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

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

18 May 2014

Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, Glyndebourne 2014

Der Rosenkavalier opened Glyndebourne’s 80th anniversary season, dedicated to the memory of George Christie, who created country house opera as we know it today.

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, West Sussex, 17th May 2014

A review by Anne Ozorio

 

“My father loved Der Rosenkavalier”, said Gus Christie. “I think he would have liked this production”, he added with a wink, “Though he would, as always, have had a lot to say about it”. He’s right. The more we care about an opera, the more we get from fresh perspectives. This 2014 Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier is provocative because it focuses on Baron Ochs and what he stands for. Richard Strauss polishes surfaces so glossy that we’re too dazzled, blinded to the sinister depths that lurk within to think of meaning.

Think about what Der Rosenkavalier might mean. The Marschallin lives in luxury, but she’s not fooled. Like Sophie, she herself was traded in marriage like a consumer product. Baron Ochs symbolizes a system that places more value in crass commerce than on human values. The Marschallin, Kate Royal, appears in a nude suit, rising from her bath like Venus. It’s audacious, but absolutely to the point. She’s flaunting her wares. Her bedroom is invaded by merchants, each flogging some product. One is an Italian Singer (Andrej Dunaev). His song is sweet but banal. Strauss is sending up art calculated to please the marketplace. Baron Ochs (Lars Woldt) is right in. He’s come to buy a bride, but he’ll grope any woman available, even if the “woman” is a man. Only when the Marschallin is alone can she be herself. As Kate Royal sings her last lines at the end of the First Act, the yellow and grey designer wrapping paper decor is transformed by light into silver and gold.

Octavian (Tara Erraught) presents the silver rose to Sophie (Teodora Gheorghiu).but the ritual goes wrong. They fall in love. The audience howled with laughter when the lovers locked foreheads and rocked together in unison, but the naivety contrasts well with the devious machinations going all round them. Humour is a key into Richard Strauss. This Richard Jones production is lively but it contributes greatly to this Richard Strauss anniversary year because it shows how Strauss uses wit as a weapon against mindless conformity. Der Rosenkavalier isn’t superficial, it’s satire. There’s glamour, and romance, but it has a core of solid silver.

If there’s a moral in Der Rosenkavalier, it might be “Things don’t have to be the way we think they should be”. The Marschallin gives up her dream of love so Octavian and Sophie can have a future. She concocts a plot to expose Ochs for what he is: ox by name and nature. Ochs is lured to an inn so garish that anyone with real taste would be screaming to escape from it. Ochs’s favourite song “Ohne mich” is a tune anyone can hum, but that doesn’t make it good music. He’s also easily fooled by fake peasant costumes. Och’s knows what he likes, but that’s the problem. He doesn’t take any one else into consideration. Lars Woldt’s performance is outstanding, one of the sharpest Ochs I can remember offhand. He’s not a comic parody but all too believable. This type inhabits all walks of life, including the opera world. Woldt defines each word with precision, observing the changes in pitch with clear deliberation. Woldt acts well too, moving with animal agility. Ochs is not a buffoon but a man who gets his way by selfishness and cunning. That’s why he’s so dangerous. He knows how to use the system against those less ruthless. There aren’t enough Marschallins around.

The words “Papa! Papa!” ring with shrill accusation. When Ochs is trapped, the stage fills with those whom he’s harmed or could harm if he could. Strauss operas are often “busy” with numerous characters whose moment may not last long but who are integral to the plot. In this production, even non-verbal parts like Ochs’s eldest son and the black servant are given “voices” that define their role perceptively. Ochs’s son can never inherit, and the black servant can’t dream of winning the Marschallin, but they deserve dignity, too. Big on stage ensembles pose problems in any staging. Here, Jones and his Movement Director Sarah Fahie choreograph the interactions between those on stage and the sounds from the pit with such detail that it feels that the score is literally coming to life. Robin Ticciati’s first performance in his new role was somewhat tentative in places, but in the last act everything came together, and the music shone in glorious savagery.

Despite the many superb Der Rosenkavalier productions of the past that have shaped our memories, performances are generally good all round. Kate Royal, a perennial house favourite, won great applause. She’s so beautiful she seems almost too idealized for the part, but I liked the wry grit with which she sang her final benediction to Octavian and Sophie.Tara Erraught’s Octavian was robustly acted with earthy glee. Jones developed Sophie with more personality than the part often receives, so Teodora Gheorghiu could sing it with charm. Glyndebourne’s budget doesn’t run to megastars so lesser roles are often extremely well cast. Michael Krauss’s Faninal was extremely well presented — nice, firm singing and poise. Christopher Gillett and Helene Schneiderman sang Valzacchi and Annina with great character. Robert Wörle and Scott Conner sang The Innkeeper and the Police Commissioner. Even smaller parts were thought through carefully and presented with conviction. Richard Jones’s style (with designs by Paul Steinberg and Nicky Gillibrand) isn’t usually my taste, but his is a production filled with well thought out detail and definition. Ochs might not like it, but I and most of the Glyndebourne audience got it.

Anne Ozorio

For more details please see the Glyndebourne website. This production will also be broadcast live online and in cinemas on 8th June 2014.

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):