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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Photo by Christian Dresse courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille
21 Mar 2015

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Tosca in Marseille

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Adina Aaron as Tosca, Giorgio Berrugi as Cavaradossi

Photos by Christian Dresse courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille

 

The recent, misguided Pierre Audi production at the Opéra de Paris is an example. Despite its slick “look” it was no more than the emperor in new clothes. But maybe you made your way to Marseille last week where the new production (sets/costumes/stage direction) by Louis Désiré restored your faith in revisionist productions. And in Tosca.

It was not a cast of singers in Marseille that limited its sights to the verismo thrills perpetrated by larger than life opera singers and effect mongering conductors. It was a cast that immersed itself in a revision of Tosca. No longer a mere showpiece for powerful singers of powerful personality the opera had become true theater where every word was eloquent and every gesture carved — a revisionist Tosca if there ever was one.

Director Désiré imagined Puccini’s “shabby little shocker” in a shadowy atmosphere that bespoke the prevailing dangerous political climate in which corrupt power, jealousy and unfettered lust exploded into lurid happenings. The production was in fact a study in chiaroscuro — fields of darkness with shafts of yellow light at the precise moments when emotions flared.

Lighting the singers will have been a monumental task, not only for the very accomplished lighting designer Patrick Méeüs, but also for the actors to learn where and when to move into and out of the shafts of light (note that Mr. Méeüs primarily designs lighting for dance where directional lighting techniques are highly developed).

Marseille born Louis Désiré maybe began his career as a costume designer or maybe as a set designer (the program bio is unclear). As both he is known to American audiences as a collaborator of American director Francesco Negrin (Werther in San Francisco and Rinaldo in Chicago).

Tosca_Marseille2.png Adina Aaron as Tosca, Giorgio Berrugi as Cavaradossi, Carlos Almaguer as Scarpia

As the sole metteur en scène of this Tosca he created stage pictures that are the highly charged personal moments of Mannerist painting — to be clear, it is the moment he captures, not the action. In fact his staging is two dimensional tableaux, occurring with few exceptions within the proscenium frame. He uses clever techniques to reduce this larger frame — for example Scarpia’s Act II table is a long black quadrangle box extending across half the stage, when actors move behind it there lower bodies are hidden, thus a sort close-up is effected.

The large proscenium frame of course was completely filled for the Scarpia “Te Deum.” There was no procession, only Scarpia standing downstage center holding one of the roses Tosca had placed on the altar to the Virgin Mary. Behind him in two straight, across the stage lines were 48 black cossack covered Opéra de Marseille choristers whose arms rose in celestial rapture to Scarpia’s sexual raptures. It was good, very, very good.

Tosca_Marseille3.png

Scarpia’s apartment boasted a small balcony on the side where Tosca escaped to sing her “Vissi d’arte” in a shaft of light, her lower body hidden by the railing. These tableau moments told the sordid tale from beginning to end in a seemingly inexhaustible catalogue of Mannerist inspired poses, epitomized by the execution — Cavaradossi was alone downstage center, the revolving stage had removed the shooters from the frame, Tosca was hidden behind a wall).

American soprano Adina Aaron, dressed the entire opera in an unadorned straight line gold gown (like a shaft of light), created an exotic presence for the actress Floria Tosca, her dark hued voice producing a lovely, burnished spinto tone, her less-than-full-throated high climaxes absorbed into the musicality of her character. She closed Act II sitting alone down stage center, flanked by two candles to speak Tosca’s “davanti lui tutta Roma tremava.” Delivered with resigned irony the tableau was simply an ironic statement of the line we had been waiting for.

Italian tenor Giorgio Berrugi sang Cavaradossi with exquisite musicality, all famous Italian tenor mannerisms firmly present but impeccably integrated musically. His ease of vocal production in this spinto role made his character about musical line, integrating his music into Puccini’s high octane drama in a flow that supported Mr. Désiré’s flow of tableaux. Of very great pleasure was the dramatic and musical authenticity of his rolled “r”‘s, creating unexpected ornamentation.

Mexican baritone Carlos Almaguer roared with unfettered gusto, as must every Scarpia. In this staging he is not asked to be emotionally complex but simply to reign as the perpetrator of the darkness of Napoleonic political atmospheres. Here he did not complicate his basically gruff delivery with nuance, nor did he attempt to assume an out-sized presence. He underscored director Désiré’s Tosca as a straight forward, uncomplicated recounting of the facts of the story. That he waited until the final curtain calls to take his bow assured the dramatic integrity of the production.

Of note as well was the excellent Angelotti of French bass Antoine Garcin, for once a consul of the fallen Italian republic who showed requisite age and stature.

Italian conductor Fabrizio Maria Carminati sacrificed the showy, obvious effects of this warhorse opera to the far more subtle demands of the production. It is the mark of a real opera conductor to integrate the score into the production. We can be very grateful to Mo. Carminati for the unobtrusive and very able contribution of the pit.

As metteur en scène Mr. Désiré both designs and stages Carmen for the Chorégies d’Orange this summer, with lighting by Patrick Méeüs. Not to be missed (cherries-atop-the-cake: Kate Aldridge as Carmen, Jonas Kaufmann as Jose).

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Floria Tosca: Adina Aaron: Mario Cavaradossi: Giorgio Berrugi; Scarpia: Carlos Almaguer; Le Sacristain: Jacques Calatayud; Angelotti: Antoine Garcin; Spoletta: Loïc Felix; Sciarrone: Jean-Marie Delpas; Le Pâtre: Jessica Murrolo. Orchestre et Chœur de l'Opéra de Marseille. Conductor: Fabrizio Maria Carminati; Mise en scène / Décors / Costumes; Louis Désiré; Lighting: Patrick Méeüs. Opéra de Marseille, March 18, 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):