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

Sincerity, sentimentality and sorrow from Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake at Snape Maltings

‘Abwärts rinnen die Ströme ins Meer.’ Down flow the rivers, down into the sea. These are the ‘sadly-resigned words in the consciousness of his declining years’ that, as reported by The Athenaeum in February 1866 upon the death of Friedrich Rückert, the poet had written ‘some time ago, in the album of a friend of ours, then visiting him at his rural retreat near Neuses’. Such melancholy foreboding - simultaneously sincere and sentimental - infused this recital at Snape Maltings by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake.

Glimmerglass’ Showboat Sails to Glory

For the annual production of a classic American musical that has become part of Glimmerglass Festival’s mission, the company mounted a wholly winning version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s immortal Showboat.

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

A disappointing Prom from Nathalie Stutzmann and BBCNOW

Nathalie Stutzmann really is an impressive conductor. The sheer elegance she brings to her formidable technique, the effortless drive towards making much of the music she conducts sound so passionate and the ability to shock us into hearing something quite new in music we think we know is really rather refreshing. Why then did this Prom sometimes feel weary, even disappointing at times?

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

Merola’s Striking If I Were You

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have become an indispensable presence in the contemporary opera world, and their latest premiere, If I Were You, found the duo at the very top of their game.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

13 Nov 2016

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten (Les Stigmatizés). Lyon

Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten from the Opéra de Lyon last year, now on arte.tv and Opera Platform. The translation, "The stigmatized", doesn't convey the impact of the original title, which is closer to"The Cursed".

Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten, Opéra de Lyon

A review by Anne Ozorio

 

This production gets close to the full horror of the drama, so it's uncomfortable listening. In 1911, when the opera was written, and in April 1918 when it premiered in the last months of the First World War and impending collapse of the German and Austrian empires, it must have been more harrowing than we can imagine today. It's not opera which has changed, but the expectations of modern audiences who'd prefer Watch With Mother to art.

The Vorspeil opens on long shots of the sea, a surging, inconstant surface, an image that highlights the music itself, and the hidden depths in the drama. Over these waters, young women of Genoa were transported, kidnapped from their homes, to an island not far from the city but cut off from the world around it. In classical mythology "Elysium" refers to a perfect paradise. In Die Gezeichneten it's a playground for the Id where moral values do not apply. On Elysium, the rich corrupt and destroy. The image of the sea gives way to images of young girls, ravaged and brutalized, imprisoned in Elysium's dungeons. These look like clips from snuff porn, though there's no actual nudity. We're supposed to feel traumatized, for these girls are being degraded for entertainment. We see posters of the missing, so many innocent faces, torn from their homes to suffer and die, so many that you wonder why no-one seems to question the power of the corrupt. Since these girls are daughters of aristocratic families, that raises questions of complicity. How culpable is Alviano Salvago? He's a hunchbacked dwarf, apparently so repulsive that even the most degraded prostitutes won't have him. So why did he build Elysium and let it be a sanctuary for abuse He's an aristocrat himself, so what is his real relationship with Count Vitelozzo Tamare (Simon Neal) and the others who use and abuse Salvago's hospitality?

The opera itself offers no answers, but the production evokes Salvago's inner desolation. The noblemen are macho, dressed in black leather, Salvago in white, against a backdrop that suggests hardness and desolation. Charles Workman is a tall, surprisingly elegant Salvago, his only deformity a red birth mark on his face, not nearly enough to make him as repellent as he assumes he is: perhaps Salvago's self-hate stems from much deeper psychic wounds. Perhaps it's not PC to show a dwarf as a dwarf but that says more about society's refusal to accept difference than about disfigurement itself, which is not a crime. Does Salvago's distress lie in his culpability? We don't know, but we do know that he's trying to sell Elysium and shut down the depravity it shelters. Gradually, the black, white and grey of the set warms with shades of burgundy: the colour of wine, blood and Salvago's birth mark.

Carlotta appears, in fetching burgundy leathers. Like Workman, Magdalena Anna Hofmann is tall, a veritable Diana among a troop of moral trolls. She's an artist, and artists can see beyond surface appearances. She sees the beauty in Salvago's soul and wants to paint his portrait. Salvago created Elysium as a temple of beauty, but let it become polluted. Although he wants, now, to gift it to the city of Genoa, he can't erase what it became. Duke Adorno blocks the gift for what its secrets might reveal should they come out. Markus Marquardt's Adorno is shown as a grubby bureaucrat: the kind of nonentity that lets abusers go unpunished, all over the world. Tamare describes the wonders of Elysium, its blue lights, hypnotic perfumes and music. The orchestra plays the lovely interlude, illustrated by projections of delicate flowers, blowing gently, but ghost-like, evoking the young women whose lives were sacrificed in the falsehood of Elysium's beauty. In the frenzy of orgy, the lines between beauty and ugliness blur. When Carlotta declares her love for Salvago, his bitterness poisons him. He makes her feel bad, like a witch. In this production Carlotta is clearly portrayed as a working artist, pushing Salvago to reveal his innermost self in the name of art. She wears a paint-splattered coat: not a passive love interest but the pivot on which the whole drama turns. Off comes Salvago's jacket, off comes Carlotta's coat, and lights shine in the studio. The painting is finished, Salvago's soul captured.

