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 Performances

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.

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.

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.

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

[Photo by Marcus Lieberenz]
25 Jan 2017

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

A review by David Pinedo

Photos by Marcus Lieberenz

 

Holten’s vision turns out a facilitating backdrop to put Wagner’s musical cosmos on a pedestal. From the Orchestra of the DOB, Alex Kober coaxed an electrifying momentum burning with brilliance in the musical details of Wagner’s early masterpiece. The evening flew by.

Act I opens with a shooting star on the hanging backdrop. The meandering fog making its way lowly across the stage during the slow-burning, lusciously misty Overture, evoked my memory of the cloak of morning fog covering Lake Lucerne during my Swiss adventure to Tribschen, where Wagner composed Lohengrin around 1850. I can’t imagine a better way to open this opera. And this was just the beginning.

Annette Dasch conquered the audience with her stunning portrayal of Elsa von Brabant. She captivated from the moment she appeared on stage. Dasch endowed Elsa with a chastity and devotion, which she reflected with ferocious virtue in her voice. She equally convinced in her growing panic and doubt concerning the true name of her savior and husband, Lohengrin.

In Act II, the slim beams with green light vertically erected on stage, I associated with the Northern Lights, from where, I imagined, Ortrud drew her powers. Elisabete Matos sang sinisterly brooding and highly vindictive. Her voice resonated all the envy Ortrud requires. Matos proved a scene stealer as Ortrud manipulated Telramund into her scheme to seed doubt in Elsa about Lohengrin’s origin. An intimidating and threatening tone permeated Wolfgang Koch’s angerful Telramund.

Lohengrin_MLieberenz3842.png

The light and darkness, Elsa’s innocent virtue and Ortrud’s jealousy and cunning, could not have been more strongly reflected than in the contrasting timbres of Dasch and Matos.

Dasch proved a riveting actress on all fronts. Rich in sound, convincingly emotional, and absolutely glamourous. What a voice! What great acting! I was absolutely enamoured by her.

Slightly superheroic with swan (or angel?) wings on his back, Peter Seiffert put on an honourable and warmhearted Lohengrin. Jesper Kongshaug’s lighting and smoking effects added explosive dramatic energy during Seiffert’s showstopping first appearance as Lohengrin...but no swan to be seen except for the wings on his back.

In the Third Act when he reveals he is Parsifal’s son, Lohengrin radiated nobly, almost saintly. Is Holten’s Lohengrin an angel as well? Yet even with his divine voice, Seiffert could not compete with Dasch's starpower. Still, above all, their synergy surged in romance and despair during their wedding night duet.

Holten’s ideas had some drawbacks. Gottfried’s role felt absently unexamined. At the front of the stage, his body was outlined as if at a modern crime scene. At the end, Ortrud redrew the lines emphatically provocative. It served as a continual reminder of Gottfried’s death.

After the glorious Bridal Chorus, during the wedding night, Holten’s strange inclusion of a one-person wedding bed with one pillow, that turned out to be Gottfried’s coffin covered by a white sheet with the corpse of Gottfried. In an unforeseen twist Holten seems to suggest that Ortrud was right. Elsa killed Gottfried? So there was no swan? Is Lohengrin then an angel?

Lohengrin_MLieberenz6643.png

Whatever these mysteries for interpretation, they certainly didn’t impede any of the musical drama.

In two last minute replacements, Günther Groissböck sang with a majesty that seemed to be emanating from every fibre of his body. His dashing and virtuous demeanor made for an excellent King Heinrich. Equally impressive as substitute was Markus Brück as Announcer of the King. However brief his moments, Brück owned the stage with his grounded voice as if he was the actual lead character.

With Alex Kober, the Orchestra of the DOB’s luscious strings carried on Wagner’s fast-paced drive. From the balconies or from high up in the wings, the brilliance from the brass and pulsating percussion resonated in Wagner’s majestic passages, providing spectacular moments in Act III.

In addition, under Kober the solos flashed, more so than in the powerful and thickened texture of Runnicles’s Parsifal. Then again, Lohengrin has the lighter touch of a younger Richard, whereas his last opera has a much consuming score. Runnicles optimized the power of Parsifal’s length that forces the listener to travel deeper into Wagner’s intoxicating musical cosmos.

This was just the DOB in the Fall. If you at their programming this spring, they cast the best Wagner singers (including, Herlitzius and Westbroek) for the final two performances of its current production of Ring Cycle in April. You can still catch in this Lohengrin in February.

While for the newcomers, a visit to Tannhäuser or Der fliegende Holländer should be a highly encouraging introduction to Wagner’s world.

If you can’t make it to Bayreuth, when it comes to frequent and consistent Wagnerian vocal extravagance, the Deutsche Oper is the place to be in Berlin.

David Pinedo

Heard December 11, 2016, Deutsch Oper Berlin.

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):