Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

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):