In the introduction to the last Act, the music is illustrated by magical lights against darkness. Salvago is dancing, as happy as a child. But low woodwinds and distant, offstage vocalise remind us that this idyll is haunted. In the scene between Carlotta and Duke Adorno, director David Bösch minimizes background action, focusing instead on the singing and on fine details in the acting. This is critically important, since it is here that Carlotta tries to explain herself. The audience should pay attention. A woman hides her allure in modesty, yet reveals herself naked: complex, contradictory feelings, good intentions and primal urges. On "this burning summer night", she wants to lie with "the goblins in the bushes". The connection between summer nights and devilry will be pretty clear to those who know the mythology behind Johannesnacht, but Bösch wisely avoids emphasizing that more clearly than is in the score. Instead, the focus is on enchantment: magical, twinkling lights, illusion, not all that different from the delusion that Elysium stands for. Thus Salvago sings of Carlotta disappearing like a will o' the wisp. The wedding party cheer him, but he knows he has lost Carlotta even before he knows where she has gone. At last he confronts the cruelty of his situation "Ich bin kein König, bin ich ein Narr!". The crowd keep cheering : they don't care about his suffering as long as they 're having a party.

Thundering chords. Duke Adorno reappears, now in stately black, accusing Salvago. The witness is a young girl kidnapped and raped while celebrations were going on. She's so young, she's clutching a doll. Although it wasn't Salvago who attacked her, it happened in his house. He's culpable. Yet again, the music expresses things the libretto cannot explain. Salvago hears distant music, harps, flutes, cymbals and singing voices. Echoes of Der ferne Klang and the magic music of the underground cave. We see the image of the sea, again, this time tinged with burgundy, reminding us of the many young women whose lives were destroyed. Suddenly, we're back in the dead zone, where young girls' bodies lie broken. Tamare mocks Salvago, who retorts that he's seen depths Tamare can't even imagine. Being an artist means being able to see what philistines like Tamare cannot comprehend. This perhaps explains why the young women are all daughters of wealthy noblemen. Salvago tried to create beauty. Tamare and his friends are incapable of understanding the concept of art, and are compelled to destroy anything purer, better and more elevated than themselves. It's not lust that drive them so much as hate, the negation of creativity and art.

The young girls rise as if from the dead, clawing Tamare, as if dragging him to hell, but not before he has a vision. He's seen the hate in Salvago's eyes before. Once, at another wedding, Tamare had killed a fiddle-player, driven mad with grief. Schreker's referring to the ancient meme of Der Speilemann. The fiddle player pops up again and again in Lieder and Romantic mythology, often as someone who loses a woman he loves though she chooses a man who can give her what he can't. Fiddlers are also the Devil agents of mindless destructiveness. Carlotta comes to life but cannot hear Salvago call. The sparkles we see on the ground look now like shards of glass, yet she crawls over them to reach Tamare, who reaches out to her as he dies. Throughout this staging, Bösch picks up on ostensibly small details in the score and libretto, like the little red light, which Salvago stares at. Whatever it means, it disappears abruptly. Perhaps the light has gone out for Salvago. "Bring me my fiddle, my cloak with silver bells", he cries. Alviano Salvago, the nobleman of Genoa, who aspired to build Elysium now the village fiddler gone mad because his art has failed.

Although dark, this production represents Schreker's Die Gezeichneten more faithfully than the Nicolas Lehnhoff production for Salzburg, conducted by Kent Nagano, though the performances then were stronger, though the Lyons cast aren't at all bad. You'll need them both. The subject matter is dark, and needs to be treated seriously. Grown-up audiences ought to cope, unless they, like the nobles of Genoa, are complicit in covering up crimes which are all too present in our own time. In contrast, Bösch's Mozart The Marriage of Figaro, which is also available on Opera Platform, captures the elegant brightness of that opera, and the element of social satire, with airy pastel tones and warm-hearted humour. Schreker's Die Gezeichneten will be done in July 2017 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Ingo Metzmacher conducting - ideal ! - with John Daszak, Catherine Naglestad and Christopher Maltman. The director will be Krzysztof Warlikowski. I can hardly wait !

Anne Ozorio

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten
Opéra de Lyon, 2015, broadcast Opera Platform 2016

Charles Workman - Alviano
Magdalena Anna Hofmann - Carlotta
Simon Neal - Tamare
Markus Marquardt - Herzog Adorno
Michael Eder - Podesta Nardi
Aline Kostrewa - Martuccia
Jan Petryka - Pietro
Jeff Martin - Guidobald
Robert Wörle - Menaldo
James Martin - Gonsalvo
Piotr Micinski - Julian
Stephen Owen - Paolo
Caroline Macphie - Jungfer
Falko Hönisch - Michelotto
Wolfgang Schöne - Podesta Nardi
Dirigent: Alejo Pérez
Chorleitung: Philip White
Kostüme: Falko Herold
Chor: Opéra de Lyon Chorus and Studio
Komponist: Franz Schreker
Bühnenbild / Ausstattung / Bauten: Falko Herold
Libretto: Franz Schreker
Licht: Michael Bauer
Inszenierung: David Bösch
Orchester: Opéra de Lyon Orchestra
Regieassistenz: Barbora Horáková Joly

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):