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

Joshua Bell offers Hispanic headiness at the Proms

At the start of the 20th century, French composers seemed to be conducting a cultural love affair with Spain, an affair initiated by the Universal Exposition of 1889 where the twenty-five-year old Debussy and the fourteen-year-old Ravel had the opportunity to hear new sounds from East Asia, such as the Javanese gamelan, alongside gypsy flamenco from Granada.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

Santa Fe: Mad for Lucia

If there is any practitioner currently singing the punishing title role of Lucia di Lammermoor better than Brenda Rae, I am hard-pressed to name her.

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen at Grimeborn

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can be a difficult opera to stage, despite its charm and simplicity. In part it is a good, old-fashioned morality tale about the relationships between humans and animals, and between themselves, but Janáček doesn’t use a sledgehammer to make this point. It is easy for many productions to fall into parody, and many have done, and it is a tribute to The Opera Company’s staging of this work at the Arcola Theatre that they narrowly avoided this pitfall.

Handel's Israel in Egypt at the Proms: William Christie and the OAE

For all its extreme popularity with choirs, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a somewhat problematic work; the scarcity of solos makes hiring professional soloists an extravagant expense, and the standard version of the work starts oddly with a tenor recitative. If we return to the work's history then these issues are put into context, and this is what William Christie did for the performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

Sirens and Scheherazade: Prom 18

From Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, to Bruch’s choral-orchestral Odysseus, to Fauré’s Penelope, countless compositions have taken their inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps not surprisingly given Homer’s emphasis on the power of music in the Greek world.

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

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):