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 Reviews

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

Death in Venice at Deutsche Oper Berlin

This death in Venice is not the end, but the beginning.

Saint Cecilia: The Sixteen at Kings Place

There were eighteen rather than sixteen singers. And, though the concert was entitled Saint Cecilia the repertoire paid homage more emphatically to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and to the spirit of Christmas.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Insights on Mahler Lieder, Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen

At the Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide in a recital of Schubert and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Rückert-Lieder. Schuen has most definitely arrived, at least among the long-term cognoscenti at the Wigmore Hall who appreciate the intelligence and sensitivity that marks true Lieder interpretation.

Ermelinda by San Francisco's Ars Minerva

It’s an opera by Vicentino composer Domenico Freschi that premiered in 1681 at the country home of the son of the doge of Venice. Villa Contarini is a couple of hours on horseback from Vicenza, and a few hours by gondola from Venice).

Wozzeck in Munich

It would be an extraordinary, even an unimaginable Wozzeck that failed to move, to chill one to the bone. This was certainly no such Wozzeck; Marie’s reading from the Bible, Wozzeck’s demise, the final scene with their son and the other children: all brought that particular Wozzeck combination of tears and horror.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

Korngold's Die tote Stadt in Munich

I approached this evening as something of a sceptic regarding work and director. My sole prior encounter with Simon Stone’s work had not been, to put it mildly, a happy one. Nor do I count myself a subscriber or even affiliate to the Korngold fan club, considerable in number and still more considerable in fervency.

Exceptional song recital from Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

Thanks to the enterprise and vision of Lynton Atkinson - Artistic Director of Dorset-based Hurn Court Opera - two promising young singers on the threshold of glittering careers gave an outstanding recital at Salisbury’s prestigious Art Centre.

Lohengrin in Munich

An exceptional Lohengrin, this. I had better explain. Yes, it was exceptional in the quality of much of the singing, especially the two principal female roles, yet also in luxury casting such as Martin Gantner as the King’s Herald.

Hansel and Gretel in San Francisco

This Grimm’s fairytale in its operatic version found its way onto the War Memorial stage in the guise of a new “family friendly” production first seen last holiday season at London’s Royal Opera House.

An hypnotic Death in Venice at the Royal Opera House

Spot-lit in the prevailing darkness, Gustav von Aschenbach frowns restively as he picks up an hour-glass from a desk strewn with literary paraphernalia, objects d’art, time-pieces and a pair of tall candles in silver holders - by the light of which, so Thomas Mann tells us in his novella Death in Venice, the elderly writer ‘would offer up to art, for two or three ardently conscientious morning hours, the strength he had garnered during sleep’.

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Der Rosenkavailer</em>, Welsh National Opera
05 Jun 2017

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).

Der Rosenkavailer, Welsh National Opera

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Lucia Cervoni (Octavian) and Rebecca Evans (The Marschallin)

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

 

The new production debuted at the Wales Millennium Centre on Sunday 4 June 2017 conducted by Tomáš Hanus, the company's new music director, with Rebecca Evans making her role debut as the Marschallin, Lucia Cervoni as Octavian, Brindley Sherratt as Baron Ochs, Louise Alder as Sophie, and Adrian Clarke as Faninal. Designs were by Niki Turner, with lighting by Ian Jones.

Strauss and Hofmannsthal's Der Rosenkavalier is a complex theatrical mechanism which seems to defy radical re-working and Fuchs has not tried to re-invent the opera whilst still providing a way of seeing the plot anew. All the familiar details and the essential dramaturgy were there. Like many recent productions, Fuchs and Turner had set the opera in 1911, the year of its composition but the very opening showed us that this was not an entirely traditional take on the piece. During the prelude (which depicts the Marschallin and Octavian making love), we did indeed get flashes of the two characters in vigorous sexual positions, but the main focus was of an old woman, the old Marschallin (Margaret Balton), sitting remembering holding a small picture in 1949.

