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

There is no rose: Gesualdo Six at St John's Smith Square

This concert of Christmas music at St John’s Smith Square confirmed that not only are the Gesualdo Six and their director Owain Parks fine and thoughtful musicians, but that they can skilfully shape a musical narrative.

Temple Winter Festival: The Tallis Scholars

Hodie Christus natus est. Today, Christ is born! A miracle: and one which has inspired many a composer to produce their own musical ‘miracle’: choral exultation which seems, like Christ himself, to be a gift to mankind, straight from the divine.

A new Hänsel und Gretel at the Royal Opera House

Fairy-tales work on multiple levels, they tell delightful yet moral stories, but they also enable us to examine deeper issues. With its approachably singable melodies, Engelbert Humperdinck's Märchenoper Hänsel und Gretel functions in a similar way; you can take away the simple delight of the score, but Humperdinck's discreetly Wagnerian treatment of his musical material allows for a variety of more complex interpretations.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Rouvali and the Philharmonia in Richard Strauss

It so rarely happens that the final concert you are due to review of any year ends up being one of the finest of all. Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s all Richard Strauss programme with the Philharmonia Orchestra, however, was often quite remarkable - one might quibble that parts of it were somewhat controversial, and that he even lived a little dangerously, but the impact was never less than imaginative and vivid. This was a distinctly young man’s view of Strauss - and all the better for that.

‘The Swingling Sixties’: Stravinsky and Berio

Were there any justice in this fallen world, serial Stravinsky – not to mention Webern – would be played on every street corner, or at least in every concert hall. Come the revolution, perhaps.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

The Pity of War: Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall

During the past four years, there have been many musical and artistic centenary commemorations of the terrible human tragedies, inhumanities and utter madness of the First World War, but there can have been few that have evoked the turbulence and trauma of war - both past and present, in the abstract and in the particular - with such terrifying emotional intensity as this recital by Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano at the Barbican Hall.

First revival of Barrie Kosky's Carmen at the ROH

Charles Gounod famously said that if you took the Spanish airs out of Carmen “there remains nothing to Bizet’s credit but the sauce that masks the fish”.

Stanford's The Travelling Companion: a compelling production by New Sussex Opera

The first performance of Charles Villiers Stanford’s ninth and final opera The Travelling Companion was given by an enthusiastic troupe of Liverpudlian amateurs at the David Lewis Theatre - Liverpool’s ‘Old Vic’ - in April 1925, nine years after it was completed, eight after it won a Carnegie Award, and one year after the composer’s death.

Russian romances at Wigmore Hall

The songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov lie at the heart of the Romantic Russian art song repertoire, but in this duo recital at Wigmore Hall it was the songs of Nikolay Medtner - three of which were framed by sequences by the great Russian masters - which proved most compelling and intriguing.

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen

The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.

Don Giovanni: Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera turned the art of seduction into bloodsport with its 2018/19 season-opener of Mozart’s dramma giocoso, Don Giovanni often walking a razor’s edge between hilarious social commentary and chilling battles for the soul.

Jonathan Miller's La bohème returns to the Coliseum

And still they come. No year goes by without multiple opportunities to see it; few years now go by without my taking at least one of those opportunities. Indeed, I see that I shall now have gone to Jonathan Miller’s staging on three of its five (!) outings since it was first seen at ENO in 2009.

Sir Thomas Allen directs Figaro at the Royal College of Music

The capital’s music conservatoires frequently present not only some of the best opera in London, but also some of the most interesting, and unusual, as the postgraduate students begin to build their careers by venturing across diverse operatic ground.

Old Bones: Iestyn Davies and members of the Aurora Orchestra 'unwrap' Time at Kings Place

In this contribution to Kings Place’s 2018 Time Unwrapped series, ‘co-curators’ composer Nico Muhly and countertenor Iestyn Davies explored the relationship between time past and time present, and between stillness and motion.

Cinderella goes to the panto: WNO in Southampton

Once upon a time, Rossini’s La Cenerentola was the Cinderella among his operatic oeuvre.

It's a Wonderful Life in San Francisco

It was 1946 when George Bailey of Bedford Falls, NY nearly sold himself to the devil for $20,000. It is 2018 in San Francisco where an annual income of ten times that amount raises you slightly above poverty level, and you’ve paid $310 for your orchestra seat to Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Des Moines: Glory, Glory Hallelujah

A minor miracle occurred as Des Moines Metro Opera converted a large hall on a Reserve Army Base to a wholly successful theatrical venue, and delivered a stunning rendition of Tom Cipullo’s compelling military-themed one act opera, Glory Denied.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Le nozze di Figaro </em>, Glyndebourne Festival Opera
04 Jul 2016

Le nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne

Michael Grandage's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which was new in 2012, returned to Glyndebourne on 3 July 2016 revived by Ian Rutherford.

Le nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Le nozze di Figaro, Act III

Photo credit: Robbie Jack.

 

Set in 1960's Seville, the production is designed by Christopher Oram with lighting by Paule Constable, and featured Gyula Orendt as Count Almaviva, Golda Schultz as Countess Almaviva, Davide Luciano as Figaro, Rosa Feola as Susanna, Natalia Kawalek as Cherubino, Carlo Lepore as Bartolo, Susan Bickley as Marcellina, John Graham-Hall as Don Basilio, Nicholas Folwell as Antonio, Alasdair Elliott as Don Curzio and Nikola Hillebrand as Barbarina. Jonathan Cohen conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

In an article in the programme book Michael Grandage explained that the 1960's setting for the production came about partly because they were looking for a suitable milieu in which it would be possible for the Countess and Susanna to convincingly swap clothes. Peter Schlesinger's photographs of the beautiful people of the late 1960's provided the inspiration. Another given was the intention to have the action set just in the single day specified in the libretto, so Christopher Oram's designs pair a massive, ancient-looking Moorish palace on a revolve with 1960s people, the whole flowing beautifully from the opening when the Count and Countess arrive early morning during the overture, to the finale in the darkened garden.

