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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

Garsington Opera For All

Following Garsington Opera for All’s successful second year of free public screenings on beaches, river banks and parks in isolated coastal and rural communities, Handel’s sparkling masterpiece Semele will be screened in four areas across the UK in 2017. Free events are programmed for Skegness (1 July), Ramsgate (22 July), Bridgwater (29 July) and Grimsby (11 October).

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus

The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.

Mahler Symphony no 8 : Jurowski, LPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.

Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques: a charming French-UK collaboration at the RCM

Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.

The Royal Opera House announces its 2017/18 season

Details of the Royal Opera House's 2017/18 Season have been announced. Oliver Mears, who will begin his tenure as Director of Opera, comments: “I am delighted to introduce my first Season as Director of Opera for The Royal Opera House. As I begin this role, and as the world continues to reel from social and political tumult, it is reassuring to contemplate the talent and traditions that underpin this great building’s history. For centuries, a theatre on this site has welcomed all classes - even in times of revolution and war - to enjoy the most extraordinary combination of music and drama ever devised. Since the time of Handel, Covent Garden has been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists of every era. And for centuries, the joyous and often tragic art form of opera has offered a means by which we can be transported to another world, in all its wonderful excess and beauty.”

St Matthew Passion: Armonico Consort and Ian Bostridge

Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

New opera Caliban banal and wearisome

Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its less-than-tragic plight.

Two rarities from the Early Opera Company at the Wigmore Hall

A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Enchanting Tales at L A Opera

On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.

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):