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

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Francisco Valls' Missa Regalis: The Choir of Keble College Oxford and the AAM

In the annals of musical controversies, the Missa Scala Aretina debate does not have the notoriety of the Querelle des Bouffons, the Monteverdi-Artusi spat, or the audience-shocking premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

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):