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

Arabella in San Francisco

A great big guy in a great big fur coat falls in love with the photo of the worldly daughter of a compulsive gambler. A great big conductor promotes the maelstrom of great big music that shepherds all this to ecstatic conclusion.

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

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 ...

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

15 Aug 2016

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

The Lady of the Lake at the Rossini Opera Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Salome Jicia as the lady of the lake, Marko Mimica as Duglas [All photos courtesy of and copyright by the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro]

 

La donna del lago is from Naples’ Teatro San Carlo in 1819. Rossini masterpieces abound in these years, though they were not always appreciated by the fickle Neapolitan audience who in 1818 had wildly applauded Spontini’s La Vestale and decried Rossini’s Ermione. Consequently in 1819 Spontini had a contract for two new operas at San Carlo and Rossini had none! Circumstances forced Spontini to back out, but Rossini, always ready, took over the contract.

The novels of Sir Walter Scott were in the air in French translation. It is fairly likely that La donna del lago was originally intended for Spontini. But Rossini gets the credit of creating the first Italian opera based on Scott’s wildly popular, colorful novels that gave first definition to European theatrical Romanticism!

The now infamous Venetian stage director Damiano Michieletto staged La donna del lago just now in Pesaro. Last year at Covent Garden Michieletto had Jemmy, William Tell’s son compare his father Guillaume Tell with a comic book William Tell brought alive, played by an actor who remained on stage for the duration of that opera. In recent years in Pesaro Michieletto has turned La scala di seta into pure run-of-the-mill TV sit-com and Sigismondo into a classic made-for-TV horror movie (low budget, low taste).

LakeLady_Pesaro2.pngElena double, Juan Diego Flórez as Uberto, Salome Jicia as Elena

It was a surprise to see Michieletto back on the Pesaro directorial roster but it was of no surprise to learn that La donna del lago had become two old folks in a probably-mid-twentieth century British Isles-someplace parlor having a spat about the wife’s infatuation with a black and white photo of the king. The couple became a duplicate, aged Elena (the lady of the lake) and Malcom, a duplicate of the opera's pants role rebel but who (the double) was a real male. The doubles shadowed their Scottian counterparts the entire evening. Not to give it all away but towards the end the old woman falls into the lake (real water for this dramatic backflop) and Elena finds herself back in the drawing room of the opening scene. She transforms herself into the old woman while singing her final spectacular and breathtakingly beautiful “Tanti affetti in tal momento” that ends the show in the old folk’s reconciliation.

Elena was sung by Pesaro-finished (the festival's Accademia Rossiniana) ingenue Rossini diva, Georgian soprano Salome Jicia who more than held her own amid stiff competition — Jean Diego Flórez as King James V who liked to wander the Scottish countryside incognito and — according to Sir Walter Scott — fall in love with beautiful young women, and American tenorino cum coglioni Michael Spyres as Rodrigo, Malcom’s brash competition (lots of leaps to forte C’s and D’s).

Malcom was sung by Armenian mezzo soprano/contralto Varduhi Abrahamyan, an accomplished Carmen as well as bel canto singer who is well able to cross dress when called upon (last spring’s Ascanio in Benvenuto Cellini in Rome as example). Her first act aria “Elena! oh tu, che chiamo” earned the huge Pesaro ovation — uniique to Pesaro these ovations extend multiple minutes and are homage to a singer, to Rossini and to simply being a Rossini afecionado in Pesaro. This fine artist is of ample voice and excellent technique, a very welcome newcomer to the limited ranks of Rossini pants role interpreters.

LakeLady_Pesaro5.pngSalome Jicia as Elena, Michael Spyres as Rodrigo, Juan Diego Flórez as James V / Uberto

Among the great moments of the evening was the second act scena in which the incognito James V reveals himself to Rodrigo and then kills him in a duel but not before the two tenorinos deliver the splendid duet “Vendetta! accendi mi di rabbia il seno” before which the lady of the lake suggests they kill her instead of themselves even though she loves neither one of them. In these moments it is clear that Juan Diego Flores has no equal in finding the joy of singing (this the genius of Rossini) and Michael Spyres is among the few who truly deliver the excitement of a Rossini voice.

The biggest of all the ovations was however reserved for Pesaro conductor Michele Mariotti, now an international star, who has naturally absorbed the Rossinian esprit, and like no other is able to communicate it to his orchestra in the pit, here the Orchestra of Bologna’s Teatro Comunale and to the singers on the stage with whom you feel and can actually see the joining of voice to the sentient Rossini orchestra. On this occasion Mo. Mariotti’s tempos seemed more deliberate than sweeping, possibly in sympathy to Mr. Michieletto’s very precise storytelling, and possibly in response to Rossini’s newly found Romantic colors — the specific horn calls and the momentary crowning of intense moments with sharp flute tones, and the always important clarinet in introduction and duet with the stage. Strangely this evening did not come across as the great Rossini.

Set design by Paolo Fantin was indeed splendid, superimposing the drawing room on the swampy lake shore, spectacularly lighted by Alessandro Carletti. Said and done the self-consciously chic Michieletto staging did indeed enhance the evening, the doubling of Elena and Malcolm adding a dramatic depth and possibly too comprehensible human emotion to this exotic tale of long ago and far away. Would that it not have been so prosaic.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

James V / Uberto: Juan Diego Flórez; Duglas: Marko Mimica; Rodrigo: Michael Spyres; Elena: Salome Jicia; Malcom: Varduhi Abrahamyan; Albina: Ruth Iniesta; Serano / Bertram: Francisco Brito. Elena (silent); Giusi Merli, Malcom )silent) Alessandro Baldinotti. Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Conductor: Michele Mariotti; Metteur en scène: Damiano Michieletto; Set design: Paolo Fantin; Costumes: Klaus Bruns; Lighting: Alessandro Carletti. Arena Adriatica, Pesaro, Italy, August 11, 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):