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

Cave: a new opera by Tansy Davies and Nick Drake

Opera seems to travel far from the opera house these days. Alongside numerous productions in community spaces and pub theatres, in the last few years I’ve enjoyed productions staged on the shingle shore of Aldeburgh beach, at the bottom of the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe, and in a renovated warehouse in Shoreditch on the roof of which perch four ‘creative studios’ in the form of recycled Jubilee line train carriages and shipping containers.

Götterdämmerung in San Francisco

The truly tragic moments of this long history rich in humanity behind us we embark on the sordid tale of the Lord of the Gibichungs’s marriage to Brünnhilde and the cowardly murder of Siegfried, to arrive at some sort of conclusion where Brünnhilde sacrifices herself to somehow empower women. Or something.

Siegfried in San Francisco

We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.

Boris Godunov in San Francisco

Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles.

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

23 Aug 2017

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Salzburg

The well-to-do merchant life of the opera’s small Russian town of Czarist times translocated to a monumental, socialistically heroic, concrete slum block.

Lady Macbeth von Mzensk at the Salzburg Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Eugenia Muraveva as Katerina, Brandon Jovanovich as Sergej [All photos copyright by the Salzburger Festspiele / Thomas Aurin]

 

Though it really was not crumbling, decaying socialist housing, it was actually a vagina shaped cavity into which thrust two phallic platforms, in and out repeatedly throughout this long, loud, gross evening.

Shostakovich’s cheeky opera meant to impress Soviet authorities with politically correct attitudes backfired at its premiere, and Shostakovich was artistically sidelined for years. Just now stage director Andreas Kriegenberg’s extreme re-imagining of the piece in monumental uber-expressionistic terms, meant as well to be politically correct and impress the sophisticated Salzburg Festival audience, backfired as well.

Without comment on current, hackneyed socio-artistic platitudes let me simply attribute the misfortune that beset Herr Kriegenberg’s production to the common cold and attendant laryngitis. Heroically voiced soprano Nina Stemme, indisposed, sang but the first two of five performances. She was replaced for the remaining performances by the sweetly voiced rape victim of the opera's second scene, Russian mezzo soprano Evgenia Muraveva.

Make no mistake. Mlle. Muraveva is already a first-class Katerina Ismailowa. She is young and pretty and has a beautiful lyric voice, ideal for a straight forward take on life in czarist Russia by a young, sympathetic and erotically motivated Soviet composer.

But with cast concrete sets soaring 20 meters (60 ft) into the loft of the Grosses Festspielhaus, with two suspended phallic appendages charging in and out, with high powered character singers in all other roles, and with the super-charged Vienna Philharmonic in the pit this fine young artist was out of her depth.

Thus the production failed.

My suspicion is that Nina Stemme was the key to Herr Kriegenberg’s production. Mme. Stemme is not a simple woman. She is both Brünnhilde and Elektra, and she is well able to scale the heights of Herr Kriegenberg’s socialist Valhalla in all its putrid glory.

Mtensk_Salzburg3.pngNina Stemme as Katerina, Stanislav Trofimov as the Pope

And it was indeed putrid. Shostakovich’s opera is famously pornographic. Mr. Kriegenberg, abetted by conductor Mariss Jansons made sex as ugly as it could possibly be in scenes of anal penetration, colossal, collective humping. Not that there were not some light, kitsch touches. The arrested atheist who proclaims that frogs have souls was a Shostakovich look alike, the policemen effeminately cooked, wove and crocheted, the priest was dead drunk, etc.

Mtsensk_Salzburg2.pngNina Stemme as Katerina, Brandon Jovanovich as Sergey

And further kitsch — there was sperm everywhere — flying feathers of pillows ripped apart, hundreds of little phallus sized cans of aerosol spewing thousands of tiny bubbles, bottles dispelling liquid through narrow necks. And so on.

I would have loved to have been offended and amused by such grossness. Overheard comments at the intermission noted that it was indeed an “extreme” production. And finally Mlle. Muraveva’s Lady Macbeth was greatly appreciated by audiences. But as it was I was disappointed that the Salzburg Festival did not respect Herr Kriegenberg’s production enough to find an appropriate replacement for Mme. Stemme.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Evgenia Muraveva: Katerina Lvovna Izmaylova; Dmitry Ulyanov: Boris Timofeyevich Izmaylov; Maxim Paster: Zinowy Borisovich Izmaylov; Brandon Jovanovich: Sergey;
Tatiana Kravtsova: Aksinya / Woman Convict; Andrei Popov: Shabby Peasant; Oleg Budaratskiy: Porter / Sentry; Igor Onishchenko; Millhand Vasily Efimov: Coachman / Teacher; Stanislav Trofimov: Pope; Alexey Shishlyaev: Chief of Police; Valentin Anikin: Policeman / Officer; Ksenia Dudnikova: Sonyetka; Andrii Goniukov: Old Convict; Gleb Peryazev: Manager; Martin Müller: First Worker; Oleg Zalytskiy: Second Worker / Drunken Guest; Ilya Kutyukin: Third Worker. Chorus of the Vienna Statsoper; Vienna Philharmonic. Mariss Jansons: Conductor; Andreas Kriegenburg: Director; Harald B. Thor: Sets; Tanja Hofmann: Costumes; Stefan Bolliger: Lighting; Christian Arseni: Dramaturgy. Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg Festival, Salzburg, August 21, 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):