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

L’equivoco stravagante in Pesaro

L’equivoco stravagante (The Bizarre Misunderstanding), the 18 year-old Gioachino Rossini's first opera buffa, is indeed bizarre. Its heroine Ernestina is obsessed by literature and philosophy and the grandiose language of opera seria.

BBC Prom 44: Rattle conjures a blistering Belshazzar’s Feast

This was a notable occasion for offering three colossal scores whose execution filled the Albert Hall’s stage with over 150 members of the London Symphony Orchestra and 300 singers drawn from the Barcelona-based Orfeó Català and Orfeó Català Youth Choir, along with the London Symphony Chorus.

Prom 45: Mississippi Goddam - A Homage to Nina Simone

Nina Simone was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century music. But she was much more than this; many of her songs came to be a clarion call for disenfranchised and discriminated against Americans. When black Americans felt they didn’t have a voice, Nina Simone gave them one.

Sincerity, sentimentality and sorrow from Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake at Snape Maltings

‘Abwärts rinnen die Ströme ins Meer.’ Down flow the rivers, down into the sea. These are the ‘sadly-resigned words in the consciousness of his declining years’ that, as reported by The Athenaeum in February 1866 upon the death of Friedrich Rückert, the poet had written ‘some time ago, in the album of a friend of ours, then visiting him at his rural retreat near Neuses’. Such melancholy foreboding - simultaneously sincere and sentimental - infused this recital at Snape Maltings by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake.

Glimmerglass’ Showboat Sails to Glory

For the annual production of a classic American musical that has become part of Glimmerglass Festival’s mission, the company mounted a wholly winning version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s immortal Showboat.

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

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):