Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

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):