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

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

29 Jul 2017

Discovering Gounod’s Cinq Mars: Another Rarity Success for Oper Leipzig

Oper Leipzig usually receives less international attention than its Dresden, Munich or Berlin counterparts; however, with its fabulous Gewandhaus Orchestra, and its penchant for opera rarities (and a new Ring Cycle), this quality hotspot will be attracting more and more opera lovers. Leipzig’s new production of Gounod’s Cinq Mars continues this high quality tradition.

Gounod's Cinq Mars at Oper Leipzig

A review by David Pinedo

Above: A traditional staging in Leipzig [All photos by Tom Schulze]

 

After Leipzig’s sensational production last year of Wagner’s early work Die Feen, the only current staging in opera, I returned to this optimistic German city for Gounod’s Cinq Mars, or here renamed Der Rebell des Königs. While Gounod’s music packs less thrills than his Faust or even Roméo et Juliette, the vocal and dramatic chemistry in this production certainly did not disappoint and made the trip more than worthwhile.

Gounod based his 1877 Cinq Mars on Alfred de Vigny’s historical novel about Marquis Henri de Cinq Mars’s failed attempt at rebellion against Richelieu, the manipulative Catholic Cardinal advising King Louis XIII. The libretto was written by Paul Poirson and Louis Gallet, who also wrote Massenet’s Thaïs, and some lesser known works by Bizet and Saint-Saëns.

Anthony Pilavachi created a traditional tableaux vivants, faithful to most of the directions in the libretto. Markus Meyer’s costume design from that time and painting frame set, a frame within a frame, worked well. The pictures added to the inauthentic portrayal of ourselves as we tread into the social spheres, in this case the King’s court. All the world is still a stage.

To turn this into a true grand opera, Gounod added an impossible romance between Henri and a princess and included a delightful ball scene in the second act, humorously choreographed by Julia Grunwald. The Leipzig Ballet put on an entertaining, pastoral dance scene that offered some levity and witty moments provoking laughter amongst the audience.

As Henri de Cinq Mars and Princess Marie de Gonzague, who for political reasons must wed the Polish King, the stars of the evening Mathias Vidal and Fabienne Conrad led with passionately romantic chemistry an excellent cast. At the end of Act I and Act III, their duets received boisterous applause. In the final act, Vidal, right before Cinq Mars’s death, channelled the glamorous dramatics of Jonas Kaufmann: his singing produced deeply moving emotions to which the audience responded with the loudest bravi.

Der_Rebell_des_Konigs_Cinq_Mars_Prinzessin_Marie_de_Gonzague_Fabienne_Conrad_Marquis_de_Cinq-Mars_Mathias_Vidal_Premiere_20517Tom_Schulze.jpgVidal and Conrad in an impossible romance

As head of Richelieu’s network of spies, Mark Schnaible created Father Joseph with the necessary religious villainy. He conveyed enough sickening contempt to remind me of a corrupted satanic Catholic. Toxic in the worst of ways. At the curtain call, for one moment he almost seem to rouse some boos, Schnaible was that successful at his antagonism.

The supporting roles were all well cast. As the pistol whip Marion Delorme, coloratura Danae Kontora stole each scene. Delorme hosts the party during which the ballet occurred. Not only did she carry her scenes with charm and wit, her voice commanded the stage and almost eclipsed Ms Conrad. Together with Delorme’s mischievous counterpart Ninon de Lenclos (an entertaining Sandra Maxheimer), the two devious ladies dazzled and brought out overtop flamboyance in their coquette scenes in the second act.

Amongst the supporting men, Jonathan Michie as Conseiller de Thou impressed the most. Always caring and forewarning towards his best friend Henri. In Act I, he particularly charmed in his bromance, although some of their funny French shenanigans were lost in translation. Later Michie demonstrated his vulnerability in his protection over Cinq Mars, before his friend’s tragic ending. Jeffery Krueger and Sébastien Soules, also contributed remarkably as de Montmort and de Fontrailles.

Der_Rebell_des_Konigs_Cinq_Mars_Marquis_de_Cinq-Mars_Mathias_Vidal_Conseiller_de_Thou_Jonathan_Michie_Prinzessin_Marie_de_Gonzague_Fabienne_Conrad_Chor_Premiere_20517Tom_Schulze.jpgThe cast and choir in Cinq Mars

Alessandro Zuppardo prepped the Choir of the Oper Leipzig who provided indispensable energy. They offered great momentum in the beginning as they drew the audience into the story. They also engaged in lovely theatrics on stage in the frivolity at the ball in the Act II. Above all, the German choir authentically conveyed French patriotism in rousing moments.

David Reiland (from Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Étienne) conducted the Gewandhaus with much verve, never overshadowing the soloists. His pace created a continuous momentum which he led through each act. I was never bored with this composition by Gounod.

While Cinq Mars didn’t reach the epic grandeur of Leipzig’s early Wagner Die Feen, this production should be seen by any opera aficionado who wants to be treated to Gounod’s excellently executed, unrecognised work. It will be performed several more times in early 2018.

David Pinedo


Cast and production information:

Prinzessin Marie de Gonzague: Fabienne Conrad; Marion Delorme: Danae Kontora; Ninon de L'Enclos/ Ein Schäfer: Sandra Maxheimer; Marquis de Cinq-Mars: Mathias Vidal; De Montmort/ Der polnische Botschafter: Jeffery Krueger; Conseiller de Thou: Jonathan Michie; Vicomte de Fontrailles: Sébastien Soules; Pater Joseph: Mark Schnaible; Der König von Frankreich: Randall Jakobsh; Eustache: Jean-Baptiste Mouret; De Montrésor: Joshua Morris; De Brienne: Artur Mateusz Garba; Gewandhaus Orchestra, Conductor: David Reiland; Director: Anthony Pilavachi; Set and Costumes: Markus Meyer; Choreographer Julia Grunwald; Chorus master; Alessandro Zuppardo; Dramaturge: Elisabeth Kühne, at Oper Leipzig, May 27, 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):