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

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.

Kindred Spirits: Cecilia Bartoli and Rolando Villazón at the Concertgebouw

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has been a regular favourite at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam since 1996. Her verastile concerts are always carefully constructed and delivered with irrepressible energy and artistic commitment.

Cav/Pag at Royal Opera

When Italian director Damiano Michieletto visited Covent Garden in June this year, he spiced Rossini’s Guillaume Tell with a graphic and, many felt, gratuitous rape scene that caused outrage and protest.

Verdi Giovanna d'Arco, Teatro alla Scala, Milan

Verdi Giovanna d'Arco at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, starting the new season. Primas at La Scala are a state occasion, attended by the President of Italy and other dignitaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Joyce DiDonato as Sesto [Photo by Todd Rosenberg]
13 May 2014

La clemenza di Tito at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its final production of the 2013-14 season Lyric Opera of Chicago featured Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito in a staging originating at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, in co-production with the Théatre du Capitole de Toulouse and l’Opéra de Marseille.

La clemenza di Tito at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Joyce DiDonato as Sesto [Photo by Todd Rosenberg]

 

The title character was portrayed by Matthew Polenzani, Vitellia, daughter of the late Emperor Vitellius by Amanda Majeski, Sesto by Joyce DiDonato, Annio by Cecelia Hall, Publio by Christian Van Horn, and Servilia by Emily Birsan. Sir Andrew Davis conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Michael Black prepared the Lyric Opera Chorus.

The overture to the opera was led in the dignified and richly variegated spirit of Mozart’s late symphonic orchestrations. Toward the close of this introduction soldiers dressed in black, who had passed across the stage during the overture with measured discipline before the bust of an imperial figure, depart from the scene with a staircase appearing as an axis for a series of confrontations en ensemble. In dialogue preceding the first duet Sesto and Vitellia pursue an ongoing dispute concerning the position of the Emperor Tito. Because his current plans to marry the Eastern princess Berenice are perceived as a slight by Vitellia, she demands that Sesto participate in a plot to assassinate the ruler. Sesto’s protestations of the nobility of Tito cannot move Vitellia in her demands for revenge. In their ensuing duet, “Come ti piace, imponi” (“Command and control my every move”) Ms. DiDonato and Ms. Majeski elaborate on these sentiments, yet now Vitellia has clearly won over the loyalty of her admirer. Majeski’s impassioned portrayal of the wounded Vitellia is a marvel of vocal and dramatic artistry. Her sensitive use of vibrato and chest notes emphasizes her character’s determination and her assured position vis-à-vis Sesto. In the latter role DiDonato alternated hesitancy with committed declarations of steadfastness in keeping with the character’s vacillations in loyalty. She drew on appropriate decorations, such as appoggiatura, to underscore Sesto’s introspection and difficult choices. Almost immediately Annio appears to announce the departure of Berenice, since the Senate has refused to support the Emperor’s choice of a wife. Vitellia sees her chances open again, expressed in the aria “Deh si piacer mi vuoi” [“Now if you wish to please me”] followed by “Chi ciecamente crede” [“He who blindly believes”]. Majeski showed heightened enthusiasm in the line “Lascia sospetti tuoi” with an extended melisma on ‘Lascia.” In the second part of the aria her impressive embellishments and use of rubato in the repeat reinforced the character’s quick-edged instability. While taking advantage of Vitellia’s departure, Annio reminds Sesto that he wishes to wed Servilia, sister of Sesto. The duet of friendship, “Deh prende un dolce amplesso” [“Let me embrace you”], sung by the two mezzo sopranos Ms. Hall and Ms. DiDonato, was touching and suggested a foil of innocence in contrast to the previous scenes with Vitellia. The entrance of Tito immediately afterward was celebrated in this production with a ballet of swordsmen coordinated with the military march. Interspersed with choral responses and the nobly delivered recitative passages of Christian Van Horn’s Publio, Tito makes the unexpected announcement that he will himself marry Servilia before day’s end. Although shaken by the news, Annio departs with disciplined resolve, as was well illustrated here by Hall’s portrayal. In Tito’s first aria laying claim to the generosity inherent in his position, “Del più sublime soglio” [“Of the highest office”], Mr. Polenzani’s enthusiasm caused him to overstate the Emperor’s determination by singing much of the piece forte with little variation. His second aria, “Ah si fosse intorno al trono” [“Ah, if everyone near to my throne”], settled into the spirit and style in keeping with the scene depicted. After being informed by Annio that she is the chosen bride of Tito, Servilia approaches the Emperor in his palace. Her protest that she cannot retrieve her heart from Annio is answered by Tito’s aria. Here Polenzani introduced tasteful decoration on the line “ma saria felicità” [“would bring me happiness”], and sang the repeat with truly accomplished effects to emphasize the ruler’s gratefulness for Servilia’s honesty. At Vitellia’s re-entrance Majeski projected an especially unhinged character as she goaded Sesto to determined action against the Emperor. In the showpiece aria, “Parto, parto” [“I am going, I am going”], DiDonato’s Sesto showed a flawless technique and a fine sense of Mozartean style. Her pure top notes and accomplished trills supported by clarinet solo were addressed to the manipulative Vitellia in attempts to mollify the noblewoman’s recurring mistrust. In the second part of this aria beginning at “Guardami” [“Look at me”], DiDonato moved from a piano expression of tenderness to rapid runs alternating with rubato passages in her continued pledges of romantic loyalty and forthcoming action against the Emperor. Once Sesto has indeed departed as announced in his aria, Vitellia learns that Tito has had a change of heart and wishes to make her his bride. Majeski punctuated Vitellia’s shifts of temperament so that they contrasted noticeably with the calm innocence projected by Annio and Publio. In the last scene of the act Sesto’s monologue leading into a quintet of principals enhances the tumult [“tumulto”] of a threat against the Emperor’s life. While paying homage to the glory of Rome, DiDonato’s Sesto pleaded through extended vocal embellishments for guidance in saving the city’s splendor despite this ill-advised deed against Tito. As part of the final ensemble the presumed death of the Emperor was lamented with stately poignancy.

