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

<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):