Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mefistofele at Orange’s Chorégies

This is the one where a very personable devil tells God that mankind is so far gone it isn’t worth his time to bother corrupting it further.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

Madama Butterfly at the Princeton Festival

The Princeton Festival brings a run of three high-quality opera performances to town each summer, alternating between a modern opera and a traditional warhorse. John Adams’ Nixon in China has been announced for next summer. So this year Princeton got Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, for which the Festival assembled an impressive cast and delivered a polished performance.

‘Schiff’s Surprise’: Haydn

Many of the ingredients for a memorable concert were there, or so they initially seemed to be. Alas, ultimately what we learned more clearly than anything else was that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s new Principal Artist, András Schiff, is no conductor.

Recital of French song from Véronique Gens and Susan Manoff

It came as quite a surprise throughout much of the first half of this recital of French song, that it was the piano-playing of Susan Manoff that made the greater impression upon me than the singing of Véronique Gens.

Pelléas et Mélisande: Glyndebourne Festival Opera

What might have been? Such was a thought that came to my mind more than once during this, the premiere of Glyndebourne’s new Pelléas et Mélisande. What might have been if Stefan Herheim had not changed his Konzept so late in the day? (I had actually forgotten about that until reminded during the interval, yet had already began to wonder whether the production had been, especially for him, unusually rushed.)

Mozart: Don Giovanni, Royal Opera House

There is something very Danish about this Don Giovanni. It isn’t just that the director, Kasper Holten is a Dane, it’s also that the existential, moral and psychological questions Holten asks point to Kierkegaard who wrote of the fusion of the erotic and demonic in this opera in his work Either/Or (1843). However, I’ve rarely, if ever, encountered a production of Don Giovanni - even Bieito’s notorious one for ENO - where Mozart comes off as second best.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

15 Feb 2016

Die Zauberflöte , ENO

Whilst the Arts Council has been doing its best to destroy the English National Opera, ENO has fought back in the best way possible: in the theatre.

Die Zauberflöte , ENO

A review by Mark Berry

 

I felt ambivalent about this production of The Magic Flutefirst time around; it was certainly an improvement upon its predecessor, but other than that, I was somewhat lukewarm. At the time, I welcomed its emphasis upon theatricality and the workings of that theatricality, whilst wondering whether a little less might have been more. That I still feel; it is not clear to me what is contributed by the writing of ‘The Magic Flute’ on a screen during the Overture, save, alas, for permitting noisy sections of the audience to laugh uproariously. If they find that — and, it would seem, pretty much anything — so utterly hilarious and/or conducive to loud discussion, then I might suggest that they seek help; the rest of us certainly needed help at times in order to hear the performance.

Whether the rest had been toned down a little, I am not sure; maybe I was just feeling less curmudgeonly, in which case I owe Simon McBurney and Complicité something of an apology; I certainly enjoyed the production more than I had last time. The sound booths, in which we see and hear the making or an impression of making of sound ‘effects’ is very Complicité, of course, and I suspect that some opera-goers loved it because it was new to them. I still wish that something more were actually done with these aspects of the production, that there were more interrogation of the work and what it might mean; yet, by the same token, there is an openness to interpretation that should not necessarily be confused with non-interpretation. There was, I thought or at least felt, a stronger sense of magic this time; whether that were a product of the production’s touring in the meantime, or of greater responsivity on my part, I am genuinely not sure. Stephen Jeffreys's translation is exemplary; if one is going to perform the work in English, a witty yet serious approach such as this is unquestionably the way to go. It enables one to approach the heart of the work rather than shouting 'look at me!'

For me, however, the strongest reasons to enthuse were musical. Mark Wigglesworth led an excellent account of the score. No, of course it was not Colin Davis; but we do not need to hear unconvincing imitation of past glories. Wigglesworth’s tempi tended to be swifter, although not unreasonably so; crucially, there was no sense of harrying the score, of preventing it from breathing. There was no absurd rushing through ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’, nor indeed through any of the most tender moments. Moreover, the ENO Orchestra and Chorus, fighting back again where it matters most strongly, were on excellent form throughout. Orchestral light and shade was present in abundance, even if I did not especially care for the use of natural trumpets. (That seems to be the latest fashion with modern orchestras, a fashion I confess to finding incomprehensible, when modern instruments are otherwise used.) The chorus, presently under threat from management cuts, showed incontrovertibly why it deserves our fullest support, its members as convincing individually as they were corporately.

Allan Clayton offered a fine vocal performance as Tamino, although I think the production might have made him a little more princely. Ardent and lyrical, he was a worthy successor to Ben Johnson. Lucy Crowe’s Pamina was as touching as one could hope for, musical and dramatic qualities as one; hers was a performance that would grace any stage. James Creswell’s Sarastro was unusually light of tone; there were times when I hankered after something darker, more traditionally Germanic, but on its own terms, this was an intelligent portrayal, with considerable stage presence. Ambur Braid may not have hit every note perfectly as the Queen of the Night — who does, at least on stage? — but hers was a committed, unusually human performance; I hope that we shall see and hear more from her. Peter Coleman-Wright’s Papageno confounded expectations. Here we had a highly convincing portrayal of a bird-catcher left on the shelf, the sadness arising from society’s contempt for the ageing as much as his usual predicament. (It seems a perfectly reasonable reappraisal in a work much preoccupied with age, which really had me thinking.) John Graham-Hall’s Cockney Monostatos showed what a truly versatile artist this is; it is only a few months ago that I saw him as Schoenberg’s Aron in Paris. All of the smaller roles were taken well, showing once again how crucial a sense of company is to performance; if only ENO’s management would watch and listen.

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Tamino: Allan Clayton; Papageno: Peter Coleman-Wright; Queen of the Night: Ambur Braid; Monostatos: John Graham-Hall; Pamina: Lucy Crowe; Speaker: Darren Jeffery; Sarastro: James Creswell; Papagena: Soraya Mafi; Two Priests, Two Armoured Men: Rupert Charlesworth, Frederick Long; Three Ladies: Eleanor Dennis, Catherine Young, Rachael Lloyd; Three Boys: Anton May, Yohan Rodas, Oscar Simms; Director: Simon McBurney; Revival Director, Movement: Josie Daxter; Set Designs: Michael Levine; Costumes: Nicky Gillibrand; Lighting: Jean Kalman, Mike Gunning; Video: Finn Ross; Sound design: Gareth Fry, Matthieu Maurice. Chorus of the English National Opera (chorus master: Stephen Harris); Orchestra of the English National Opera/Mark Wigglesworth (conductor). The Coliseum, London, Friday 5 February 2016.

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):