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

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

The Enchantresse and Dido and Aeneas
in Lyon

Dido and Aeneas, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Tchaikowsky’s L’Enchantresse, the three operas of the Opéra de Lyon’s annual late March festival all tease destiny. But far more striking than the thematic relationship that motivates this 2019 festival is the derivation of these three productions from the world of hyper-refined theater, far flung hyper-refined theater.

The devil shares the good tunes: Chelsea Opera Group's Mefistofele

Every man ‘who burns with a thirst for knowledge and life and with curiosity about the nature of good and evil is Faust ... [everyone] who aspires to the Unknown, to the Ideal, is Faust’.

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

JPYA Summer Performance, ROH
19 Jul 2016

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

JPYA Summer Performance, ROH

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: The finale of Act II Die Fledermaus

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 

The JYPA Programme gives young singers, music staff, directors and conductors the opportunity to spend two years as full-time Company members, during which they receive comprehensive coaching in all aspects of the profession. The singers perform alongside leading international singers, taking minor roles and covering larger roles in main house productions. The annual Summer Performance allows them to take centre-stage and this year’s programme comprised five excerpts - from Kát'a Kabanová, Mireille, Eugene Onegin, Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Die Fledermaus.

There was much fine vocal talent on display, but the singers had to contend with some unhelpful direction and design. Director Richard Gerard Jones, a JPYA since 2015, and Lighting Designer Nick Havell decided to give all the scenes a ‘modern’ spin with a ‘radical’ edge. An eight-foot black wall served as a set and props were minimal - a transistor radio for Varvara and Kudrjáš to bob along to, a wheel-chair for Mireille to slump into, an armchair to support the fast-fading Mimi, a microphone for a karaoke-rendition of the Champagne Aria. Certainly, stagings need not be lavish to make their mark - companies such as Opera Holland Park and Bampton Classical Opera repeatedly prove that invention can triumph over budgets - but the grungy grimness of these designs was dispiritingly unimaginative. Lighting was of the extreme chiaroscuro type with naked bulbs (starlight for the lovers’ nocturnal tryst in Kát’a ) and dazzling strip-lights (glaring painfully from the lowered lighting rig at the close of Onegin) serving to blind rather than illuminate. Too often characters were half in darkness, which I suppose did fit in with the general ‘twilight zone’ ambience.

JPYA Summer Performance Production Image.pngJennifer Davis (far left) as Tatyana; Act III Eugene Onegin. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

The settings, and costumes, were dubious, too, in that they didn’t seem to take heed of anything that the protagonists might be singing about. The tender romance of the night-time rendezvous in Kát’a was blunted by Varvara’s far too revealing hot-pants. Mireille did not seek her wounded lover in the church of Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer, but found herself in a mental asylum, dressed in a white sack and dumped, fairly unceremoniously, in a wheelchair while two medics looked on aghast at the vocal antics of this would-be suicide. Prince Gremin’s ball was a flashy charity fundraiser complete with paparazzi to snap the posing celebrities, and the somewhat coarse ambience was at odds with the grave sincerity of Gremin’s subsequent avowal of love for Tatyana. Café Momus was a pole-dancing club - or so the animated neon silhouettes which prefaced the final scene from La bohème suggested: they drew an initial whoop but the flickering images, on a loop, quickly became nothing but a distraction. Worse still, they reappeared half-way through Orlovsky’s ball, though there was nothing riotous, or anything festive, about the revelling.

However, despite the fact that the black wall, which radically foreshortened the ROH stage, made the acoustic unsympathetic to the voices the singers displayed considerable talent, with the ladies perhaps just having the edge.

Vlada Borovko, who the evening before had sung the role of Xenia in the ROH’s Proms performance of Boris Godunov ( review), was an impassioned Kat’á Kabanová, demonstrating great power at the top and a lovely gleaming timbre. Kat’á’s innocence and love were equally credible. Borovko received praise when she made a role début when she stepped into Violetta’s shoes at short notice in March this year, and I look forward to hearing her sing Mademoiselle Jouvenot (Adriana Lecouvreur) and Giannetta ( L'elisir d'amore) next season. Emily Edmonds was a vivacious Varvara and as Prince Orlovsky she got the party going with a swing. Edmonds won acclaim in her native Australia before joining the JPYA Programme in 2015 and one can see why: her mezzo is full and sensuous, and she has sparkling stage presence. Her performances next season, which include Kate Pinkerton (Madame Butterfly) and Tebaldo ( Don Carlo) will be keenly anticipated.

