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

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Handel's Partenope: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.

Opera Across the Waves

This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

A Winter's Tale: a world premiere at English National Opera

The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.

Wexford Festival Opera announces details of 2017 Festival

Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

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):