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

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):