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

Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger commemorated at the Proms

Two French commemorations - ‘anniversaries’ always seems the wrong word - and surely is - here: the centenary of the deaths of Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger.

Pique Dame in Salzburg

It was emeritus night at the Salzburg Festival with 75 year old maestro Mariss Jansons conducting 77 year old stage director Hans Neuenfels production about Pushkin’s 87 year old countess known as the Pique Dame.

Lohengrin at Bayreuth

Three electrifying moments and the world is forever changed.

Salome in Salzburg

A Romeo Castellucci production is always news, it is even bigger news just now in Salzburg where Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has made her debut as the fifteen year-old Salome.

Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem - BBC Prom 41

Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Edward Gardner conducting the BBCSO in Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem, Elgar's Cello Concerto (Jean-Guihen Queyras) and Lili Boulanger . Extremely perceptive performances that revealed deep insight, far more profound than the ostensible "1918" theme

Lisbon under ashes - rediscovered Portuguese Baroque

In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed, first by a massive earthquake, then by a tsunami pouring in from the Atlantic, then by fire and civil unrest. The scale of the disaster is almost unimaginable today. The centre of the Portuguese Empire, with treasures from India, Africa, Brazil and beyond, was never to recover. The royal palaces, with their libraries and priceless collections, were annihilated.

John Wilson brings Broadway to South Kensington: West Side Story at the BBC Proms

There were two, equal ‘stars’ of this performance of the authorised concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall: ‘Lenny’ himself, whose vibrant score - by turns glossy and edgy - truly shone, and conductor John Wilson, who made it gleam, and who made us listen afresh and intently to every coloristic detail and toe-tapping, twisting rhythm.

Prom 36: Webern, Mahler, and Wagner

One of the joys of writing regularly – sometimes, just sometimes, I think too regularly – about performance has been the transformation, both conscious and unconscious, of my scholarship.

Prom 33: Thea Musgrave, Phoenix Rising, and Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, op.45

I am not sure I could find much of a connection between the two works on offer here. They offered ‘contrast’ of a sort, I suppose, yet not in a meaningful way such as I could discern.

Gianni Schicchi by Oberlin in Italy

It’s an all too rare pleasure to see Puccini’s only comedy as a stand alone opera. And more so when it is a careful production that uncovers the all too often overlooked musical and dramatic subtleties that abound in Puccini’s last opera.

Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton journey through the night at Cadogan Hall

The mood in the city is certainly soporific at the moment, as the blistering summer heat takes its toll and the thermometer shows no signs of falling. Fittingly, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton presented a recital of English song settings united by the poetic themes of night, sleep, dreams and nightmares, juxtaposing masterpieces of the early-twentieth-century alongside new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Australian composer Lisa Illean, and two ‘long-lost’ songs by Britten.

Vanessa: Keith Warner's Glyndebourne production exposes truths and tragedies

“His child! It must not be born!” Keith Warner’s new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival Opera makes two births, one intimated, the other aborted, the driving force of the tragedy which consumes two women, Vanessa and her niece Erika, rivals for the same young man, Anatol, son of Vanessa’s former lover.

Rollicking Rossini in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Opera welcomed home a winningly animated production of L’Italiana in Algeri this season that utterly delighted a vociferously responsive audience.

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Prom 26: Dido and Cleopatra – Queens of Fascination

In this, her Proms debut, Anna Prohaska offered something akin to a cantata of two queens, complementary and contrasted: Dido and Cleopatra. Returning in a sense to her ‘early music’ roots – her career has always been far richer, more varied, but that world has always played an important part – she collaborated with the Italian ‘period’ ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.

Parsifal: Munich Opera Festival

And so, this year’s Munich Opera Festival and this year’s Bavarian State Opera season came to a close with everyone’s favourite Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, in the final outing this time around for Pierre Audi’s new production.

Santa Fe: Atomic Doesn’t Quite Ignite

What more could we want than having Peter Sellars re-imagine his acclaimed staging of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the renowned Santa Fe Opera festival?

Santa Fe: Continuing a Proud Strauss Tradition

Santa Fe Opera has an enduring reputation for its Strauss, and this season’s enjoyable Ariadne auf Naxos surely made John Crosby smile proudly.

From the House of the Dead: Munich Opera Festival

Frank Castorf might have been born to direct From the House of the Dead. In this, his third opera project - or better, his third opera project in the opera house, for his Volksbühne Meistersinger must surely be reckoned with, even by those of us who did not see it - many of his hallmarks and those of his team are present, yet without the slightest hint of staleness, of anything other than being reborn for and in the work.

Haydn's Orlando Paladino in Munich

Should you not like eighteenth-century opera very much, if at all, and should you have no or little interest in Haydn either, this may have been the production for you. The fundamental premise of Axel Ranisch’s staging of Orlando Paladino seems to have been that this was a work of little fundamental merit, or at least a work in a genre of little such merit, and that it needed the help of a modern medium - perhaps, it might even be claimed, an equivalent medium - to speak to a contemporary audience.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

09 Feb 2018

La Walkyrie in Toulouse

The Nicolas Joel 1999 production of Die Walküre seen just now in Toulouse well upholds the Airbus city’s fame as Bayreuth-su-Garonne (the river that passes through this quite beautiful, rich city).