Act Two begins with the revelation by Annio to Sesto that Tito has not perished in the assault on the palace. While urging Sesto to remain in Rome and to request forgiveness from the Emperor, Hall gave an impassioned performance of Annio’s aria, “Torna di Tito a lato” [“Return to Tito”], which she concluded with silvery top notes. As Sesto vacillates between this advice and Vitellia’s declarations that he should flee, Publio enters and declares him under arrest for his deeds against the Emperor’s authority. During the brief scene of strategic confidence between Tito and Publio, Mr. Van Horn sang with ultimate artistry the featured aria for Publio, Captain of the Guard, “Tardi s’avvede d’un tradimento” [“Only too late does he become aware of betrayal”]. As his voice rose with noticeable, effortless excitement Van Horn embellished the close of the first part with melismatic decorations blended into a seamless line. His address to Tito was vocally fervent in the repeat. Before Sesto and the Emperor meet in conflict and reconciliation, Annio pleads again for Tito’s clemency. Hall sang “Tu fosti tradito” [“You were betrayed”] with commitment and increasingly emphatic projection as the danger for the captive Sesto becomes more serious. The subsequent private confrontation between Tito and Sesto, during which their mutual loyalties and political transformations are aired, was a dramatic focal point in this production. At its conclusion both characters express the difficulties of their personal choices in solo numbers. Tito’s renowned “Se all’ impero, amici Dei, necessario è un cor severo” [“If a severe heart is necessary to the empire, o gods”], was well conceived by Polenzani. He showed the character’s self-reflective state by emphasizing piano the repeat of “necessario,” while the second part of the aria sowed a nice sense of modulation, rising tones, and a final trill on “un altro cor” [“another heart”]. Before the ultimate pardon by Tito of all those involved in a conspiracy Vitellia sings her last aria of self-recrimination, “Non più di fiori vaghe catene discenda Imene” [“No longer will Hymen descend from the heavens to weave bridal chains”]. Majeski’s performance of this piece was outstanding, her range and dramatic descent from top to low chest notes on “veggo la morte ver me avanzar” [“I see death advancing upon me”] emphasizing the terror felt by her character in the face of undeniable guilt toward the Emperor. As a capstone to Majeski’s performance throughout the production, this aria and scene compensated for the questionable dramatic choice to close the opera with the Imperial Guard challenging Tito’s decision to grant clemency in the final part of the act.

Salvatore Calomino

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):