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

Irish soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

First staged production of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

Offenbach's Fantasio is one of the works where, replacing the mad-cap satire of his earlier operettas with a more romantic melancholy, he paved the way for Les contes d'Hoffmann. Unpopular during his lifetime, Fantasio disappeared and only work by the musicologist Jean-Christophe Keck brought the score together again.

Rusalka in San Francisco

It must be a dream. Though really it is a nightmare. The water sprite Rusalka tortures herself if she is telling the story, or tortures the man who has imagined her if he is telling the story. Either way the bizarrely construed confusion of Czech fairy tales has no easily apparent meaning or message.

Orlando in San Francisco

George Frederic Handel was both victim and survivor of the San Francisco Opera’s Orlando seen last night on the War Memorial stage.

Anthony Negus conducts Das Rheingold at Longborough

There are those in England who decorate their front lawns with ever-smiling garden gnomes, but in rural Gloucestershire the Graham family has gone one better; their converted barn is inhabited, not by diminutive porcelain figures, but fantasy creatures of Norse mythology - dwarves, giants and gods.

Carmen in San Francisco

A razzle-dazzle, bloodless Carmen at the War Memorial, further revival of Francesca Zambello’s 2006 Covent Garden production already franchised to Oslo, Sidney and Washington, D.C.

Weimar Berlin - Bittersweet Metropolis: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra

Strictly speaking, The Weimar Republic began on 11th August 1919 when the Weimar Constitution was announced and ended with the Enabling Act of 23rd March 1933 when all power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag was disbanded.

A superb Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park

Investec Opera Holland Park’s brilliantly cast new production of Un ballo in maschera reunites several of the creative team from last year’s terrific La traviata, with director Rodula Gaitanou, conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren and lighting designer Simon Corder being joined by the designer, takis.

A Classy Figaro at The Grange Festival

Where better than The Grange’s magnificent grounds to present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Hampshire’s neo-classical mansion, with its aristocratic connections and home to The Grange Festival, is the perfect setting to explore 18th century class structures as outlined in Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto.

A satisfying Don Carlo opens Grange Park Opera 2019

Grange Park Opera opened its 2019 season with a revival of Jo Davies fine production of Verdi's Don Carlo, one of the last (and finest) productions in the company's old home in Hampshire.

Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, 2019

The first woman composer to receive the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize could not have been a worthier candidate.

Josquin des Prez and His Legacy: Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall

The renown and repute of Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1521) both during his lifetime and in the years following his death was so extensive and profound that many works by his contemporaries, working in Northern France and the Low Countries, were mis-attributed to him. One such was the six-part Requiem by Jean Richafort (c.1480-c.1550) which formed the heart of this poised concert by the vocal ensemble Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall, in which they gave pride of place to Josquin’s peers and successors and, in the final item, an esteemed forbear.

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio United – F X Roth and Les Siècles, Paris

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio together, as they should be, with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles livestreamed from the Philharmonie de Paris (link below). Though Symphonie fantastique is heard everywhere, all the time, it makes a difference when paired with Lélio because this restores Berlioz’s original context.

Ivo van Hove's The Diary of One Who Disappeared at the Linbury Theatre

In 1917 Leoš Janáček travelled to Luhačovice, a spa town in the Zlín Region of Moravia, and it was here that he met for the first time Kamila Stösslová, the young married woman, almost 40 years his junior, who was to be his muse for the remaining years of his life.

Manon Lescaut opens Investec Opera Holland Park's 2019 season

At this end of this performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Investec Opera Holland Park, the first question I wanted to ask director Karolina Sofulak was, why the 1960s?

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Cosmic traveling through his Klavierstücke, Kontakte and Stimmung

Stockhausen. Cosmic Prophet. Two sequential concerts. Music written for piano, percussion, sound diffusion and the voice. We are in the mysterious labyrinth of one of the defining composers of the last century. That at least ninety-minutes of one of these concerts proved to be an event of such magnitude is as much down to the astonishing music Stockhausen composed as it is to the peerless brilliance of the pianist who took us on the journey through the Klavierstücke. Put another way, in more than thirty years of hearing some of the greatest artists for this instrument - Pollini, Sokolov, Zimerman, Richter - this was a feat that has almost no parallels.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Orfeo ed Euridice</em>, Longborough Festival Opera Young Artists
06 Aug 2017

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

Orfeo ed Euridice, Longborough Festival Opera Young Artists

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Hanna-Liisa Kirchin (Orfeo)

Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis

 

And, the practice of following performances at Longborough with a trip to London (and in 2015 to Hastings too) has become instituted, to give the young singers the opportunity to gain greater visibility and experience in how to adapt to different performance venues.

At the 450-seater Greenwood Theatre near London Bridge - built and owned by the Charitable Foundation of Guy’s Hospital following donations from Sir James Mantle Greenwood in 1975, and now leased by King’s College London for lectures, student productions and external clients - to which LFO’s production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice travelled this year, such adaptability was necessary. The absence of a pit to accommodate a fairly large orchestra, meant that obstructed sight-lines put the first few rows of seats out-of-action; in addition, and more importantly, the size of the venue seemed to require greater reduction in orchestra forces than was undertaken (some instrumentalists exited after the overture).