Die Walküre in Toulouse

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Anna Smirnova as Brünnhilde {this and following photo copyright David Herrero, third photo copyright Frederic Maligne, all photos courtesy of the Théâtre du Capitole.}

 

The Joel production, here revived by stage director Sandra Pocceschi (a Castellucci assistant), approached masterpiece status, exploiting the intimacies and the unique acoustic of the Théâtre du Capitole, enjoying the splendors of its excellent orchestra, and profiting from an essentially perfect cast.

It is a rare pleasure to address an isolated Walküre in this recent (10 or so years) avalanche of entire Rings worldwide. Die Walküre is the one of the Ring’s operas that easily stands alone as a human document without need to be absorbed into larger 19th century philosophical concepts.

The Joel staging, in collaboration with Giorgio Strehler’s designers Ezio Frigerio (scenery) and Franca Squarciapino (costumes) eschews concept (no California gold rush for example), instead it explores a theatrical language (style) to expound the multiple crises of Wotan, the deeply human feelings of Brunnhilde, the forbidden love of Sieglinde and Siegmund, and the outrage of Fricka and Hunding.

Walkure_Toulouse2.pngSieglinde and Siegmund

The language is of the utmost simplicity. The set is a changing montage of ever present imperial architectural elements in front of a huge steel superstructure, though there is the sword-bearing abstracted tree trunk in the beginning. Costuming is in rich garments of basically medieval cut in grays and blacks and pastel hues.

Wagner imagined his music drama with its orchestra as the primary voice. The Théâtre du Capitole’s pit is very present, both visually and acoustically, its forte’s and then triple forte’s roar without impeding clear projection of voice from the stage. The intimate comments of Wagner’s much used bass clarinet, oboe and bassoon are no less present in their isolated purity.

Wagner’s poem flowed from the stage, its words never obfuscated, only enriched by orchestral colors. Wagner’s actors were sculpturally placed for their extended monologues, their extended stylized postures (a head hung for example) illustrated the emotions flowing from the orchestra. Gestures were broad, and when they occurred they were quite pointed — like the gazes of recognition between Siegmund and Sieglinde, or Wotan’s slapping of balustrades in his frustration or anger.

The dancing of the flames that surrounded Brünnhilde then burst (one giant flash of real flame, then smoke and lights) into a magnificent force of conflagration that the father Wotan knew would protect his daughter. The Joel staging defined pure music drama, as the Théâtre du Capitole’s orchestra traced the evolution of emotions of human love that made this nearly 6 hour Die Walküre finally into a uniquely enjoyable Wagnerian experience.

Walkure_Toulouse3.pngWotan

And we leave the story at that.

Russian mezzo soprano Anna Smirnova made her dramatic soprano debut as this Brünnhilde. Her voice is of extraordinary power, and of a richness that amplified the surpassing humanity of Wotan’s favorite daughter. The youth of her voice was perfect for the innocence of the Walküre Brünnhilde (she is 35 years old), and her voice retained its youthful bloom to the last, intense moments of her final encounter with her father. Note that as a mezzo she will sing Eboli in L.A. Opera’s upcoming Don Carlo.

Polish bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny brought unusually sharp vocal edge to Wotan, a god in utmost agony — he dictated the death of his son, and faced the rebellion of his most loved daughter. Konieczny was an actor in Poland before he became a singer. His Wotan was of intense concentration, his troubled postures added force to his defeat by his wife Fricka, his berating of the Valkyries was wearied and sharply apprehensive. Note that he sings Wotan in the Vienna State Opera’s upcoming Ring.

Strauss specialist, 50 years-old German soprano Daniela Sindram made her role debut as Sieglinde. She possesses a purity of voice that added pathos to her adultery and incest and her impending maternity, and impeccable technique that revealed the anguish of her attachment to her brother and lover. Likewise in his role debut as Siegmund, German tenor Michael König exposed a purity of youthful helden tenor sound that made his remembrances of his earthly father vivid, and made his declaration to Brünnhilde of his love for Sieglinde persuasive.

Russian bass Dimitry Ivashchenko was a menacing, beautifully sung Hunding. German mezzo Elena Zhidkova made Fricka appropriately shrill and rigid. The Valkyries were a noisy lot, wandering around a Valhalla courtyard amidst the piles of fallen heroes in bloody underclothes that they unceremoniously (bizarrely) dragged around like dead meat.

This Die Walküre began and ended in the pit. German conductor Claus Peter Flor, long associated with Toulouse, oversaw this Wagnerian masterpiece with musical clarity and Wagnerian insight, magnifying its humanity in his precisely dramatic reading of the score. The Théâtre du Capitole orchestra responded with utmost concentration, swelling to magnificent climaxes, joyfully popping the flames in its overture and again at its finale.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Brünnhilde; Anna Smirnova; Siegmund: Michael König; Wotan: Tomasz Konieczny; Sieglinde: Daniela Sindram; Fricka: Elena Zhidkova; Hunding: Dimitry Ivashchenko; Gerhilde: Marie-Laure Garnier; Ortlinde: Oksana Sekerina; Waltraute: Pilar Vázquez; Schwertleite: Daryl Freedman; Helmwige: Sonja Mühleck: Siegrune: Szilvia Vörös; Grimgerde: Karin Lovelius; Rossweisse: Ekaterina Egorova. Orchestra of the Théâtre du Capitole. Conductor: Claus Peter Flor; Mise en scène: Nicolas Joel mise en scène (by Sandra Pocceschi); Scenery: Ezio Frigerio; Costumes: Franca Squarciapino; Lighting: Vinicio Cheli. Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, France, February 6, 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):