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

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

The Enchantresse and Dido and Aeneas
in Lyon

Dido and Aeneas, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Tchaikowsky’s L’Enchantresse, the three operas of the Opéra de Lyon’s annual late March festival all tease destiny. But far more striking than the thematic relationship that motivates this 2019 festival is the derivation of these three productions from the world of hyper-refined theater, far flung hyper-refined theater.

The devil shares the good tunes: Chelsea Opera Group's Mefistofele

Every man ‘who burns with a thirst for knowledge and life and with curiosity about the nature of good and evil is Faust ... [everyone] who aspires to the Unknown, to the Ideal, is Faust’.

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

JPYA Summer Performance, Royal Opera House
18 Jul 2017

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

JPYA Summer Performance, Royal Opera House

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: David Junghoon Kim, Francesca Chiejina and Angela Simkin in a scene from Comte Ory

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 

There are plenty of ‘on-a-budget’ opera companies who regularly show that a lot can be made of not very much, so the scanty set and properties in the first-half sequence - a few chairs and tables, a dozen champagne glasses, a bucket of cherries - were not in themselves a problem. Matthew Mulberry’s lighting design was economical and effective. The Byronic gloom of Jacopo Foscari’s prison cell was effectively conjured by a single hanging lamp; Prince Charmant’s palace bathed in a pink glow, while a cooler blue illumed Arabella’s fraught exchange with Mandrynka.

The direction, however, was minimal and too often the singers seemed to be ‘hanging about’ wondering where to move next, singing straight to the house, or into the wings or back-cloth, rather than at or to each other, even though each of the first-half items presents an intimate, charged exchange. The diction was also, generally, poor with almost no discernible distinction between Italian and French.

DAVID JUNGHOON KIM, VLADA BOROVKO (C) ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA.jpg David Junghoon Kim and Vlada Borovko. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

Fortunately, there were several names that have become well-known over the last year or two from their performances in minor roles in the House, and engagements elsewhere, and their appearances in more substantial fare were eagerly anticipated. Opening the programme with the Act II duet from Verdi’s I due Foscari, Vlada Borovko confirmed my previous impression (not least in last year’s JPYA performance and most recently in the ROH’s L'elisir d'amore ) that she is a soprano of dramatic power and commanding presence, well equipped to master Verdi’s surging vocal lines. She was a stirring Lucrezia, comforting David Junghoon Kim’s Foscari when he learns of his exile and conveying the full fierceness of Lucrezia’s love for her husband and fiery scorn for the scheming clique, the Council of Ten. Later, when the ensemble came together for the end of Act 2 of Don Giovanni, Borovko displayed similar concentration and intensity in Donna Anna’s ‘Non mi dir’.

Junghoon Kim’s acting has improved markedly during his time as a JPYA - as his recent engagement with Grange Park Opera confirmed - and here he was convincing as the tortured Foscari who is being tormented by delirious visions of the ghost of the decapitated mercenary, Carmagnola. He sang with clean, appealing tone, though he might have employed a wider dynamic range.

The tenor hasn’t yet quite got the refinement that Rossini’s music calls for and he seemed less comfortable decked up in habit and wimple as ‘Sister Colette’ - the disguised Count Ory who falls into the trap set for him by his page, Isolier, and finds himself in a darkened bedroom making advances to the latter rather than the object of his unwelcome affections, Countess Adèle. Comic timing is not Junghoon Kim’s forte, and it didn’t help that the staging of this trio - which Berlioz described as the composer’s ‘absolute masterpiece’ - lacked a certain jeu d’esprit, the only (mild) chuckles coming from the somewhat clichéd wriggling under the duvet and climbing under the bed.

The trio of singers didn’t ‘play off’ one another with sufficient zip, and conductor James Hendry let the tempo lag, failing to show how the orchestral rhythms point up the dramatic charm and wit. The enunciation of the French text was weak, but there was some attractive singing from Angela Simkin whom I admired in the title role of Oreste at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2016, and who displayed a firm technique and vocal gleam as Isolier. This followed her stylish appearance as Prince Charmant in Massenet’s love-at-first-sight duet, ‘Toi qui m’es apparue’, alongside Kate Howden’s Cendrillon. Howden, standing in at short notice for the indisposed Emily Edmonds, did well to shape Massenet’s lines with simple elegance. She coped well at the top and her fresh sound blended pleasingly with Simkin’s slightly fuller mezzo.