Then, though I cannot be sure as I did not attend the preceding performances in Longborough, the stage dimensions seemed to impose some restrictions on the performers’ movement and interactions - quite crucially so in an opera whose well-known narrative is not particularly ‘busy’ but which balances Classical restraint with genuine, intense human passion. Moreover, this particular production foregrounded Gluck’s formal innovations - specifically, the integration of music and dance - which underpin the composer’s ‘revolutionary’ approach to the seria genre: thus, fluidity of movement as the chorus/dancers interacted with the protagonists was crucial.

Designer Richard Studer sought, he says, a design which represented a portal between ‘states in flux’: life and death, heaven and earth, ascent and descent. A circle within a granite square - a void that represents both ‘entombment and release’ - was dramatized by taut lyre-string ribbons stretching up and outwards, reminiscent of the inherent classicism of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture, aspiring to abstract beauty.

The stark, or in Gluck’s words, ‘beautiful simplicity’ of director Maria Jagusz’s concept was undoubtedly both apposite and economically prudent. The transitional portal, raised on two right-angled staircases, foregrounded the minimal props: a Grecian funerary urn and Orfeo’s lyre, the strings of which became voluminous ribbons whose undulating waves wafted an intangible music. Dan Saggars’ lighting was generally effective, although the prevailing gloom made little distinction between the Stygian darkness and the wonderful illumination of the Elysian Fields.

Dancers LFO.jpg Hanna-Liisa Kirchin (Orfeo) and Chorus/Dancers. Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis.

One of the disarming novelties of Gluck’s opera, first seen in Vienna in 1762, was that it broke down musical divisions, integrating recitatives, arias, choruses and dances in organic scenic episodes to create true music drama. Jagusz stays true to this ideal, her twelve-strong chorus adopting a movement vocabulary of archaic ritualism. However, while the principals are associated with Greco-Roman emblems - ‘For Orfeo, his golden lyre; for Amore, the bow; and for Euridice a headdress of golden leaves symbolising her position as oak nymph and daughter of Apollo, as told in the Greek rendering of the tale’ - the chorus’s costumes and narrative sign-language are decidedly Bollywood in derivation.

Moreover, these choric gestures were not only sometimes sloppily executed but also seemed to distract the singers from their primary responsibility - that is, singing. Some of the entries were scruffy and their responses to Orfeo’s desperate questions - ‘Where is Euridice?’ - were somewhat hesitant, lacking conviction: less, ‘Euridice is coming!’ and more ‘She’s on the way, perhaps …’

Conductor Jeremy Silver has impressed me in the past, but if he has an instinct for Donizetti then melodrama of the Gluckian kind eluded him on this occasion. There was little grace or serenity about the orchestral playing and if things did improve after the interval that was largely because the woodwinds and horns are less frequently deployed in the latter scenes and the intonation improved markedly. That said, there was some fine harpsichord playing by Julian Perkins and the strings did settle as the performance proceeded.

Jordan Scrase, Emily Smith.jpg Jordan Scrase and Emily Smith (Blessed Spirits). Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis.

As the mythic quester, Hanna-Liisa Kirchin displayed a mezzo which is not huge but which is sweet-toned and expressive. Interestingly, my guest remarked that at first he was uncertain whether Orfeo was being sung by a countertenor or a mezzo, for Kirchin’s voice does have an unusual colour - one which was most effective in a role initially taken by the castrato Gaetano Guadagni, modified by Gluck for haute-contre tenor when the opera was seen in Paris, and which has since been sung by every voice type from soprano to baritone (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded the role for Deutsche Grammophon in 1982). Kirchin worked hard in ‘Che farò senza Euridice’: her voicing of loss was dignified and imbued with wrenching pain, although sometimes at the expense of seamless, expansive phrasing.

Nazan Fikret (Euridice) - LFO Orfeo ed Euridice 2017 cr Matthew Williams-Ellis (33).jpg Nazan Fikret (Euridice). Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis.

If the ritual formality of the production limited the opportunities for interaction, then Kirchin’s duet with Nazan Fikret’s Euridice was a highlight. Fikret’s soprano may not have captured all of Euridice’s graciousness but her voice has a brilliance which was vivifying. More touching still, though, was the Hamlet-like dance-mime during the ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ by Jordan Scrase and Emily Smith, which relived the opera’s narrative of tragic loss and restoration.

Amore cr Matthew Williams-Ellis (7).jpgHe Wu (Amore). Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis.

As a crimson-suited Amore, soprano He Wu brought brightness to the drama, visually and vocally, though occasionally she exhibited a slight tremor in the voice. Diminutive of stature, Amore was easily hoisted onto the shoulders of Jack Holton’s statuesque Spirit, Wu’s golden wings unnecessary.

Jagusz’s production certainly confirmed the artistic power of economy, and the young singers acquitted themselves well.

Claire Seymour

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

Orfeo - Hanna-Liisa Kirchin, Euridice - Nazan Fikrit, Amore - He Wu, Charon/Spirit - Jack Holton, Blessed Spirits - Jordan Scrase and Emily Smith, Director - Maria Jagusz, Conductor - Jeremy Silver, Designer - Richard Studer, Lighting Designer - Dan Saggars, Assistant Director - Ralf Higgins, Choreographer - Mark Smith, Orchestra and Chorus of Longborough Young Artists (Shepherds, Nymphs, Furies, Demons of the Underworld, Heroes and Heroines of Elysium, Companions of Orfeo),

Greenwood Theatre, King’s College London; 4th 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):