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

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolena [Photo by Todd Rosenberg]
01 Feb 2015

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Sondra Radvanovsky as Anna Bolena [Photo by Todd Rosenberg]

 

The role of Anna is sung by Sondra Radvanovsky and that of her lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour by Jamie Barton. Henry VIII is portrayed by bass John Relyea and Lord Percy by Bryan Hymel. Mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor sings the travesti role of the page Smeton, Richard Ollarsaba is Lord Rochford, brother of Anne, and John Irvin portrays Lord Hervey. Patrick Summers conducts the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Michael Black is the Chorus Master. Both Messrs. Hymel and Summers are making their Lyric Opera debuts in these performances. The production team includes Kevin Newbury, Neil Patel, Jessica Jahn, and D.M. Wood as Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, and Lighting Designer respectively, all in their debuts with Lyric Opera.

03_Jamie_Barton_ANNA_BOLENA_LYR141203_090_cTodd_Rosenberg.pngJamie Barton as Jane Seymour

The sinfonia, or overture starting the work, is played with only several cuts and thus introduces not only significant melodies but also the complexity of moods in effect at the Tudor court. The sprightly playing from the string section leading into positive tones for the full orchestra alternates with an intermittent backdrop of snare drums suggesting the actual power of the royal court. Indeed the political and emotional constellations of the era are highlighted by the symbolic Tudor rose displayed prominently on the scrim covering the stage. As a preparation for the conflicts in Act I, Ms. Radvanovsky, clutching herself in pregnancy, appears on a revolving stage mechanism. The chorus begins to sing, as though in sympathetic commentary, of Anne’s current disfavor vis-à-vis her husband, King Henry. Surrounded by this flurry of tensions Jane, Anne, and Smeton express their emotions and misgivings in the opening scene. From the first, Ms. Barton makes an unforgettable impression as Jane Seymour, vocally secure and dramatically exciting. In her first words, “Ella di me sollecita,” [“She has summoned me”] Jane reflects on her relationship to Anne whom she calls her “vittima,” primarily because of the liaison already initiated with the King. At the moment when she sings of the doubts which have plagued her heart, Barton’s voice extends upward on the words, “Qual dubbio in me si è desto!” [“What doubts arise in me!”]. Her incorporation of embellishments on the word “amor” as an ambivalent force addressed effectively both the anticipation of the King’s attentions and the harm caused ultimately to her mistress. Soon after the entrance of Anne, the page Smeton is invited to entertain with song the assembled ladies of the Queen’s retinue. Ms. O’Connor’s performance of “Deh! Non voler costringere” [“Do not try to force”] showcases a rich, flexible lower register, coupled with requisite skills at emphatic decoration, in this serenade to the Queen’s unhappiness. At the same time, O’Connor has assumed the character’s movements so that she is fully convincing in the role of a young man. Anne’s reaction to the serenade, declaring that Smeton has stirred her heart, is delivered by Ms. Radvanovsky in a touching performance. The upper extension of her voice is joined in convincing transitions and decorative slides to the lower reaches of her troubled spirit. Anne’s following cabaletta, “Non v’ha sguardo” [“No one can see”], is taken at a brisker tempo than expected, yet the decoration and emotional fervor on the repeated final line, “Non lasciarti lusingar” [“Do not let yourself be tempted”], bring the scene to an effective close.

Before the entrance of King Henry in the next scene Jane muses further on her lot: she fears the eventual “dì tremendo” [“doomsday”], expressed here by Barton with sonorous, low pitches. Fits of conscience continue during the ensuing dialogue with the King. Here Mr. Relyea demonstrates admirable range and command of bel canto technique when he encourages Jane to share their love in the light of day. Once Relyea’s Henry declares his hatred for Anne, the duet between the lovers develops to an intense high point of the first act. Jane’s lines vacillate here in emphasis between Barton’s searing top notes on “ultimo” [“final (encounter)”], or “Amore, e fama” [“Love and reputation”] in contrast to her deeply expressed “vergogna” [“shame”]. In response, Relyea’s fluid embellishments on “Sì: l’avrete” [“Yes: you will have it”] and “Non avrà Seymour rivale” [“Seymour shall have no rival”] are used to reassure Jane. In this performance Henry’s strategy succeeds, since musically their voices merge in the final part of the duet. As a symbol of the future, both characters ascend the throne together at the close of the scene while Anne is seen alone on a staircase above.

