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

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

<em>La bohème</em>, Opera Holland Park
16 Jun 2016

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

A review by Mark Berry

Above image courtesy of Opera Holland Park

 

Stephen Barlow’s new production of La bohème does just that, however, relocating the action to that very same period. Indeed, I notice that the RSC’s Props Department is credited in the programme for ‘their co-operation and contribution’. Andrew D Edwards’s designs look gorgeous: both sets, making excellent use of the Holland Park stage and environment, and costumes.

What are we to make of such a move? Not having asked Barlow and that, perhaps, not being entirely the point in any case, I shall, without implying ‘intention’, say a little about what I made of it, or thought one might make of it. One could, I suppose, say that it does not matter, say what ‘we’ often say about the time and period, that in some respects, at least, it is the least interesting aspect of a production. That, I think, would be a half-truth, but a half-truth nevertheless. I doubt many of us would be complaining if an opera set in Tudor England were convincingly updated to nineteenth-century France, and certainly not to the present day, although we might well ask why, and with what success. Why there and then, in that case? For me, the immediate resonance was with Shakespeare’s London. Rodolfo, our poet, perhaps something of ‘Will’ about him: perhaps more Shakespeare in Love than Shakespeare ‘himself’, but how much do we know of the latter anyway? A leather doublet becomes him, as does distraction from his quill. Given not only the poetical but metatheatrical concerns of the work, I wondered whether, following the first or even the second act, we should discover that it had all, or partly, been a play within a play, or some such device, but no — with the possible exception of the decidedly, deliberately artificial device of casting snow upon the scene in the third act. Perhaps that is the point, or at least could be made to be the point: we are all metatheatrical now, we all create our own metatheatre, even when something is apparently played ‘straight’. That, I think, is undeniable, although I suspect the particular relocation is, at any rate, not entirely arbitrary. Shakespeare’s London, or our creation of it, speaks to an English audience as strongly as pretty much any other possibility.

Perhaps the justification is that: we know it, or think we know it, and thus we find it easier to explore. I have no problem in principle with exchanging Montmartre and a Southwark tavern. It was all rather fun, and genuinely surprising. Other productions might delve deeper — although, frankly, very few do. Not everything can be directed by Stefan Herheim, whose Oslo staging is in a class of its own. This works well, on its own terms. The enigmatic programme quotation from Two Gentleman of Verona — which I only saw afterwards — might speak for itself, then, so long as we do not start silly gushing about alleged ‘timelessness’. Nothing is timeless; nor is it helpful or interesting to consider it so. ‘Oh, how this spring of love resembleth/The uncertain glory of an April day/Which now shows all beauty of the Sun/And by and by a cloud takes all away.’ We are free, then, to consider correspondences and connections insofar as we wish.

Having a young cast of such considerable theatrical ability helps. Rarely has the sexual attraction between Mimì and Rodolfo seemed so evident. Anna Patalong offers a beautifully sung, clearly heartfelt performance. It would take a sterner heart than mine not to root for her. Shaun Dixon sometimes sang out a little too much for my taste, but the acoustic can be a tricky one. There was certainly no doubting his commitment, nor his idiomatic command. Andrew Finden’s Marcello was intelligent, thoughtful, impetuous: the quicksilver quality of his exchanges with Elin Pricthard’s gloriously charismatic Musetta, every inch the self-conscious stage queen, yet most genuine in concern and charity at the close, would have been worth the price of admission alone. Frederick Long and John Savournin made at least as much of Schaunard and Colline as any artists I can recall. The sense of student camaraderie can rarely, if ever, have been so strong; nor can the dangers of that play-acting which ultimately fails our tragic heroine. David Woloszko’s Falstaff-like Benoît was not only an obvious comic turn, but very well sung too, as indeed were all of the ‘smaller’ roles’.

The OHP Chorus and Children’s Chorus were, quite simply, outstanding. Barlow’s work with them had clearly been thoroughly internalised. They knew what they were supposed to do, and did it, without ever seeming over-rehearsed. Vocally, one could hear every word, and in a coherent musical whole too. Matthew Waldron’s conducting doubtless helped greatly in that respect. There was never the slightest danger of sentimentalisation, in a sharp-edged account, which kept the excellent City of London Sinfonia on its toes throughout. I was surprised how little, if at all, I missed a larger body of strings; in a fine performance, one’s ears (almost always) adjust. It was not all so driven, though; where the music needed, wanted to dance, it could do so happily, not least during Musetta’s second-act ‘show’. There would be no harm in relaxing a little as the run progresses; by the same token, however, there is nothing to complain about, and a great deal to savour, here. OHP’s Puccini Midas touch works its magic once again.

Mark Berry


Cast and production details:

Mimì: Anna Patalong; Rodolfo: Shaun Dixon; Marcello: Andrew Finden; Musetta: Elin Pritchard; Schaunard — Frederick Long; Colline: John Savournin; Benoît: David Woloszko; Alcindoro: James Harrison; Parpignol: Michael Bradley; Customs Sergeant: Alistair Sutherland. Director: Stephen Barlow; Designs: Andrew D Edwards; Lighting: Howard Hudson. Opera Holland Park Children’s Chorus and Chorus (chorus masters: Scott Price and Richard Harker/City of London Sinfonia/Matthew Waldron (conductor). Holland Park Theatre, London, Saturday 11 June 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):