Cendrillon (C) ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA.jpg Cendrillon. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

Soprano Francesca Chiejina was the third of Rossini’s comic threesome but she needed rather more vocal presence to communicate Adèle’s impish sense of fun. Chiejina had appeared a little tentative in her earlier guise as Suzel in the ‘Cherry Duet’ from L’amico Fritz - another comic gem which fell rather flat, missing the sparkle which imbues Mascagni’s trifling operetta - and her intonation strayed a little at the start. She has a sweet tone but doesn’t always project with enough dramatic vigour. As Fritz, Thomas Atkins did impress, however. Atkins studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and when I heard him sing Florindo in the 2015 production of Wolf-Ferrari’s Le donne curiose I remarked his ‘incipient Italianate gleam’, a quality which has now bloomed nicely. His ‘Il mio tesoro’ in the post-interval Don Giovanni episode was the highlight of the evening, revealing a well-supported lyric tenor and an ability to imbue a character who can seem weak-willed and ineffectual with convincing strength and integrity.

FRANCESCA CHIEJINA, THOMAS ATKINS   (C) ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA.jpg Francesca Chiejina and Thomas Atkins. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

The other first-half item was the final duet from Strauss’s Arabella. As ever with Strauss, the writing lies quite high and Jennifer Davis, as the eponymous aristocrat, scaled the peaks but could not colour them with the requisite silvery tone, and this deprived this exquisite reconciliation scene of its transcendence. A similar heft, and tonal hardness, was apparent in Elvira’s ‘Mi Tradì’.

GYULA NAGY, JENNIFER DAVIS  (C) ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA.jpg Jennifer Davis and Gyula Nagy. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

Perhaps it’s hard to invest the foolish Mandryka with any real credibility but Hungarian baritone Gyula Nagy needed a bit more focus to supplement the warmth of his sound in order to capture the dignity of the close. The absence of a staircase down which Arabella famously glides to her lover - to make the formalised gesture of offering the glass of water that signals her willingness to be her betrothed’s wife - was understandable and forgivable; what was less acceptable, however, was the lack of any convincing engagement between the reunited lovers.

Director Gerard Jones had put more thought and effort into the staging of the final scenes of Don Giovanni, and it paid off, as the simple set - a white-walled chapel where the Commendatore’s ebony coffin served as an unavoidable reminder of the Don’s dastardly deeds and impending doom - brought the singers together with more dramatic involvement and integration. Haegee Lee, who joins the JPYA scheme next season, took the role of Zerlina - intended for Edmonds and acted by Alicia Frost - singing from the side and revealing a good sense of Mozartian style which bodes well for her appearance as Papagena in the ROH’s new staging of Die Zauberflöte, directed by David McVicar, in the autumn. Simon Shibambu was a stentorian Commendatore but softened his tone effectively when doubling up as Masetto. Gyula Nagy was a fittingly disreputable Giovanni, and interacted well with David Shipley’s rich-hued Leporello.

SIMON SHIBAMBU  (C) ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA.jpg Simon Shibambu and Gyula Nagy. Photo credit: Clive Barda.

This staging gave Don Giovanni the last laugh. After the moralising finale and departure of the ‘victors’, the coffin in which Giovanni had been entombed raised its lid, and the chancer seized his opportunity, scampering off with a look which hinted, ‘I’ll be back’. So, too, will many of these young singers in the forthcoming ROH season, alongside six new Young Artists: Haegee Lee and fellow soprano Jacquelyn Stucker, mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina, tenor Konu Kim, baritone Dominic Sedgwick and stage director Noa Naamat.

Further details of the ROH autumn season can be found at http://www.roh.org.uk/seasons/2017-18/autumn .

Claire Seymour

Verdi: I due Foscari, Act II (duet)
Conductor - David Syrus; Lucrezia Contarini - Vlada Borovko, Jacopo Foscari - David Junghoon Kim,

Massenet: Cendrillon, Act II (duet - ‘Toi qui m’es apparue’)
Conductor - Matthew Scott Rogers, Cendrillon - Kate Howden, Prince - Angela Simkin

Mascagni: L’amico Fritz, Act I (duet)
Conductor: David Syrus, Suzel - Francesca Chiejina, Fritz - Thomas Atkins

Strauss: Arabella, Act III (final duet)
Conductor - David Syrus, Arabella - Jennifer Davis, Mandryka - Gyula Nagy

Rossini: Le Comte Ory, Act II (‘A la faveur de cette nuit obscure’)
Conductor - James Hendry, Countess Adèle de Formoutiers - Francesca Chiejina, Isolier - Angela Simkin, Count Ory - David Junghoon Kim

Mozart: Don Giovanni, Act II
Conductor - David Syrus, Fortepiano continuo - Nick Fletcher, Donna Anna - Vlada Borovko, Donna Elvira - Jennifer Davis, Zerlina - Haegee Lee, Don Ottavio - Thomas Atkins,Don Giovanni - Gyula Nagy, Leporello - David Shipley, Masetto/Commendatore - Simon Shibambu, Ensemble - Francesca Chiejina, Angela Simkin, David Junghoon Kim.

Director - Gerard Jones, Lighting designer - Matthew Mulberry, Movement - Anjali Mehra.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Sunday 16th July 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):