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

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?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Matthias Goerne and Michelle deYoung in LPO's Das Rheingold c. Simon Jay Price.
29 Jan 2018

LPO: Das Rheingold

It is, of course, quite an achievement in itself for a symphony orchestra to perform Das Rheingold or indeed any of the Ring dramas. It does not happen very often, not nearly so often as it should; for given Wagner’s crucial musico-historical position, this is music that should stand at the very centre of their repertoires – just as Beethoven should at the centre of opera orchestras’.

LPO: Das Rheingold

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Matthias Goerne and Michelle deYoung

Photos © Simon Jay Price

 

One can envy the practice of many German orchestras, which play for both opera house and symphony hall, but envy does not necessarily take us very far. (Actually, as Alberich will show us, it does, but perhaps not in the best direction.) In a closer-to-ideal world, admitted Vladimir Jurowski in the programme, there would have been a theatrical production, but the Ring ‘would be the end of Glyndebourne as a venue – it would simply fall apart if we tried to squeeze the orchestra into the pit!’ Why an achievement to perform it, though? Because Wagner’s dramas offer a standing rebuke to neoliberalism. It is not that there is any lack of ‘demand’; look how performances, especially in Wagner-starved Britain, will often sell out within a few minutes. But however great the demand, they will not ‘pay for themselves’. They are a communal undertaking, explicitly intended and functioning as heirs, political, social, religious, and dramatic – the distinctions make no sense – to the Attic tragedy of Aeschylus and Sophocles. (For more on that, please click here .)

Robert Hayward as Alberich with Lucie Špičková, Rowan Hellier and Sofia Fomina.pngRobert Hayward as Alberich with Lucie Špičková, Rowan Hellier and Sofia Fomina

Moreover, for the London Philharmonic Orchestra to give such an outstanding orchestral performance, in what must be the first time many of its players will have performed the score, is again cause for thanks and rejoicing. The LPO strings could hardly have proved more protean, the variegation of their tone a challenge to many an opera orchestra, that variegation surely born in part of Jurowski’s strenuous demands. Detail was present and vivid to what sometimes seemed a well-nigh incredible decree. For instance, the brass spluttering as Alberich floundered in the Rhine, for instance, looked forward suggestively to Strauss’s critics in Ein Heldenleben . If the anvils did not sound as they might in one’s head, when do they ever? That was no fault of the excellent nine players on three sides of the stage. The Prelude sounded – and, given the pipes behind the stage – unusually organ-like: not just the timbres, but also the insistence on the E-flat pedal, quite beyond any I can recall previously having heard. Such was the revealing side of Jurowski’s tight leash and rhythmic (harmonic rhythm included) exactitude, Bruckner coming strongly to mind.

And yet, as so often, Jurowski himself proved too unyielding, almost Toscanini-like, if on a lower voltage. His again was quite an achievement, given that this was the first time he had conducted the score. There is no reason to think that subsequent performances will not reap rewards. By the same token, however, it would be idle to think that this compared to a Daniel Barenboim or a Bernard Haitink, although it certainly knocked spots off the incoherent incompetence Wagner generally suffers under Haitink’s successor at Covent Garden . To Londoners who hear little or nothing else, this would rightly be a cause for rejoicing. Moreover, the sometimes almost caricatured formalism of Jurowski’s approach – I wondered at times whether he had been reading Alfred Lorenz! – was not without its rewards. Was structure, however, too clarified, even simplified? For every revealing instance of opposition between different varieties of thematic material – Fricka’s disruptive, recitative-like ‘Wotan, Gemahl’, for instance, amidst Wotan’s orchestral dreaming of Valhalla – there were at least two passages that were distinctly subdued, almost as if concerned that the orchestra would threaten audibility of the singers. (It never did, by the way.) It was wonderful to hear so much harp detail as the gods crossed the rainbow bridge, and there is certainly good, Feuerbachian dramatic reason to emphasis the unreal beauty of the fortress and the path thereto. It need not, though, and surely should not come at the expense of its sacerdotal power. Novelistic, almost domesticated narrative sometimes threatened, in a dialectical turn, the integrity of musico-dramatic form. Yes, this is epic, yet it is anything but undisciplined. Das Rheingold, however, is a very difficult work to bring off: in some ways more so than the subsequent Ring dramas. Even Barenboim has sometimes erred a little too much towards Neue Sachlichkeit here. That there was a good deal to engage with critically, however, the foregoing merely illustrative, suggests that Jurowski’s Wagner is and will continue to be something to take seriously.

London Philharmonic Orchestra, cast and conductor, Vladimir Jurowski curtain call for Das Rheingold.pngLondon Philharmonic Orchestra, cast and conductor, Vladimir Jurowski curtain call

Vocally, as will almost always be the case, the bag was mixed. I could not resist the sense that, to a certain extent, at least Matthias Goerne’s Wotan was a little too much reliant on stock emotionally stunted sociopathy. Only towards the end, after the arrival of Anna Larsson’s typically excellent Erda, did he seem more truly ruminative. That is a crucial moment, of course, in his road towards Schopenhauerian conversion, but Wotan is never merely a figure of force. ‘Nicht durch Gewalt!’ is, after all, his injunction to Donner. Robert Hayward’s Alberich went awry a few too many times; at his best, however, he proved darkly impressive. The giant pair of Matthew Rose and Brindley Sherratt also duly impressed as Fasolt and Fafner, the lovelorn brother genuinely moving, the sheer malevolence of Fafner at and after his death chilling indeed. Vsevolod Grivnov and Adrian Thompson offered detailed, dramatically alert ‘character tenor’ portrayals of Loge and Mime respectively, Allan Clayton’s light, bright-toned Froh a proper contrast. Michelle DeYoung’s Fricka, often imperious, was sometimes a little on the wobbly side, but there was little harm done in that respect, nor in the not dissimilar case of Lyubov Petrova’s cleanly sung Freia. Above all, there was a fine, almost Mozartian sense of conversation in passages of much dramatic to-and-fro. If only there had been a little more conventional drama. There nevertheless remained much to admire – and far from only because it happened at all.

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Woglinde: Sofia Fomina; Wellgunde: Rowan Hellier; Flosshilde: Lucie Špicková; Freia: Lyubov Petrova; Fricka: Michelle DeYoung; Erda: Anna Larsson; Froh: Allan Clayton; Loge: Vsevolod Grivnov; Wotan: Matthias Goerne; Donner: Stephen Gadd; Fasolt: Matthew Rose; Fafner: Brindley Sherratt; Mime: Andrew Thompson; Alberich: Robert Hayward. Consultant: Ted Huffman; Deputy Stage Manager: Katie Thackeray; Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth. London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski. Royal Festival Hall, London, Saturday 27 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):