Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

The Enchantresse and Dido and Aeneas
in Lyon

Dido and Aeneas, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Tchaikowsky’s L’Enchantresse, the three operas of the Opéra de Lyon’s annual late March festival all tease destiny. But far more striking than the thematic relationship that motivates this 2019 festival is the derivation of these three productions from the world of hyper-refined theater, far flung hyper-refined theater.

The devil shares the good tunes: Chelsea Opera Group's Mefistofele

Every man ‘who burns with a thirst for knowledge and life and with curiosity about the nature of good and evil is Faust ... [everyone] who aspires to the Unknown, to the Ideal, is Faust’.

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

Barbara Hannigan sings Berg and Gershwin at the Barbican Hall

I first heard Barbara Hannigan in 2008.

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):