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

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Anne Sophie Mutter © Michael Bode.jpg" alt=""/>
14 Apr 2017

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.

Gerhaher and Bartoli take over Baden-Baden's Festspielhaus

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Anne-Sophie Mutter with Ticciati and LPO

 

Schubert’s Die Winterreise

On Friday evening, German national hero Christian Gerhaher came down to the Festspielhaus to perform Schubert’s Die Winterreise for a full house. Injured on his leg, the renowned baritone limped onto stage. No matter, his vulnerable yet resilient voice in his usual dour intonation, brought out the emotional complexities of Schubert’s famous song cycle.

Gerhaher and Huber © Michael Gregonowits

Perhaps it was the giant setting of the Festspielhaus, but intimacy lacked in the experience. Yet Gerhaher made the best of it, alternating his somber mist with frequent bursts of fiery energy. He definitely knows how to shine a light on Schubert’s masterpiece.

Tobias Haslinger’s Romantic poetry came alive through Gerhaher’s nuanced phrasing. His voice captures the listener’s ear and sustains a tension from his convincing sorrow that seems to be emanating from a tortured soul. He charged all of Schubert’s songs with endless sadness, while his weariness also brought out Schubert's bitter perspective on life’s unrequited love.

In “Wasserflute” (Flood) he mellowed out a bit creating a more contemplative ambience. This calmer softness allowed for a bit of levity. Later, with bulging eyes, he built up to the last song to a ferocious climax in a fortissimo in which he appeared to drain the last of his stamina.

Gerold Huber balanced Gerhaher with invigorating piano play. He created an upbeat contrast to Gerhaher’s heavy-handed presence. In the final song “Der Leiermann” (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man), Huber’s spectacular play complemented the baritone’s great vitality. He offered the perfect accompaniment.

Towards the end, it was impossible not to feel entranced by Schubert’s passion and haunting melancholy. Clearly enamored by tonight’s resonating depth, the elderly couple next to me tenderly carressed each other’s hands throughout the evening.


Bellini’s Norma

Bartoli as Norma © Hans Joerg Michel.jpg Bartoli in Norma © Hans Joerg Michel

In 2013 at her Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Cecilia Bartoli starred in this production of Norma that then travelled to Zurich, Edinburgh, and Paris. Baden-Baden was its last stop, and the production was at the end of its momentum.

A lyrical tragedy in two acts with a libretto by Felice Romano, Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto opera tells the story of Norma fighting with the Druid resistance in pre-France fighting against the Roman invasion. Along the way she deals with a love triangle, in which she eventually commits suicide with the Roman Pollione, who had fallen in love with the priestess Adalgisa.

However, in their production, for no reason, Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser inexplicably transplaced the story to more recent times. They set Norma (during the WWII...I think) in a 20th Century classroom set, which did bring an intimate atmosphere with lots of dramatic tension. Norma and Pollione's burning deaths made for a sensational climax.

It was the first time I heard Madama Bartoli live, so I was surprised to be more impressed by her co-star Rebeca Olvera. Bellini’s premature high point, the famous “Casta diva” did not reach the emotional heights I was hoping for. Still, hearing Bartoli’s coloratura with all her bends and turns, put a smile on my face, and her dramatic resonance certainly filled up the otherwise uneventful staging.

Although I expected Ms Bartoli to dazzle, it was soprano Rebeca Olvera who stole my heart as Adalgisa. I was crushed by the Mexican’s performance; both in her rich contrast to Bartoli’s lighter touch; as well as in her desperation and anguish during her high-strung passages. Norman Reinhardt as Pollione seemed a bit lost, but delivered swell vocals. In addition, the Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera filled up the stage with terrific surges of energy.

Gianluca Capuano with I Barocchisti replaced Diego Fasolis, Bartoli’s usual conductor. Even with the extraordinary acoustics of the Festspielhaus, the orchestra sounded muted. Perhaps the conductor intended not to overshadow the lithe, but demure mezzo voice of Ms. Bartoli. Though what strength her voice missed for Norma, Ms. Bartoli made up in her alluring presence. With her ravishing, brunette turbo hair spiraling from her head, she’s a powerhouse actress that draws the spotlight to her while on stage.

With Norma not living up to the great expectations I usually have satisfied in Baden-Baden, it was the next day with Frau Mutter, who truly stunned me with her focused and dizzyingly romantic Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, followed by Ticciati’s engaging performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Her perfect play swooning in its romance proved a sensational ending to this extravagant weekend.


David Pinedo


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):