Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Adriana Lecouvreur [Image courtesy of Opera Holland Park]
28 Jul 2014

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Francesco Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Adriana Lecouvreur [Image courtesy of Opera Holland Park]


Director Martin Lloyd Evans re-located the work to the mid 20th century and designer Jamie Vartan provided some stylish 1930's style costumes. Cheryl Barker sang the title role, with Peter Auty as Maurizio, Tiziana Carraro as the Princess de Bouillon, Richard Burkhard as Michonnet, Simon Wilding as the Prince de Bouillon, Ian Beadle as Quinault, Peter Davoren as Poisson, Maud Miller as Mlle Jouvenot, Chloe Hinton as Mlle Dangeville and Robert Burt as Abbe de Choiseul, with dancers from English National Ballet. Manlio Benzi conducted The City of London Sinfonia.

Director Martin Lloyd Evans re-located the work to the mid 20th century and designer Jamie Vartan provided some stylish 1930's style costumes. Cheryl Barker sang the title role, with Peter Auty as Maurizio, Tiziana Carraro as the Princess de Bouillon, Richard Burkhard as Michonnet, Simon Wilding as the Prince de Bouillon, Ian Beadle as Quinault, Peter Davoren as Poisson, Maud Miller as Mlle Jouvenot, Chloe Hinton as Mlle Dangeville and Robert Burt as Abbe de Choiseul, with dancers from English National Ballet. Manlio Benzi conductied The City of London Sinfonia.

Jamie Vartan's sets made imaginative use of the remaining facade of Holland Park House, which was bombed in 1940. The play in Act One took place inside the house with a caravan for Adriana and sundry back stage detritus and spare scenery. These were re-purposed in Act Two to create the stylish modern villa. Act three took place outside Holland Park House, now standing in for the Prince's mansion with the framework of the caravan creating a pavilion, with act four returning to Adriana's caravan, this time revealing a stylish 1930's style wooden interior. Vartan's costumes were stylishly in period with an eye for the niceties; though Adriana was always beautifully dressed, there was just the gentlest hint that her taste was a little bit common compared to the Princess who was very soignée all in white in act two and all in black in act three.

It is a tricky opera to bring off. The opera requires a real diva of temperament in the title role, one who has the capability to sing the long lyric vocal line but who also has some bite. Iit doesn't help that there is also a slightly barmy plot, which no amount of tinkering can remedy. To Martin Lloyd-Evans's credit he didn't try, but presented the act two shenanigans with dramatic commitment, imagination, and a nice element of humour (though no-one giggled thank goodness).

Cheryl Barker made a stylish and glamorous Adriana, bringing a convincing theatricality to the spoken sections and a wonderful sense of spite in the act three extract from Phédre. Her act one solo had a lovely lyric beauty, and a sense of intimacy apt to the humble surroundings (a caravan!). What seemed slightly worrying was that, though poised, her relationship with Peter Auty's ardent Maurizio seemed a little cool a little too perfect (more Joan Crawford than Bette Davis). But Barker's Adriana really came into focus in the last act. Not with the great solo poveri fiori which was finely done indeed, but with the solo where she tells Maurizio that she will not marry him, that for her the crown will be one of laurel leaves. Barker's Adriana was first and foremost and actress and you sense that despite her distress in act four, she would have returned to work because acting was the most important thing in her life. It was a performance which grew on me and in the final act displayed intense power, theatricality and, yes, diva-dom.

Peter Auty made a wonderfully passionate Maurizio, completely believable in the intensity of his passion and the way he was able to distribute his favours equally between two women (Adriana and the Princesse de Bouillon). Perhaps Auty does not have quite and ideally open Italianate sound, it seems a little covered. But his tenor has great freedom and a lovely evenness over the range. And a consistent ability to project Cilea's vocal lines with convincing passion and vibrancy.

Prncesse de Bouillon is a gift of a role, and Tiziana Carraro did not disappoint. She was vibrantly passionate in act two with a thrillingly intense scene with Auty, and then in the subsequent intrigue brought off hiding in a broom cupboard under a sheet with great aplomb. In Act Three, the atmosphere fairly crackled and Carraro's body language was vivid even when she wasn't singing.

Richard Burkhard was profoundly touching as the stage manager Michonnet, very moving in the way he portrayed his unspoken love for Adriana. In many ways Burkhard was the linchpin of the production, the subtly drawn sane man around whom all the mayhem happened. Burkhard gave Michonnet a sympathetically intent feel and to a certain extent rather stole the show with his detailed yet finely sung and understated performance.

The four actors, Quinault, Posson, Mlle Jouvenot and Mlle Dangeville were played four of Opera Holland Park's previous Christine Collins Young Artists, Ian Beadle, Peter Davoren, Maud Miller and Chloe Hinton. They formed charming foursome, always popping up together and combining joy with style and a certain element of fun. Robert Burt made a delightful Abbe de Chazeuil. into everything and far too fond of the young ladies. Whilst Simon Wilding was a fine upstanding Prince de Bouillon.

James Streeter provided the choreography for the highly effective ballet in act three which was danced by principals from the English National Ballet.

Cilea makes great use of the orchestra in the opera, with quite a number of orchestral interludes and the City of London Sinfonia did not disappoint, combining passion and suaveness in their performance. Manlio Benzi conducted with a clear feel for Cilea's idiom. It is easy both to over heat and to undercook the music, and Benzi walked a stylish line between the two, giving us a finely drawn but dramatic performance.

Despite some initial reservations, this was a highly effective and dramatic performance which came together in a powerful conclusion in the last act.

Robert Hugill

Cast and production information:

Adriana: Cheryl Barker, Maurizio: Peter Auty, Princess de Bouillon: Tizian Carraro, Michonnet: Richard Burkhard, Prince de Bouillon: Simon Wilding, Quinault: Ian Beadle, Poisson: Peter Davoren, Mlle Jouvenot: Maude Miller, Mlle Dangeville: Chloe Hinton, Abbe de Chazeuil: Robert Burt, Chorus of Opera Holland Park, Dancers from English National Ballet, City of London Sinfonia, Director: Martin Lloyd Evans, Designer: Jamie Vartan, Lighting: Colin Grenfel, Choreography: James Streeter, Conductor: Manlio Benzi
Opera Holland Park, London 26 July 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):