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

Cilea's L'arlesiana at Opera Holland Park

In a rank order of suicidal depressives, Federico - the Provençal peasant besotted with ‘the woman from Arles’, L’arlesiana, who yearns to break free from his mother’s claustrophobic grasp, who seeks solace from betrayal and disillusionment in the arms of a patient childhood sweetheart, but who is ultimately broken by deluded dreams and unrequited passion - would surely give many a Thomas Hardy protagonist a run for their money.

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Il barbiere di Siviglia</em>, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms
26 Jul 2016

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Danielle de Niese as Rosina

Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou

 

Annabel Arden's production, designed by Joanna Parker, was adapted by Sinead O'Neill. Enrique Mazzola conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra, placed to the rear of the stage, with Danielle de Niese as Rosina, Alessandro Corbelli as Dr Bartolo, Taylor Stayton as Count Almaviva, Björn Bürger as Figaro, Christophoros Stamboglis as Don Basilio, Janis Kelly as Berta, Huw Montague Rendall as Fiorello and Adam Marsden as an Officer, plus the men of the Glyndebourne Chorus.

I have not seen Annabel Arden's production at Glyndebourne, but Sinead O'Neill had successfully created a vibrant and all-encompassing staging (there was little that was semi- about it) which involved both the orchestra and conductor. The evening was full of laugh out loud moments which seemed to fill the Royal Albert Hall (no mean feat with a comedy designed for a far smaller space).

The problem was that Arden seemed to have taken her cue from the staging of the Act One finale. In most productions I have seen, this is given in a highly stylised and choreographed manner. It was no different here, Arden (and director of movement Toby Sedgwick) created an almost hyper-active physical commentary on the music, creating a very funny ensemble. But Arden transferred this style to the whole opera, each solo and each ensemble was highly choreographed and the whole evening became a long sequence of physical theatre. The addition of three actors to the cast (Tommy Luther, Maxime Nourissat and Jofre Caraben van der Meer) emphasised this as the three were rarely absent from the stage, either as carnival figures in the opening and closing scenes or as three extra servants in Doctor Bartolo's house

I have great admiration for the performers because all concerned brought off the conception superbly, combining fine musicianship with brilliant theatre. The problem for me was that somewhere along the line, Rossini's sense of character seemed to disappear. One of the reasons why the opera has remained so popular is that Rossini manages to combine a sense of fun with a real feeling of drama so that the comedy and the music arise out of the situation. By the end of the opera I was no clearer who these characters really were. For all Taylor Stayton's charm in performance, without a feeling of dramatic context we had little idea who the Count really was.

To take a couple of examples. In the Act One where the Count first encounters Figaro (a scene culminating in the duet 'All'idea di quel metallo') we received no sense of the social hierarchy, that Figaro had once worked for the Count. Instead Björn Bürger and Taylor Stayton interacted as equals. And in the climactic Act Two trio when Figaro and the Count climb up the ladder into Rosina's room in order to rescue her, Rossini sends up opera seria convention so that the Count and Rosina have a classically structured duet complete with the necessary repeats, whilst Figaro must wait impatiently on the sidelines hurrying them up and sending up their music. Here all three performers were highly physical and we had no sense of the two worlds meeting.

Ensemble Figaro Prom.pngDanielle de Niese (Rosina), Christophoros Stamboglis (Don Basilio), Alessandro Corbelli (Dr Bartolo), Björn Bürger (Figaro) and Taylor Stayton (Count Almaviva). Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou.

For all its use of Alberto Zedda's critical edition, and the presence of a forte piano in the continuo, this was a rather traditional version of the opera. The Count did not get his final aria, alas, and Rosina was sung by a soprano (rather than mezzo-soprano) complete with the alternative aria 'Ma forse, ahimè' in Act Two.

Changing Rosina from mezzo-soprano to soprano usually means the character moves from rich-voiced spitfire to pert charm. Danielle de Niese successfully re-made the role in her own image, using her lustrous eyes to great expressive effect and emphasising both Rosina's great personal charm and her physical attraction. De Niese also seems to have got first go at the dressing up box, with a series of striking costumes. Overall, I felt that Danielle de Niese's Rosina was perhaps a little too pleased with herself and we could have done with more of the spitfire. 'Una voce poco fa' was sung with confident style though the aria sat a little low in De Niese's voice and could have done with an upward transposition. As it was, on the repeat her ornamentation pushed the tessitura up significantly. De Niese has a great sense of style in this music, but her execution of the fioriture was a little uneven. Sometimes she produced passages of pin-sharp coloratura such as the duet with Björn Bürger's Figaro, but too often her delivery was rather vaguer in outline and lacked the sense of precise detail which was ideal in the role. 'Ma forse, ahimè' which was written by Rossini for a soprano and which prizes line over coloratura, De Niese really showed what she can do.

