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

The Schumanns at home: Temple Song 2018

Following their marriage, on 12th September 1840, Robert and Clara Schumann made their home in a first-floor apartment on the piano nobile of a classical-style residence now known as the Schumann House, on Inselstraße, just a short walk from the centre of Leipzig.

Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at the Barbican

Two great operas come from the year 1911 - Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Bela Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Both are masterpieces, but they are very different kinds of operas and experienced quite asymmetric performance histories.

Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House

Now on its ninth revival, Jonathan Kent’s classic Tosca for Covent Garden is a study in art, beauty and passion but also darkness, power and empire. Part of the production’s lasting greatness, and contemporary value, is that it looks inwards towards the malignancy of a great empire (in this case a Napoleonic one), whilst looking outward towards a city-nation in terminal decline (Rome).

ROH Announces 2018 Jette Parker Young Artists

The Royal Opera House has announced the five singers who will join the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in September, selected from more than 440 applicants from 59 countries.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with the Stuttgart one: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

ROH Return to the Roundhouse

Opera transcends time and place. An anonymous letter, printed with the libretto of Monteverdi’s Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia and written two years before his death, assures the reader that Monteverdi’s music will continue to affect and entrance future generations:

London Schools Symphony Orchestra celebrates Bernstein and Holst anniversaries

One recent survey suggested that in 1981, the average age of a classical concertgoer was 36, whereas now it is 60-plus. So, how pleasing it was to see the Barbican Centre foyers, cafes and the Hall itself crowded with young people, as members of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra prepared to perform with soprano Louise Alder and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, in a well-balanced programme that culminated with an ‘anniversary’ performance of Holst’s The Planets.

Salome at the Royal Opera House

In De Profundis, his long epistle to ‘Dear Bosie’, Oscar Wilde speaks literally ‘from the depths’, incarcerated in his prison cell in Reading Gaol. As he challenges the young lover who has betrayed him and excoriates Society for its wrong and unjust laws, Wilde also subjects his own aesthetic ethos to some hard questioning, re-evaluating a life lived in avowal of the amorality of luxury and beauty.

In the Beginning ... Time Unwrapped at Kings Place

Epic, innovative and bold, Haydn’s The Creation epitomises the grandeur and spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its recent production of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled an ideal cast of performers who blend well into an imaginative and colorful production.

New Cinderella SRO in San Jose

Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella is most remarkable for one reason and one reason alone: It was composed by a 12-year old girl.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

La Cenerentola in Lyon

Like Stendhal when he first saw Rossini’s Cenerentola in Trieste in 1823, I was left stone cold by Rossini’s Cendrillon last night in Lyon. Stendhal complained that in Trieste nothing had been left to the imagination. As well, in Lyon nothing, absolutely nothing was left to the imagination.

Messiah, who?: The Academy of Ancient Music bring old and new voices together

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Messiah. And, at the Barbican Hall, the Academy of Ancient Music reminded us why … while never letting us settle into complacency.

The Golden Cockerel Bedazzles in Amsterdam

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy tale The Golden Cockerel was this holiday season’s ZaterdagMatinee operatic treat at the Concertgebouw. There was real magic to this concert performance, chiefly thanks to Vasily Petrenko’s dazzling conducting and the enchanting soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, London - Rattle, O'Neill, Gerhaher

By pairing Mahler Das Lied von der Erde (Simon O'Neill, Christian Gerhaher) with Strauss Metamorphosen, Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra were making a truly powerful statement. The Barbican performance last night was no ordinary concert. This performance was extraordinary because it carried a message.

David McVicar's Rigoletto returns to the ROH

This was a rather disconcerting performance of David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto. Not only because of the portentous murkiness with which Paule Constable’s lighting shrouds designer Michael Vale’s ramshackle scaffolding; nor, the fact that stage and pit frequently seemed to be tugging in different directions. But also, because some of the cast seemed rather out of sorts.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Cavalleria Rusticana</em> and <em>Pagliacci</em> at Covent Garden
08 Dec 2017

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at Covent Garden

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Elīna Garanča (Santuzza/left) and ROH Chorus

Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

 

But, in the event, this performance of Damiano Michieletto’s production of the verismo duo was so compelling that the December chill and Christmas sparkles of the Covent Garden piazza were utterly forgotten and for three hours we were in a village in south Italy, with its family bakery, shabby school hall, kitsch Easter parade, black-veiled mamas and flower-strewn madonnas.

In 2015 , I found the incessantly revolving set distracting and some of Michieletto’s gestures mannered; but, this time round (the first revival) I was absolutely persuaded. How to explain my change of heart? Perhaps it was that revival director Rodula Gaitanou seemed to have found a way to balance stylisation and naturalism in such a way that the movement of cast and chorus around the revolve, and the interweaving of motifs across the two operas, felt genuine and ‘real’. Just as, under the baton of conductor Daniel Oren, the ROH orchestra gave us an introductory tour of the emotional trajectory of Cavalleria, so the revolving set seemed to take us on a stroll through the town, and not just into its homes and houses but into the hearts and minds of its inhabitants.

