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

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.

Ermonela Jaho in a stunning Butterfly at Covent Garden

Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.

Brave but flawed world premiere: Fortress Europe in Amsterdam

Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.

New Sussex Opera: A Village Romeo and Juliet

To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Patience</em>, English Touring Opera
12 Mar 2017

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.

Patience, English Touring Opera

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Lauren Zolezzi (Patience) and Bradley Travis (Reginald Bunthorne)

Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith

 

Ever since an anonymous first-night critic in 1881 attempted to identify Gilbert’s ‘idyllic’ poet Archibald Grosvenor with Arthur Swinburne speculation has associated Grosvenor and his rival versifier, the ‘fleshly’ Reginald Bunthorne, with prominent aesthetes of the 1860s such as Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler and of, course, the most glorious fop of them all, Oscar Wilde.

Interestingly, when impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte sent Wilde to the US on a lecture tour to illustrate the target of Patience’s satire, the resulting positive reception led to D’Oyly Carte’s wry observation that, ‘Inscrutable are the ways of the American public and absurd as it may appear, it seems that Oscar Wilde’s advent here has caused a regular craze and given the business a fillip up.’

But, today G&S is very much a matter of individual taste. And, then there’s the question of updating: if the creators were lampooning their contemporaries, should a present-day director turn the sardonic spotlight on modern mores and manners? While Jonathan Miller may have successfully excised Japan from the Mikado, there are many ‘modernisations’ which trip themselves up on the pedantry of ‘relevance’.

Director Liam Steel plays it straight in this ETO production, and the cast perform with the regimental conformity of good executants performing a work of genius. The knee-bends, handkerchief flourishes, fan-flapping, goose-stepping etc. are timed to perfection; but neat choreography does not a comedy make. There was a danger that the show would lapse into the clichés of pantomime or soap opera, and I longed for dramaturgy which sharpened the satirical edge and gave the performers greater freedom to ‘feel’ the dramatic moment. Perhaps such licence will blossom during the spring tour.

In 1882, Oscar Wilde visited Woodstock, Canada where he gave a lecture entitled ‘The House Beautiful’. Designer Florence de Maré’s set doesn’t quite call to mind the gilded stylisation of ‘ornamental aesthetic’ bravura, but she does give us the flora and fauna of a William Morris arts-and-crafts textile pattern - abundant in detail if lacking intensity of colour. De Maré’s muted green and pallid taupe may not conjure a synesthetic sensuousness fitting for a cult of beauty, but she does offer peacock feathers and vine-tracery aplenty. And, there is a match of visual motif and music, in the juxtaposition of the lethargic pallor of the languishing maidens’ ugly dresses and languorous refrain with the red-breasted dragoon’s robustness and readiness.

Maidens RHS.jpg Melancholy, mediaeval Maidens. Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

Patience is subtitled ‘Bunthorne’s Bride’ but in fact the eponymous ingénue dairymaid is not the leading character. Instead, the show is dominated by the rival poets Bunthorne himself and Archibald Grosvenor, who compete for the affections of the aforesaid maidens and Patience. Indeed, at the close, Bunthorne is singularly single, lacking a bride, despite the erstwhile attentions of the ‘love-sick’ maidens, who spurn their formerly affianced Dragoon Guards and their manly commander, Colonel Calverly, in his favour. When, by the end of Act 1, Bunthorne seems destined to wed Patience, one wonders if the musical entertainment is about to run into the ground; but, the arrival of the bookish Archibald Grosvenor re-directs the feminine gaze and the axe hovering over Act 2 is circumvented.

Arthur Sullivan’s score equals Gilbert’s text for playful parody and pointedness, and the ETO principals and chorus produced a charming performance that would make even the most G&S-phobic audience-member smile, if not guffaw. The young cast and the ETO chorus of ‘twenty [necessity resulting in the substitution, ‘several’] love-sick maidens’ and stiffly uniformed Dragoons proved well-versed in the idiom, both spoken and sung.

Dragoon.jpg The Dragoon. Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

Though the overture lacked sprightliness, subsequently conductor Timothy Burke paced the drama effectively. Donizetti would have been proud of the Act 1 Finale.

Bradley Travis’s Bunthorne was an extravagant concoction of cerise and orange velvet, floral stockings lilies and peacock feathers, topped with an extravagant beret. Travis postured, posed and attitudinised with grace, gallantry and gentility, and stayed just the right side of camp droopiness. His ironically drowsy patter number, ‘Am I Alone and Unobserved, I Am’, got the show on the road, characterised by RP diction and effortless singing; and, Bunthorne’s ‘Oh Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!’ was delivered in a honeyed baritone not lacking a splattering of hypocrisy and humbug. The swift ‘If you’re anxious for to shine’ was deftly delivered. Travis has superb theatrical timing and knows when to turn up the comic thermometer: his ham-fisted attempts to fix the raffle to ensure that Patience is his bride almost came deliciously unstuck when Bunthorne wedged his elbow in the urn containing the ticket stubs.

Bunthorne RHS.jpg Bradley Travis (Bunthorne). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

Ross Ramgobin evinced star quality as Archibald Grosvenor: Ramgobin’s beguiling baritone was powerful and clean, and gave substance to Grosvenor’s insipid amiability and mild-mannered, holier-than-thou-ness. Ramgobin’s Grosvenor was confident but sheered shy of smugness.

Grosvenor RHS.jpg Ross Ramgobin (Archibald Grosvenor). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

Lauren Zolezzi’s Patience sparkled with diamond-cut precision from her entrance aria, ‘I cannot tell what this love may be’. Her diction - indeed that of the entire cast - was so clear that, for once, surtitles might easily have been dispensed with. Zolezzi was a paragon of no-nonsense pragmatism; and she swung a laden milk-churn aloft with the same effortless ease with which she despatched the soprano’s lofty flights.

Patience Richard Hubert Smith.jpg Lauren Zolezzi (Patience). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

As Colonel Calverley, Andrew Slater was paradoxically blustering of spirit and nimble of voice in his patter number, ‘If you want a receipt’. Valerie Reid evoked sympathy for the pining Lady Jane, despite Gilbert’s unkind misogyny, in ‘Silver’d is the raven hair’, clutching her double bass trenchantly, and striking an adroit balance between gravity and comedy.

Lady Jane RHS.jpg Valerie Reid (Lady Jane). Photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith.

On the whole, Steel, too, struck the right balance between comedy and opera. In 1900, when a revival was being considered, Gilbert himself questioned whether Patience would appeal to then-contemporary tastes. His doubts proved unnecessary and Patience triumphed once more. And, why would it not? By the 1880s Aestheticism was no longer new: Gilbert was poking fun at more than while lilies and japanoiserie. His lampooning of those who starve life to feast on art speaks across the ages; one needs beauty and a square meal - and this production delivers both.

Claire Seymour

Gilbert and Sullivan: Patience

Patience - Lauren Zolezzi, Reginald Bunthorne - Bradley Travis, Archibald Grosvenor - Ross Ramgobin, The Lady Jane - Valerie Reid, The Lady Saphir - Suzanne Fischer, The Lady Angela - Gaynor Keeble, Colonel Calverley - Andrew Slater, Major Murgatroyd - Jan Capiński, Lieutenant The Duke of Dunstable - Aled Hall; Director - Liam Steel, Conductor - Timothy Burke, Designer - Florence de Maré, Lighting Designer - Mark Howland, ETO Ensemble and Orchestra.

Hackney Empire, London; Wednesday 8th March 2017.

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):