The old Marschallin would be present for much of Act One, and a quotation from Rilke plus the sands of time running through Turner's stripped-back yet traditional set gave us an indication that the idea of time would be important to the production. In Act Two the same essential set was partially skewed and the sands of time had started to form piles in the corners. For Act Three, the set was partially de-constructed and sand formed huge piles. The old Marschallin returned at the beginning of this act, still remembering but this time video footage seemed too evoke series of convulsive conflicts that we know would erupt between 1911 and 1949. Thankfully, this meant that the normal comic dumb-show of setting up the joke was abbreviated.

At key moments during the opera the old Marschallin (Balton) and the younger one (Rebecca Evans) seemed do interact, and it was unclear whether we were experiencing the older woman's flashbacks or the younger one's flashes of premonition, and of course during the opera the Marschallin does indeed become increasingly obsessed with time. At the very end, Fuchs allowed herself a small joke. Strauss intended the final orchestral postlude to depict the Marschallin's page Mohammed returning to the inn to find a lost handkerchief, one last jeu d'esprit. And indeed Mohammed (Kayed Mohammed-Mason) did appear but this time as an old man, still serving his mistress.

Rebecca Evans made a touching and thoughtful Marschallin, much given over to the emotions of the moment; this was a highly volatile performance with Evans beautifully reflecting the changing emotions of the text. Text was highly important, and Evans clearly was concerned to make the text as important as the music. Truly lyric soprano Marschallin's are relatively rare, and Evans performance really did make you think of Sophie grown older. Evans' voice lacks the heft to really impose itself, and occasionally I thought that Tomáš Hanus could have helped a little in the balance, but Evans never forced and sang with a profoundly beautiful sense of phrasing. This was not a luxuriant voice, instead it was touching, with Evans occasionally taking the risk to really fine her voice down to stunning effect. Clearly Evans has a long career as the Marschallin ahead of her, and this assumption was a notable achievement.

wno_der_rosenkavalier_-_louise_alder_sophie_von_faninal_lucia_cervoni_octavian_photo_credit_bill_cooper_2162.jpgLouise Alder (Sophie von Faninal) and Lucia Cervoni (Octavian). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Louise Alder's Sophie was perhaps less headstrong than some we have seen recently, and Alder really conveyed the sense of Sophie still struggling to find her way in the world, sometimes bewildered sometimes angry, and somewhat confused by the sudden rush of her relationship with Octavian. Alder brought the ability to finely spin a line, but also to demonstrate a strong feel for character.

The Canadian mezzo-soprano Lucia Cervoni (a principal at Theater Magdeburg) made a nicely touchy Octavian, not a little self-obsessed and very much on his dignity. Cervoni very successfully showed the way the young man struggled both with the Marschallin's philosophising in Act One, and with the sudden rush off young love in Act Two, bringing out the sense of youthful impulsiveness. This is an opera very much defined by its relationships; Evans, Cervoni and Alder really established the sense of the different pulls in this triangle, so that when all three characters met for the first time at the end of Act Three we got a strong sense of the different tensions, with many pregnant pauses. Cervoni was successfully able to lighten her voice in the upper register so that the three women blended beautifully for a radiant final trio and duet.

wno_der_rosenkavalier_-_brindley_sherratt_baron_ochs_lucia_cervoni_octavian_photo_credit_bill_cooper_0528.jpgBrindley Sherratt (Baron Ochs) and Lucia Cervoni (Octavian). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Into all this blunders Brindley Sherratt's comically self-obsessed Ochs. A hilarious, key moment was in his Act One scene with Evans' Marschallin when Sherratt's Ochs comically motored on with his speeches, blissfully unaware that the Marschallin was not paying him any attention. It was this blissful unawareness of other people's reactions which made Sherratt's Ochs such a comic monstrosity, his self-image never punctured until the Marschallin's biting retort at the end of Act Three.

