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

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

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 !

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Prom 59: <em>La clemenza di Tito</em>, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
30 Aug 2017

Glyndebourne perform La clemenza di Tito at the Proms

The advantage of Glyndebourne Opera’s performances at the BBC Proms is that they give us a chance to concentrate on the music making. And there was plenty of high-quality music-making on offer at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 28 August 2017 when Glyndebourne Opera performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

Prom 59: La clemenza di Tito, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Anna Stéphany performs the role of Sextus in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under conductor Robin Ticciati at the BBC Proms.

Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou

 

Robin Ticciati conducted the Glyndebourne Chorus and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with Richard Croft as Tito, Alice Coote as Vitellia, Anna Stéphany as Sesto, Joelle Harvey as Servilia, Michèle Losier as Annio and Clive Bayley as Publio. Iain Rutherford’s semi-staging was based on the production by Claus Guth, with designs by Christian Schmidt.

With the orchestra pushed well back on the platform, the opera was performed in two areas, the fore-stage and a raised area behind the orchestra. Rutherford’s blocking made very effective use o the Royal Albert Hall. The remains of Schmidt’s sets, modern arm-chairs, clumps of corn and rather plastic-looking rocks, puzzled somewhat. The costumes were stylish modern dress, though somewhat drab in colour except for that of the actor playing Berenice, Tito’s lost love.

This was very much a modern-day production with contemporary mores, there was little of the classical nobility often associated with the work. Richard Croft’s Tito was wracked throughout with extreme emotion and his clemency was hard won, with some violence done to the musical line of the recitative (granted, this is not by Mozart but he must have approved of it). Similarly Vitellia and Sesto’s relationship was very physical, we first encountered Alice Coote and Anna Stéphany in a very compromising clinch.

Anna Stéphany made a very lithe, youthful Sesto, convincing in masculinity and very much suggesting Sesto’s youth, and the gap in ages between him and Alice Coote’s maturer Vitellia. Stéphany’s performance was similarly lithe, her slim mezzo-soprano voice offering us a combination of shapely line and vibrant passion. ‘Parto; ma tu ben mio’ was taken quite slowly in the opening section with great freedom in the phrasing, but Stéphany and the clarinettist really conveyed the music’s intensity whilst Sesto’s final aria, the rondo ‘Deh, per questo istante solo’ was beautifully shaped, rising to strong emotion at the end.

Alice Coote Prom 59.jpgAlice Coote performs the role of Vitellia in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under conductor Robin Ticciati. Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou.

Vitellia is a role that Alice Coote seems to have been born to play, a complex character whom we don’t quite love but can understand. Coote really brought out Vitellia’s conflict of emotions, and in each utterance we could see and hear the play of emotions across her face and her voice. Some of the role lies quite high for a mezzo-soprano, but Coote never made us feel she was going outside the role the extremes of range (high and low) were representative of the extremes of emotion. But there was also much quiet, beautiful singing; this Vitellia was more than just a scheming bitch. Coote crowned the performance with a stunning final accompanied recitative, where each word was strongly coloured, leading to a tormented account of ‘Non, piu di fiori’. This had Coote’s trademark flexibility of phrasing and use of rubato, but always in the service of heightening the emotion. And she was superbly partnered by the solo basset-horn. Interestingly I had previously seen Coote as Sesto, and wondered how many mezzo-sopranos have played both roles.

The only soprano in the cast, Joelle Harvey was a demure but strong-minded Servilia. Harvey showed that pure tone and beautiful phrasing could be combined with real strength of character. Servilia is one of the few admirable characters in the opera, and Harvey made it show. She was finely partnered by Michèle Losier’s Annio. Like Anna Stephany, Losier created Annio as a believable, rather intense and serious young man. And made him count as a character, rather than just a dry run for Sesto. Michèle Losier and Joelle Harvey made Annio and Servilia’s Act One duet profoundly touching.

Tito’s arias are some of the most conventional in the opera. Richard Croft was not unstylish, but his singing was very vibrant with a great sense of drama rather than classical poise. It was very much in those recitatives that he really made the character felt. Clive Bayley was a highly characterful and easily dislikeable Publio, definitely a career politician on the make. And Bayley sang Publio’s aria with vivid vigour.

Richard Croft Clemenza Prom.jpgRichard Croft performs the role of Titus in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under conductor Robin Ticciati Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou.

One of the striking features of librettist Caterino Mazzola’s adaptation of Metastasio’s libretto (done to Mozart’s instruction), is the introduction of many duets, trios and ensembles. And Mozart’s use of them make the drama really progress. It was noticeable in this performance ow the cast used the ensembles dramatically. So that both trios told a real story, and the astonishing ensemble which concludes Act One was positively gripping.

The Glyndebourne Festival Chorus was on strong form, singing Mozart’s choruses with power and style. But, in the context of a stripped back staging their use of Peter Sellers-like hand choreography was somewhat puzzling.

Robin Ticciati conducted a lithe and lively account of the score, but he was not averse to slowing down and allowing highly expressive phrasing from the singers. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was on strong form, producing a nice mix of drama and sophistication.

Mozart’s penultimate opera can still sometimes seem something of a misunderstood ugly duckling, its reversion to opera seria an aberration after the trio of operas with Lorenzo da Ponte. The opera’s message of clemency is very much an Enlightenment concept which does not always sit well with modern directors. But Glyndebourne fielded a well balance cast, and all contributed to a performance which, musically at least, took the opera seriously and conveyed intense emotions with great style.

Robert Hugill

Mozart: La clemenza di Tito

Glyndebourne Opera at the BBC Proms

Sesto: Anna Stéphany, Vitellia: Alice Coote, Tito: Richard Croft; Annio: Michèle Losier, Servilia: Joelle Harvey, Publio: Clive Bayley

Conductor: Robin Ticciati, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Royal Albert Hall, London; Monday 28 August 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):