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

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.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork bring about a meeting of the baroque and the modern

‘Music for a while/Shall all your cares beguile’. Standing in shadow, encircled by the five players of the viol consort Fretwork, as the summer storm raged outside Milton Court Concert Hall countertenor Iestyn Davies offered mesmeric reassurance to the capacity audience during this intriguing meeting of the baroque and the modern.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

21 Aug 2017

Le Siège de Corinthe in Pesaro

That of Rossini (in French) and that of Lord Byron (in English, Russian, Italian and Spanish), the battles of both Negroponte (1470) and of Missolonghi (1826) re-enacted amidst massive piles of plastic water bottles (thousands of them) that collapsed onto the heroine at Mahomet II's destruction of Corinth.

The Siege of Corinth at Pesaro's Rossini Opera Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Luca Pisaroni as Mahomet II, Nino Machaidze as Pamyra [All photos courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro]

 

We were all eager participants, harangued lengthily and forcibly by a high priest of the Greeks to accept martyrdom. Some of us were actually absorbed into the crowds of the condemned citizens of Corinth transfixed by the priest’s ecstatic vision of freedom.

Uncompromising in its pursuit of the purest Rossini, this Italian high-art Festival provided supertitles only in French for this new, hyper-researched critical edition of Rossini’s first “grand” opera for France, said to musically recreate its original performance on October 9, 1826.

Thus Rossini’s five second act ballet divertissements were reduced to the three that the Paris Opera allowed at the premiere — though in Pesaro there was not a dancer in sight. Mahomet II, transported by his love for Pamyra wandered amidst the plastic bottles during the first divertissement, Lord Byron’s verses (in four languages) were projected line by line for the second, and members of the theater collective, La Fura dels Baus, fought over a bottle of water for the third.

After a few moments of indecision the audience booed its disapproval, but only half-heartedly.

This famed theater collective had envisioned the production of this musical reproduction of the 1826 event with deft, intellectual whimsy, finding in the plastic water bottle metaphor sufficient depth to intrigue if not enlighten the audience for the nearly five hour duration of the performance. That the massive walls of bottles sparkled brilliantly in the lights, and collapsed magnificently and elegantly (yet quietly enough not to cover Rossini’s magnificent music) more than adequately fulfilled French grand opera’s requirement for spectacle. Not to mention several important, enigmatically-imaged banner filled parades through the audience.

Siege_Pesaro2.pngThe high priest Hiéros leading the Corinthians (chorus mixed with some spectators) to martyrdom, Corinth in flames.

This flashy, beautifully staged and very successful production surely atones for the festival’s lackluster 2008 production of Maometto II, Rossini’s original 1820 Naples version of this Paris re-write (though the young general Calbo was memorably etched in Pesaro by Daniella Barcelona). The French had long forbade castrati (evidently trouser roles as well) thus this same young general now named Néoclès was sung just now by Russian tenor Sergey Romanovsky.

Rossini had broken new ground in Maometto II, thinking in larger and more complex dramatic blocks. But he allowed himself one huge aria scene and it was for Néoclès — the Russian tenor soared in impeccable fioratura to a high “C” (at least) praying to God to save the Greeks. This magnificent aria earned the one huge ovation of the evening. Note that Rossini’s advanced style precludes pauses for applause.

Siege_Pessaro3.pngLeft to right: Pamyra, Mahomet II, Néoclès, Omar

The overwhelming conflict of the evening was love versus duty. The Greek princess Pamyra loves the Turkish sultan Mahomet but her responsibility is to her father and to her homeland, and to her Greek fiancé Néoclès. Georgian bel canto diva Nino Machaidze suffered as only great Rossini divas may. This remarkable artist brought a musical intelligence that informed every phrase, suffusing the complex vocal lines with a unique expressive gravitas in richly colored voice.

It was indeed a brutal conflict of love and duty, all the more so because Mahomet, Luca Pisaroni, was very handsome in his red regalia, imposing in stance, and convincing in voice (Mr. Pisaroni is a well-known Neapolitan Maometto II as well). Rossini proved the enlightenment of this Muslim general who conquered Corinth by giving him an aria in which, stating his love of the arts, he declares he will not destroy Corinthian monuments. There was some applause.

To the festival’s good fortune Torino’s RAI Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale found its way into the pit of Pesaro’s Adriatic Arena (changing regional financial structures have destroyed the festival's long time association with Bologna’s Teatro Comunale). As expected from a symphony orchestra there was elegance of tone, limpidity of texture, and an easy virtuosity, attributes that responded to the transparency and clarity of score imposed by conductor Roberto Abbado.

With such resources Mo. Abbado uncovered instrumental sonorities new to Rossini’s advanced style, and clarified the dramatic and musical intelligence of the expanded structures of the numbers that included combinations of arias, duets, trios and ensembles. The maestro achieved the rare and ephemeral plateaux of sustained lyricism that create absolute opera.

Each August we Rossinians make our pilgrimage to Pesaro, his birthplace, in search of such transcendental evenings.

The casting of Le Siège de Corinthe was uniformly effective. British tenor John Irwin sang Pamyra’s father King Cléomène, adding additional tenorial splendor to this evening. The high priest Hiéros was lustily intoned by Italian bass Carlo Cigni. The Greeks and the Turks, and there were a lot of them, were energetically enacted by the fine chorus of Teatro Ventidio Basso (the opera house of Ascoli Piceno, a small city in Le Marche, the same province as Pesaro).

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Mahomet II: Luca Pisaroni; Cléomène: John Irvin; Pamyra: Nino Machaidze; Néoclès: Sergey Romanovsky; Hiéros: Carlo Cigni; Adraste: Xabier Anduaga; Omar: Iurii Samoilov; Ismène: Cecilia Molinari. Coro del Teatro Ventidio Basso. Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI. Conductor: Roberto Abbado; Production: La Fura dels Baus; Stage director and set designer: Carlus Padrissa; Costumes and video: Lita Gabellut; Lights: Fabio Rossi. Adriatic Arena, Pesaro, August 16, 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):