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

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.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

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.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

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.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

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.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

27 Jan 2015

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

Guillaume Tell in Monte-Carlo

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Nicola Adaimo as Guillaume Tell, Celso Abelo as Arnold [All photos copyright Opéra de Monte-Carlo]

 

There was the usual automotive hardware in front of Monte-Carlo’s magical opera house. The peasants were all on the stage of the Salle Garnier, an embarrassment of riches, most notably Nicola Alaimo as Guillaume Tell and Celso Abelo as the lovesick Arnoldo. In fact the entire cast beginning with Mekeldi Atxalandabso as Reudi whose hymn to Swizerland “Accour dans ma nacelle” that opens the opera upheld the high level of singing that defined the evening, Basque tenor Atxalandabaso’s warm and easy high “c”’s only the first of the many vocal pleasures of the evening.

Music director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo Gianluca Gelmetti presided over his orchestra for this occasion, an opera he conducted twenty-years ago (1995) at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro to enormous critical acclaim. Much has transpired in his career since 1995. He is now famous for the Italian post-Romantic repertory perhaps explaining the massive sonic scope he found in the Rossini score for the Salle Garnier, and the warmth of tone he infused into the orchestral sound firmly persuading us that Guillaume Tell was a new, sentimental Rossini, and a unique Rossini — it is the last of the Rossini operatic oeuvres.

Before all else Rossini’s Guillaume Tell is French grand opéra as its extended dramatic recitatives attest, though Rossini could not keep himself from breaking into some coloratura from time to time, a lapse effortlessly and beautifully absorbed into the musical flow by the maestro. Rossini discovered the pleasures of the rich French low mezzo-soprano voice in Hedwedge, the wife of Guillaume, dissolving this voice into a sublime trio with Guillaume’s soprano son, Jemmy and Mathilde, his savior, with its intricacies rendered by the maestro in rich delicacy. Though Gelmetti had already pummeled us with the fiery Rossini we know so well when Guillaume and Walter Furst shamed Arnold into fighting for his fatherland.

Tell_Monaco2.png Nicola Alaimo as Guillaume Tell, Nicholas Cavallier as Walter Furst, Celso Abelo as Arnold.

There was the spectacle of typical grand opéra, the maestro endowing the classic Rossini storm with truly terrifying proportions (even though it was the same storm we know from the Roman comedies). And there were the magnificent complexities of the Rossini ensembles we know from the later Naples tragedies, the defiance of the peasants to the strength of the Hapsburgs magnified by Gelmetti in the repeating brass motifs in the orchestra, each time louder until it could not become louder. But it did, shattering the acoustic of the Salle Garnier.

At last Rossini resolved the opera’s conflicts into a huge, uncharacteristically pastoral ensemble evoking the beautiful cello elegy of the overture with its singing oboe echoed by flute — the majestic serenity of the Alps’ mountain valleys restored. But only for a short while, the peasants finally rushed forward shouting “liberté, liberté!” as loud as they possibly could.

One could not help recalling that it was in 1910 when the Monegasque Revolution forced the prince of Monaco, until then an absolute ruler, to proclaim a constitution.

What we missed in Monaco were the ballets, an economy that saved us one and one half hours of time, compacting the above musical riches of the opera into a brief three hours twenty minutes. Other less obvious economies took their toll as well, rendering the storytelling sometimes oblique and other times incomprehensible. The adage that the full ballets are integral to the dramatic integrity of Guillaume Tell was again proven in Monaco.

Tell_Monaco3.png Décors by Eric Chevalier, Costumes by Françoise Raybaud

Monaco-born Jean-Louis Grinda, the metteur en scène (and general director of Opéra Monte-Carlo) knows that the complex musico-dramatic structures of the Rossini tragedies resonate in abstract formulae, either conceptual (like the museum dioramas of the 2013 Pesaro production) or in the physical architecture of the set itself. In this new production Grinda’s designer, Eric Chevalier, evokes the Helvetic mountainous setting in hazy images projected onto an imprisoning box structure of small repeating panels that open and close, the back wall of which disappeared into the brilliant dawn-of-freedom light. Costumer Françoise Raybaud provided threatening teutonic patterns of the late nineteenth century for the Hapsburg characters.

Movement for the chorus action was in purely geometric terms — lines and circles. Images were few, simple and powerful. Guillaume Tell himself pulled a plow, like a beast, across the stage during the opening chorus (a shocking and confusing image), there were two dance pantomime sequences in which a ballerina and a ballerino were attached to one another in a kiss (like two animals stuck together in the mating act — another shocking and confusing image) — choreography by Eugénie Andrin. Arias and duets were delivered standing front and center, as in concert format. Grinda provided a basic context and basic movements for the opera, but did little to illuminate the story evidently relying on the genius of Rossini and the brilliance of the performances to fire the evening.

And that they did.

Italian baritone Nicola Alaimo is a gigantic figure, appropriate to a mythic hero of William Tell proportion. His voice and presence are warm, powerful and encompassing, in short he is a convincing Guillaume Tell. His antagonist Gessler, the Hapsburg governor, was sung by French bass Nicholas Courjal in threatening, black toned vocal color, with a vividly present figure. Spanish tenor Celso Abelo as the fickle tenor Arnold had high “c”’s to spare, squarely hit and held rather then finding place in the musical flow. Just when you thought no human could have the stamina to hit another, he hit the final one of his showpiece aria and held it forever. Mr. Abelo is an accomplished Rossini performer.

Tell_Monaco4.pngAnnick Massis as Mathilde, Élodie Méchain as Hedwidge

French soprano Annick Massis was Mathilde, a role that only sometimes requires the Isabella Colbran dramatic coloratura model of Rossini tragedies. Mlle. Massis indeed well held the stage as Hapsburg aristocracy, riding crop in hand, though her showpiece arias were powerful her coloratura was not convincing and her high notes were of a spread tone that defied identifying any one individual note. French contralto Elodie Méchain sang Guillaume Tell’s wife Hedwidge to absolute perfection, and Russian soprano Julia Novakova as his son Jemmy provided the appropriate upper edge to the ensemble textures.

The only disappointment of the evening was the staging (lack of) for the arrow and apple.

Michael Milenski


Casts and production information:

Guillaume Tell: Nicola Alaimo; Hedwige: Elodie Méchain; Jemmy: Julia Novikova; Arnold: Celso Albelo; Melchtal: Patrick Bolleire; Walter Furst: Nicolas Cavallier; Gessler: Nicolas Courjal; Mathilde: Annick Massis; Rodolphe: Alain Gabriel; Leuthold: Philippe Ermelier; Reudi; Mikeldi Atxalandabaso. Chorus of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo. Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. Direction musicale: Gianluigi Gelmetti; Mise en scène: Jean-Louis Grinda; Décors: Éric Chevalier; Costumes: Françoise Raybaud; Lumières: Laurent Castaingt; Chorégraphie: Eugénie Andrin. Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo, January 25, 2015.


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):