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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Elizabeth Llewellyn: Investec Opera Holland Park stages Puccini's La Rondine

It’s six or so years ago since soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn appeared as an exciting and highly acclaimed new voice on the UK operatic stage, with critics praising her ‘ravishing account’ (The Stage) of Mozart’s Countess in Investec Opera Holland Park’s 2011 Le nozze di Figaro in which ‘Porgi, amor’ was a ‘highlight of the evening’.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

Dougie Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera: in conversation

One year ago, tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation rather than for cooperation, but Douglas (Dougie) Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera, is an energetic one-man counterforce with a dynamic conviction that art and culture are strengthened by participation and collaboration; values which, alongside excellence and a spirit of adventure, have seen Garsington Opera acquire increasing renown and esteem on the international stage during his tenure, since 2012.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé wins the 2017 Guildhall School Gold Medal

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has announced baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé as the winner of this year’s Gold Medal, the School’s most prestigious prize for outstanding soloists. The prize is awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years and this year was the turn of the singers.

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

Glyndebourne Festival 2018 programme announced

The UK’s first professional production of Samuel Barber’s Pulitzer prize-winning opera Vanessa takes place at Glyndebourne Festival 2018. One of the great American operas, Vanessa was hailed as a triumph at its premiere in 1958 but quickly fell out of the repertoire and has only been staged intermittently since.

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):