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

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

05 Jan 2015

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Paolo Fanale as Nemorino [all photos by Christian Dresse, courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille]

 

The Opéra de Marseille revived the 2004 Toulouse production of L'elisir d'amore as its holiday season confection. And quite a confection it is. Former Nicholas Joël assistant Arnaud Bernard and his designer William Orlandi envisioned Donizetti’s hyper sentimental story as a series of early twentieth century photographs (a sepia tinged silver color palate), and took the concept a step further by constructing a stage that was a series of shutters (complex flats that moved somewhat like the shutter of a still image mechanical camera).

There were complicated, sometimes amazing scenic moves, that included a disintegrated figuration of the shutter flats when we learned that Nemorino had become rich. Of course there were many visually splendid freezes, some self consciously posed for an on-stage old fashioned larger-than-life prop camera.

Elisir_Marseille2.png Set and costume design by William Orlandi

Yes, of course there were period bicycles that circled the stage (including a precarious ride by the diva), and there was was the antique automobile that brought on Dulcamara, an absolutely splendid car by an unidentified luxury maker that had been structurally reinforced to permit actors to climb all over it (Nemorino was exceptionally agile), and yes, of course there was the miniature model of the car as well, parked upstage with its tiny highlights on to oversee the consummation of the story (that Adina and Nemorino do in fact love one another).

Bel canto operas are indeed about singing, and Elisir is a series of arias, duets and trios that easily convince you, at least for the moment, that this opera must be the epitome of the style. Metteur en scène Arnaud Bernard’s snap shot concept at best set the stage for the singers to present themselves in specific musical moments to be remembered (i.e. visual moments where the bel canto could really rip). At worst the complex staging overwhelmed if not ignored Donizetti’s easy, satisfying sentimentalism.

The singers therefore had the challenge to live up to the production. Nemorino, Italian tenor Paolo Fanale, came the closest. While Mr. Fanale may not possess the sweetness of voice or character to be the ultimate Nemorino, he does possess the artistry to have delivered an absolutely exquisite “Una furtive lagrima,” the highpoint of the performance well recognized by the audience. This fine artist gamely executed the considerable antics required by the stage director.

Elisir_Marseille3.png Paolo Fanale as Nemorino, Inva Mula as Adina

Veteran soprano Inva Mula who recently sang Desdemona both in Marseille and at the Chorégies d’Orange competently managed the vocal and histrionic demands of Adina (as she had in San Francisco Opera’s 2008 Elisir when she had had to find her way through middle American cornfields in some heavy handed Americana). Her impressive vocal technique served her well though it revealed the strains of maturity when she did not secure satisfying pitch for her high notes, and it came across as mere competence in Adina’s spectacular “Prendi, per me sei libero,” not the joyous exuberance of singing so many notes so fast.

Argentine baritone Armando Noguera sang Sargent Belcore, late in the evening displaying some lovely coloratura in an otherwise underweight performance. The same may be said of the Dulcamara of Italian baritone Paolo Bordogna, a veteran of many roles at Pesaro’s Rossini Festival who well displayed his fine buffo instincts but who was dwarfed by his automobile and his magician costume. Gianetta was nicely sung by French soprano Jennifer Michel, evidently cast because she could sing the role rather than create the character.

It was not clear what was going on in the pit. Italian conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli seemed to be trying to conduct Donizetti’s opera while the stage was laboring to do Mr. Bernard’s production. The stage seemed to have the upper hand, after all it took a lot to execute all those antics — and while the shutters moved flawlessly they might not have. There was little synchrony between the pit and stage, and there seemed to be little synchrony between conductor and the orchestra players, who seemed reluctant or maybe technically unable to enter the bel canto spirit.

Finally Mo. Rizzi Brignoli and tenor hit it off magnificently in “Una furtiva lagrima,” and the maestro seemed at last to capture the spirit of Donizetti with his orchestra. Any hope for synchrony with the stage remained futile.

Michael Milenski


Casts and production information:

Adina: Inva Mula; Giannetta: Jennifer Michel; Nemorino Paolo Fanale; Belcore: Armando Noguera; Dulcamara: Paolo Bordogna. Chorus and Orchestra of the Opéra de Marseille. Conductor: Roberto Rizzi Brignoli; Mise en scène: Arnaud Bernard; Décors/Costumes: William Orlandi; Lighting: Patrick Méeüs. Opéra de Marseille (France). January 2, 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):