What really brought the production alive was the constant sense of detail in the characterisation, not only had Fuchs clearly worked with her principals but these major characters were set against a welter of smaller details. In a sense this was a superb ensemble production, and this really counted when it came to providing a setting for the complex relationships between Evans, Alder, Cervoni and Sherratt's characters. Only a couple of moments seemed too generic, or jarred; Ochs retainers in Act Two could have come from a number of productions, whilst the characterisation of his son Leopold (George Newton-Fitzgerald) verged in the patronising, but overall there was a feeling of the production being vividly thought through. This was certainly helped by Niki Turner's stylish period costumes (though I would have preferred something other than cod-armour for Octavian in Act Two).

The sense of detailed characterisation paid off when combined with Tomáš Hanus superb pacing of the opera, so that the action flowed smoothly and there were few, if any, of the longeurs which can occur (particularly towards the end of Act 2). I have no idea what the exact timings were, but this felt like one of the swiftest accounts of the opera that I have heard, not because Hanus' speeds were fast but because the drama flowed and held one's attention. Even complex scenes such as the Marschallin's levée were filled with lovely little details which, rather than holding up the action, simply made the drama fall into place.

wno_der_rosenkavalier_-_peter_van_hulle_valzacci_brindley_sherratt_baron_ochs_madeleine_shaw_annina_photo_credit_bill_cooper_020.jpgPeter van Hulle (Valzacci), Brindley Sherratt (Baron Ochs) and Madeleine Shaw (Annina). Photo credit: Bill Cooper.

Providing this back-drop was a fine array of supporting characters. Adrian Clarke's Faninal was superbly characterful and his Act Two outburst made far more of a dramatic impact than often is the case. Peter Van Hulle and Madeleine Shaw as the intriguers were a delightfully over the top couple (who even got their own enthusiastic sex-scene at the opening of Act Three!). Paul Charles Clarke made a fine Italian tenor, very much obsessed with the effect he is having on his potential patron, Matthew Hargreaves was a finely upright commissar of police. Angharad Morgan's Marianne Leitmetzerin managed to combine vividness with very fine diction (which does not always happen in this role). Morgan is a member of the WNO Chorus and the production was notable for the number of chorus members in small solo roles.

This was not the most luxuriant of performances, with cast with largely lyric voices you felt that in Act One Tomáš Hanus could have been a little more aware of the balance. But Hanus had a good feel for the music's flow, keeping it moving whilst allowing a nice fluidity and giving the singers space to shape their lines. The orchestra responded well to Hanus' direction and produced a performance which finely complemented the singers in its musicality.

This was a notable achievement from the whole company, and I certainly hope that we do not have to wait too long to see the production again. WNO's new production of Der Rosenkavalier is at the Wales Millennium Centre on 10 & 17 June, and at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 1 July 2017.

Robert Hugill

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

The Marschallin: Rebecca Evans, Old Marschallin: Margaret Baiton, Baron Ochs of Lerchenau: Brindley Sherratt, Octavian: Lucia Cervoni, Sophie; Louise Alder, Von Faninal; Adrian Clarke, Italian Singer: Paul Charles Clarke, Annina: Madeleine Shaw, Police Commissar: Matthew Hargreaves, Valzacchi: Peter Van Hulle, Mohammed: Kayed Mohamed-Mason, Marianne: Angharad Morgan, First Noble Orphan: Anitra Blaxhall, Innkeeper/Animal Trainer: Michael Clifton-Thompson, Faninal’s Major-Domo: Gareth Dafydd Morris, Boots: Laurence Cole, Footmen: Simon Crosby Buttle, Stephen Wells, Joe Roche, Laurence Cole, Third Noble Orphan: Helen Jarmany, Milliner: Emma Mary Llewellyn, Notary: Alastair Moore Marschallin’s Major-Domo: Adam Music, Second Noble Orphan: Louise Ratcliffe, Waiters: Simon Crosby Buttle, Howard Kirk, Philip Lloyd-Evans, Alastair Moore.

Director: Olivia Fuchs, Conductor: Tomáš Hanus, Assistant Conductor: Kalle Kuusava, Designer: Niki Turner.

Welsh National Opera at Wales Millennium Centre, 4 June 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):