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

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

Handel in London: 2018 London Handel Festival

The 2018 London Handel Festival explores Handel’s relationship with the city. Running from 17 March to 16 April 2018, the Festival offers four weeks of concerts, talks, walks & film screenings explore masterpieces by Handel, from semi-staged operas to grand oratorio and lunchtime recitals.

Dartington International Summer School & Festival: 70th anniversary programme

Internationally-renowned Dartington Summer School & Festival has released the course programme for its 70th Anniversary Summer School and Festival, curated by the pianist Joanna MacGregor, that will run from 28th July to 25th of August 2018.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Barrie Kosky's Carmen at Covent Garden

Carmen is dead. Long live Carmen. In a sense, both Bizet’s opera and his gypsy diva have been ‘done to death’, but in this new production at the ROH (first seen at Frankfurt in 2016) Barrie Kosky attempts to find ways to breathe new life into the show and resurrect, quite literally, the eponymous temptress.

Candide at Arizona Opera

On Friday February 2, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide to honor the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Although all the music was Bernstein’s, the text was written and re-written by numerous authors including Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, and Dorothy Parker, as well as the composer.

Satyagraha at English National Opera

The second of Philip Glass’s so-called 'profile' operas, Satyagraha is magnificent in ENO’s acclaimed staging, with a largely new cast and conductor bringing something very special to this seminal work.

Mahler Symphony no 8—Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

From the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, a very interesting Mahler Symphony no 8 with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The title "Symphony of a Thousand" was dreamed up by promoters trying to sell tickets, creating the myth that quantity matters more than quality. For many listeners, Mahler 8 is still a hard nut to crack, for many reasons, and the myth is part of the problem. Mahler 8 is so original that it defies easy categories.

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

Ilker Arcayürek at Wigmore Hall

The first thing that struck me in this Wigmore Hall recital was the palpable sincerity of Ilker Arcayürek’s artistry. Sincerity is not everything, of course; what we think of as such may even be carefully constructed artifice, although not, I think, here.

Lisette Oropesa sings at Tucson Desert Song Festival

On January 30, 2018, Arizona Opera and the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented a recital by lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa in the University of Arizona’s Holsclaw Hall. Looking like a high fashion model in her silver trimmed midnight-blue gown, the singer and pianist Michael Borowitz began their program with Pablo Luna’s Zarzuela aria, “De España Vengo.” (“I come from Spain”).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Kiss Me, Kate</em>: Welsh National Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome
13 Nov 2016

Kiss Me, Kate: Welsh National Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome

In 1964, 400 years after the birth of the Bard, the writer Anthony Burgess saw Cole Porter’s musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, a romping variation on The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s comedy, Burgess said, had a ‘good playhouse reek about it’, adding ‘the Bard might be regarded as closer to Cole Porter and Broadway razzmatazz’ than to the scholars who were ‘picking him raw’.

Kiss Me, Kate: Welsh National Opera at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: WNO cast and Quirijn de Lang (Fred Graham/Petruchio)

Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith

 

Moving forward fifty-two years, we find ourselves in the 400th year since Shakespeare’s death, a landmark which has been celebrated by such a multitude of cultural events and creations that one might be forgiven for feeling weary resignation when the company of the fictional Barre Players cry “Another op’nin’, another show!” at the start of Porter’s 1948 musical. But, as Porter’s imagined thespians, led by Landi Orshinowo’s irrepressible Hattie, rehearse for a new production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Ford Theatre, Baltimore, the toe-tapping magic of Welsh National Opera’s production is infectious and any sense of Shakespeare-surfeit slips speedily away.

Jo Davies’ production first saw the light of day at Opera North last year, and some of the cast reprise their roles; but the show is a perfect complement to Verdi’s Macbeth and André Tchaikowsky’s new opera The Merchant of Venice with which it forms a Shakespeare-triptych for this autumn’s touring programme.

Porter gives us a classic ‘play within a play’. As the Barre Players are presenting an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, life and theatre, love and drama become entangled. The device provides a commentary on life in the theatre: taming the shrew is as difficult as curing a budding star of limelight lust. The form also provides a context for the central pair of divorced-but-not-detached artistes, Fred Baker and Lilli Vanessi, who engage in sexual warfare to rival that of Shakespeare’s shrewish Katharine and fortune-seeker Petruchio.

From the opening number, choreographer Will Tuckett’s mastery of the busy, crowded stage is evident. Soloists come to the fore, small choral groups form and disperse, dancers whirl, stage-props are manoeuvred. The business is slick, as Tuckett inventively martials the diverse forces. Throughout, the elaborate stage routines are polished, the complicated manoeuvres deceptively effortless. The chorus blocking is superb, the resourceful choreography giving the contrasting tableaux great presence and power.

AlanBurkitt(BillCalhounandLucentio)andAmeliaAdams-Pearce(LoisLaneandBianca)WNOsKissMeKate-photocreditRichardHubertSmith.jpg Alan Burkitt (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio) and Amelia Adams-Pearce (Lois Lane/Bianca). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

The design is just as suave and beguiling. Colin Richmond captivates us with a striking contrast of dark back-stage - all black flats, staircases, cluttered dressing rooms, urinals, phone booths and stage doors- and a lustrous performance arena (lighting Ben Cracknell), profuse with rich-hued Elizabethan green-sleeves gowns, extravagant doublet and hose, a rose-strewn balcony atop Baptista Minola’s colonnaded golden portico, and a sumptuous parade of lavish nuptial finery. Renaissance-themed tapestries confirm the dramatic dynamic: the elusive legend of The Lady and the Unicorn, which its motto ‘À mon seul désir’, hints at love or understanding, seeming to anticipate the resolution while maintaining the potential for unpredictability.

