Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Krassimira Stoyanova as Danae with dancers. [Photo courtesy of the Salzburger Festspiele, copyright Festspiele / Forster]
09 Aug 2016

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Krassimira Stoyanova as Danae with dancers. [All photos courtesy of the Salzburger Festspiele, © Festspiele / Forster]

 

The dress rehearsal in Salzburg, August 16, 1944, of Richard Strauss' penultimate opera was its premiere and only performance until the 1952 Salzburg Festival (all Third Reich theaters had been closed in late July, 1944). The Covent Garden premiere was in 1953, the Santa Fe Opera American premiere in 1982. In recent years the opera, when attempted, is usually rendered in concert rather than staged.

Thus any new production of Die Liebe der Danae is of great interest — even Salzburg has given it only one other production in the past 65 years! This new production by Latvian stage director Alvis Hermanis imbues the opera with a requisite splendor and conceptual depth that fully complements the surpassing complexities and difficulties of the Strauss score.

Danae, daughter of bankrupt Pollux, has dreamt of gold. If Midas will marry Danae the household will be saved. Three and one half hours later Midas has lost his touch but gained a contented Danae after a monumental tussle with Jupiter who has paid off Pollux's creditors and finally understands that love is more powerful than riches.

All this was actually Strauss' formidable librettist Von Hofmannstahl's idea back in the 1920's who dubbed it a Marriage of Convenience. Not at all in the Roman tradition of Italian comedy, in the spirit of his times Strauss liked to think of his opera as the union of German music and the Greek soul.

Danae_Salzburg2.pngThe Grosses Festspielhaus stage with Die Liebe der Danae, Alvis Hermanis designer

Director Hermanis worked in bold strokes. The hugely wide stage of the Grosses Festspielhaus was an all white wall and floor, a pyramid of white boxes mounting to a shuttered oblong box. Making the Turkish setting of the Midas myth his backdrop Hermanis mined the riches of Turkish turbans and Oriental carpets. He included Hollywood musicals of the 1930's (Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers comes to mind), and Islam to boot (the final scene is Midas' harem — 12 women in white burqa contentedly weaving rugs).

Jupiter's harem were 12 Las Vegas style dancers in gold body stockings tirelessly executing sophisticated geometric routines. Hermanis well exploited the talents of Russian choreographer Alla Sigalova who among other jobs is the choreographer for the Russian version of Dancing with the Stars!

Like the Strauss score the staging was spectacular above all else.

Danae_Salzburg3.pngThe donkey led by its trainer

And the coup de théâtre — the mule of the newly impoverished Midas — a real, alive white donkey led across the elevated open box in the now pristine whiteness of the entire stage! Like Strauss' "love" it was at last something real in this world of riches. It was an almost shocking moment, even moving in the context of the overripe world of Straussian post Romanticism.

Conductor Franz Welser-Möst musically commanded all this most actively plus directing the wondrous splendors of Straussian forces of the Vienna Philharmonic. The grand conductorial traditions of this Von Karajan-designed theater were firmly in place.

Die Liebe der Danae is ultimate Strauss demanding ultimate virtuosity and bravura on all levels, most certainly from the singers. Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova negotiated the unrelenting high tessatura of Danae with ease in unflagging golden tone. German tenor Gerhard Siegel, well-known as a Wagner Mime, fulfilled the character demands of the Midas role without fully finding its romantic color, and managed its high tessatura with some difficulties. Polish bass baritone Tomasz Konieczny found both the brashness and the humanity of Jupiter, and delivered his final scene of blessing with utmost elegance. Austrian tenor Norbert Ernst portrayed a dynamic Mercury and Austrian tenor Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke made Pollux desperate indeed.

Unusual for Strauss were the ensemble scenes — complex machinations of vocal lines managed by a quartet of Pollux' nephews, and a quartet of their wives who are also former conquests of Jupiter. Unusual also was the duet of Danae and her maid, sung by Austrian soprano Regine Hangler, discussing Danaë's dream, the voices weaving equally in and out of the upper ranges.

The star of the show (second performance) was however the donkey who marched center stage and refused to go further. It turned its head to stare directly at the 2400 of us staring back. As any star might it very reluctantly left the stage. Note that its third act entrance was very disciplined.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production details:

Danae: Krassimira Stoyanova; Jupiter: Tomasz Konieczny; Merkur: Norbert Ernst; Pollux: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke; Xanthe: Regine Hangler; Midas/Chrysopher: Gerhard Siegel; Four Nephews: Pavel Kolgatin, Andi Früh, Ryan Speedo Green, Jongmin Park: Semele: Maria Celeng; Europa: Olga Bezsmertna; Alkmene: Michaela Selinger; Leda: Jennifer Johnston. Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor; WienerPhilharmoniker. Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst; Stage Direction and Set Design: Alvis Hermanis; Costumes: Juozas Statkevičius; Lights: Gleb Filshtinsky; Video: Ineta Sipunova; Choreography: Alla Sigalova. Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg, August 5, 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):