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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Tosca</em>, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
16 Jan 2018

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).

Tosca, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

A review by Marc Bridle

Above:Gerald Finley (Baron Scarpia)

Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

 

Century old power struggles between artists and lovers and authoritarian rulers may be set in Jonathan Kent’s 1800, but the austerity of food riots, street-brawls that end in bloody knifings, mass imprisonments, deportations and executions resonate century’s later in different times and different places.

The very static nature of the production seems to reiterate this inaction, just as Paul Brown’s designs distance almost everyone except the main actors from everyone else. In Act One, for example, the celebrants of the Te Deum are not just nearer God, in the sense they are above everyone else, they are also behind gilded bars. This is religion as an exclusive and very pious celebration. When we come to Act Two, and Scarpia’s opulent quarters, deliberately angled to magnify their size, and a statue that recalls the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, a bookcase masks a door that leads downwards towards torture chambers. The idea we are moving from heaven towards hell couldn’t be more transparent.

It’s arguable this Tosca is just too darkly lit at times. It feels oppressive. The tenebrous shroud that sits like decades of peat and dust is undeniably impressive at times, especially when it highlights shadows. Scarpia descending the staircase before the Te Deum in Act one is one such example - giving a fleeting glimpse of a 1930s black and white swashbuckler movie. There are hints of sepia and chrome. But in Act Two, especially at the very opening of it, it can make both Floria and Scarpia almost invisible as if they have become absorbed into the scenery like part of a Roman frieze. One doesn’t really notice the candlelight gradually becoming extinguished as Act Two reaches its glorious conclusion - and by the time Floria places two candles besides Scarpia’s lifeless body there isn’t enough light to really emphasise the curdling red of his murder. It’s all rather pallid.

ADRIANNE PIECZONKA AS FLORIA TOSCA (C) ROH. PHOTO BY CATHERINE ASHMORE.jpg Adrianne Pieczonka (Floria Tosca). Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

If the staging and production itself of this Tosca are memorable, the casting of it has some acute problems. Adrianne Pieczonka is absolutely mesmerising in the title role. Here we have a soprano who has the lyrical qualities of someone like Mirella Freni at her very best, but with the dramatic heft to make the voice ride effortlessly over the orchestra, which Freni couldn’t always do live. The power and ease with which Ms Pieczonka was able to sustain her high register without the trace of a wobble was always notable, though I found her Act Two strangely underwhelming. A tendency to clip her higher notes at the point rather than ride them generally made some of her singing in Act Two seem rushed, which was unfortunate, notably in her extended duets with Scarpia. This became all the more obvious when she gave such a glorious performance of “Vissi d’arte’. The tenor, Joseph Calleja, as Cavaradossi, also struggled at times. His voice sounded small and often opaque. Having said that, he is unquestionably a masterful interpreter of what he actually sings and no singer on the evening came closer to getting as musically close to what Puccini demanded of his singer. One particular line just leaps out from the entire evening - “le belle forme disciogliea dai veli!”… the final pianissimo was one of the most breath-taking I have heard any tenor sing live in an opera house. Most disappointing of all was Gerald Finley’s Baron Scarpia. Here we have a singer who looks the part, but that is as far as it goes. With his barely concealed malevolence, he cuts a dashing figure, but the voice is hugely underpowered for the role. Aled Hall, as Spoletta, and Simon Shibambu as Angelotti, were both fine.

The Israeli conductor, Dan Ettinger, was rarely inspired in a score that is dripping with inspiration. Although the playing by the orchestra was perfectly fine, nor was it lush enough to capture the opulence that breathes from every pore of this opera. There was some very notable horn playing, though largely this rather felt like the ninth revival for much of the orchestra as well. This is a Tosca that looks impressive, but feels like it needs a reboot.

From 18th January until 3rd March 2018. Performance 7th February relayed in cinemas live around the world.

Marc Bridle

Puccini: Tosca

Adrianne Pieczonka (Tosca), Joseph Caleja (Cavaradossi), Gerald Fiinley (Baron Scarpia), Aled Hall (Spoletto), Simon Shibambu (Angelotti), Jeremy White (Sacristan) Jihoon Kim (Sciarrone). Dan Ettinger (conductor), Jonathan Kent (director), Paul Brown (designer), Mark Henderson (lighting), Orchestra and Chorus of Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; 15th January 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):