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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

A scene from Don Giovanni [Photo by Robert Workman]
10 Jun 2014

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne

Having become so jaded with indifferent — or, sadly, far worse than merely indifferent — stagings of an opera I love more than words can tell, it proved a relief and indeed a joy for me to attend this first revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2010 Glyndebourne production, especially its first act.

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne

A review by Mark Berry

Above: A scene from Don Giovanni [Photo by Robert Workman]

 

It was not perfect; perfection we leave for Mozart. But Kent’s staging, as revived by Lloyd Wood — I am afraid I am in no position to say how much is Kent and how much is Wood — treats this masterpiece seriously and joins a select group of productions I should happily see again, not least because I suspect there would be intriguing points revealed to me that I had missed upon a first viewing. (Incidentally, its Glyndebourne predecessor, from Graham Vick, forms part of that small band.)

Kent’s staging may lack the cocaine-fuelled kinetic energy of Calixto Bieito’s unforgettable ENO production, or the (apparently) all-encompassing, Calderón-like Salzburg World Theatre of Herbert Graf’s production for Furtwängler (the most precious opera DVD this side of the Boulez-Chéreau Ring?), but even such magnificent achievements as those can only begin to hint at the possibilities Mozart and Da Ponte offer us. Most stagings come nowhere near accomplishing even that. Social tensions are either absent or underplayed — an all too common shortcoming — but a seriousness and sensibility it is perhaps not unduly exaggerated to call theological nevertheless comes to the fore. Giovanni’s unflinching, libertine atheism is of course the true heroism of the opera. The dark force of what to him may be reaction is symbolised by the darkness of Paul Brown’s excellent set designs, from out of which the action seems to emerge and into which it retreats. But some in the audience — and some of the characters too — might equally decide that it is the temporal stability of the revolving cube (the Mother Church, perhaps?) which protects and which ultimately proves the villain’s downfall.

Such openness to interpretation is quite different from a lack of direction. There is room for the burning conviction of strong directorial lines — Bieito is surely one of the greatest and unquestionably one of the most celebrate examples — and for more reticent yet nevertheless intelligent productions, permitting of various understandings. In that respect, Kent’s likening, in his brief director’s note, of Brown’s spinning cube to ‘a kind of Cabinet of Curiosities or, perhaps, a great sarcophagus,’ proves fruitful both in itself and for the further consideration it might suggest. Moreover, such properly Baroque references, in a more broadly cultural sense rather than the narrow conceptions of ‘style’ prevalent today, prove equally stimulating to the imagination — just as they do in Mozart’s score and Da Ponte’s libretto. The 1950s updating registers if one wishes: Kent suggests a ‘time of transition, in which a sexual, social and moral revolution, a dolce vita world, coexisted with the remnants of a devout society. However, at least to my eyes, it does not force itself unduly upon one’s consciousness. The staging is again, then, suggestive; it does not make the mistake of trying to shoehorn the drama into a pointlessly narrow conception, let alone somehow attempt to make Don Giovanni ‘about’ the era in question.

There remains, however, one significant reservation. I do not know whose decision it was to serve up what seemed pretty much to be the Vienna version of the score, but I wish he or she had thought again; it made a change, though, from the unholy conflation of Vienna and Prague generally foisted upon us. To anyone who cares to think about it, Prague wins every time, although I have yet to attend a single performance in which Mozart’s dramatic sensibility is thus honoured. At any rate, we heard both of Donna Elvira’s arias, just the one of Don Ottavio’s (‘Dalla sua pace’), and the very rare Vienna duet for Zerlina and Leporello, ‘Per queste tue manine’. It was not, of course, uninteresting to hear the latter, for once, but it is almost unworthy of late Mozart, and holds up the action just as much as if we were to hear both of Ottavio’s arias (and/or, for that matter, both of Elvira’s: just as much a problem with Vienna). There was, at least, no messing about with the scena ultima — a relief, given the recent butchery perpetrated by the Royal Opera. It was a great pity, though, about the surtitles, whose translation was unworthy of Da Ponte’s matchless marriage of wit and profundity.

Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s Mahler I greatly admired in Vienna a year-and-a-half ago. At first, that is, in the Overture, I found him somewhat wanting in Mozart. I have learned to live with the opening being taken at an allegedly alla breve tempo far too fast to my ears; off the top of my head, only Barenboim and Muti, amongst living conductors, come close to what I hear in my head. More concerning were a general thinness of tone and apparent lack of concern with harmonic rhythm. If those were not actually natural trumpets — I could not see the pit — they certainly sounded like them; others, of course, respond better to that rasping sound than I do. However, once past that disappointing opening, there was much to admire, though such tendencies were far from entirely banished. There will always be tempi with which one can quibble, but this was a variegated performance which did not harry the music, and which permitted both the on-stage drama to develop and the excellent London Philharmonic Orchestra to have its say. The Stone Guest Scene, however, was strangely un-climactic: partly, I think, a matter of the failure to use the Prague score, but it was more than that, for that failing is common to many other performances. Though beautifully played by the LPO and — for the most part — well sung, the final scene therefore did not jolt quite as it should.

Indeed, the main factor was probably the underpowered singing of Taras Shtonda’s Commendatore. The other disappointment amongst the cast was Layla Claire’s vibrato-laden Donna Anna, whose musical line really needed to be clearer throughout. Otherwise, a cast almost entirely unknown to me acquitted itself well, with a fine sense of company. Ben Johnson, whom I had heard before as Ottavio, albeit in English, sang exquisitely, almost to the extent of having one regret the lack of ‘Il mio tesoro’. Serena Farnocchia was a stylish Elvira, whilst Lenka Máčiková and Brandon Cedel offered vocally lively assumptions of the roles of Zerlina and Masetto. If Elliot Madore lacked the charisma of the great Giovannis, then he nevertheless delighted in the musico-dramatic quicksilver of the role, sufficiently differentiated from the equally lively Leporello of Edwin Crossley-Mercer. There was genuine chemistry between them. Perhaps ironically, given the ‘loss’ of his aria, it was only Johnson’s Ottavio which continued to ring in my ears; but this, like the production and performance as a whole, was a cast that proved considerably greater than the sum of its parts.

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Leporello: Edwin Crossley-Mercer; Donna Anna: Layla Claire; Don Giovanni: Elliot Madore; Commendatore: Taras Shtonda; Don Ottavio: Ben Johnson; Donna Elvira: Serena Farnocchia; Zerlina: Lenka Máčiková; Masetto: Brandon Cedel. Director: Jonathan Kent; Revival director: Lloyd Wood; Designs: Paul Brown; Movement: Denni Sayers; Lighting: Mark Henderson. The Glyndebourne Chorus (chorus master: Jeremy Bines)/London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada (conductor). Glyndebourne Festival Theatre, Saturday 7 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):