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

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

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As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Die Zauberflöte</em> at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
24 Sep 2017

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: The closing scene.

Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton

 

As we journey from the dungeon-esque darkness of the Queen’s nocturnal demesne towards the gleaming sun-disc which bathes the final chorus in the luminosity of enlightenment, a Dantesque night is truly turned into day.

However, in 2013 , I found the performance, while elegant and slickly choreographed, ‘disappointingly lacklustre’ and missing the sparkle of ‘simple youthful vitality and dreamy enchantment’. Reflecting again, perhaps some of my disenchantment derived from a perceived imbalance, on that occasion, between allegory and artifice.

For, while some lines of the opera’s libretto are based on sources used by the Freemasons, whose symbolism scholars have sometimes purloined in order to argue that a hidden masonic allegory underpins the opera’s quests and initiation rituals, in fact many of the magical and ‘marvellous’ episodes derive from earlier operas, pantomimes and comic plays that would have been well known to the audiences at Schikaneder’s the Theater auf der Wieden, and I am of the view that any elements of ‘freemasonry’ that are present are far less important than those of fairy-tale.

Tamino and serpent.jpg Mauro Peter (Tamino). Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton.

During this performance, however, as the giant segments of the serpent wiggled and waggled, expertly manipulated by the puppeteers, and the marble columns of hallowed halls slid imperiously into dignified place as the orrery spun in heliocentric harmony, it was the opera’s human concerns that seemed more compelling than any abstruse philosophising.

And, for this more harmonious union of folky comedy and high seriousness, we have Roderick Williams’ effortlessly warm-voiced Papageno to thank. Williams is a seasoned bird-catcher having taken the role in several productions, including Nicholas Hytner’s ENO long-lived production and Tim Supple’s ‘grungy’ Flute at Opera North. But, even so, this Papageno has some way to go before his earns his stripes as master of the aviary. Outwitted by a puppet goose - I remember, too, an ‘incident’ with some recalcitrant real-life doves at ENO! - he eventually learns his own tricks, making the Priest’s feet (Harry Nicolls) dance to Papageno’s tune in ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’. Williams evinces an easy physicality which never drifts into farce and heaps of appealing guilelessness: who would not be touched by fellow-feeling when this Papageno humbly voices his simple desire for love and happiness? His cheek and charm certainly earn the bird-catcher his perky Papagena-in-pink, though one suspects that he will have trouble preventing Christina Gansch’s sassy slapper from fluttering her feathers from time to time.

Papageno and Tamino.jpg Roderick Williams (Papageno) and Mauro Peter (Tamino). Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton.

Williams’ expert comic timing was matched by that of Peter Bronder’s Monostatos. There was a ‘nasty’ edgy to this villain’s lasciviousness which, together with the masked beasts and vultures, suggested a darker vein in the pantomime.

Several of the cast are making their Covent Garden debuts and this was a significant incentive to see this revival. In particular, I was very keen to hear French soprano Sabine Devieilhe scale the Queen of the Night’s stratospheric peaks, having greatly admired her performance as Bellezza in Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016. And, she didn’t disappoint: ‘O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn’ was absolutely secure and clean-toned, but ‘Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen’ simply took my breath away. I’m not sure how such a glacial tone can intimate ‘warmth’ or fullness, but somehow Devieilhe managed not just to hit the top Fs but to shape and soften them.

Sabine Deviele QofN.jpg Sabine Devieilhe (Queen of the Night). Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton.

I’d previously been impressed too when I heard Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg sing in Keith Warner’s ROH production of Luigi Rossi's Orpheus at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2015, noting that she combined ‘a ravishing tone with pinpoint accuracy.’ The purity and richness of Stagg’s tone were put to good effect in her interpretation of Pamina’s gentle innocence, for she infused the lovely sound with a firm glint which suggested that beneath Pamina’s naivety lie integrity and resilience. ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ was unsentimental but deeply communicative, though I wondered whether Stagg would have liked conductor Julia Jones to have taken her foot of the pedal slightly - the aria followed rather precipitously from the preceding aria although Stagg’s poise steadied the ship.

Williams and Stagg.jpg Roderick Williams (Papageno) with Siobhan Stagg (Pamina). Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton.

Mauro Peter’s Tamino might have had a little more ruggedness, but the Swiss singer has a lyric tenor of great beauty and the polished artistry of his phrasing and his careful diction certainly made his ‘princely’ mien convincing: ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön’ was tenderly love-struck. I found that Finnish bass Mika Kares lacked the sonorous weight needed to convey Sarastro’s authoritative sobriety - though I note that those who saw earlier performances in the run disagreed.

The three boys - James Fernandes, Oliver Simpson and Jayden Tejuoso - struck just the right balance between real boyish charm and pure otherworldliness. Their three voices blended beautifully to form a single gleaming thread of innocence and light; if one shut one’s eyes, one really could believe that they had descended from celestial realms. But, their interventions, preventing tragedy, were genuinely human. The three Ladies were less consistent, Rebecca Evans, Angela Simkin (a Jette Parker Young Artist) and Susan Platts coming adrift at times in terms of timbre and temperament, and, occasionally, tuning.

Jones’ tempos were swift. As in 2013, I wished for a more spacious composure at times for the opera presents both fury and sobriety, but I enjoyed the ROH Orchestra’s sure sense of period style.

Revival directors Thomas Guthrie and Angelo Smimmo (movement) have made a good job of polishing the ROH’s silverware and McVicar’s production continues to shine. At the closing curtain, Macpherson’s sun-disc seemed a perfect metaphor for Mozart’s opera: radiant and eternal.

The Magic Flute runs in repertory at the Royal Opera House until 14 October.

Claire Seymour

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Tamino - Mauro Peter; First Lady - Rebecca Evans; Second Lady - Angela Simkin; Third Lady - Susan Platts; Papageno - Roderick Williams; Queen of the Night - Sabine Devieilhe; Pamina - Siobhan Stagg; Monostatos - Peter Bronder; First Boy - James Fernandes; Second Boy - Oliver Simpson; Third Boy - Jayden Tejuoso; Speaker of the Temple - Darren Jeffery; Sarastro - Mika Kares; First Priest - Harry Nicoll; Second Priest - Donald Maxwell; Pagagena - Christina Gansch; First Man in Armour - Thomas Atkins; Second Man in Armour - Sion Shibambu; Director - David McVicar, Conductor - Julia Jones; Revival Director - Thomas Guthrie, Designer - John Macfarlane; Lighting Designer - Paule Constable, Movement Director - Leah Hausman, Revival Movement Director - Angelo Smimmo, Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director, William Spaulding), Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Wednesday 20th September 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):