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

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

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’.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Bampton Classical Opera’s third Young Singers’ Competition takes place this autumn, culminating in a public final at Holywell Music Room, Oxford on November 19. 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.

Peter Kellner announced as winner of 2018 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship

Independent Opera (IO) was very present at the Wigmore Hall last week. On Thursday 5 October, IO announced 26 year old Slovakian bass Peter Kellner as the winner of the 2018 Wigmore Hall/IO Voice Fellowship, a two-year award of £10,000 plus professional mentoring from IO and the Wigmore Hall. A graduate of the Konzervatórium Košice Timonova and the Mozarteum University Salzburg, Peter is currently a member of Oper Graz in Austria where later this season he will sing the title role of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème.

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.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

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.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Madame Butterfly</em>, Royal Opera House, London
28 Mar 2017

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.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera House, London

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Ermonela Jaho (Cio-Cio-San)

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

 

When I saw Jaho at the Barbican in November 2015, in Opera Rara’s semi-staged performance of Leoncavallo’s Zazà I was wowed by the ‘incredible commitment and vocal allure’ that the Albanian soprano displayed as the charismatic chanteuse from the backstreets. Here, similarly, she lived and breathed the role of the culturally and sexually exploited naïf. Her voice may be quite light for a part that demands great stamina and strength, but the power of her stage presence and vocal impact was simply breath-taking. Soft, silky, sensuous, her soprano throbbed with love. The gentleness of her pianissimo captured the tragic naivety of Cio-Cio-San’s misperception of reality. Jaho has a command of phrasing that imbues every melodic line with dramatic meaning. The Act 1 love duet for Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton soared with a passion so fierce that it seemed almost shocking, coming from one so slight and mild. ‘Un bel dì’ was unbearably sweet, Jaho’s voice a tender wisp, as faint as the puff of smoke she longs to see on the horizon. In Act 1 Butterfly charmed Pinkerton and all; in the second she was resolute through heartbreak; and in the final Act she sank into terrible desolation with dignity.

MARCELO PUENTE AS PINKERTON, ERMONELA JAHO AS CIO-CIO-SAN (C) ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgMarcelo Puente (Pinkerton), Ermonela Jaho (Cio-Cio-San). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Leiser and Caurier focus less on Cio-Cio-San’s cruel exploitation and abandonment and more on her selfless love; this truly is a fragile Butterfly, not a playful or feisty one, and physically Jaho captures all of her grace and delicacy of her airborne namesake, fluttering and hovering with feathery lightness. The floating sleeves of her silk furisode curve and glide; her long black tresses, or taregami, drape sensuously across her form.

Jaho wholly embodied the delicate sensibility that flinches from danger even as it embraces it. The newly married Butterfly shrinks from Pinkerton: ‘They say that in your country, if a butterfly is caught by man, he’ll pierce its heart with a needle and then leave it to perish!’ But, at the close, her frail wings broken, it is Cio-Cio-San’s own ornamental kaiken that delivers the fatal impalement. When, illumined by pale moonlight, the sakura petals tumbled from the outstretched branches of the lone tree, the tragic pathos was almost overwhelming.

ERMONELA JAHO AS CIO-CIO-SAN final act(C) ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgErmonela Jaho (Cio-Cio-San). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

This was the third time that I have seen this production ( review 2015 ) and I found that my seat in the Amphitheatre offered new visual experiences. The more distant perspective made Christian Fenouillat’s faraway vistas, visible through and beyond the sliding shoji screens, acquire an air of whimsical romance, while the blue-pink mist, or shūyū, which drifts through the ornamental garden infused Butterfly’s entrance with fairy-tale romance. Similarly, the criss-crossing shards of coloured light at the close of Act 1 created an even more penetrating sense of restlessness and disorientation, while, the jarring complementary colours of the lighting scheme seemed to suggest both a dreamy otherworldliness and a disturbing unease.

MARCELO PUENTE AS PINKERTON (C) ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgMarcelo Puente (Pinkerton). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Marcelo Puente looked the part as Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, though he lacked the leering arrogance more common among interpreters - indeed, the ‘boos for the baddie’ at the curtain call seemed even more inappropriate than usual. Despite some initial graininess in Act 1 and a little strain at the top, by the end-of-act duet Puente had settled into what was a strong performance, if a little stiff dramatically.

Making her ROH debut American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong exhibited a wonderfully glossy lower register as a fierce, loyal Suzuki, animated of manner and voice; Carlo Bosi’s self-important, guileful Goro suffered the sharp end of her tongue. I’d like to see much more of DeShong at the ROH.

CARLO BOSI AS GORO, ELIZABETH DE SHONG AS SUZUKI (C) ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgCarlo Bosi (Goro), Elizabeth DeShong (Suzuki). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Returning, like Bosi, to reprise their 2015 roles, Jeremy White as the Bonze and Yuriy Yurchuk as Yamadori contributed to the consistent high musical and dramatic standards. White harangued stentoriously; Yurchuk made Yamadori a figure of noble pride. Scott Hendricks was a fairly light-weight Sharpless but interacted well with Jaho. Jette Parker Young Artist Emily Edmonds sang Kate Pinkerton with accomplishment.

SCOTT HENDRICKS AS SHARPLESS (C) ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgScott Hendricks (Sharpless). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Expertly propelling the drama along with surefooted ease and naturalness, Sir Antonio Pappano made yet another remarkably vigorous contribution in the pit, pushing the surging climaxes to their peaks and allowing the tender moments to speak for themselves.

This is a stunning Butterfly. Grab a ticket if you can, or catch it in cinemas when it is broadcast live on Thursday 30th March: http://www.roh.org.uk/showings/madama-butterfly-live-2017

Claire Seymour

Puccini: Madame Butterfly

Cio-Cio-San - Ermonela Jaho, Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton - Marcelo Puente, Sharpless - Scott Hendricks, Goro - Carlo Bosi, Suzuki - Elizabeth DeShong, Bonze - Jeremy White, Kate Pinkerton - Emily Edmonds, Imperial Commissioner - Gyula Nagy, Prince Yamadori - Yuriy Yurchuk; Directors - Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, Conductor - Antonio Pappano, Set designer - Christian Fenouillat, Costume designer - Agostino Cavalca, Lighting designer - Christophe Forey, Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Monday 27th 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):