05_Richard_Ollarsaba_Bryan_Hymel_ANNA_BOLENA_LYR141203_167_cTodd_Rosenberg.pngRichard Ollarsaba as Rochford and Bryan Hymel as Percy

The introduction of Anne’s former suitor, Lord Percy dominates the next part and motivates the action to conclude the first act. His presence is welcomed by Rochford, who has not seen his friend at the English court since he was exiled on the basis of unproven accusations. In Percy’s first aria, “Da quel dì’ [“From the day”] Mr. Hymel provides enthusiastic declamation on “ogni terra” [“every county”] and “la mia tomba” [“my grave”]. Elsewhere, in the following cabaletta “Ah! Così ne’ dì ridenti” [“Ah! Thus in the happy days”], placement of trills was accurately, if not comfortably produced. During the subsequent trio between Henry, Anne, and Percy, the King welcomes ostensibly the return of the nobleman but credits Anne with speaking for his innocence. In the ensemble Hymel’s vocal projection is credibly even with his declaration “Voi, Regina!” [“You, my queen”] showing an especially fervent appeal. A royal hunt is announced just as Henry conspires with Lord Harvey to have Anne and her former suitor remain under scrutiny.

In the scene propelling the King’s eventual allegations Smeton enters the corridor leading to Anne’s chambers. He intends to return a portrait of Anne stolen in his own spirit of infatuated devotion to the Queen. O’Connor’s performance of Smeton’s aria, “Ah! Parea che per incanto” [“Ah! You seemed as if by magic”], a piece often cut in past performances of the opera, catches the spirit of anticipation, passion, and fear bundled into the youth’s resolve. Anne submits to her brother Rochfort’s urging that she grant Percy a hearing. Mr. Ollarsaba’s pleading as Rochfort on behalf of his friend is convincingly performed and serves as a prelude to the fate that will join both young men before too long. As expected, Percy’s meeting with Anne is here fraught with emotion. Just as Percy threatens to turn his own sword upon himself in despair, the lines “Anna per me tu sei, Anna soltanto” [“To me you are Anne, only Anne] are uttered by Hymel with touching, lyrical finesse. At this moment Smeton initiates a struggle coinciding with King Henry’s return. As he seizes upon this opportunity to accuse Anne (“che costei tradiva il Re”) [“this woman has betrayed the King”], Relyea’s pronouncements of treachery intensify into the final ensemble. Anne’s protests for understanding and mercy yield only the King’s declaration, here very well intoned, that the “Giudice” [“judges”] will determine the credibility of Anne’s defense.

From the start of Act II a relentless sadness or inevitable resignation pervades each of the scenes. At first the chorus of women in Anne’s service comment on her solitude and their loyalty. Lord Harvey now communicates to Anne the news that the women must leave her. In her prayer to ask for divine counsel, “Dio che mi vedi in core” [“God, you who can see into my heart”], Radvanovsky sings softly so that high notes melt into subtle diminuendo. When Jane enters the Queen’s chamber, the exchange between the two women evolves into the expected confession which the “rivale” can no longer suppress. As a reflection of Anne’s prayer, Barton utters Jane’s appeal of “Perdono!” while ending on a comparably soft, shaded note.

The revelation that Jane has indeed supplanted Anne in the King’s affections leads to a stirring dramatic duet, “Dal mi cor punito io sono” [“I am punished by my own heart”], comparable to the scene between Jane and Henry in Act I. Once the legal proceedings to discredit Anne have begun, the King refuses to interfere or consider mercy. In the trio sung together with Anne and Percy, “Ambo morrete, o perfidi” [“You will both die, o wicked ones“], Relyea’s lyrical projection stands out as he refers to them with the term “Coppia iniqua” [“Guilty pair”], a phrase central to Anne’s own final solo at the close of the opera. Although Percy and Rochford receive news that Henry will spare their lives, they refuse his clemency and prefer to follow Anne in loyalty to her and their execution. Percy attempts to dissuade Rochford from this decision in the expressive aria, “Vivi tu” [“You must live”]. Hymel performs this piece with admirable descending embellishments, a heart-felt “lagrimar” [“to weep”], and a superb top note at the close.

In her final aria Anne indeed reverses the appellation “Coppia iniqua” [“Guilty pair”], in reference now to Henry and Jane. Radvanovsky introduces dramatic, powerful forte notes at the start of the piece, yet she subsides into lyrical, decorated phrasing while speaking her words of pardon. The audience is left with a sympathetic image of the Queen facing execution.

Salvatore Calomino

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):