The conflict and gamesmanship between the central pair of love-denying, heart-defying protagonists is dynamic. With Jeni Bern indisposed on this occasion, soprano Claire Wild assumed the role of Katharine - by turns, infuriatingly haughty and winningly capricious. The songs sung by Lilli Vanessi and Shakespeare’s Katharine showed Wild’s range. ‘So in love’ was sung with fine feeling and sensitive phrasing while the deliciously puffed-up ‘I hate men’ was a feast of feisty fury. Wild’s elaborate vow, ‘Never, never’, was a virtuosic put-down to Petruchio’s demand for a kiss; when Kate’s loftiness earned her a dressing-down - a bottom-slapping and a humiliating exit atop a cart - Wild was the epitome of injured pride.

RosieHay(Ralph)QuirijndeLang(FredGrahamandPetruchio)andMaxParker(Paul)WNOsKissMeKate-photocreditRichardHubertSmith.jpg Rosie Hay (Ralph), Quirijn de Lang (Fred Graham/Petruchio) and Max Parker (Paul). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

Quirijn de Lang - reprising his Opera North performance (given alongside Bern) - has a versatile and appealing baritone. With his dark, curly locks, and louche get-up, this Petruchio was a cross between an Elizabethan fop and Alan Rickman’s Captain Hook. New to Padua, Petruchio is looking for a wife and sees Katharine as a challenge which his masculinity will subdue: he is commanding, rough and bawdy. De Lang struck a fine balance, though, between rakish confidence and a quieter vulnerability. Petruchio’s ‘Were thine that special face’ and ‘Where is the life that once I led’ were beautifully sung, although de Lang didn’t consistently sustain the pitch through the held notes. And occasionally, when positioned at the rear of the stage, or when his singing was directed away from audience voice, de Lang’s baritone was lost within the jazzy orchestration - the role seemed to lie quite low in his voice. But, as the raffish Fred Graham, he joined with Wild for a sweetly vocalised ‘Wunderbar’, the gentle waltz softly consoling after the dressing-room bitching.

Amelia Adams-Pearce was forthright and jaunty as Lois Lane/Bianca, belting out ‘Always True to You in my Fashion’ with charm and charisma, and sustaining the sassiness through several reprises. Alan Burkitt was terrific as the all-singing, all-dancing Bill Calhoun/Lucentio. His duet with Adams-Pearce, ‘Why can’t you behave?’, was playful and sprightly, and in Act 2 he served up a toe-twitching tap routine worthy of Fred Astaire.

The lead quartet were superbly supported by the company of dancers and singers. Max Parker’s nerdy Paul whipped off his waistcoat at the start of Act 2 for an explosively energetic ‘Too darn hot’ - if he was hot to start with, he and the troupe must have been almost self-combusting after this physical inferno. Rosie Hay was a portrait of sober pragmatism as the no-nonsense stage manager Ralph whose patience is sorely tried by the over-exuberant thesps. Morgan Deare was endearing as Kate’s good-tempered, long-suffering father, Baptista, forgiving and indulgent but retaining paternal control over his wilful daughter. David Pearl’s Harrison Howell was every inch the self-satisfied, stuffy gent from Georgia.

JosephShovelton(1stGunman)andJohnSavournin(2ndGunman)WNOsKissMeKate-photocreditRichardHubertSmith.jpg Joseph Shovelton (1st Gunman) and John Savournin (2nd Gunman). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

Finding themselves unexpectedly marooned in front of the curtain, Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin ‘improvised’ a fairly restrained rendition of ‘Brush up your Shakespeare’ - a gentle soft shoe routine with just a dash of camp and a jot of farce - but they relished Porter’s lyrics which explain that knowing Shakespeare is the key to romance.

Conductor Gareth Jones - who seemed to know every word of the show - led the WNO band in a rousing performance. The overture had plenty of razzle dazzle and captivating sway, and alongside the glitzy brass, the strings yearned silkily. Jones management of the complex Act 1 finale was masterful.

Amplification was used, but inconsistently, or so it seemed. Some of the numbers sung by the operatically trained singers seemed to be only lightly amplified, or not at all, and there were some abrupt switches which were disruptive to the vocal colour.

“Another op’nin’!” is the closing cry - all too true given that the cast and musicians were to perform an evening performance just two hours later. And, so infectious was this terrific Welsh National Opera performance that I’d have liked to have stayed seated in the stalls to enjoy it all over again. Truly Wunderbar!

Claire Seymour

Cole Porter (lyrics and score): Kiss Me, Kate
Sam Spewack and Bella Spewack (book)

Fred Graham/Petruchio - Quirjin de Lang, Lilli Vanessi/Katharine - Claire Wild, Lois Lane/Bianca - Amelia Adams-Pearce, Bill Calhoun/Lucentio - Alan Burkitt, Hattie - Landi Oshinowo, Paul - Max Parker, Hortensio - Matthew Barrow, Gremio - Jon Tsouras, First Gunman - Joseph Shovelton, Second Gunman - John Savournin, Harry Trevor/Baptista - Morgan Deare, Harrison Howell - David Pearl, Nathaniel - Adam Tench, Gregory - Joseph Poulton, Phillip - Louis Quaye, Ralph (stage manager) - Rosie Hay, Stage doorman - Martin Lloyd, Cab driver - Julian Boyce, Dancers (Alex Christian, Flora Dawson, Matthew John Gregory, Andrew Gordon-Watkins, Ella Martine, Jamie Emma McDonald.

Director - Jo Davies, Conductor - Gareth Jones, Set & Costume Designer - Colin Richmond, Lighting Designer - Ben Cracknell, Choreographer - Will Tuckett, Sound Designer - Sebastian Frost.

Birmingham Hippodrome; Saturday 12th November (matinee).

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):