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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Kitty Whately as Rosina and Jonathan Veira as Dr Bartolo [Photo by Fritz Curzon]
11 Jun 2014

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Holland Park

The geographical and chronological transportation of Rossini’s famous factotum from 18th-century Seville to 19th-century London is director Oliver Platt’s most radical notion in this satisfying, if somewhat straightforward, new production of Il barbiere di Siviglia for Opera Holland Park.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Holland Park

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Kitty Whately as Rosina and Jonathan Veira as Dr Bartolo

Photos by Fritz Curzon

 

Into the greys and browns of a Dickensian street — all gas-lights, Peelers, down-and-outs and street urchins — juts the sharply angled exterior of Dr Bartolo’s abode (designs, Neil Irish). From an archway emerges a staggering drunk; he droops against a lamp-post and, annoyed at being awoken by a motley band of musicians, stubbornly sticks his fingers in his ears as the incognito Count Almaviva’s delivers an amorous address to his beloved Rosina. She lingers, tantalisingly glimpsed through the askew — and none too clean — white curtains of the upper-floor bedroom which overhangs the street.

The set intrudes into the fore of the stage, and there is not much room for ensemble choreography; but, this matters little as Platt doesn’t really ask them to do anything other than take their positions and sing — they do the latter very pleasingly. At the start of Scene 2 the oblique walls are heaved open to reveal the mayhem of the scatter-brained doctor’s daily routines, as professionalism and domesticity collide. The split-level house is a mound of muddle: tottering piles of consultation notes and scientific research, optical charts, crumbling treatises. Above Rosina’s dressing table a large drawing of an anatomical eye glares out forbiddingly. Amid the general chaos lurks some unsavoury medical debris — as the pandemonium escalates a severed hand is flung in the street attracting the suspicious attentions of first a ragamuffin and then the metropolitan constabulary — suggesting that the old governess Berta is past her housekeeping prime.

Barber-5.gifKitty Whately as Rosina, Nico Darmanin as Count Almaviva and Nicholas Lester as Figaro

It’s all detailed and precise. And, the simultaneous view of interior and exterior is effective: quotidian life — washing day, bobbies on the beat — forms a commonplace backdrop to the mad capers within. As the self-indulgent lovers ignore Figaro’s advice to flee, we witness Bartolo’s removal of the ladder which they confidently assume will facilitate their escape — a neat touch of dramatic irony. Mark Jonathan’s lighting design is fairly simple and naturalistic, excepting a lurch towards the surreal at the end of Act 1 where, surrounding a spot-lit Bartolo, the plotters bathe in lurid green and pink aptly emphasising the wackiness of the comic commotion.

Design and direction may not surprise, but the cast certainly tell the tale with musical aplomb. Australian baritone Nicholas Lester has a large, opulent voice which he put to excellent effect as the quick-thinking barber. His bass-inclined resonance grabbed the attention from his first entrance. Pushing a stripy-poled hand-cart, this Figaro peddled his talents and wares — some wild wigs dangle from his wagon — with confidence and composure, a nonchalant single swipe of the razor de-whiskering a client during ‘Largo al factotum’. Lester’s lines were clearly formed, of pleasing tone, and his performance was well-paced. His on-stage presence ensured that the uproar never lapsed into anarchy, and when a commanding hand was required he assuredly stepped in.

As the wayward young minx, Rosina, Kitty Whately was likewise superb. Whately’s mezzo has a lovely golden glow at the bottom reminding us, perhaps, that the role was originally written for a contralto. Her lustrous tone projected well, beguiling all; but, this Rosina’s potential for menace was plainly evident, as Whately stropped and pouted in frustration and exasperation. The coloratura of ‘Una voce poco fa’ was cleanly executed, as Rosina turned her indignation on the hapless skeleton collecting dust amid the clutter; Platt might have offered Whately more direction here — she looked a bit uncertain why she was draping the bones with Bartolo’s overcoat — but her comic acumen shone through in the singing lesson.

Barber-6.gifA scene from Il barbiere di Siviglia

Young Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin was an ardent Almaviva and slipped deftly between his varied personae. Lindoro’s velvet frock coat added a splash of colour to the opening scene but I felt that initially Darmanin tried a bit too hard — he has all the notes and a strong, unwavering tone, but perhaps a softer hue would more readily win Rosina’s heart. But, as Darmanin relaxed into the role his sure technique served him well and the decorative lines were stylishly phrased. The tenor also revealed a penchant for comic exaggeration, as the inebriated cavalry-man determined to be billeted chez Bartolo, and even more so as Basilio’s apprentice, cleverly mimicking his master’s mannerisms and his sartorial style. The piano-top shenanigans of Rosina and the Count, under Figaro’s impatient glower, offered playful high-spirits and characterful singing.

As the unfortunate dupe, Jonathan Veira showed why he deserves his reputation as one of the best buffo basses today, making Bartolo the butt of our ridicule but also winning sympathy for the befuddled, bamboozled buffoon.

With William Robert Allenby indisposed, Nicholas Crawley added Basilio’s outré peri-winkle — straight from Pickwick Papers ­ — to Fiorello’s bowler hat, performing both roles excellently and with fine-judged parody. As Berta, Alinka Kozari revealed a bright, nimble soprano, and as she went doggedly about the household chores she was well complemented by Tom Asher’s Ambrogio.

Conductor Matthew Waldren led the City of London Sinfonia through a sparking overture, but from then on things were rather more conservative. Although there was much attention to detail, it felt a bit too earnest; the string ensemble was good and the woodwind and horn solos sang warmly, but the ‘Rossini Rockets’ needed a bit more oomph. Walden’s tempi erred on the side of caution and a greater sense of recklessness, particularly in Act 2 finale, would have added some spice. Perhaps he wished to support his young cast, but there was certainly no sense that they needed cossetting. The thunderstorm was disappointing, and the over-amplification of the digital piano in the recitatives was irritatingly distracting.

Overall this is a smashing Il barbiere: no nasty surprises and plenty of fun. There may be pressure on finances — Irish’s set is all wobbly walls and bendy lampposts — but there is no scrimping on musical values.

Il barbiere di Siviglia continues in repertory until 28 June.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Figaro, Nicholas Lester; Rosina, Kitty Whately; Count, Almaviva Nico Darmanin; Doctor Bartolo, Jonathan Veira; Don Basilio, Nicholas Crawley; Berta, Alinka Kozari; Fiorello, Nicholas Crawley; Ambrogio, Tom Asher; An Officer, Alistair Sutherland; Director. Oliver Platt; Conductor, Matthew Waldren; Designer, Neil Irish; Lighting Designer, Mark Jonathan; City of London Sinfonia; Opera Holland Park Chorus. Opera Holland Park, London, Saturday 7th 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):