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

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

Garsington Opera’s Silver Birch on BBC Arts Digital

Audiences will have the chance to feel part of a new opera inspired by Siegfried Sassoon’s poems with an innovative 360-degree simulated experience of Garsington Opera’s Silver Birch on BBC Arts Digital from midday, Wednesday 8th November.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

A beguiling Il barbiere di Siviglia from GTO

I had mixed feelings about Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia when it was first seen at Glyndebourne in 2016. Now reprised (revival director, Sinéad O’Neill) for the autumn 2017 tour, the designs remain a vibrant mosaic of rich hues and Moorish motifs, the supernumeraries - commedia stereotypes cum comic interlopers - infiltrate and interact even more piquantly, and the harpsichords are still flying in, unfathomably, from all angles. But, the drama is a little less hyperactive, the characterisation less larger-than-life. And, this Saturday evening performance went down a treat with the Canterbury crowd on the final night of GTO’s brief residency at the Marlowe Theatre.

Brett Dean's Hamlet: GTO in Canterbury

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet,’ says Matthew Jocelyn in an interview printed in the 2017 Glyndebourne programme book. The librettist of Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera based on the Bard’s most oft-performed tragedy, which was premiered to acclaim in June this year, was noting the variants between the extant sources for the play - the First, or ‘Bad’, Quarto of 1603, which contains just over half of the text of the Second Quarto which published the following year, and the First Folio of 1623 - no one of which can reliably be guaranteed superiority over the other.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

WNO's Russian Revolution series: the grim repetitions of the house of the dead

‘We lived in a heap together in one barrack. The flooring was rotten and an inch deep in filth, so that we slipped and fell. When wood was put into the stove no heat came out, only a terrible smell that lasted through the winter.’ So wrote Dostoevsky, in a letter to his brother, about his experiences in the Siberian prison camp at Omsk where he was incarcerated between 1850-54, because of his association with a group of political dissidents who had tried to assassinate the Tsar. Dostoevsky’s ‘house of the dead’ is harrowingly reproduced by Maria Björsen’s set - a dark, Dantesque pit from which there is no possibility of escape - for David Pountney’s 1982 production of Janáček’s final opera, here revived as part of Welsh National Opera’s Russian Revolution series.

The 2017 Glyndebourne Tour arrives in Canterbury with a satisfying Così fan tutte

A Così fan tutte set in the 18th century, in Naples, beside the sea: what, no meddling with Mozart? Whatever next! First seen in 2006, and now on its final run before ‘retirement’, Nicholas Hytner’s straightforward account (revived by Bruno Ravella) of Mozart’s part-playful, part-piquant tale of amorous entanglements was a refreshing opener at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where Glyndebourne Festival Opera arrived this week for the first sojourn of the 2017 tour.

Richard Jones's Rodelinda returns to ENO

Shameless grabs for power; vicious, self-destructive dynastic in-fighting; a self-righteous and unwavering sense of entitlement; bruised egos and integrity jettisoned. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was the current Tory government that was being described. However, we are not in twenty-first-century Westminster, but rather in seventh-century Lombardy, the setting for Handel’s 1725 opera, Rodelinda, Richard Jones’s 2014 production of which is currently being revived at English National Opera.

Amusing Old Movie Becomes Engrossing New Opera

Director Mario Bava’s motion picture, Hercules in the Haunted World, was released in Italy in November 1961, and in the United States in April 1964. In 2010 composer Patrick Morganelli wrote a chamber opera entitled Hercules vs. Vampires for Opera Theater Oregon.

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If a credible portrayal of the title character in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is vital to any performance, the success of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current, exciting production hinges very much on the memorable court jester and father sung by baritone Quinn Kelsey.

Wexford Festival Opera 2017

‘What’s the delay? A little wind and rain are nothing to worry about!’ The villagers’ indifference to the inclement weather which occurs mid-way through Jacopo Foroni’s opera Margherita - as the townsfolk set off in pursuit of two mystery assailants seen attacking a man in the forest - acquired an unintentionally ironic slant in Wexford Opera House on the opening night of Michael Sturm’s production, raising a wry chuckle from the audience.

The Genius of Purcell: Carolyn Sampson and The King's Consort at the Wigmore Hall

This celebration of The Genius of Purcell by Carolyn Sampson and The King’s Consort at the Wigmore Hall was music-making of the most absorbing and invigorating kind: unmannered, direct and refreshing.

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

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):