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

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

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):