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

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

An interview with Natalya Romaniw
03 Jul 2017

Natalya Romaniw: 'one of the outstanding sopranos of her generation’

There can hardly be a dry eye in the house, at the ‘Theatre in the Woods’ at West Horsley Place - Grange Park Opera’s new home - when, in Act 3 of Janáček's first mature opera, Natalya Romaniw’s Jenůfa realises that the tiny child whose frozen body has been discovered under the ice is her own dead son.

An interview with Natalya Romaniw

By Claire Seymour

Natalya Romaniw

Photo credit: Raphaëlle Photography

 

As I wrote in my review of the production, ‘her terrible bereavement, at first quietly accepted, resurges with terrifying force when … she recognises the tiny red cap that she knitted for him. Never has such a small motif borne an emotional weight of greater poignancy.’

During our conversation, it’s clear that Romaniw genuinely ‘lives’ Jenůfa’s tragic disillusionment, when hopes of healing - through marriage with Laca - are destroyed in an instant by the irrevocable secrets of past sins and suffering. Indeed, who in the audience could doubt Romaniw’s utter commitment, so burdened by emotional truth is her searing soprano. But, it’s equally evident that the Welsh singer has a level-headed and pragmatic approach to her art, which brings an honesty to her interpretations and a striking lack of pretentiousness to her engagement with her profession.

Romaniw seems, with genuine delight, hardly to believe that she is singing in the UK’s top opera houses at all, let alone that she is receiving stellar reviews for her dramatically acute and vocally heart-grabbing performances. Last year her interpretations of two Tchaikovsky roles - Tatyana in Garsington’s Eugene Onegin and Lisa in The Queen of Spades at Investec Opera Holland Park, thrust her into the foreground with the Sunday Times extolling her as ‘a Tatyana in a thousand’ and the Daily Telegraph lauding her as ‘one of the outstanding sopranos of her generation’. More recently, Romaniw has been nominated for this year’s’ Times breakthrough category in the South Bank Sky Awards, with the winner due to be announced at the Savoy in London in Sunday 9th July.

But, as a young girl from Swansea, the daughter of police officers who enjoyed music theatre, the world of international opera must have seemed light year’s away. But, the Ukrainian grandfather to whom she owes her surname, who taught himself to play the accordion and played his granddaughter Ukrainian songs, must have sown fertile musical seeds. Singing lessons developed her nascent talent and after performances with Welsh National Youth Opera, she found herself at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Romaniw recounts with characteristic ingenuousness a singing class early on in her student career, where her enthusiasm and willingness to learn led her to volunteer to sing in front of other students who seemed amazed by her choice of ‘Vissi d’arte’. ‘It was what I knew,’ she laughs. And, little did her fellow students know, at that stage, that Romaniw would go on to win the prestigious Gold Medal in her final year. It is surely this candour, keenness and frank self-reflection that contribute to her utterly engaging stage presence.

Other accolades followed, including the Clonter’s Opera Prize in 2010 - an inter-conservatoire prize awarded to singers nominated by the heads of opera at six of the UK’s leading music colleges - and both the Loveday Song Prize and overall First Prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards in 2012.

It hasn’t all been absolutely plain-sailing, though. Having won the London Welsh Singer’s Competition in 2008, the following year Romaniv found herself selected as the Welsh representative in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, and though she obviously relished the experience and was a Song Prize finalist, she feels that the opportunity came a little too early in her career.

Natalya-Romaniw-credit-operaomnia.co_.uk-7-of-44-1024x532.jpg Photo credit: Patrick Allen, Opera Omnia.

But, she has a wise head on young shoulders. Following her Ferrier Award success, Romaniw joined the Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist programme, deciding that this was the best route to develop her voice and experience a wide range of repertoire, in the process turning down places on the Jette Parker Young Artist scheme at the ROH and the study programme at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, for which she was also accepted. It was a good choice. In 2012, she was the second prize winner of the Eleanor McCollum competition at Houston, and during the two-year programme sang Ortlinde (Die Walküre), Mimi, Ines (Il Trovatore), Rosalinde ( Die Fledermaus), Micaela, and Krystina (The Passenger). Returning to the UK she won roles at Holland Park (as Maliela in Wolf-Ferrari’s I gioielli della Madonna, Romaniw was praised by the Guardian for her ‘forthright vocalism and astutely managed, siren-like tempting’) and at Scottish Opera (Foreign Princess Rusalka). She also sang the Governess in Glyndebourne’s 2014 touring production of The Turn of the Screw, having previously covered several roles in the main house including Anne Truelove (The Rake’s Progress), Armida (Rinaldo) and the Countess (Figaro).

Despite such accomplishments, Romaniw remains refreshingly self-effacing and down-to-earth, as when recalling a performance of Beethoven’s 9 th Symphony with the Hallé under Sir Mark Elder, before which she was a bundle of nerves in what she saw as the company of more experienced colleagues.

Of late, Romaniw’s successes have come in ‘Slavic’ roles and I ask her if she feels that she has a special affinity to the language and music of Eastern Europe. She replies that she finds the idiom comes naturally to her, that she is able to learn the roles quickly, and that she doesn’t find the language challenges too taxing; indeed, she enjoys working through the relationships that develop through the libretto text with her fellow performers during rehearsals.

There is more Janáček and Tchaikovsky to come: later this month she will perform the former’s Glagolitic Mass in Worcester Cathedral, at the Three Choirs Festival, and then she reprises her Tatyana with Welsh National Opera this autumn and with Scottish Opera next spring. She is aware that some may wonder why she wishes to repeat these roles, but Romaniw feels that her interpretation can grow further, especially in different productions and working with different directors.

I ask the usual ‘end-of-interview’ question: what next? For the first time during our conversation, Romaniw - who has been absolutely smashing company, delightfully garrulous and funny - becomes is a little reticent. She will just divulge that, to her delight, three of Puccini’s heroines are on the near horizon.

When, in April this year, Romaniw stepped into the indisposed Karah Son’s shoes as Cio-Cio-San in Welsh National Opera’s revival of Joachim Herz’s 1978 production of Madame Butterfly, at the Bristol Hippodrome - making her company and role debut - one reviewer remarked: ‘As one of the iconic roles in opera you’d expect some first night nerves, but this Welsh soprano … barely blanches … she already combines the timid and bashful young teen who falls in love with the wrong man, to the deluded romantic waiting for her husband to return home, to the grieving but resolute mother prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for her son. It’s a performance that more than merits the rapturous applause received.’ And, this is praise which more than whets the opera-lover’s appetite.

Claire Seymour

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):