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 Reviews

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

26 Jul 2014

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Donizetti: La favourite, Mozart Così fan tutte, Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Gala, Royal Opera House, London 20th July 2014

A review by Claire Seymour

 

We began with the first act of Donizetti’s La favorite, a fairly flimsy love triangle which tangentially evokes the struggles between state and church in fourteen-century Spain during the Moorish invasions of that time. Fernand, a monk, forgoes his holy vows in order to pursue his, as yet unidentified, beloved - he turns out to be Léonor the ‘favourite’ mistress of the King of Castile Alfonso XI. In Act 1 we see Fernand, warned by his Father Superior Balthazar of the dangers which will ensue if his denies his sacred vocation and enters the ‘seas of life’, travel (blindfolded) to the island of Leon, where he is met by Léonor’s companion, Inès. A passionate reunion ensues: Fernand’s hopes are first dashed - when Léonor declares that they must never meet again - and then given fresh impetus, when he learns that she has given him a commission in the army.

Australian director Greg Eldridge, also a JPYA (the scheme supports stage directors, conductors, répétiteurs, music staff as well as singers) took a sensibly minimal, abstract approach - recesses and shadows to suggest monastic cloisters, a floaty white drape to evoke an island ambience - using the deep colours Edward Armitage’s lighting design and Natalia Stewart’s period costumes to suggest tempestuous emotions and unpredictable hazards. During the overture, the blood-red glow transmuted first to a cooler aquamarine, then dimmed to ominous black; the outcome of risks taken in the name of desire were clearly signposted by the encompassing darkness and by the lyric passion summoned from the Welsh National Opera Orchestra by conductor Paul Wingfield. The orchestral lines were vigorous and clearly defined, although perhaps Wingfield did give his forthright brass section a little too much of a free rein.

The chorus of monks processed earnestly (movement director, Jo Meredith) establishing a suitably devout context for Fernand’s rebellious outburst. And, as the wayward, strong-willed monk, tenor Luis Gomes demonstrated a fine, elegant line, with a sure sense of the structure of the lyrical phrases. At the top, and at points of heightened drama as when Fernand rejoices in the promotion which he hopes will elevate him nearer to his beloved’s social position, there was some tightness; but there was also much musicality and a convincing sense of character and dramatic engagement. South Korean bass Jihoon Kim - Jette Parker Principal Artist - was solemn and imperious as the naysaying Balthazar, using his large grave bass to convey the onerous weight of blessed duty and sacrifice; at times the tone was a little unfocused, but overall the performance was persuasive.

As Inès, Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan alternated warmth and refinement in her aria with the chorus, and the sound was appealing. Most impressive of all was Russian mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Karyazina whose full upper bloom and lower opulence were beguiling as Léonor.

As if a pairing of Donizetti and Mozart was not enough, Puccini was thrown in to the mix after the interval, when John Copley’s set for La bohème served as the stage for the first act of Così fan tutte. The cast might have been forgiven the odd identity crisis: one blink and Ashley’s Riches’ Don Alfonso might morph into Scarpia. But, Eldridge fashioned some neat comic touches, as when Ferrando and Guglielmo searched the wardrobes of Mimi and Marcello for their Albanian disguises. The overture was rather over-populated though, as chorus-members trundled through a vibrant café, distracting from the grace of the playing which conductor Michele Gamba coaxed in the pit. (Perhaps, as the Act 1 chorus was cut, this was just to give the monks and island belles from the first half something to do?)

Of the cast, Riches and Australian soprano Kiandra Howarth stood out. Riches has a strong stage present and excellent sense of wit, timing and gesture to add to his firm bass. Howarth didn’t quite have the evenness across the range required for a truly masterful ‘Come scoglio’ but at the top she shone and her sense of Mozartian idiom, and parody, was excellent.

Rachel Kelly has a lovely mezzo, sweet-toned and agile but very centred, which made Dorabella’s ‘Smanie implacabili’ a winning number, despite its mock-hysterics. Serbian soprano Dušica Bijelić took the role of Despina and acted engagingly although she did not always project with Mozartian clarity and lightness.

British tenor David Butt Philip (Ferrando) and Brazilian baritone Michel de Souza (Guglielmo) were a fine comic duo. Although he started his musical life as a baritone, Butt Philip sang without strain at the top and with elegance. De Souza was given Guglielmo’s ‘"Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo"’ to demonstrate his talents.

The roll call of JPYA alumni is impressive. And, with the announcement that Jihoon Kim will become a Principal Artist with the Royal Opera next season, and that five new participants (who were selected from almost 400 applicants drawn from 58 nations) will join the Programme from September 2014 - Australians Lauren Fagan (soprano), Samuel Johnson (baritone) and Samuel Sekker (tenor); British bass James Platt; bass-baritone Yuriy Yurchuk from the Ukraine - it is clear that the JPYA Programme continues to make a significant and highly valuable contribution to the development of the careers of young singers and opera professionals, and to the musical life of the capital and beyond.

Claire Seymour
La favorite: Inès, Anush Hovhannisyan; Léonor, Nadezhda Karyazina; Fernand, Luis Gomes;
Balthazar. Jihoon Kim.

Così fan tutte: Despina, Dušica Bijelić; Fiordiligi, Kiandra Howarth; Dorabella, Rachel Kelly; Ferrando, David Butt Philip; Guglielmo, Michel de Souza; Don Alfonso, Ashley Riches.

Stage director, Greg Eldridge; Conductor (La favorite) Paul Wingfield, (Così fan tutte) Michele Gamba, Welsh National Opera Orchestra; Continuo (Così fan tutte), David Syrus.

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):