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 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.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

A Prom of Transformation and Transcendence: Renée Fleming and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

This Prom was all about places: geographical, physical, pictorial, poetic, psychological. And, as we journeyed through these landscapes of the mind, there was plenty of reminiscence and nostalgia too, not least in Samuel Barber’s depiction of early twentieth-century Tennessee - Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

The Queen's Lace Handkerchief: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

Billed as the ‘First British Performance’ - though it had had a prior, quasi-private outing at the Roxburgh Theatre, Stowe in July - Opera della Luna’s production of Johann Strauss Jnr’s The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (Das Spitzentuch der Königin) at Wilton’s Music Hall began to sound pretty familiar half-way through the overture (which was played with spark and elegance by conductor Toby Purser’s twelve-piece orchestra).

Glyndebourne perform La clemenza di Tito at the Proms

The advantage of Glyndebourne Opera’s performances at the BBC Proms is that they give us a chance to concentrate on the music making. And there was plenty of high-quality music-making on offer at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 28 August 2017 when Glyndebourne Opera performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

Rossini’s Torvaldo e Dorliska in Pesaro

The rare and somewhat interesting Rossini! Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815) comes just after Elisabetta, Regina di Ingleterra (the first of his nineteen operas for Naples) — a huge success, and just before Il barbiere di Siviglia in Rome — a failure.

Jakub Hrůša : Bohemian Reformation Prom

At Prom 56, Jakub Hrůša conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a programme on the theme of the Hussite Wars and their place in Bohemian culture showing how the Hussite hymn was incorporated into music by Smetana, Martinů, Dvořák, Janáček and Josef Suk.

Wozzeck at the Salzburg Festival

South African actor, artist, multimedia artist, film and theater, now opera director William Kentridge has taken the world by storm over the past few years. In my experience The Magic Flute in Brussels, The Return of Ulysses (puppets) in San Francisco, The Nose in Aix, Lulu at the Met, Die Winterreise and his “One Man Show” in Aix. And now Wozzeck at the Salzburg Festival.

Lear at the Salzburg Festival

Undaunted by the bloody majesty of this 1606 Shakespeare tragedy, German composer Aribert Reimann embraced the challenge back in the cold-war era (1970’s). Its Munich premiere was in 1978, a Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production that then traveled to San Francisco in 1981. Of the Munich cast only Helga Dernesch as Goneril appeared in San Francisco.

Ariodante at the Salzburg Ferstival

From time to time felicitous circumstances create impromptu masterpieces, like the Salzburg 2017 Whitsun Festival production of Handel's Ariodante that has continued just now into the 2017 summer festival.

Glimmerglass Being Judgmental

There was a sense of event about the closing performance of Derrick Wang’s Scalia/Ginsberg for days in advance.

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):