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

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

Billy Budd in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera’s Billy Budd confirms once again that Britten’s reworking of Melville’s novella is among the great masterpieces of the repertory. It boasted an exemplary cast in an exemplary production, and enlightened conducting.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

02 Nov 2014

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Giacomo Puccini: La bohème

A review by Mark Berry

 

Perhaps, you might say, that is as it should be; there is certainly an element of taste in such matters. However, it seems to me that a highly creditable desire to explore the darker elements — and they are hardly difficult to find! — in Puccini’s opera is somewhat undone by moments closer to farce. The greyness of an imagined Paris inspired by Cartier-Bresson works very well, Isabella Bywater’s designs in themselves a great visual strength, waiting to be relieved by brief, or at least relatively brief, moments of colour. Café Momus makes a particular impression in that respect. However, I could not help but wonder whether some of the things — entrances, concealment, and so on — one sees going on around the sets would be better left unseen. Elements of ‘surprise’ — yes, many of us know the opera all too well, but that is a different matter — are lost, without the ‘workings’ adding anything genuinely new. Still, it is a relief not to have anything too sugary; the last thing Puccini of all composers needs is sentimentalising. Doubtless I have been spoilt by seeing Stefan Herheim’s urgently compelling version on DVD: the only staging of this work that has really revealed anything at all to me. Recommended to Puccini-lovers and —sceptics alike, indeed to anyone who believes that opera can and should be something more than a tired museum piece.

A few more serious drawbacks prevented the evening from having had the impact it might have done. Amanda Holden’s translation started off poorly and, if anything, got worse. It managed both to be vaguely ‘after’ the libretto and dreadfully anti-musical. Italian suffers worse than most languages by translation into English, but the task can be accomplished much better than this. This was a version only for those who might think there is something ‘edgy’ about people randomly singing the word ‘bastards’. But then, perhaps a selfish — or hard-of-hearing? — audience happy to applaud throughout, and indeed before the orchestra had stopped playing at the ends of acts was genuinely enthralled or even shocked by such banalities. Moreover, Gianluca Marcianò’s charmless conducting helped nothing or no one. The first act in particular seemed devoid of life. I struggled in vain to hear anything throughout the evening that would vindicate Puccini’s symphonic ambition. Instead, phrases followed one after another, quite unconnected. The ENO Orchestra, on generally excellent form, both pointed and luscious where permitted, deserved far better.

So too did the cast: probably the principal reason to catch this revival. There was a good sense of ensemble between the singers, which will doubtless only increase as the run progresses. Individually, there is much to admire too. David Butt Philip really presented Rodolfo as a credible character, not a mere opportunity to sing. The conflicts within his soul, cowardice and self-absorption vying with a genuine if ‘poetic’ aspiration towards something nobler, came across with considerable subtlety. Angel Blue seemed slightly stilted to start with, but quickly grew into the role of Mimì. Her vocal allure is by now reasonably well known; it did not disappoint. However, a little more attention at times to words and their implications would have deepened the impression. If George von Bergen was somewhat stiff as Marcello, the other students impressed; Barnaby Rea’s Colline and the Schaunard of George Humphreys helped to create a proper sense of milieu and preoccupation from which Rodolfo could emerge. Jennifer Holloway’s Musetta very much looked the part, but the top of her range proved uncomfortably strident, even squally. Andrew Shore, however, proved luxury casting as Benoît and Alcindoro, vivid portrayals them both.

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Marcello: George van Bergen; Rodolfo: David Butt Philip; Colline: Barnaby Rea; Schaunard: George Humphreys; Benoît, Alcindoro: Andrew Shore; Mimì: Angel Blue; Parpignol: Philip Daggett; Musetta: Jennifer Holloway; Policeman: Paul Sheehan; Foreman: Andrew Tinkler. Jonathan Miller (director); Natascha Metherell (revival director); Isabella Bywater (designs); Jean Kalman, Kevin Sleep (lighting). Chorus (chorus master: Genevieve Ellis) and Orchestra of the English National Opera/ Gianluca Marcianò (conductor). Coliseum, London, Wednesday 29 October 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):