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

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

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):