Emily Edmonds as Varvara.pngEmily Edmonds as Varvara. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

There is currently a quartet of Australian JPYAs, and soprano Lauren Fagan shone as Gounod’s Mireille, despite having been cast as a deluded, self-harming depressive. Her stunningly rich tone and vibrant timbre rose above the incongruous design and later, as Mimì, she showed that she has range of colour too. She deserved praise for showing forbearance with the directorial quirks in the latter excerpt too, whipping an oxygen mask from a carrier bag and convulsing violently during in Mimì’s death throes. Despite a pre-curtain announcement that Jennifer Davis was under-the-weather, there was no obvious effect on her singing and she was an open-hearted Tatyana, her soprano unforced and rounded, and a bright Adele in Fledermaus. Davis is cast as Ines in next season’s Il trovatore and as Arbate in Mitridate, re di Ponto.

David Junghoon Kim Clive Barda.pngDavid Junghoon Kim as Kudrjáš. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

Among the men, Australian baritone Samuel Dale Johnson stood out as a firm-voiced Rodolfo and was joined in the ‘garret’ by David Shipley’s Schaunard and Samuel Sakker’s Marcello for a tacky take-away beside a needle-light Christmas tree and a feeble electric bar-heater. Sakker, the fourth of the Australians, also had his moment in the spotlight during the run of Traviata earlier this year, stepping in as Alfredo when Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu was struck down by a last-minute illness. He has a resonant tenor and appealing tone but he’s not a natural stage animal and took a while to settle as Boris in the scene from Kát’a Kabanová. In contrast, David Junghoon Kim was an ebullient and strongly characterised Kudrjáš. Kim and Sakker share the role of Ruiz in the double-cast Il trovatore next season.

Samuel Dale Johnson and Lauren Fagan Clive Barda.pngSamuel Dale Johnson (Rodolfo) and Lauren Fagan (Mimì). Photo credit: Clive Barda.

James Platt - who, like Borovko, sang in the previous evening’s Prom performance (Border Guard) - injected some much needed gravitas into the Eugene Onegin excerpts. Tall and imposing, he was an impressive Prince Gremin and had the low notes for Gremin’s declaration of love, descending smoothly to the bottom. No wonder Tatyana threw her arms around him in a tight bear-hug. Yuriy Yurchuk has a sonorous baritone but his brief turn as Onegin didn’t afford much opportunity to show it off. I admired Yurchuk’s performance as Angelotti in January this year ( review) noting that he used ‘his lovely tone to garner our sympathy’, and his moment came in Die Fledermaus, as the elegant Dr Falke calmly invited Orlovsky’s revellers to treat each other as ‘Brüderlein und Schwesterlein’. There will be several chances to hear Yurchuk at Covent Garden next season, as he performs Schlemil (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), Baron Douphol (La traviata) and Prince Yamadori ( Madame Butterfly).

The fine singing was complemented by the crisp playing of the ROH Orchestra conducted by Paul Wynne Griffiths, Paul Wingfield and Jonathan Santagada (the latter two are former and current JPYAs respectively). Fledermaus’s Adele tells us that ‘Champagne washes down all sorts of things sometimes, So wise monarchs never let, their people go thirsty’. On this occasion it was the fantastic music-making which was the spoonful of sugar.

Claire Seymour

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

Janáček: Kát’a Kabanová, Act II, scene 2
Katěrina (Kát’a): Vlada Borovko; Varvara: Emily Edmonds; Boris Grigorjevič: Samuel Sakker; Váňa Kudrjáš: David Junghoon Kim; Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths; Celeste: Colin Scott.

Gounod: Mireille, Act IV aria
Mireille: Lauren Fagan; Conductor: Paul Wingfield; Organ: Colin Scott.

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, Act III, scenes 1 and 2 (excerpts)
Tatyana: Jennifer Davis; Eugene Onegin: Yuriy Yurchuk; Prince Gremin: James Platt; Guests: Vlada Borovko, Lauren Fagan, Emily Edmonds, David Junghoon Kim, Samuel Sakker, Samuel Dale Johnson and David Shipley; Conductor: Jonathan Santagada.

Leoncavallo: La bohème, Act IV
Mimì: Lauren Fagan; Musetta: Emily Edmonds; Marcello: Samuel Sakker; Rodolfo: Samuel Dale; Johnson; Schaunard: David Shipley; Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths.

Strauss: Die Fledermaus, Act II finale (excerpt)
Rosalinde: Vlada Borovko; Adele: Jennifer Davis; Ida: Lauren Fagan; Prince Orlofsky: Emily Edmonds; Gabriel Eisenstein: Samuel Dale Johnson; Dr Falke: Yuriy Yurchuk; Colonel Frank: James Platt; Guests: David Junghoon Kim, Samuel Sakker and David Shipley; Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London Sunday 17 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):