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

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Der Rosenkavalier: Welsh National Opera in Cardiff

Olivia Fuchs' new production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company's first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).

Don Giovanni takes to the waves at Investec Opera Holland Park

There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary - the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors - perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.

"Recreated" Figaro at Garsington delights

After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele - an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms - the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>L’elisir d’amore</em>, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
28 May 2017

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.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Pretty Yende as Adina and Liparit Avetisyan as Nemorino

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

 

It’s the bank holiday weekend and the sun is shining, both here in London and over the wheat fields and haystacks of 1950s rural Italy as conjured by Laurent Pelly and designer Chantal Thomas for their 2007 production of L’elisir d’amore, which is back at the ROH for its fourth revival. Last time round, in 2014, the big draw was Bryn Terfel making his first essay at the role of the fraudulent quack. On this occasion, we had the opportunity to hear both exciting ‘newcomers’ to the House, with South African soprano Pretty Yende making her ROH debut, and familiar returnees, with Italian bass-baritone Alex Esposito stepping into the duplicitous doctor’s boots for his role debut.

cBC20170525_L'elisir_0269 ALEX ESPOSITO AS DULCAMARA c ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgAlex Esposito (Dulcamara). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Three years ago, I described Terfel’s Dulcamara as ‘less sleazy smooth-operator and more grimy grease-ball’. Esposito’s swindler is even nastier: a veritable bruiser. Unshaven, dirty, with tattooed biceps and a contemptuous sneer, this Dulcamara’s dodginess couldn’t be hidden by designer shades and a scruffy white lab coat. No wonder the villagers scattered in advance of his arrival despite their excited chorus of expectation, but the strength of his call to his customers - ‘Udite, udite, o rustici’ - compelled, rather than charmed, them back. Esposito’s tone was wonderfully firm and strongly coloured. There was simply no arguing with his bullish self-promotion, as his side-kicks peered mischievously from beneath the dilapidated medic-truck watching their master humiliate and fleece his dupes. This Dulcamara could barely take the trouble to feign professionalism or concern, so gullible were the eager elixir-gulpers, and a grimy white ti-shirt poked out beneath the sleazy red suit he donned for the nuptial celebrations. In contrast, Esposito took great care with the text and the line; the grace notes in ‘lo son ricco’ were deliciously deft as the doctor made his pitch for Adina.

Pretty Yende’s Adina could look after herself though. Yende’s voice is plumper and more ample than the crystalline soprano of Lucy Crowe who took the part in 2014, and this gave Adina more obvious presence and self-possession: she pouted and posed with the panache of a 1950s Hollywood starlet. If Yende had any nerves on her first night at Covent Garden, she didn’t show them: her soprano was full and warm from the off, and she strolled through the arias with the ease, beauty and grace with which Adina lounged on the haystacks beneath a parasol. She was a feisty match for Liparit Avetisyan’s Nemorino in their Act 2 duet; the pause at the close was judged perfectly, allowing us to register the strength of the fiery emotions. But, Yende had the full measure of Adina’s heart and allowed her essential tenderness to shine through - as when revealing the extent of Nemorino’s delusions (he thinks because he worships her, she must return his love) to Belcore. Her Act 3 ‘Prendi, per me sei libero’ was absolutely exquisite, the coloratura roulades tumbling like jewels, the highest reaches clean and pure. It’s been quite a month for Yende: she’s won the International Achiever Award at the 23th annual South African Music Awards and her Sony Classical release, A Journey won the 2017 International Opera Award for Best Recording (Solo Recital). There will surely be many more such accolades.

cBC20170525_L'elisir_0404  LIPARIT AVETISYAN AS NEMORINO c ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgLiparit Avetisyan (Nemorino). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Armenian tenor Avetisyan made his ROH debut earlier this season (as Alfredo Germont in Il traviata) and found himself back in the House following the withdrawal of the previously advertised Rolando Villazón took a while to warm up as Nemorino; initially a rather rapid vibrato made his tenor somewhat tight and he was occasionally just under the note. But, as the ‘elixir’ (a bottle of Bordeaux) worked its magic, so Avetisyan relaxed into the role, and his impish charm - he hoisted a bale aloft with nonchalant swagger, and his chirpy knee-and-elbow wiggle of glee raised a grin - was as winning as his appealing, pliable tenor. The big test was, as always, ‘Una furtive lagrima’, and Avetisyan sailed through; unaffected and focused, he let Donizetti’s expressive lyricism do the work and the aria cast its spell - time stood still as if the whole House held its breath.

cBC20170525_L'elisir_0536 PAOLO BORDOGNA AS BELCORE, PRETTY YENDE AS ADINA c ROH. PHOTO BILL COOPER.jpgPaolo Bordogna (Belcone) and Pretty Yende (Adina). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Paolo Bordogna made an impressive ROH debut as a ridiculously pompous Belcore, accompanied by two ‘warriors’ whose mismatched heights and over-enthusiastic goose-stepping added to the preposterousness of their boss’s cocksure conceit. Bordogna enjoyed his character’s pretentiousness, adding some neat details - chest-thumping through a trill, hip-twisting when demanding that Adina ‘Name the day!’, and launching into some impressive acrobatic tumbles down the haystack. His zealousness was not neglected either: Bordogna seemed to have Adina in a head-lock at one point, from which she struggled to extricate herself.

Jette Parker young artist, Vlada Borovko, has impressed me in the past (see Oreste at Wilton's and JPYA Summer Performance 2016 ) and here she was a rich, vibrant Giannetta who relished the opportunity to play to the crowd when delivering the latest gossip about Nemorino - she’s got the news from the haberdasher, so it must be true.

The ROH Chorus occasionally found it difficult to pick up conductor Bertrand de Billy’s beat - the opening ensemble was a bit scruffy and de Billy’s zippy accelerando in the closing scene of Act 2 wrong-footed them for a while. But, they kept cool heads and were in fine voice; the blocking and acting was precise and nuanced. The overture felt a bit ‘solid’ and I’d have liked a bit more brightness and sparkle from the ROH Orchestra but the playing was, as always, accomplished.

This was a beguiling evening which got better and better as it went on. The cast were committed to the drama, and there was an occasional sense of spontaneity which added a charming freshness (though, reassuringly, Alfie the dog and the bicycling sweethearts were back). The dashes of realism - the piles of rotting tyres and wonky lampshade that frame the sets of Act 3, the louring clouds on the back-cloth that seem to threaten storms ahead - were outshone by Nemorino’s heart-warming love, optimism and belief. In uncertain times, it’s good to be reminded that sometimes hopes and dreams do come true.

Claire Seymour

Gaetano Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore

Adina - Pretty Yende, Nemorino - Liparit Avetisyan, Dulcamara - Alex Esposito, Belcore - Paolo Bordogna, Giannetta - Vlada Borovko; Director/Costume designer - Laurent Pelly, Revival director - Daniel Dooner, Conductor - Bertrand de Billy, Set designer - Chantal Thomas, Associate costume designer - Donate Marchand, Lighting designer - Joël Adam, Royal Opera Chorus (Concert Master - Peter Manning), Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

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