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

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.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Siegfried</em>, Opera North
05 Jul 2016

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Siegfried, Opera North

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Béla Perencz as Wanderer and Ceri Williams as Erda

Photo credit: Clive Barda.

 

Perhaps I shall find out some day how it all turned out. Very well, I should expect, at least performatively. For, if I did not find that this Siegfried quite attained the heights of the Walküre two nights previously, Opera North’s remained an achievement that put a good number of larger companies to shame.

It helped, of course (to put it mildly!) to have Richard Farnes continue his excellent work, not in the pit, but at the podium. As with the Walküre, I found some of the first act a little on the subdued side, the music only really igniting during the final scene, and only truly blazing with the extraordinary Second Act Prelude, in which the Orchestra of Opera North once again showed that it had nothing to fear from the most exalted of comparisons. Perhaps that is Farnes’s way, wanting to leave something in reserve. However, in this particular drama, especially when seen and heard without a full staging, something more immediately arresting would not have been a bad thing. I also felt that the intensity of the third act might have been more consistently maintained. It was certainly not a case of failing to understand, or indeed to communicate, its contours. However, between the Prelude to the Third Act - the Prelude to the Ring’s very peripeteia - and a shiver-inducing final duet, there was, at least for my taste, perhaps a little too much placidity. That said, Farnes’s conducting and the orchestral playing will, I am sure, long be spoken of warmly, both in London and in the earlier venues of the Opera North tour.

The Ring - Siegfried 05.pngRichard Roberts as Mime. Photo Credit: Clive Barda.

Béla Perencz’s Wanderer sounded suitably resigned, without that implying any lack of attention to the particularities of words and music. If I have heard more imposing portrayals, there was a humanity here that most would have warmed to - and I did. Jo Pohlheim’s Alberich was a definite strength of the Rheingold three nights earlier, and so again it was here. Less pitch-black than some, this was a dwarf who very much retained character of his own. So too did Richard Roberts’s Mime, especially noteworthy for fine acting within the constraints (or should that be liberation?) of a ‘concert staging’. Mats Almgren proved a properly stentorian Fafner. Lars Cleveman offered laudable staying power in the title role, at least until the earlier stages of the final scene. (It is quite understandable that he should have been tiring then!) However, his voice was decidedly less than ingratiating; such, alas, is the way with almost all Siegfrieds. It was nevertheless a committed performance, and that is worth a good deal. Ceri Williams’s Erda was again somewhat insecure. However, the other two ‘female’ roles were superbly taken, Jeni Bern a veritable breath of fresh air as a lively Woodbird, and Kelly Cae Hogan fully living up to the promise of her Walküre Brünnhilde in a blazing performance at the close. Again, if only I knew how it all turned out …

If only the nuances of verbal meaning had not too often been ironed out in translation. (Sometimes, it was spot on; at other times, overly generalised. Surely Wagner’s poems deserve near-literal translation in such circumstances, for this was not a singing translation. Fafner’s Proudhonian ‘Ich lieg’ und besitz’ loses far too much, indeed almost everything, as ‘What’s mine is mine’. Possession, one might say, is if not nine tenths, then at least half, of the rentier meaning. But such niggles, and ongoing concern-cum-irritation over increasingly screensaverish projections, remained just that, niggles, in the face of Opera North’s magnificent achievement. More Wagner soon, please!

Mark Berry

Richard Wagner, Siegfried

Siegfried: Lars Cleveman; Mime: Richard Roberts; The Wanderer: Béla Perencz; Alberich: Jo Pohlheim; Fafner: Mats Almgren; Erda: Ceri Williams; Brünnhilde: Kelly Cae Hogan; The Woodbird: Jeni Bern. Concert Staging, Design Concept, Lighting, Projection: Peter Mumford; Associate Director: Joe Austin. Orchestra of Opera North/Richard Farnes. Royal Festival Hall, London, Friday 1 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):