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

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo by Chris Christodoulou
14 Mar 2016

Ariodante, London Handel Festival

By the time that he composed Ariodante, which was first performed in January 1735, Handel had more than three decades of opera-composing experience behind him. It’s surely one of his greatest music dramas not least because, adapted from Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso, it is a very ‘human’ drama, telling of love and lust, betrayal and healing.

Ariodante, London Handel Festival

A review by Claire Seymour

Photos by Chris Christodoulou

 

The story is set in Scotland, where, Ariosto tells us, 'any woman who engages in union with a man and is not his wife, must be put to death'. In this production, which opened the 2016 London Handel Festival at the Royal College of Music, director James Bonas seemed to travel even further north: there was an Icelandic vibe to the dim hues of cool blue, dull grey and grungy brown of the set and costumes — a monochrome palette and barren ruggedness which reminded me of the violent setting of Orson Welles’ Macbeth. The cast’s distressed combat fatigues and dreadlocks, together with the Scottish King’s pseudo-Arthurian vulnerability, evoked a dystopian hinterland which might be past or future. The bare set enhanced the timelessness: broken branches were suspended aloft, a resolute stump doggedly persisted. In the final act, a purgation by water as effected — not without risk of mishap. Beige curtains swished to and fro across the stage, inferring the passing of time or physical dislocation, but regrettably in noisy fashion. Darkness embraced all — even, at times, the singers, who disappeared into the dim recesses of the subdued stage.

The arias themselves were not encumbered by excessive direction; the singers were encouraged to use the music to communicate rather than indulge in superfluous gesture. The result was directness and a pleasing lack of fussiness.

As the eponymous prince, Kate Coventry worked hard — and with considerable success — to communicate the varied stages of Ariodante’s emotional journey. In the opening act, she conveyed the joy and serenity which springs from our hero’s confidence in Ginevra’s love and his delight at the bestowal of the King’s favour (‘Con l’ali di constanza’) singing with clear, fresh tone and dancing with bright vitality through the intricate melismas. She had staying power too: ‘Scherza infida’ was a bitter explosion of grief, which suggested the destabilising anger which follows his beloved’s perfidy.

London Handel Festival 2016 (2). Ariodante, cast A. c. Chris Christodoulou .png

As was the case with all the impressive cast, Coventry seemed to have little difficulty with the virtuosic demands of her role: ‘Dopo notte’ was gleefully florid, racing through the three-octave compass and powerfully conveying Ariodante’s almost supra-human ecstasy when he learns that his beloved is irreproachable after all. The part of the hero knight was originally written for Carestini, renowned for his agility and stamina; Coventry suggested that she’d have been more than a match.

Sofia Larsson’s Ginevra was impassioned and full of heart; occasionally the sound was a tad sharp-edged and her intonation took a little time to settle, but when she got into her stride we enjoyed dramatic changes of colour. Her lament of despair, ‘Il mio crudel’, was particularly affecting. Coventry’s and Larsson’s voices blended well in the three duets which Handel provides.

Galina Averina sang and acted well as Dalinda: she was foolishly gullible but her naivety and regret won our forgiveness. Averina has a piercing shine at the top and sleekness throughout the range; her virtuosic cascades were impeccably even and smooth. As the evil Polinesso, Elspeth Marrow exhibited the seductive allure of an Iago; although the part seemed to lie a little too low for her, she sang with a rich warmth and smoothness which, ironically, simultaneously belied and embodied the villainy and lustfulness of the cruel and ambitious reprobate.

Paul Aisher demonstrated an appealing tone and firm line as Lurcanio, although he had a tendency to shout in the more impassioned outbursts. Simphiwe Simon Shibambu was more restrained as an introspective King of unwaveringly regal bearing, but his well-focused, beguiling bass is an instrument of great beauty and Shibambu used it with thoughtful musicality to convey the monarch’s pensive dignity. Tenor Joel Williams sang with rich tone in the role of Odoardo.

Laurence Cummings urged the proceedings onwards at a brisk lick — at times too precipitously, I felt; while dramatic intensity accrued as the recitatives tumbled hastily onwards, the undue hurriedness meant that there was a lack of opportunity to absorb the sentiments of the preceding aria before we fell headlong into the next one. The playing of the London Handel Orchestra was vigorous and strong — perhaps the continuo was a little too present in the recitatives — and there were some well-phrased obbligato contributions from oboe and bassoon. However, I felt that, with greater spaciousness, the cast might have been able to show more sensitivity to the text’s emotional weight. While the performances offered much to admire — not least pinpoint accuracy from some of these young singers in the demanding coloratura — there was at times a certain ‘thrill’ lacking.

Claire Seymour


Handel’s Berenice will be performed on 17 March, in St. George’s Hanover Square; it will be followed by the pasticcio Elpidia , at the same venue, on 31 March. For further details see http://www.london-handel-festival.com/

Ariodante — Kate Coventry, Ginevra — Sofia Larsson, Dalinda — Galina Averina, Polinesso — Elspeth Marrow, Lurcanio — Paul Aisher, King of Scotland — Simphiwe Simon Shibambu, Odoardo — Joel Williams; James Bonas director, Laurence Cummings — conductor, Molly Einchcomb — designer, Rob Casey — lighting designer, London Handel Orchestra

Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, 8th March 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):