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

Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger commemorated at the Proms

Two French commemorations - ‘anniversaries’ always seems the wrong word - and surely is - here: the centenary of the deaths of Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger.

Pique Dame in Salzburg

It was emeritus night at the Salzburg Festival with 75 year old maestro Mariss Jansons conducting 77 year old stage director Hans Neuenfels production about Pushkin’s 87 year old countess known as the Pique Dame.

Lohengrin at Bayreuth

Three electrifying moments and the world is forever changed.

Salome in Salzburg

A Romeo Castellucci production is always news, it is even bigger news just now in Salzburg where Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has made her debut as the fifteen year-old Salome.

Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem - BBC Prom 41

Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Edward Gardner conducting the BBCSO in Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem, Elgar's Cello Concerto (Jean-Guihen Queyras) and Lili Boulanger . Extremely perceptive performances that revealed deep insight, far more profound than the ostensible "1918" theme

Lisbon under ashes - rediscovered Portuguese Baroque

In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed, first by a massive earthquake, then by a tsunami pouring in from the Atlantic, then by fire and civil unrest. The scale of the disaster is almost unimaginable today. The centre of the Portuguese Empire, with treasures from India, Africa, Brazil and beyond, was never to recover. The royal palaces, with their libraries and priceless collections, were annihilated.

John Wilson brings Broadway to South Kensington: West Side Story at the BBC Proms

There were two, equal ‘stars’ of this performance of the authorised concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall: ‘Lenny’ himself, whose vibrant score - by turns glossy and edgy - truly shone, and conductor John Wilson, who made it gleam, and who made us listen afresh and intently to every coloristic detail and toe-tapping, twisting rhythm.

Prom 36: Webern, Mahler, and Wagner

One of the joys of writing regularly – sometimes, just sometimes, I think too regularly – about performance has been the transformation, both conscious and unconscious, of my scholarship.

Prom 33: Thea Musgrave, Phoenix Rising, and Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, op.45

I am not sure I could find much of a connection between the two works on offer here. They offered ‘contrast’ of a sort, I suppose, yet not in a meaningful way such as I could discern.

Gianni Schicchi by Oberlin in Italy

It’s an all too rare pleasure to see Puccini’s only comedy as a stand alone opera. And more so when it is a careful production that uncovers the all too often overlooked musical and dramatic subtleties that abound in Puccini’s last opera.

Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton journey through the night at Cadogan Hall

The mood in the city is certainly soporific at the moment, as the blistering summer heat takes its toll and the thermometer shows no signs of falling. Fittingly, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton presented a recital of English song settings united by the poetic themes of night, sleep, dreams and nightmares, juxtaposing masterpieces of the early-twentieth-century alongside new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Australian composer Lisa Illean, and two ‘long-lost’ songs by Britten.

Vanessa: Keith Warner's Glyndebourne production exposes truths and tragedies

“His child! It must not be born!” Keith Warner’s new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival Opera makes two births, one intimated, the other aborted, the driving force of the tragedy which consumes two women, Vanessa and her niece Erika, rivals for the same young man, Anatol, son of Vanessa’s former lover.

Rollicking Rossini in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Opera welcomed home a winningly animated production of L’Italiana in Algeri this season that utterly delighted a vociferously responsive audience.

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Prom 26: Dido and Cleopatra – Queens of Fascination

In this, her Proms debut, Anna Prohaska offered something akin to a cantata of two queens, complementary and contrasted: Dido and Cleopatra. Returning in a sense to her ‘early music’ roots – her career has always been far richer, more varied, but that world has always played an important part – she collaborated with the Italian ‘period’ ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.

Parsifal: Munich Opera Festival

And so, this year’s Munich Opera Festival and this year’s Bavarian State Opera season came to a close with everyone’s favourite Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, in the final outing this time around for Pierre Audi’s new production.

Santa Fe: Atomic Doesn’t Quite Ignite

What more could we want than having Peter Sellars re-imagine his acclaimed staging of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the renowned Santa Fe Opera festival?

Santa Fe: Continuing a Proud Strauss Tradition

Santa Fe Opera has an enduring reputation for its Strauss, and this season’s enjoyable Ariadne auf Naxos surely made John Crosby smile proudly.

From the House of the Dead: Munich Opera Festival

Frank Castorf might have been born to direct From the House of the Dead. In this, his third opera project - or better, his third opera project in the opera house, for his Volksbühne Meistersinger must surely be reckoned with, even by those of us who did not see it - many of his hallmarks and those of his team are present, yet without the slightest hint of staleness, of anything other than being reborn for and in the work.

Haydn's Orlando Paladino in Munich

Should you not like eighteenth-century opera very much, if at all, and should you have no or little interest in Haydn either, this may have been the production for you. The fundamental premise of Axel Ranisch’s staging of Orlando Paladino seems to have been that this was a work of little fundamental merit, or at least a work in a genre of little such merit, and that it needed the help of a modern medium - perhaps, it might even be claimed, an equivalent medium - to speak to a contemporary audience.

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):