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 Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

English National Opera, <em>The Pearl Fishers</em>
20 Oct 2016

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

English National Opera, The Pearl Fishers

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Claudia Boyle

Photo credit: Robbie Jack

 

The Pearl Fishers is an early work (Bizet's first full length opera) with a profound faulty libretto which a more experience composer would have surely done something to remedy. After Bizet's death attempts were made to correct and improve the work, but often these resulted in the removal of Bizet's more innovative details. ENO uses an edition by Martin Fitzpatrick which attempts to go back to Bizet's original intentions, and was performed in Fitzpatrick's own translation.

Woolcock's production, which has also been seen at the Met in New York, has undergone some development since it was new in 2010. Its 2016 incarnation (I did not see ENO's previous revival) emphasised the difference between the childhood friends, the headman cum political operator Zurga (Jacques Imbrailo) with his heavies were firmly in Western dress, contrasting with the local garb of the fisherman Nadir (Robert McPherson) and the rest of the village. Whilst Bizet's music is only loosely oriental (unsurprisingly as the libretto original set the story in Mexico), Woolcock, Bird and Pollard set the piece firmly in 20th century Ceylon/Sri Lanka with videos of real storm inundations between the scenes.

All three of the principals seemed to take a little time to warm-up and you felt that the production was not quite bedded in, and that it will settle admirably as the run progresses. A perennial gripe when performing 19th French opera nowadays is problem of style, and here the cast seem to have been very much left on their own. Roland Böer conducted a sympathetic, if perhaps four-square, account of the score but I thought that principals could have done with helping more in a unified approach to Bizet's music. It is after all an early work and heavily indebted to predecessors like Fromental Halevy (also his father-in-law), so inculcating a sense of style would have been helpful. As it was the three seemed to each go their own way, providing different approaches to Bizet's music.

Soprano Claudia Boyle as Leila combined fragile charm with a certain strength of personality, but Leila is a rather passive character and it was Boyle's command of the coloratura which counted. She has quite a slim timbre, and I wondered whether she had been listening to Mady Mesple, certainly something in her performance evoked the French soprano. But Boyle had a rather Italianate approach to the passagework, and I would have liked a greater sense of line and a sense of burnished sheen.

I last heard Robert McPherson as Percy in Welsh National Opera's production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena and his voice still has the same interesting combination of narrow focus and forward brilliant tone. It is a very distinctive voice, but one which makes a great deal of sense in this repertoire, giving us a sound something closer to the pre-War style of performance. It was a shame that is big aria was in Act One, because he really only seemed to get into his vocal stride in the second act. But his combination of lyric flexibility with extensive use of head voice was rather notable and greatly daring. Whilst there was the odd wobble at the very top, it was lovely to hear a tenor performing with something approaching the correct vocal style for the music.

The role of Zurga is vastly under written, so that in Act One Jacques Imbrailo was left to look good, spending a lot of time glad-handing the locals but in the famous duet he and McPherson turned in a beautifully crafted performance with a subtlety which reflected Bizet's original rather than the more tub-thumping revised version which is more popular. It was in Act Three, with his big solo scene that Imbrailo got something to work with. Whilst I thought his style owed a little too much to later 19th century opera, there was no doubting the thrilling intensity and psychological acuity of the performance.

The role the high priest Nourabad is not particularly big or rewarding, but James Creswell performed nobly and used his resonant voice to great effect. Almost a a star in its own right, the chorus were on thrilling form and thanks to Bird's tiered set we were able to see and hear them in a way which is not always possible.

Whilst I commend and appreciate the use of Bizet's original, there is no doubting that the final scene is rather under written. Musically Bizet contributes little as memorable as the burning of the village which the designers conjured up. Martin Fizpatrick's admirably straightforward English translation rather brought out the prosaic nature of the libretto, and you could not help feeling that singing it in French, or rather more poetic English might have been an improvement.

But the real star of the show remains the production, with its thrilling designs and wonderful images of the pearl divers going about their business. For all Penny Woolcock's desire to introduce an element of realism, this is a brilliantly theatrical show.

Robert Hugill

Georges Bizet: The Pearl Fishers

Leila: Claudia Boyle, Nadir: Robert McPherson, Zurga: Jacques Imbrailo, Nourabad: James Creswell; Director: Penny Woolcock, conductor: Roland Böer.

English National Opera at the London Coliseum, 19th October 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):