Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Songs for Nancy: Bampton Classical Opera celebrate legendary soprano, Nancy Storace

Bampton Classical Opera’s 25th anniversary season opens with a concert on 7th March at St John’s Smith Square to celebrate the legendary soprano Nancy Storace.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.



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):