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

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Enea Scala and Daniela Barcellona with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Opera Rara Chorus and conductor Daniele Rustioni<br/><br/>Photos © Russell Duncan
13 May 2016

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Enea Scala and Daniela Barcellona with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Opera Rara Chorus and conductor Daniele Rustioni

Photos © Russell Duncan

 

This opera semi-seria also has a counter-element in the form of Bellini’s only comic operatic role, although just as much laughter is generated by the more farcical improbabilities of the melodrama — a knife swung in a desperate frenzy gets caught in a cloak and misses the heart; a lover prepared to kill himself in unrequited misery is cured of his infatuation in the twinkling of an eye.

If the comic and serious elements don’t knit into a coherent whole, the fault probably lies with the minor French writer François-Thomas de Baculard d’Arnaud (1718-1805) whose novella Anecdote anglaise provides the raw material for Tottola’s libretto (which had previously been used by Valentino Fioravanti for the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples in 1816). D’Arnaud’s sappy text is less a narrative than a series of implausible episodes but it is typical of the sort of sentimental drama so popular in Neapolitan theatres during the early nineteenth century — indeed, several of d’Arnaud’s novels and verse dramas were the sources for opera plots, including Donizetti’s La Favoriteand we should probably not judge librettist or composer too harshly for the undeveloped characterisation and haphazard dramatic development.

As always, Opera Rara deserve credit and gratitude for once again mining the archives in order to resurrect forgotten works of the past and allowing us to re-assess composers’ reputations and development. This fine performance at the Barbican Hall, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniele Rustioni, has resulted in the production of a new critical edition using Bellini’s original score. And, the concert staging revealed a young Bellini keen to impress the Neapolitans — his teachers, fellow students and, he hoped, the paying public — absorbing elements of the new ‘Rossinian’ style and showing distinct, if only intermittent, signs of his own musical voice and of the long-breathed melodic curves that would earn him the nickname, ‘the Swan of Catania’.

Kathryn Rudge, Leah Marian-Jones & David Soar with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Opera Rara Chorus and conductor Daniele Rustioni_(c) Russell Duncan.png

Kathryn Rudge, Leah Marian-Jones and David Soar

Bellini must have had high hopes for this ‘graduation piece’ for the Real Collegio di Musica di San Sebastiano in Naples. Performed originally by an all-male cast — even though there are three female roles — it proved so popular that it was reprised at the Conservatory every Sunday for a year, and the Intendant at the Teatro di San Carlo was prompted to commission Bellini’s first professional opera. It has also been suggested that the opera was also designed to impress the parents of Maddalena Fumaroli, a singing pupil of the composer, whom he hoped to marry.

There was disappointment all round though: the Fumarolis were not moved by the opera’s success and Bellini’s attempt to secure a professional production proved fruitless. He revised the original three-act score (which was never published), creating a two-act opera buffa version which remained unperformed. Bellini must have recognised the work’s musical merits though, for he plundered it, cherry-picking some of the best bits for re-cycling in later works. So, Salvini’s cabaletta turns up in Il pirata, the cantabile interlude ‘Ecco signor la sposa’ from the Act 2 finale was recast for La straniera, and Nelly’s romanza ‘Dopo l’oscuro nembo’ was reshaped into Giulettia’s ‘Ah, quante volte!’ in I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

The action is set in seventeenth-century Ireland and concerns the melancholy Lord Adelson and his impassioned protégé, the Italian painter Salvini, whom Adelson has befriended. Unfortunately, back on M’Lord’s Irish estate Salvini becomes starry-eyed when he meets Nelly, Adelson’s betrothed. Nelly’s exiled uncle, Colonel Struley, uses Salvini’s adoration as a means to get revenge on his ‘enemy’ Adelson: while the latter is in London, the first of several false letters arrives. Apparently written by Adelson’s father, it tells of Adelson’s impending marriage to a London noblewoman. Salvini, who has been charged by his master with the care of Nelly, tries to comfort her in her distress but as his ardour grows he becomes increasingly distraught, bordering on insane. With the help of Adelson’s unscrupulous servant, Geronio, Struley attempts to abduct Nelly so that he can force to her wed a rich French friend. Salvini foils his plot but during the chaotic kidnapping and chase, fears that he has killed Nelly. Adelson’s return ensures a happy ending. Despite Salvini’s fears, Nelly is safe and sound and preparing to marry Adelson. Salvini, miraculously purged of his romantic fixation, is given an allowance and despatched back to Italy. He vows to return in a year, to wed his young pupil, the orphan Fanny — his compensation prize.

