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 Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

Madama Butterfly at the Princeton Festival

The Princeton Festival brings a run of three high-quality opera performances to town each summer, alternating between a modern opera and a traditional warhorse. John Adams’ Nixon in China has been announced for next summer. So this year Princeton got Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, for which the Festival assembled an impressive cast and delivered a polished performance.

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):