Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.



Scene from The Golden Cockerel [Photo by Hans Jörg Michel]
25 Apr 2016

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Scene from The Golden Cockerel

Photo by Hans Jörg Michel


In these times of political madness, the new production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel (zoloty petushok) by Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf arrives as a refreshingly funny opera. Dmitry Bertman brings this political farce and sex comedy in a delightfully over-the-top staging that made for a highly entertaining and musically engaging production. If you happen to be in the area, it is definitely worth a trip to Düsseldorf, as it’s also scheduled for next season.

The opera is based on a poem by Pushkin, whom Rimsky-Korsakov greatly admired. Tsar Dodon convinces himself his neighboring country Shemakha will attack. He summons an Astrologer, who gives him a golden cockerel to advise him. The bird reveals the Tsarita of Shemakha desires expansion. The Tsar sends his two sons into battle, but they come out defeated. Although in the original libretto they die, Bertman keeps the opera light on drama and high on comedy, so the sons return at the end.


The second act takes place in Shemakha. To avoid conflict, the Tsarita seduces the Tsar and tricks him into marrying her. While Act III is a bit convoluted dramatically, Bertman directs it with a lighthearted approach. The Astrologer demands the bride during Dodon’s wedding to her, but the Tsar kills the him. Then the bird kills Dodon. In the epilogue, the Astrologer leaves the audience with the message that everyone on stage was unreal, except for the Tsarita and him. Make of that what you will.

Bertman’s Act I opens with Tsar Dodon, his two dunces of sons, and his general in a hottub. The buffoonery of the royals and the incapacitated state of General Polkan set the farcical tone for the rest of the evening. These rampant drunks mix beer and vodka, while brawling and flashing each other. Their behavior starts to make sense, once Tsar Dodon acts the most devious: he feeds the unconscious General milk from a baby bottle. Bertman included many of these suggestive moments that served as provocative comedy..

The highlights of the evening occurred in Act II. On a comical level, Bertman’s production made the audience laugh many times, and Antonina Vesina enchanted with her irresistible vocal acrobatics, especially in the “Hymn to the Sun”. She seemed to sustain her endless high notes without any effort. Her vocal prowess is enough reason to go see this production. The Tsarita’s knowing looks at the audience created some tongue-in-cheek moments.


In several highly rhythmic passages, in which the Russian male temperament seemed to echo, Statsenko kept up with the fast pace and demonstrated intense stamina. The Russian baritone truly impressed in Rimsky-Korsakov’s vocal demands, while delivering plenty of comedy during his seduction by the Tsarina.

In Act III, the Tsar and his entourage return from Shemakha--in this case with lots of tax free shopping from Paris. Bertman creates a vibrant tableaux vivant with the choir in high gear and a full parade. Renée Morloc demonstrated great comedic timing as Amelfa, the Tsar’s secretary. A rich voluptuous voice with a hint of mischief. With turbo blond hair on top of her head and a big caboose, she played off Stetsenko in highly comedic sexual innuendo. In act III, an exasperated Amelfa devours the now roasted cockerel; Morloc proved herself priceless in this scene.

As golden cockerel, Eva Bodorova dressed up in flashy golden costume that would easily seem at home in a Las Vegas show. The man behind me gasped “geil, a common German word to describe the titillating. Her golden tenue reflected light as she appeared from the sides of the balcony. With her commanding and crisp voice, she drew all the attention to her.

Unrecognisable in his wig and wizarding tenue (one of the imaginative and detailed costumes by Ene-Liss Semper), Cornel Frey offered a creepy, enigmatic air to the Astrologer's voice. Roman Hoza and Corby Welch sang decently. Their mere presence on stage as Tsar’s bumbling offspring added to the political commentary on royal heritage.

Conductor Alex Kober continued to propel the narrative forward in Act III through well paced momentum in the Dusseldorfer Symphoniker. Rimsky-Korsakov’s score consists of lots of exotic colours from the woodwinds. His Sheherazade often came to mind.

In great detail, the conductor punctuated Bertman’s comedy, amplifying the hilarity on stage. Kober effectively balanced the orchestra and the singer, while allowing the choir, prepared by Edward Kurig, to burst with invigorating energy. Although the Russian language was hard to discern.

With a surprising amount of laughs, flashy scenery, and some vocally breathtaking moments, Bertman’s Golden Cockerel comes highly recommended.

David Pinedo

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):