Maurizio Muraro, Daniela Barcellona, Simone Alberghini, Kathryn Rudge, Leah-Marian Jones & David Soar with conductor Daniele Rustioni_(c) Russell Duncan.png

Maurizio Muraro, Daniela Barcellona, Simone Alberghini, Kathryn Rudge, Leah-Marian Jones and David Soar

There were several changes of cast from the originally advertised line-up, but fortunately Italian bass-baritone Maurizio Muraro stepped into the shoes of Salvini’s servant, Bonifacio, as planned, for he instantly leapt light-footedly to life and created a three-dimensional character whose irreverent pragmatism in the face of the prevailing over-emotionalism was entirely winning. Bonifacio sings in Neapolitan dialect and Muraro relished the text, dealing deftly with the patter in his Act 1 cavatina, ‘Bonifacio Beccheria qui presente’ and resonantly questioning why Salvini believes he’ll never find another girl as sweet and beautiful as Nelly. After all, whether named Nell-y, Mariann-y, Ros-ì, Pepp-ì, Che-cchì Fann-y, or Caro-lì … all those who end with ‘i’ are equally devilish [diavol-i]! Muraro’s full-voiced artistry was as subtle as his acting; this was a superb performance.

Replacing Lawrence Brownlee as the would-be Werther (Goethe’s eponymous novella was published two years after d’Arnaud’s Anecdote), Italian tenor Enea Scala was fittingly handsome and ardent, but he didn’t get into his stride until the second act. Perhaps this is forgivable for Salvini is introduced to us in a wickedly stratospheric cabaletta which forms part of a duet with Bonifacio — but which is the first full solo statement for the lead tenor and so functions like an entrance aria — and which includes an outlandish surfeit of high Cs, Ds and even an E. Scala nailed them all and the hypersensitive painter’s extravagant vocal roulades — ‘Pietà crudele!’ — but not without some strain and a rather hard edge to the tone. The elegance of line required rather more mellifluousness.

However, the tension in Scala’s tenor lessened markedly once the testing opening was under his belt and his Act 2 duet with Simone Alberghini’s Adelson, ‘Torna, o caro, a questo seno’, was moving and dramatic: unaware that they are rivals in love, Adelson asks Salvini to safeguard Nelly in his absence while the painter is increasingly destabilised by the thought of the forthcoming nuptials. Best of all was the Act 3 aria in which Salvini begs to be killed; this number was meltingly beautiful and utterly entrancing, and Scala revealed a greater flexibility and polish than Act 1 might have led us to imagine he possessed.

Alberghini (who replaced the scheduled Nicola Alaimo) initially lacked vocal colour and impact, and he did not seem entirely comfortable embodying an Irish patrician, but the Italian baritone was technically secure: muscular in the broader phrases, nimble in the more elaborate passages.

Daniela Barcellona was a gentle-natured Nelly. She sang her Act 1 romanza with delicacy and a soft-grained mezzo which, while beautiful and affecting, needed greater ampleness to travel through and over the orchestral fabric. Barcellona was quite subdued, too, in more florid passages but she imbued the role with great dignity.

In the minor roles, bass David Soar (Geronio) and Russian baritone Rodion Pogossov (Struley) were a dastardly pair whose characterisations were energetic, but whose attractive tone and vocal restraint prevented them slipping into parody. Mezzo-sopranos Kathryn Rudge (Fanny) and Leah-Marian Jones (replacing Patricia Bardon as Madam Rivers) had little to do except satisfy the conventional balance of vocal forces but they both acquitted themselves well.

The (scaled-down) BBC Symphony Orchestra were on sparkling form under Daniele Rustioni’s baton, playing with impressive rhythmic bite, bright tone and varied colours, obviously inspired by their conductor’s lively engagement with the drama. The playing of the four horns particularly impressed: we were treated to spot-on intonation, appealing tone, impressive clarity and subtle pianos. Rustioni bounced and bopped on the podium, constantly involved with the characters, glancing over his shoulder to cue, coax or embolden his cast. The overture was full of interest — harmonic, rhythmic and dynamic. Rustioni demonstrated equal instinct for the eloquence of the bel canto idiom and the score’s Rossinian gestures. The graded crescendos and hastenings were perfectly judged, though at times I felt that the conductor wanted to push even harder on the accelerator pedal, but was sensitive to his singers. The male voices of the Opera Rara Chorus (replacing the BBC Singers) were strong of tone as Adelson’s servants, and if the basses and baritones tended to out-sing the tenors, then the ensemble had been well-marshalled by chorus master, Eamonn Dougan.

This was a concert staging, but stage director Kenneth Richardson’s slick managing of the singers’ entrances and exits created a sense of dramatic continuity that would not have been achieved had the cast been seated on stage — and which was often not present in the libretto! Somewhat oddly, Bellini chose to employ the French opéra comique convention of spoken dialogue rather than secco recitative, but with the majority of the spoken text delivered by native Italians, dialogue director Daniel Dooner must have had a fairly easy task.

Bellini’s score may be a rather loose dramatic concoction and have more than a few melodic clichés but it contains much of interest too. It points intriguingly to the composer’s all too brief future career. And, with only ten other operas for the Bellini aficionado to enjoy, it’s good to add another to the list.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production details:

Nelly — Daniela Barcellona, Salvini — Enea Scala, Bonifacio — Maurizio Muraro, Madame Rivers — Leah-Marian Jones, Lord Adelson — Simone Albergini, Fanny — Kathryn Rudge, Struley — Rodion Pogossov, Geronio — David Soar; conductor — Daniele Rustioni, stage director — Kenneth Richardson, dialogue director — Daniel Dooner, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Opera Rara Chorus. Barbican Hall, London. Wednesday 11th May 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):