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

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

05 Aug 2016

Cosi fan tutte in Salzburg

This Cosi fan tutte concludes the Salzburg Festival's current Mozart / DaPonte cycle staged by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, the festival's head of artistic planning.

Cosi fan tutte in Salzburg

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Da Ponte's four young lovers in the Riding School [Photo by Monica Rittershaus, courtesy of the Salzburger Festspiele]

 

Unlike Le nozze di Figaro (2014) and Don Giovanni (2015) both staged by Mr. Bechtolf in the Haus für Mozart theater (both to be revived later in the month) Cosi is staged in the Felsenreitschule — the old riding school with galleries carved into Salzburg's famous city center rock.

Thus director Bechtolf's staging is site specific, utilizing the 50 or so meter wide (165 feet or more), three tiered carved into the stone galleries as a living backdrop (singers and supers move amongst the tiers) the equally wide stage platform as a field for a sort of improvised street theater style staging. During the overture a number of black cloaked, masked sort of ninjas use chloroform saturated handkerchiefs to lay out Fiordilig and Dorabella (left supine on the stage) and Despina (carted off on a wheelbarrow).

Cosi_Salzburg2.pngThe Felsenreitschule galleries and Cosi stage platform

The knocked out sisters are draped onto a sofa (that needless to say will seat four at strategic moments), Don Alfonso, Ferrando and Guglielmo make their wager, The ninjas retreat to some sort of library way over on stage right. And the geometry (symmetries of four or six points) begins, and so far so good.

A pit has been cut into the stage platform in which the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg was seated that provided polished (what else) accompaniment for the next four hours, its winds in pure sounds that evoked an orchestral utopia from another time within the splendid acoustic of this architectural artifact.

The conductor for the Cosi in this cycle is Ottavio Dantone (Dan Ettinger conducts Le nozze, Alain Altinoglu conducts the Giovanni). Mo. Dantone, a gifted Italian early music specialist, provided measured tempos throughout the evening allowing the Da Ponte text to be deliberately stated, tempos that were musical rather than dramatic. It was a lyric evening indeed with nothing musically extraordinary expected of the artists beyond fine singing.

The sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, sung by German soprano Julia Kleiter and American mezzo soprano Angela Brower respectively, were identically costumed in period style (only a slight variation of pastel hue) and vocally and musically perfectly matched in their pure rather than rich tones. Fernando, Swiss tenor Mauro Peter (a noted lieder singer) who with Guglielmo, Italian bass baritone Alessio Arduini, did their best to execute the fairly tame antics imposed on the young soldiers by director Bechtoff. Interestingly both Don Alfonso, sung by German bass-baritone Michael Volle and Despina, sung by Swiss soprano Martina Janková were aggressively presented, irritants to the protagonists rather than the amused instigators of Da Ponte's dirty trick.

Cosi_Salzburg3.pngLeft to right: Don Alfonso, Guglielmo, Dorabella, Fiordiligi, Ferrando, Despina

Director Bechtolf's humor is low key in simple, momentary situational comedic skits that precluded a larger dramatic focus. Notably "Come scoglio" — Fiordiligi holds the entire cast at sword point for the duration of the aria, some traversing the runway that created a fore-stage in front of the pit (and therefore illustrating a theatrical chic fourth wall). On the other hand the trio "Soave sia il vento" was sung entirely presentational, the three singers seated unmoving on the sofa.

Musically the high point of the evening was the quartet of leave taking, the sisters bidding farewell to their soldier lovers. It was delivered with the musical precision and mannered shaping of exquisite string quartet playing.

Our expectations for an exceptional evening were high indeed.

The evening did not sustain this level of studied musical and theatrical interest. In the best of times the second act of Cosi challenges the stamina of is audience. Here the alternation of comedic moments with presentational scenes of serious feeling lost momentum. The emotional scope of the singers proved limited, and the directorial attempt to create interest by referencing the geographical extremes of the stage platform and by populating the back wall galleries succeeded only in pulling focus from the tense Fiordiligi Ferrando situation center stage.

Finally this difficult dramaturgical problem was more or less dismissed both musically and theatrically. At the end the four protagonists dashed individually to the four separate corners of the platform, the tyranny of all this theatrical geometry destroyed. Or something.

Michael Milenski


Production information:

Chorus: Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus; Orchestra: Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. Conductor: Ottavio Dantone; Stage direction and set design: Sven-Eric Bechtolf; Costumes: Mark Bouman; Lighting: Friedrich Rom. Felsenreitschule, Salzburg, August 2, 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):