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

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

Il trittico, Opera Holland Park

Time was when many felt compelled to ‘make allowances’ for ‘smaller’ companies. Now, more often than not, the contrary seems to be the case, instead apologising for their elder and/or larger siblings: ‘But of course, it is far more difficult for House X, given the conservatism of its moneyed audience,’ as if House X might not actually attract a different, more intellectually curious audience by programming more interesting works.

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):