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 Performances

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.

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).

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.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

© Tuffer
21 Jan 2018

Jonathan Miller’s “Così” strikes gold again

When did “concept” become a dirty word? In the world of opera, the rot set in innocently, gradually.

Jonathan Miller’s “Così” strikes gold again

A review by Roger Downey

Images © Tuffer

 

Richard Wagner’s grandson Wieland is usually given credit for sowing the seeds of Regietheater “(director’s theater”) with his Bayreuth Parsifal of 1951.

Wieland’s experiment generated ferocious outrage from Wagner traditionalists. But when today we look at his designs and read reviews of his staging it all looks mercifully mild: an honest attempt at fulfilling grandpa’s dream of “total theater” (Gesamtkunstwerk) by implementing the pre-war scenic dreams of English visionary Gordon Craig.

But as the decades rolled on and fury turned first to respect and even reverence, younger directors drew a dangerous conclusion. An outraged audience became a touchstone of artistic seriousness. By the time Hans Neuenfels presented his audience a cleaning lady Aïda and mirrored the Frankfurt audience itself as jaded witnesses to the Triumphal March in 1981, the lesson had been learned: Skandal macht Karriere: outrage gets you attention—and jobs. By the turn of the century, when he forced his Salzburg Fiordiligi Karita Mattila to sing her big aria Come scoglio while wrangling two leather queens on leashes, critica response was downright indulgent: Oh ,those directors, what scamps they can be!

I am happy to report that no leather queens were harmed in Seattle Opera’s staging of the same opera: even happier to report that Jonathan Miller’s ageing production of Cosi fan tutte—first mounted at London’s Royal Opera more than three decades ago—is as fresh as daisy, lively as a puppy, and as to the point as a slap in the face.

Sir Jonathan’s enduring concept for Così, presented with equal success here just over 10 years ago ? The same which has guided his long list of constantly revived, consistently successful productions: Ignore surfaces; take emotions seriously, even the most superficial and silly; above all, take seriously what the composer and librettist are saying with every word and note. When this production fails to do so, when it plays just for laughs instead of truth of feeling—and it fails sadly often in the first act—you can feel the momentum slacken even as you laugh out loud.

Fortunately, there is one person on stage who never lets you off with just a laugh. Our Fiordiligi is Marina Costa-Jackson, who first stepped on the professional stage in 2015 in the traditional debut soprano role of Musetta. A year later she was “covering” the role for the Met; 2016 brought in quick succession Violetta, (Cologne), Micaëla (Paris), and Adalgisa (Dallas)—an incredibly steep ascent.

07_gallery_cosi-2017.png

With the formidable Fiordiligi she takes on a role all but made for her vocally. The low As and high B flats that the composer put in to tease the freakish range of the lady who first essayed the role are not totally up to par, but they will become more secure with time. More important is that, three years out of the conservatory, Ms. Costa-Jackson captures Fiordiligi’s soul.

The name means “lily-flower”, and she convinces you the woman who bears it really longs for purity, chastity, fidelity. She’s not a tragic character: she’s too pampered, weak, human for that. But her discovery of her own frailty is enough to give the whole wind-up plot of Cosi a depth of feeling it wouid not otherwise have. She even succeeds in one of the risky gags that punctuate act one: a mid-aria false exit that rouses a hearty laugh only enriches her character more.

Her colleagues on stage all have far less onerous dramatic tasks to play, and acquit themselves with honor. Costa-Jackson’s sister Ginger is a delicious Dorabella, as quintessential and lovable an airhead as Alicia’s Silverstone’s immortally Clueless Cher. Kevin Burdett’s scheming Don Alfonso brings an agreeable whiff of brimstone to the role, reminiscent of the genial Ray Walston’s Mr. Applegate in the musical Damn Yankees. Finnish tenor Tuomas Katajala’s Ferrando is the perfect hangdog “hero’s friend,” while Guglielmo, the hero himself (in his own mind at least) is played to self-satisfied perfection by “bari-hunk” Craig Verm, who must find it relaxing for once to be allowed to remain fully-dressed for the entire length of a perfomance.

Click here for audio playlist.

Laura Tatulescu plays Don Alfonso’s paid co-conspirator as an agreeably bitter little pill. I wish Harry Fehr and Cythia Savage (re-mounter and costume designer respectively) could have been a little more consistently contemporary about her costuming in the disguise scenes; they’re sadly old-fashioned-stagey and unfunny.

Did I mention all these people can sing? And, saints preserve us, act? Without their eyes constantly seeking the conductor’s baton like dogs waiting for a stick to be thrown? On the dangerous vast stage dictated by McCaw Hall’s layout, this is a near miracle of ensemble in itself.

But such miracles don’t happen without a master hand in the pit, and after a few disquieting moments during the overture Paul Daniels takes utter self-effacing charge of affairs, with wonderfully judged tempi and subtle moment-by-moment balance between orchestra and stage. To see, again and again, an auditorium full of heads nodding happily as they recognize the rueful truth of the unfolding tale, is to wish you could somehow say: “That’s right: trust your instincts: If it feels that good, it must be that good. Never mind “concepts”, contemporary, topical. timely or not. Only truth and artistry conjoined feel like this. Accept no substitutes.

Through January 27th

Roger Downey


Cast and production information:

Marina Costa-Jackson (Fiordiligi), Ginger Costa-Jackson (Dorabella), Tuomas Katajala (Ferrando), Craig Verm (Guglielmo), Kevin Burdette (Don Alfonso), Laura Tatulescu (Despina). Paul Daniel (conductor), Harry Fehr (director), Sir Jonathan Miller (original stage directorand designer), Neil Peter Jampolis (lighting), Cynthis Savage (costumes), Jonathan Dean (English surtitles). Orchestra and Chorus of the Seattle Opera. Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Seattle January 14th, 2018

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):