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

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

Ovid and Klopstock clash in Jurowski’s Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’

There were two works on this London Philharmonic Orchestra programme given by Vladimir Jurowski – Colin Matthews’s Metamorphosis and Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. The way Jurowski played it, however, one might have been forgiven for thinking we were listening to a new work by Mahler, something which may not have been lost on those of us who recalled that Matthews had collaborated with Deryck Cooke on the completion of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony.

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

22 Aug 2017

La pietra del paragone in Pesaro

Impeccable casting — see photos. Three new generation Italian buffos brought startling new life to Pier Luigi Pizzi’s 2002 production of Rossini’s first major comedy (La Scala, 1812).

La pieta del paragon at Pesaro's Rossini Opera Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Paolo Bordogna as Pacuvio, Aurora Faggioli as Aspasia [All photos courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro]

 

The comedy's huge success in Milan won a military draft exemption for the 20 year-old Rossini, and thus assured the world of its most impressive catalog of operas.

La pietra del paragone is a bit like Cenerentola — which of the rich count's pursuers should he marry? There are two who care about his money and position, and one who cares about him. It’s a thin story, more of a simple farce than than the richly human comedies yet to come.

Count Asdrubale devises a test (the “stone of comparison”) — he pretends to be ruined, and thereby will find his true friends. And so the antics continue, musical and physical, for another couple of hours.

From the beginning Pier Luigi Pizzi never lets up, discovering new ways to animate the cubby holes of his set, including a swimming pool on the patio of his two story Malibu spread (it is very California). The scene-stealing count is into physical culture, and plays it to the hilt, illustrating the role's narcissism with absolutely splendid fioratura.

Pietra_Pesaro3 (1).pngGianluca Margheri as Conte Asdrubale

Each of the gold diggers has a champion, one a pretentious poet, the other a pretentious journalist. And the count’s true love has a champion as well — a real poet and a true friend who loves the heroine, but is left standing there.

Duets are sung as tennis matches (lobbing the ball back and forth across the pit), lovers’ duets are sung by telephone across the stage, machinations are devised on the diving board, false starts end up in the pool (you can be sure this very real pool was heated). A hunting party ends up in a duel, the heroine concocts a trick of her own to seal the deal with the count.

And the antics never stopped. It was slapstick humor and physical humor that somehow never became tiresome (well, there were those who nodded off in our row) and that sometimes motivated involuntary guffaws. This Pizzi production has indeed become a classic.

Not to be outdone Rossini proved himself unstoppable in musical antics, from patter arias, to patter duets and trios, not to forget a quintet with tons of patter. Vocal ornamentation flew around the stage and into the house via the much-used walkway fronting the pit. And the young composer from Pesaro gave his true lovers spectacular arias to cap the show — and that brought huge applause from the excited house (those who were still awake).

Milanese wunderkind maestro Daniele Rustioni, now the principle conductor of the Opéra de Lyon, recognized the high-tailed nature of the young Rossini. With the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale of the RAI the maestro balanced the fever pitch of the musical and stage antics with workable tempos and measured energy, even finding elusive hints of the great Rossini from time to time.

The three amazing buffos were Florentine bass baritone Gianluca Margheri as the super cool count, Benevento (near Naples) baritone David Luciano as the slimy journalist and Melzo-born (near Milan) bass baritone Paola Bordogna, a Pesaro mainstay, as the truly terrible poet. All three are splendid singers as well as real performers who epitomize a new generation, or re-birth of buffo.

Needless to say the tenor left out in the cold, Cavalier Giocondo, was not an Italian, but a Russian, Maxim Mironov who earned the evening’s biggest ovation for his spectacular aria “Quell’alme pupille.”

Pietra_Pesaro2.pngAya Wakozono as Clarice (disguised as her "brother")

The count’s true love, Clarice was well portrayed by Japanese mezzo Aya Wakizono, an alumna of the festival’s Accademia Rossiniana. The ingenue diva, a charming performer, boasts splendid high notes. Spanish soprano Marina Monzó sang Donna Fulvia’s “Pubblico fu l’oltraggio” with appropriate gusto, and Bolzano soprano well executed the paces of Baronessa Aspasia.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Marchesa Clarice: Aya Wakizono; Baronessa Aspasia: Aurora Faggioli; Donna Fulvia: Marina Monzó; Conte Asdrubale: Gianluca Margheri; Cavalier Giocondo: Maxim Mironov; Macrobiotic: David's Luciano; Pacuvio: Paulo Bordogna; Fabrizio: William Corrò. Coro del Teatro Ventidio Bassi; Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Della RAI. Conductor: Daniele Rustioni; Stage director, sets abs costumes: Pier Luigi Pizzi; lights: Vincenzo Raponi. Adriatico Arena, Pesaro, August 17, 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):