Taylor Stayton made a highly personable Count Almaviva, combining physical charms with a strong technique. His opening aria 'Ecco, ridente in cielo' demonstrated a slim-line tenor which he used elegantly, with a superbly confident sense of style in the ornamentation. My only real complaint was that we could have done with a greater variety of colour. Stayton showed himself capable of lyric beauty too in the Count's second serenade. He had a nice sense of comic timing in the disguise scenes, and in the Act Two trio with De Niese and Björn Bürger, Stayton and De Niese really made the Count and Rosina's duet sparkle, adding some rather steamy action.

Figaro and Bartolo Glyndebourne Prom .pngBjörn Bürger as Figaro and Alessandro Corbelli as Dr Bartolo. Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou.

Björn Bürger was a name that was new to me; he is a young German baritone and is a member of the ensemble at Opera Frankfurt. He has an attractive, narrow-bore baritone which he used with great bravura and a lovely ease at the top of the range. His 'Largo as factotum' combined musical elan with a great sense of character, as well as being very funny. Bürger confidently combined a highly physical performance with a musically appealing one. This was a Figaro who seemed easily in control, yet Bürger's Figaro was also a delight to listen to.

Alessandro Corbelli is a veteran as Doctor Bartolo, and his combination of comic timing and musical felicity was effortless. He had the audience in the palm of his hand whenever he was on stage, yet there was no pulling of focus, this was very much an ensemble performance. Perhaps his performance was a little more one-sided than usual, thanks to the highly physical nature of the production, this was a Doctor Bartolo who was very funny throughout, and there was less of the sense of feeling sorry for the old fool that can happen in some performances. But there was so much to delight, whether it was the over-done charm in the arietta 'Quando mi sei vicina' or his lovely way with the recitative.

Christophoros Stamboglis was somewhat disappointing as Don Basilio. His tuning was not ideal in his calumny aria, but then transferring from Glyndebourne Opera House to the Royal Albert Hall with minimal rehearsal cannot be easy. He made Don Basilio delightfully pompous, and though 'La calunnia' was also somewhat effortful, he brought the piece to a great climax.

Janis Kelly was rather luxury casting as Berta, and she made her single aria into a wonderfully show-stopping number. Huw Montague Rendall and Adam Marsden (both from the Glyndebourne Chorus) contributed strong performances as Fiorello and the Officer.

This was very much an ensemble production, and the cast's sense of communal timing and great physicality made it a lovely piece of theatre. The recitative was done very vividly, though sometimes I would have liked a greater feeling of pace. The continuo from Alessandro Amoretti and Pei-Jee Ng was supportive without drawing attention to itself.

Enrique Mazzola and the London Philharmonic Orchestra gave a suavely characterful account of the overture, though it was not the most comically pointed of performances. Here and elsewhere Mazzola seemed to rather like a lot of percussion (mainly drum) in the mix. Throughout the evening the balance was not ideal and though the orchestra was behind the singers, there were too many moments when the balance favoured the orchestra.

The high musical values of the production make it well worth seeking out on BBC iPlayer (where it will be around for 30 days), but in the theatre the over-busyness of the production became a little too much and I felt rather self-defeating. In the end though, I had to admire the entire cast for their energy and commitment, and the superb way they combined the physical with the musical.

Robert Hugill

Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia

Rosina: Danielle de Niese, Dr Bartolo: Alessandro Corbelli, Count Almvaviva: Taylor Stayton, Figaro: Björn Bürger, Don Basilio: Christophoros Stamboglis, Berta: Janis Kelly, Fiorello: Huw Montague Rendall, Office: Adam Marsden, actors: Tommy Luther, Maxime Nourissat, Jofre Caraben van der Meer, original director: Annabel Arden, conductor: Enrique Mazzola, designer: Joanna Parker, stage director: Sinead O’Neill, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Chorus.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London; 25 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):