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

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rebeca Olvera as Adalgisa, Cecilia Bartoli as Norma [Photo copyright Hans Jörg Michel, courtesy of the Salzburg Festival]
07 Aug 2015

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

Norma at the Salzburg Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Rebeca Olvera as Adalgisa, Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

All Photos © Hans Jörg Michel, courtesy of the Salzburg Festival.

 

The Norma herself is Cecilia Bartoli, and she is as well the artistic director of the Whitsun Festival (where, by the way, this next spring she will sing Maria in West Side Story conducted by Gustavo Dudamel). Evidently Mme. Bartoli is as deft a producer as she is a deft Norma.

Bellini’s spectacular old warhorse is a tour de force for a soprano, Mme. Bartoli’s upper extension is well able to handle the high and intense emotional climaxes, her lower chest voice beautifully portrays Norma’s maternal moments, and in between a strong mezzo-soprano sound well sustains the extended lines and slow motion of the likes of “Casta diva.” Mme. Bartoli’s musicianship is exemplary, her coloratura absolutely splendid, achieving in the cabaletta of rage at the end of the second act astonishing vocal turns that are unique to her artistry.

But all of this has been said many times before. It has also been said that la Bartoli is an exemplary producer, not only casting voices that compliment her sound, technique and musicianship but engaging a conductor and orchestra that simulate an early nineteenth century Bellini musical poetic, in this case La Scintilla, a Zurich Opera founded original instrument ensemble. This splendid orchestra makes a far more mellow sound than the sharp, exciting tones of a modern orchestra, its sound supporting, not competing with the beautiful singing that must resolve the truly impossible, indeed ugly situations proposed by the early Romantics.

Mme. Bartoli’s most brilliant choice is however that of stage director, in this case the French team Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier who imposed a concept that portrayed a parallel situation and created an atmosphere and a context that in no way updates what little Bellini knew (and we know) of the Druid fertility ceremony. The staging did not attempt to explain, amplify or go beyond the preposterous story the opera tells. It simply told another story from another century simultaneously. Both stories share a crucial theme — consorting with the enemy.

Norma_Salzburg3.pngSet design by Christian Fenouillat

The mythical Druid world was sung in a school room in Vichy France. It moved to a blank wall, there was a doll in a blanket (an abstraction of Norma’s two children) and finally it returned to the school room that went up in flames. But not before Norma’s hair was hacked off marking her as a sexual collaborator. The ethical conflicts felt by a twenty-first century audience were addressed while the Romanticism of bel canto was allowed to drive naturally to its fiery climax (the fickle lover obviously won over by Norma’s beautiful singing since otherwise his change of heart cannot be comprehended).

Norma_Salzburg2.pngMichele Pertusi as Oroveso, John Osborn as Pollione

American tenor John Osborne is an exemplary Pollione, his sound and presence are of the amplitude to hold his own with two over-wrought sopranos, and his is of sufficient tenorial stature to go to his death with real coglioni — Mr. Osborne is able to respect the grace of bel canto and cut a fine figure as a lover as well be a tenor. Zurich Opera trained, Mexican soprano Rebeca Olvera possesses a much lighter voice than Mme. Bartoli. Her Adalgisa is intended to be girlish rather than monastic, she is vocally virginal in contrast to the maternal mezzo Norma. Italian bass Michele Pertusi sings Oroveso using a natural sharpness of voice that easily withholds all possible forgiveness.

Musically the production was in the hands of Zurich based Italian early music conductor Giovanni Antonini who keeps careful control of his orchestral forces to allow the bel canto to soar in the voices of the singers rather than rise from the pit. This Norma is about singing the Druid world as this world was perceived (maybe) by Bellini. And too this Norma is a collision of centuries.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Norma: Cecilia Bartoli; Adalgisa: Rebeca Olvera; Pollione: John Osborn; Oroveso: Michele Pertusi; Clotilde: Liliana Nikiteanu; Flavio: Reinaldo Macias. Chorus of the Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano; Orchestra La Scintilla at Zurich Opera. Conductor: Giovanni Antonini; Stage Director: Moshe Leiser / Patrice Caurier; Scenery: Christian Fenouillat; Costumes: Agostino Cavalca; Lighting: Christophe Forey. Haus für Mozart, Salzburg Festival, August 31, 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):