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

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Francisco Valls' Missa Regalis: The Choir of Keble College Oxford and the AAM

In the annals of musical controversies, the Missa Scala Aretina debate does not have the notoriety of the Querelle des Bouffons, the Monteverdi-Artusi spat, or the audience-shocking premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

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):