understand that emotion, conflict and psychological evolution is already there — on the score, within the bars and notes, riding on the swell and trough of fine singing. Others will disagree, no doubt; some will say it’s a modern masterpiece; only the audiences of the future will decide and let’s hope they do in droves. What is without doubt is that Rodelinda will survive it all and with singers as good as we heard in the Coliseum we can rest assured that Mr Handel will always have the last word.

Sue Loder

Until 15 March. Tickets: 020 7845 9300; www.eno.org

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):