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

Ekaterina Gubanova
20 Jul 2016

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Ekaterina Gubanova

 

Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde), Evelyn Herlitzius (Brünnhilde), Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka), René Pape (Wotan) and Mikhail Petrenko (Hunding) sung on a scorching summer sunday under the guidance of Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Orchestra. Every singer produced sensational showstoppers. With such a cast a production is better left away.

The magnificent tenor Andreas Schager charmed the disappointed audience expecting a sick Jonas Kaufmann. With a touch of theatrical flamboyance Schager includes the audience intimately in his performance. As a singer he gives each of his characters his all. I have seen him go at it as Tannhauser in Ghent, Max in Der Freischütz in Berlin, and he was a major high point in Leipzig’s Ring Cycle last May, where he blew up the stage as Siegmund. Schager has also tackled Tristan in St. Petersburg with Gergiev, this evening’s conductor. His debut at the Met in NY is already programmed for the near future.

Walkuere_Schager_05_cKremper (1).pngAndreas Schager and Eva-Maria Westbroek

Tonight, he returned as Siegmund for the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, who managed to steal him away from his rehearsals for Der fliegende Holländer in his debut at Bayreuth. He again convinced as the overconfident hero. His performances have the sense that it might be his last.

From the moment Schager arrived on stage, the Austrian Adonis turned on his charm and dazzled. He has a soulful voice and big personality always intent on seducing the audience. In Leipzig, the Gewandhaus Orchestra was located in the pit, so he did not have the challenge of overcoming orchestral volume, a challenge he overcame most of the time with Gergiev and the muscular intensity of his body-builder Mariinsky. The challenge of balancing the volume was one of the few things that could have been more refined. But that was in Gergiev’s hands.

Schager’s chemistry with Westbroek was extraordinary. They elevated their duet to more than the sum of its parts. Their subtle acting and minimal gestures added great drama to this first act. Add to that the rich strings, swooning in their romance, and you were truly swept away as a listener. Schager and Westbroek’s fiery, passion moved me to tears. Epic was the revelation of his true name as first Sieglinde and then her brother exclaimed “Siegmund!”. It sent shivers down my spine.

Ms. Westbroek displayed her captivating acting skills, presenting Sieglinde highly expressive with great emotional authenticity, including her rich, relentless vibrato. She infused her declaration of love for her brother with generous exuberance. Later she contrasted this mania as she exuded a fearful malaise before Siegmund’s confrontation with her husband Hunding. A complete natural, her entire performance seemed hardly difficult, adding an almost laidback quality to the performance. How does she do it?

Evelyn_Herlitzius.pngEvelyn Herlitzius

Mikhail Petrenko must be admired for his flawless diction in German. You couldn’t detect his Russian accent at any point during his portrayal of Hunding, full of disdain and anger.

In Act II, Ekaterina Gubanova stole the show as the elegantly puritan and utterly disgruntled Fricka. Her voice commanded the stage, and she put Wotan to shame, in the best of ways, as Pape held his own. The climax of Act II had five world class singers on stage, and made for one of the most star-struck moments in opera that I have experienced. And one subtle moment of if-looks-could-kill emerged as Fricka arrived and Brünnhilde’s cheer diminished. That slight moment of eye-contact expressed volumes.

René Pape formidably portrayed Wotan with a sad, almost hopeless, resignation, as a leader at the end of his rule. In his interaction with Fricka in Act II, he displayed an authoritarian vocal prowess, demanding respect, yet still deeply human, perhaps too much so as God.

In Act III, Brünnhilde’s eight sisters threw themselves into Wagner’s vocal acrobatics as Gergiev turned the first half into a fully blown adrenaline rollercoaster. Yet it was the interaction between Wotan and Brünnhilde that left me helplessly sobbing, as the father cast his favorite daughter out of Valhalla. Such devastation I have rarely experienced from a stage performance. And while Wotan remains a bit distant, Evangeline Herlitzius turned me into an instant fan. Her Brünnhilde convinced in her virtuous optimism, but also displayed great dread for Wotan’s retribution. The singers elevated the performance to mythic heights.

In Act II Evangelina Herlitzius gave hint of what was later to come. But in Act III with Wotan she switched with seeming ease from upbeat enthusiasm, to great despair and all without too much theatricality. Her interaction with her disappointed father turned out to be the heartbreaking, gut wrenching finale that was necessary to conclude such a superlative concert.

Gergiev brought out the exhilarating passages of Wagner’s score. Brass sounded consistently brilliant or subtle with finesse in their simmering, swampy passages. Gergiev sustained a suspenseful momentum. He built up the Wagner’s tension effectively and knew to release it at the right moments.

With air conditioning, comfortable seating and such a stunning cast and orchestra, the question becomes…do you really need to still go to Bayreuth? Probably, because with a cast like this, it will be a long time before I will hear another so superlatively sung Die Walküre.

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):