Inside the Panificio bakery, with its sacks of flour stacked high beside the mechanical weighing scales, the trays of loaves sat waiting for the oven. The Catholic icon perched on a high shelf later found its way into the scuffed school hall where the performance of Pagliacci - advertised on the bakery wall - took place. The children scrabbling for panettone at the bakery window donned tinsel halos and papery wings to form an angelic Easter choir, and after the parade remained in costume to reappear on the cramped school stage in a choral prelude to Pagliacci. The ROH Chorus - as ever, in tremendous voice - wandered casually about the village, gathered in the square for a post-parade knees-up, assembled eagerly for the ensuing entertainment, all with complete naturalism.

There are some surreal and stylised moments too. When the devout villagers raise their candles and adjust their shrouds during the Easter hymn, the gaudy Madonna on the festive float seems to come to life, pointing an accusatory finger at the traumatised Santuzza. And, the meta-theatre of Pagliacci is emphasised not just by the interlocking jigsaw of Paolo Fantin’s set, which allows us to witness parallel action as fiction spills into fact, but also by Alessandro Carletti’s lighting contrasts which pit blinding strip lights against blackness, and a lurid green glow against a rosy-pink shimmer.

What really swept me to the Italian South, though, was the terrific singing of all involved. This was the first time that I have heard Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča and I was struck by the expressive weight of her voice, which burst forth with power and punch - as if the betrayed Santuzza’s distress and dishonour were just too devastating to be contained, literally overwhelming her and all around her too. Indeed, the rich layers and grand plushness of her mezzo seemed almost too majestic for the unlucky lass in a dowdy cardigan, but I guess that’s what Mascagni’s music is telling us: that human emotions have no bounds or boundaries.

I remained unbeguiled by Michieletto’s decision to begin Cavalleria at its end, presenting us with a play of maternal grief as Mamma Lucia bends over the bloody body of Turiddu - a child’s red scooter-bike leaning on the street-lamp adds a touch of sentimentality - and I again found Elena Zilio’s histrionic head-clutching, body-convulsing and hand-wringing to be hyperbolic. But, elsewhere Zilio was a strong presence, physically and vocally, in the production - a true matriarch in every sense.

Alfio - cast, Catherine Ashmore.jpgMark S. Doss (Alfio/centre) and ROH Chorus. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Mark S. Doss convincingly cast aside the relaxed confidence which Alfio displays when he rolls into town with a car boot full of fashionable wares - the tussle between two girls who fancy the same handbag is a neat touch - for dark-toned menace when he learns of Lola’s betrayal. Martina Belli returned to the latter role and her glossy mezzo-soprano gave the temptress real allure.

Nedda and Tonio.jpgCarmen Giannattasio (Nedda) and Simon Keenlyside (Tonio). Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Also reappearing in her 2015 role, Carmen Giannattasio was a persuasive Nedda in Pagliacci, encompassing a gamut from shining ardour to a silvery whisper in her duet with Polish baritone Andrzej Filończyk’s warm-hued Silvio, and acting superbly when ‘Columbine’ is dragged by the raging Canio from harmless play-acting to murderous reality.

Simon Keenlyside injected a terrible hostility into the Prologue of Pagliacci. Alone in Nedda’s claustrophobic, starkly-lit backstage dressing-room, as he invited us to enjoy the ensuing drama, Tonio seemed to sneer with contempt at our gullibility and casual ignorance as he reminded us that what we were about to see involved real people with real emotions. And, Keenlyside made sure that the rejected hunch-back’s latent menace was evident throughout, despite Tonio’s shabbiness and shuffling: think Rigoletto meets Iago.

Lucia and Turiddu.jpgElena Zilio (Mamma Lucia) and Bryan Hymel (Turridu). Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

It was American tenor Bryan Hymel, though, who stole the show. Cast as Turiddu, he also stepped into Canio’s shoes (family circumstances obliged the originally cast Fabio Sartori to withdraw from the first three performances), and proved equally compelling in both role debuts, holding nothing back despite the vocal, and expressive, demands. The confident, bright ring of his tenor was imbued with deeper, darker colours when Turridu was confronted by the vengeful Alfio, and in his farewell to Mamma Lucia, Hymel heartbreakingly conveyed the doomed Turridu’s honesty, self-knowledge and vulnerability. Canio’s account of the evening entertainment to come, at the start of Pagliacci, had a lyricism and power that hinted at terrifying tragic potential. And, indeed, Hymel continually ratcheted up the emotional thermometer until the mercury exploded in a blazing conclusion.

Tonio may have spoken the truth when he spat out his closing line, ‘La commedia è finita!’, but the impact of this double bill’s punch will surely be long-lasting.

Claire Seymour

Cavalleria Rusticana : Santuzza - Elīna Garanča, Turiddu - Bryan Hymel, Mamma Lucia - Elena Zilio, Alfio - Mark S. Doss, Lola - Martina Belli.

Pagliacci: Canio - Bryan Hymel, Tonio - Simon Keenlyside, Nedda - Carmen Giannattasio, Beppe - Luis Gomes, Silvio - Andrzej Filończyk, Two Villagers - Andrew O’Connor/Nigel Cliffe.

Director - Damiano Michieletto, Conductor - Daniel Oren, Set designs - Paolo Fantin, Costume designs - Carla Teti, Lighting design - Alessandro Carletti, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Royal Opera Chorus.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Wednesday 6th December 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):