Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Michele Angelini as Count Almaviva and Serena Malfi as Rosina © ROH [Photo by Tristram Kenton]
29 Sep 2014

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Michele Angelini as Count Almaviva and Serena Malfi as Rosina © ROH [Photo by Tristram Kenton]

 

There’s not much subtlety but plenty of mayhem and mischief, and this third revival, which brings together familiar faces and new voices, raised many a guffaw — and, for once, the laughter was prompted as much by the shenanigans on stage as by the surtitles aloft.

Making his Royal Opera debut as Count Almaviva, the Italian-American tenor Michele Angelini took time to settle. He seemed a little nervous and tense in ‘Ecco ridente’; the phrasing lacked elegance and there was some gruffness and untidiness. Similarly, ‘Se il mio nome saper voi bramate’ sounded strained at times. Certainly, Angelini has vocal agility — and physical nimbleness too, springing spryly into the branches of the baobab three beneath his beloved’s balcony. In the cascades each individual pitch was clearly defined, but there was some unnecessary ornamentation which could not compensate for a lack of creamy evenness and brightness. Indeed, Angelini over-complicated his Act 2 ‘Cessa di piu resistere’ too, tiring himself out in the process. But, he seemed more at ease in his Act 2 personae and enjoyed some effective comic romping as the billeted squaddie and fawning music master, wheedling himself deftly into his inamorata’s domain.

American baritone Lucas Meachem was more at home as the eponymous coiffeur, even though this was a Royal Opera role debut, and offered a master-class in comic singing and acting. Meachem has a huge voice but knows when to turn on the power and when to hold back, blending easily in the ensembles. Bellowing his arrival from the rear of the auditorium, Meachem then startled the amused audience, stopping to admire a hairdo or two as he strolled nonchalantly down the aisle. In a carefully paced ‘Largo al factotum’ every word of pithy patter rang clearly, delivered to the far nooks of the auditorium as Meachem seemed to make eye-contact will all. Throughout, this barber was irrepressible and engaging; the moments of exasperation and frustration were entirely natural and convincing. And, in ‘Dunque io son’ Meachem and his Rosina, Serena Malfi, relished the comic fun, Figaro ruefully recognising his equal in guilefulness as Rosina shrewdly whipped the pre-composed letter for ‘Lindoro’ from her bodice.

Malfi’s Rosina gave much pleasure. The Italian has a rich, warm mezzo, with a dash of velvety darkness. The coloratura demands were effortlessly dispensed, Malfi’s technical assurance allowing her to focus on communicating the drama. In ‘Una voce poco fa’ the petulance (stamping, pouting and dart-throwing!) were well-judged, and there was a feisty control about this Rosina that left no doubt that she was more than a match for her hapless guardian, Bartolo. Ebullient of character, voluminous of tone, Malfi sparkled in her house debut.

As her crafty custodian, Alessandro Corbelli returned to the role he sang in the 2009 revival and demonstrated that he has lost none of his buffo nous. In ‘A un dottor delta mia sorte’ Corbelli winningly delivered the musical and dramatic tricks; a perfect portrait of preening presumption, this Bartolo’s comeuppance was richly enjoyed.

The sinister edge in Maurizio Muraro’s full bass added vocal interest to Basilio’s ‘La calumnia’, complementing the predatory rage, while Welsh baritone Wyn Pencarreg (another ROH debut) was strong as Fiorello, quickly pinning the characterisation and singing cleanly and mellifluously.

This production indulges in hyperbole, and I found the shrieks and sneezes of Ambrogio (Jonathan Coad) and Berta (Janis Kelly) a bit tiresome; but Kelly charmingly revealed the secret yearnings beneath the housekeeper’s apparent disapproval of the amorous goings-on, in a sweet-toned ‘Il vecchiotto cerca moglie’. Promoted, like Coad, from the ranks of the ROH chorus, Donaldson Bell and Andrew Macnair acquitted themselves very well as the Officer and Notary respectively.

Having conducted the original run in 2005, Mark Elder returns to the pit, leading the ROH orchestra in a detailed, nuanced performance. The overture’s Andante maestoso was stately, perhaps a touch on the slow side, but the textures were clear and there was some lovely playing, and an expertly controlled trill, from the horn. Things picked up niftily, though, at the Allegro vivace and the final Più mosso was not so much a Rossinian acceleration as a Mo Farah-style final-lap kick, a ferocious injection of pace that initially left a few instrumentalists trailing behind.

I’ve seen this production twice before, and on each occasion the Act 1 finale has come adrift with the ensemble between the stage and pit as wobbly as the Keystone-Cop capers on the tilting stage, as the PVC-caped coppers sway and swoon. Elder took things steady — which made the anarchy on stage even more surreal than Leiser and Caurier perhaps intended — but singers and players still parted company. Overall, though, Elder achieved clarity and nuance; the woodwind solos were drawn to the fore and complemented by stylish string playing, with controlled dynamic grading.

All in all, a surprisingly fresh and engaging revival.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Count Almaviva, Michele Angelini; Figaro, Lucas Meachem; Rosina, Serena Malfi; Doctor Bartolo, Alessandro Corbelli; Don Basilio, Maurizio Muraro; Fiorello, Wyn Pencarreg; Berta, Janis Kelly; Ambrogio, Jonathan Coad; Officer, Donaldson Bell; Notary, Andrew Macnair; Directors, Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser; Revival Director, Thomas Guthrie; Conductor, Mark Elder; Designer, Christian Fenouillat; Costume Designer, Agostino Cavalca; Lighting Designer, Christophe Forey; Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Friday, 19th September 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):