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 Reviews

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

29 Jan 2015

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Kat'a Kabanova in Toulon

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: (left to right) Mikhail Kolelishvili as Dikoï, Ange-Marie Todorovitch as Kabanicha, Christina Carvin as Katia, Ladislav Elgr (behind) as Boris, Zwetan Michailov as Tikhon [all photos copyright Frédéric Stéphan, courtesy of the Opéra de Toulon]

 

It is true that the Káťa Kabanová libretto is closer to The Makropoulos Affair and From the House of the Dead, sharing the brittle dramatic structures of these works and revealing the growing selfishness and emotional pessimism of the sixty-seven year old composer. But musically Káťa Kabanová seems spoken in the same voice that sings the emotional idealism of Jenůfa. Herein lies the challenge of producing Káťa Kabanová — it must hover between hope and hopelessness.

The Opéra de Toulon has just now presented this Janáček masterwork for the first time ever. It is a new production shared with the Opéra d’Avignon, thoughtfully and carefully directed by Nadine Duffaut. The set is by Emmanuelle Favre, a designer often utilized in the south of France, notably Orange, Marseille and Toulouse. Mme. Favre works in bold strokes, in big shapes and with few colors. Her décors are impressive, expressive and beautiful. As is the set for Káťa Kabanová.

Kabanova_Toulon2.pngSet design by Emmanuelle Favre, costume design by Danièle Barraud

The stage was a huge white box, a full stage platform with period furniture on it hovered high above the stage floor, descending to create an interior or to provide shelter from the storm. The side walls were mirrorized making occasional flashes of the brightly colored costumes, like the sonic flashes of Janáček’s nervous orchestra. The Volga was a pool of real water, its splashes the visual echos of nerves on edge.

Family and business are the crushing forces in Káťa Kabanová. They are embodied in this suspended platform, and in the very presence of Kabanicha, the mother of Katia’s husband, sung by mezzo-soprano Marie-Ange Todorovitch. Mme. Todorovitch too is often on the stages in the south of France. She is a force of nature, her voice powerful, her presence riveting. Director Duffaut ended the opera with la Todorovitch standing front and center, triumphant in five intense beams of white light.

Kabanova_Toulon3.pngSébastien Lemoine as Kouliguine, Christina Carvin as Katia

The drowned Katia lies behind her. Portraying Katia is a vocal and dramatic tour de force, riding the cusp at all times between hope and despair. Franco-allemande soprano Christina Carvin possesses the idea colors — the slavic warmth of tone, a maturity of tone that forebodes, and a freshness of sound that breathes life. Mlle. Carvin made a powerful Katia. This young artist now sings regularly at the Vienna Staatsoper.

Katia’s young lover Boris was sung by Czech tenor Ladislav Elgr with sufficient vocal prowess to indulge in the manic love fantasies of Katia, but never to allow his character to lose its sense of defeat. In the beautifully directed scene when Katia publicly admits her infidelity he hovered in the background, then fled, and after his final moments with Katia near the end of the opera he simply evaporated.

The complementing personalities of Janáček’s slavic world, named below, were perfectly cast, notably Icelandic tenor Elmar Gilbertsson who sang Kudriach, some of it while riding the obligatory Jenůfa bicycle, and some of it skipping stones across the pool of water.

If this fine effort by the Opéra de Toulon did not create the full impact of Janacek’s brief opera it came close. While the tempos effected by Australian conductor Alexander Briger seemed appropriate and easily managed by the singers, the sounds coming from the pit sometimes seemed labored. It was apparent that the maestro was working closely with the orchestra but even so the boil of Janáček’s orchestral continuum did not always take flight.

Michael Milenski


Casts and production information:

Katia: Christina Carvin; Boris: Ladislav Elgr; Kabanicha: Marie-Ange Todorovitch; Dikoy: Mikhail Kolelishvili; Tichon: Zwetan Michailov; Varvara: Valentine Lemercier; Kudriach: Elmar Gilbertsson; Kouliguine: Sébastien Lemoine; Glasa: Caroline Meng. Chorus and orchestra of the Opéra de Toulon. Conductor: Alexander Briger; Mise en scène: Nadine Duffaut; Décors: Emmanuelle Favre; Costumes: Danièle Barraud; Lumières: Jacques Chatelet. Opéra de Toulon, March 27, 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):