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

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi.

The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal Opera

‘All men become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.’ ‘Is that clever?’ ‘It is perfectly phrased!’

Mahler’s Third, Concertgebouw

Evolving in Mahler’s Third: Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic’s impressive adaption to the Concertgebouw

La Juive in Lyon

Though all big opera is called grand opera, French grand opera itself is a very specific genre. It is an ephemeral style not at all easy to bring to life. For example . . .

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Image by Nitrox-Marquez courtesy of Iford Arts Music Festival
06 Jul 2014

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

A review by Sue Loder

Above image by Nitrox-Marquez courtesy of Iford Arts Music Festival

Photos by Rob Coles

 

La Fille has certainly been derided over the years for its vulgarity and jingoistic tendencies. Yet dig a little deeper and you find that the canny Donizetti was also in fact essaying a new direction away from the all-conquering Italian opera of his time and, by a slick piece of “art concealing (or revealing?) art”, he was on the way to creating a new style. Indeed he had more than 20 years of compositional experience behind him by the time Fille hit the stage in 1839/40, and he used all his considerable wiles to achieve his aims. Perhaps Theophile Gautier best summed up this work as “facile et spirituelle” — and certainly it seduces with its infectiously gay (in the original sense),light, and bright music as much as it explores the weightier themes of nationalism, feminism and the human response to loss and war, despite skimming over them with a gossamer thread of catchy tunes. So how to bring all this to a tiny space in the Wiltshire countryside?

La Fille du Regiment - Suzy Shakespeare.pngSuzanne Shakespeare as Marie

Director Jeff Clarke and his designers Nigel Howard & Graham Wynne and conductor Toby Purser simply threw away the rule book for this English-language version and solved the production “problems” with panache, wit, imagination and, well, plenty of va-va-vroom. Literally almost, as the Regiment is converted to a South Californian Hell’s Angels-type biker gang, all six of them beautifully kitted out in full leathers, tattoos and bandanas riding some interesting-looking “Darley Havisons”. They are “at war” with a rival gang and so immediately we understand what Clarke is doing and are seduced into this early 1960’s version of the Napoleonic wars. Marsha Berkenfield, social climber in LA, her daintily-camp butler Mr.Hortensius, Sulpice is “president” of the Regiment gang, Dulcie Crackenthorpe an appalling old heiress, Tonio a Hispanic immigrant (serendipitously cast) and Marie as in the original, an orphan “found” by the Regiment as a baby. True, there is the odd surgical cut: no room, literally, for the opening scene with the “Marquess” and Tyrolean peasants praying for deliverance en masse — but apart from that Clarke has kept very close to the original opera. The libretto however was definitely given a far freer rein by Clarke: plenty of choice biker language, plenty of near-the-knuckle anti-Hispanic invective.

Any “Fille” anywhere has always been an opera which stands or falls by the success of its Daughter of the Regiment; over the decades it has been defined by many by the quality of the soprano singing the role of Marie — from Jenny Lind, via the great Dame Joan Sutherland, and on to such modern day successes as Natalie Dessay. So it was a delight and a relief to hear young Australian-born soprano Suzanne Shakespeare take on the mantle with a fearless display of sparkling coloratura, trills and even a few decorations of her own. Her voice has both a warm middle and a shining top: E flats popped with aplomb, yet with “Il faut partir...” her goodbye to the gang in Act One, she found a touching pathos, ably drawn. A bravura performance from start to finish — a young star on the high road for sure. So then, of course, there is the “will he, won’t he” aspect of Tonio’s (in)famous “Mes amis....”. If young Spanish tenor Jesus Alvarez was nervous, it didn’t show. We might have been nervous for him for in that intimate space and orchestration for just eleven instruments, but yes he delivered all nine of those high Cs with conviction and bang in tune.

La Fille du Regiment - Jesus Alvarez.pngJesús Álvarez as Tonio

However, no matter how thrilling the young leads were, or how convincing their acting, here at Iford it was the role of Sulpice, sung by the excellent Adrian Clarke which held the whole show together. Totally in the part from start to finish, beautifully observed, expressively sung, what a tour de force he gave us. Almost as impressive was Katharine Taylor Jones’ Marsha Berkenfield, a statuesque figure wearing the vintage dresses with assurance and poise, her warm mezzo voice supple through the range. A comically-awful Dulcie Crakenthopre was played in drag by one of the bikers, Philip Cox who obviously had a lot of fun mixing his roles. James Harrison’s mincing butler was the right side of caricature and kept the laughs coming. A word must be said here for the biker gang: sung by Cox, Richard Belshaw, Graham Stone, Martin George, Angus McAllister and Richard Woodall, this was no ordinary “chorus” job. With only six voices to fill out Donizetti’s wonderful music each was a true soloist, each a significant actor. The same must be said of the 11 players of that music: from opening solo trumpet to resounding final chords, nowhere to hide and nowhere needed.

The production team kept it simple but effective with the cloister converted to a tract of dry desert and cacti. The Music Lesson was ingeniously staged with an electronic keyboard masquerading as a grand piano, in turn doing duty as a dance-stage. Clever, witty, and it worked. Which, really, sums up this mini-triumph of the imagination. A must-see if you can.

Sue Loder

La Fille du Regiment (sung in English), Iford Opera, Saturday, July 5th 2014.

Opera della Luna at Iford Opera playing: July 8th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 17th and 19th.

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):