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 Reviews

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Götterdämmerung</em>, Opera North
04 Jul 2016

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

A review by Colin Clarke

Above: Andrew Foster-Williams as Gunther and Giselle Allen as Gutrune

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 

Peter Mumford, who tackles staging, design, concept, lighting and production, emerges triumphant. The three huge screens behind the orchestra are multi-function, translating the text, giving stage directions to help along the theatre of the imagination, and conjuring up a multitude of natural images, often of a primordial slant as befits atemporal myth, from forest scenes to well-timed ravens. Opera North’s Ring is also an immersive experience, with a plethora of satellite events. Particularly enjoyable amongst these for this final instalment was a talk on The top five things you need to know about tonight’s instalment in the Clore Ballroom which at one point had the audience, sitting in a pretend forest, hollering out the braying horns of the vassals.

Held in the current atmosphere of political uncertainty, aspects of Wagner’s Ring become naturally highlighted (particularly the back-stabbing, literal in Siegfried’s case). Yet Wagner’s genius towers over and cuts through such local concerns, his over-reaching vision sucking us into this dark World inexorably. Richard Farnes guides us through Wagner’s huge score expertly. His conducting style is precise, never over-emotive; the smallest gesture seems to register on his players, and there is a true sense of flow to his conducting. While I enjoyed Das Rheingold (the only other of the four I was able to catch), it was eclipsed by some way here. Farnes is not one to dawdle, yet the result is forward movement rather than rushed; the bright orchestral sound for Siegfried’s Rhine Journey seemed exactly right, and while the final act Funeral March was fluent, it held great dramatic weight. Farnes encouraged the best from his brass players, too, the great, trill-encrusted crescendo preceding Siegfried’s second act entrance a case in point.

The Ring - Götterdämmerung 1.pngMati Turi as Siegfried. Photo Credit: Clive Barda.

Interesting to see that First Norn was Yvonne Howard, who had so successfully taken the role of Fricka in the Rheingold. Actually, all three Norns were cast from strength, their voices very different, three distinct characters weaving the rope of destiny, entering clad in black veils, re-veiling themselves once the singing was over. The orchestra’s radiant Dawn led naturally to Siegfried and Brünnhilde’s massive duet. The Siegfried here was Mati Turi (Lars Cleveman had taken the role for Siegfried itself), a singer with a strong low register, and a top that can stand its own against a Wagnerian orchestra. His retelling of the story in the final act was his high-point. Yet his delivery did seem to be all at around the same dynamic level, with occasional forays from the prevailing forte to a fortissimo. His Brünnhilde, Kelly Cae Hogan, was more than his equal, her “O heilige Götter!” splendidly done, sailing easily over the orchestra, her final high C of the Prologue truly spine-tingling. She was perfectly chosen: it is Brünnhilde who closes the entire cycle (bar a couple of words from Hagen, of course) and Hogan was fully in her element and in her voice. Right from the off, her voice was fully open and free. This was a major assumption of the role, culminating in a beautifully variegated “Immolation”. Her voice piercing through the orchestra like a crystal point, she found real beauty in those final stages, the lower part of her voice as she seems to imitate Erda (“Alles Weiss ich”) wonderful; and just as wonderful that she still had that openness of voice for “Fliegt Heim, ihr Raben”. Throughout this final twenty minutes or so, Hagen’s reactions as he hovered at the side of the stage were cherishable. The music-drama ended, as is appropriate, with the orchestra bathed in golden light.

The Ring - Götterdämmerung 2.pngMats Almgren as Hagen. Photo Credit: Clive Barda.

Interesting that the singer who was Gunther had taken the role of Donner on opening night, the latter a far smaller part. Here, Andrew Foster-Williams was finally able to showcase his large voice; perhaps his Gutrune, Giselle Allen, was a little weak vocally initially. Another familiar face from Rheingold was Jo Pohlheim’s Alberich, well characterised but perhaps not as black of timbre as one might hope for this role. Mats Almgren (Fafner on opening night) was a terrific Hagen: his Watch (“Hier sitzt ich zur Wacht”) was dramatic, although again one has heard darker voices here. Almgren’s power was never in doubt, though, and the Alberich/Hagen interactions in the second act carried great weight.

One of the finest assumptions of the afternoon/night was Heather Shipp’s Waltraute, her Narration (“Höre mit Sinn”) finding the bull’s eye of Wagnerian concentration; later in the act, she actually sounded believably furious. One must not forget (how could anyone?) the Chorus of Opera North, powerful beyond belief at times; and yet capable of infinite tenderness (“Heil dir Gunther”, in the second act). The Rhinemaidens, counterbalancing perhaps the Norns, made a beautiful appearance in the final act.

And so the great cycle came to a conclusion, the enthusiastic standing ovation completely justified. A magnificent achievement.

Colin Clarke

Wagner: Götterdämmerung (Concert Performance)

Brünnhilde - Kelly Cae Hogan; Siegfried - Mati Turi; Hagen - Mats Almgren; Giselle Allen Gutrune; Gunther - Andrew Foster-Williams; Waltraute - Heather Shipp; Alberich - Jo Pohlheim; 1st Norn - Fiona Kimm; 2nd Norn - Yvonne Howard; 3rd Norn - Lee Bisset; Woglinde - Jeni Bern; Wellgunde - Madeleine Shaw; Flosshilde; conductor - Richard Farnes, Orchestra of Opera North.

Royal Festival Hall, London, 3rd July 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):