I had seen the production when new, when it came to the BBC Proms and also caught it on television, but this was the first time that I had seen it at Glyndebourne. The advantage of the production is manifestly the great beauty of the sets, the lovely contrast between the Moorish-inspired architecture and the 1960s costumes, and the remarkably detailed personen-regie ensuring that the characters were both brilliantly realised and finely in period. And it was both very funny and rather touching.

Le nozze di Figaro 4.pngLe nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne Festival 2016. Susanna (Rosa Feola) and Count Almaviva (Gyula Orendt). Photographer: Robbie Jack.

My biggest problem with the production remains the depiction of the Count (Gyula Orendt): a selfish playboy prone to bouts of jealousy, he just didn't seem to inspire the sort of fear that would seem to be needed to make the other characters' behaviour believable. A telling point at the performance was that when Orendt's Count went down on one knee at the end of Act Four to beg forgiveness of the Countess (Golda Schultz), there was a small but distinct titter from the audience. In 1960s guise, with his red velvet jackets and tendency to start jiving, this conception of the Count had too many funny moments.

But thinking about the production, as the performances from Davide Luciano as Figaro, and Rosa Feola as Susanna were so strong, it was as if Michael Grandage and Ian Rutherford were refocussing the dramaturgy slightly, making the servants the stronger, more dominant characters as the feckless aristocrats play on around them.

Le nozze di Figaro 3.pngLe nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne Festival 2016. Figaro (Davide Luciano). Photographer: Robbie Jack.

It helped that both Luciano and Feola are native Italian speakers, so that the opening scene had great strength and vitality in their use of language. Luciano's strong, rather virile performance reminded me that in the original play Figaro had a number of Revolutionary sentiments (which were stripped out by librettist Lorenzo da Ponte). Here was a Figaro less the charmer and more the schemer, quick to jealousy and full of passion. Luciano's musical performance was to match, singing with a sense of a strong line and with a feeling of suppressed anger. Rosa Feola as Susanna was poised and elegant, again with an inner strength combined with suppleness of line. You felt that Feola could have easily taken on the role of the Countess, and her account of ‘Deh vieni’ gave us some of the finest singing of the evening.

Against this pair, the self-indulgent, rather feckless Almavivas did not stand a chance. Golda Schultz's Countess, floating around in her kaftans, was all elegant charm with no real core to her character. Schultz sang warmly vibrant voice, drawing on a lovely sense of elegant personality in the recitatives and beguiling as she should. But ‘Porgi amor’ seemed to lack a real sense of line and felt a little too much like a series of isolated, albeit beautiful, notes, though her account of ‘Dove sono’ had a touching melancholy about it. Gyula Orendt's Count was beautifully sung, within the confines of the character as conceived in this production. Orendt could spin a beautiful line, yet also be quick to anger and his pacing of the long comic scene which ends Act Two was simply brilliant.

Natalia Kawalek was a piece of relatively late casting as Cherubino. Kawalek made a wonderfully convincing youth, and her impulsively sulking performance really helped ground the drama in the naturalism which Grandage clearly desired. Musically she seemed to take some time to warm up, and ‘Non so piu’ seemed to lack the sort of relaxed refulgence of tone which is ideal in this role, though ‘Voi che sapete’ was sung with great charm.

Le nozze di Figaro 2.pngLe nozze di Figaro, Glyndebourne Festival 2016. Cherubino (Natalia Kawalek) and Susanna (Rosa Feola). Photographer: Robbie Jack.

Carlo Lepore was a striking Don Bartolo, rather slickly untrustworthy yet touching when he discovers Figaro is his son. Susan Bickley made a delightful Marcellina, matronly but elegant and full of character, it was a shame that we did not get her aria. Neither did John Graham-Hall's oily Don Basilio get his aria, though Graham-Hall was a complete delight as this odious character. Nikola Hillebrand was a leggily elegant Barbarina, cavorting with Natalia Kawalek's Cherubino and singing her Act Four aria with poise.

The smaller roles were all strongly taken with Alasdair Elliott as Don Curzio, Nicholas Folwell as Antonio, and Julia Hamon and Alison Langer as the bridesmaids. Like the rest of the cast, the chorus clearly had great fun with the 1960s visual details of the production, and helped to bring the ensemble scenes alive. Though I have to confess that I found the choreography (originally by Ben Wright and revived by Kieran Sheehan) relied a little too much on fitting 1960s dance moves to period music, a trope that can easily weary.

From the opening notes of the overture, Jonathan Cohen and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment gave us a crisply vivid account of the score. Cohen used the period instruments to keep the textures light, yet vivid, and to allow the music to move without seeming overly rushed. Individual numbers were shaped finely, but there was an over-arching sense to the performance too, matching Grandage's desire to have the action move seamlessly through the day. There was some lovely continuo playing from Ashok Gupta (forte piano) and Jonathan Manson (cello), responsive and imaginative without overly drawing attention to itself.

All concerned brought out that combination of pathos, humour and tragedy which is the work's hallmark, and if the great moments did not quite move us as much as they could, overall this was a vividly engaging production, with a cast of beautifully realised characters.

Robert Hugill

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

Figaro: David Luciano, Susanna: Rosa Feola, Count Almaviva: Gyula Orendt, Countess Almaviva: Golda Schultz, Cherubino: Natalia Kawalek; director: Michael Grandage, conductor: Jonathan Cohen, revival director: Ian Rutherford, designer: Christopher Oram, lighting: Paule Constable, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

3 July 2016, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

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):