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 Performances

Arabella in San Francisco

A great big guy in a great big fur coat falls in love with the photo of the worldly daughter of a compulsive gambler. A great big conductor promotes the maelstrom of great big music that shepherds all this to ecstatic conclusion.

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

María José Moreno [Photo by Javier del Real]
15 Apr 2017

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.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

A review by David Pinedo

Above: María José Moreno [Photo by Javier del Real]

All other photos by Yossi Zwecker

 

A superlative cast for Lucia di Lammermoor set the house on fire. I was spellbound by Lucia’s madness like never before!

Based on Walter Scott’s novel set in the Lowlands of Scotland in 16th Century, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor accounts the conflict between the Ravenwood and Ashton clans. For financial reasons, Enrico Ashton forces Lucia to marry the rich Arturo. However, Lucia loves her brother’s arch nemesis Edgardo Ravenwood.

Edgardo, whose family fortune the Ashtons stole, loves Lucia in return. But fate leads to tragedy: on her wedding night, Lucia kills her husband Arturo. This leads up to the mother of all madness scenes. Of course, Lucia dies and Edgardo stabs himself with the dagger to join her in heaven.

Before I tell just how mind-blowing this Lucia was, I should let you know about the opera trauma the last Lammermoor caused me. Last June, over in Cologne, director Eva-Maria Höckmayr thought it was a good idea to rearrange Walter Scott’s Scottish locale for a Nazi Germany setting at the end of the WWII. An incestuous relationship between Lucia and her brother Enrico Ashton added a sick and twisted dimension to this dark version of the Von Trapp family in full Nazi gear with, bizarrely, a Minotaur thrown in the mix.

I can hear you thinking, what the…? Hold on, it gets even better.

Edgardo is a Jew returning after the war to his family home in Germany: a set inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s villa Tageshund commissioned by Jewish industrialists. The Gestapo seized the building for operational use. Really, if you hadn’t read those programme notes, you would not have recognised the story. Long live Regietheater!

Half a year later at the Israeli Opera, Emilio Sagi’s Lucia di Lammermoor rekindled my love for Donizetti’s masterpiece, as I ended up mesmerised by María José Moreno’s Lucia. Her impressively delirious madness scene had me in a frenzy. With modesty and tender fragility, the Spanish coloratura proved explosive on stage. If you check her out in operabase you find she quite the specialist in this role. No doubt: she nails the character.

As Ms. Moreno sang “Il dolce suono mi colpì di sua voce”, she seemed the ideal Lucia --her vocal nuances as equally persuasive as her acting. Ms Moreno reached those insanely high notes with startling purity and moved from joy to horror in a convincing delirium. In one of those rare opera experiences, I leaned-in. My body gravitated forward as Moreno’s magnetic performance drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat. Bafflingly beautiful.

In an historic castle setting with bedroom and great hall, Emilio Sagi’s staging complemented the singing with a simplistic elegance in red, black, and metallic hues. The luxurious textures of the costumes flowed to the music. The spacious staging allowed the singers to demand the spotlight. The IO brought Sagi’s 1999 production Lucia over from Oviedo’s Opera, and this is its second revival. It is very effective.

The Israeli Opera Chorus witnessing the madness.jpg

A sharply dressed up Israeli Opera Chorus by Imme Moller served as an additional backbone to the astounding soloists. The IOC, coached by Ethan Schmeisser, brought a sense of grandeur as the singers fuelled the spectacle with a thrilling energy.

Ms Moreno did not outshine Alexey Dolgov’s Edgardo. The Russian from the Bolshoy was her match. Their romantic chemistry filled the drama with tender love. In one of the most difficult tasks in opera, the follow up to Lucia’s madness aria, Dolgov kept the dramatic momentum moving, touching me deeply with Edgardo’s final aria “Tombe degli avi miei”. He earned that explosive applause.

Dolgov and Lucia's wedding ring.jpg

This would have been the perfect introduction to an opera for any newcomer with its persuasively emotive vocals. The Israeli Opera clearly has a nose for casting. Each role role was performed admirably.

Mario Cassi proved a sonorous clashing combatant to Dolgov’s Edgardo during their conflict scene in the opening of the Second Act. Anat Czarny’s Alicia, Lucia’s companion, contrasted Moreno’s virtuous innocence with a darkly edged, wizened tone. As Arturo, Yosef Aridan’s voice fittingly dropped to the background during his interfering moments between Moreno and Dolgov’s fiery chemistry.

Daniele Callegari led the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion and served up Donizetti’s score with lush detail as the orchestra played with great intensity. Although no glass harmonium added to the estrangement of Lucia’s mad scene, Margalit Gafni on her flute did an excellently creepy job at enriching Ms. Moreno’s madness. During the haunting craziness, Mr. Callegari evoked an eeriness just as the expressionistic chills from a Fritz Lang film. By sheer coincidence several evenings earlier, I attended a screening of Metropolis with a new score performed live. In retrospect, it might have been a divination of this sublime afternoon.

As Dolgov’s Edgardo sang “The voice that penetrated my heart,” I felt indeed how Ms. Moreno’s incisive Lucia cut me deep. With such a voice Ms. Moreno could get away with diva attitude, but her thespian camaraderie became clear as she made sure all the performers joined in for the seemingly endless standing ovation. What a treasure she is!

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):