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

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Franciso

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

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.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

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).

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>La traviata</em>, English National Opera
17 Mar 2018

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

La traviata, English National Opera

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Claudia Boyle and ENO Chorus

Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

 

English National Opera 's previous production, Peter Konwitschny's stripped down, anti-romantic and dystopic view very much failed the second requirement by not attracting wider audiences. So artistic director Daniel Kramer 's new production had quite a lot riding on it. Kramer's vision proved to be vividly eager to please, with over-the-top party scenes, but also an interesting take on Violetta's journey.

A co-production with Theater Basel where has already debuted, English National Opera premiered the new production of Verdi's La traviata on Friday 16 March 2018, Daniel Kramer directed and Leo McFall conducted, sets were by Lizzie Clachan and costumes by Esther Bialas , lighting by Charles Balfour and choreography by Teresa Rotemberg. Irish soprano Claudia Boyle sang Violetta with South African tenor Lukhanyo Moyake as Alfredo, making his UK debut. Veteran baritone Alan Opie sang Germont, a role he first sang in 1988 and marking his fiftieth year singing with the company!

Leo McFall conducted a lithe and shapely account of the prelude (with the curtain down), and then we launched into Act One. Kramer and his team set it in a sort of 1930s bordello, all mirrored walls and hyper-active staging, this party was desperate to please. Whilst the style was loosely 1930s, with plenty of Weimar Republic-style references in the staging, Violetta's costumes throughout were of a different era (more 1940s) rather setting her out from her contemporaries. For Act Two we moved to a plain, stripped down stage, just a swing, grass and a flower bed, but with Flora's party, we reverted to the style of Act One. During this latter party, mattresses were in evidence, and these re-occurred in the last Act, laid out regularly and evoking graves. At the front, Violetta was digging her own grave.

Traviata Cast Chorus.jpg ENO cast and chorus. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Kramer's production was far too inclined to tell us what to think, rather than allowing us to make our own decisions. The party scenes were desperately insistent, but more worrying was the emphasis on death. In Act Two scene one, the flow bed could be read as a grave and Violetta gathers flowers, Ophelia-like, and at one point hides herself beneath the turf. Then at Flora's party, the women's make-up seemed to evoke the Mexican day of the dead, and of course, in the last act, we had Violetta digging her own grave in the cemetery. One idea would be interesting, but all of them together became rather too much.

Soprano Claudia Boyle has formerly sung Leila in The Pearl Fishers and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance at ENO, and Violetta is a big leap but she has also been on the young artist programme at the Salzburg Festival. The staging in Act One was very unhelpful both to her and Lukhanyo Moyake's Alfredo, the chorus was visually and aurally too dominant so that Kramer seemed to be blurring the boundaries between solo and ensemble, but this meant Boyle's contributions were insufficiently spot-lit. For the great Act One finale, she showed sparkling style with the coloratura, but the desperation present in her acting did not quite connect with her singing but this is something which will come. Lyric sopranos tend to find the subsequent acts of La traviata difficult as they require remarkable reserves of strength. Whilst never displaying a lyrico spinto amplitude, Boyle developed a remarkably wiry sense of strength. The scene with Alan Opie's dignified and beautifully detailed Germont certainly raised the level of intensity, with the feeling the veteran singer urging Boyle to greater dramatic heights. She coped heroically with the final act's dramatic requirements and created a genuine sense of Violetta's illness. In fact, this was a noticeable thread running through the opera, we very rarely forgot that Violetta was ill, even in the pastoral moments at the start of Act Two. This was a promising role assumption, with the sense that there will be striking developments to come as Boyle's experience with the role develops.

Lukhanyo Moyake was South Africa's representative in the 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, and he has been singing with Cape Town Opera Company since 2010. He has a robust tenor voice and an engagingly puppyish stage presence. His Alfredo was a naive countryman (distinguished by his clothing from the sophisticated party-goers), thankfully lacking the feeling of idiocy which bedevils some performances. His singing had remarkable power, and though there were one or two rough edges and an occasional steely top, this was a finely engaging performance. You feel that the voice is moving towards spinto territory, and Moyake's performance had a wonderful generousness to it, allied to a vibrancy of tone. He is definitely someone I would like to hear more of, and his English was creditably comprehensible.

Alan Opie Catherine Ashmore.jpgLukhanyo Moyake and Alan Opie. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Alan Opie (celebrating his 73rd birthday later this month) was simply remarkable as Germont. There was little feeling of age in the voice and a wonderful sense of the experience behind the performance. This was a finely subtle account of the role, we lacked the determined martinet which has been in evidence in other recent productions, instead Opie's Germont was someone with different expectations the scene with Boyle's Violetta was a fine example of two different views coming together, and each singer showed how, as the scene progressed, their character was forced to re-assess the other. Opie's Germont was relatively understated, but each gesture whether vocal or physical told volumes. This was a fine ensemble performance, one which through craft and experience lifted the general level of the drama.

Heather Shipp Aled Hall.jpg Heather Shipp and Aled Hall. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Heather Shipp made a strong impression as Flora, rising above some unflattering make-up in Act Two and managing to bring out a sense of care for Violetta despite the determinedly 'sexy tart' depiction of the character. The men were strongly cast but rather depicted as types rather than characters. The biggest impression was made by Aled Hall as Gaston thanks to a series of outrageous costumes, but there was good support from Benjamin Bevan as the Baron, Bozidar Smiljanic as the Marquis and Henry Waddington as Doctor Grenvil. Martha Jones gave a powerfully characterised performance as Annina, without ever over-dominating the scene, and I hope to hear more of her.

Benjamin Bevan Claudia Boyle.jpg Benjamin Bevan and Claudia Boyle. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

The chorus did everything required of them, entering into the party hi-jinks with a will and there were no additional dancers for Flora's party scene. Whatever you thought of the production, the chorus performance was a real tour-de-force. The two small Act Two roles, Joseph and the messenger, were provided admirably by chorus members Pablo Strong and David Campbell.

Leo McFall drew a fine-grained performance from the orchestra. Highly fluid with plenty of rubato, McFall also kept things moving and Act Two (the longest of the three acts) flew by without ever seeming pushed. This was a very modern take on the piece, clean and lithe, but one which did not eschew tradition either and drew very fine playing from the orchestra.

Catherine Ashmore Boyle .jpgClaudia Boyle. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Kramer's production ultimately seemed a little too eager, too desperate to please and there were moments when you wanted it to calm down a little. The result is promising, if Kramer is willing to allow the piece to develop, and I certainly feel that as the run progresses the performances from Claudia Boyle and Lukhanyo Moyake will continue to grow and deepen, aided by the remarkably generous performance from Alan Opie.

Robert Hugill

Verdi La Traviata

Violetta - Claudia Boyle, Alfredo - Lukhanyo Moyake, Germont - Alan Opie, Dr Grenvil - Henry Waddington, Viscount Gaston - Aled Hall, Baron Bouphol - Benjamin Bevan, Marquis - Božidar Smiljanic, Flora Bervoix - Heather Shipp, Annina - Martha Jones; director - Daniel Kramer, conductor - Leo McFall, set design - Lizzie Clachan, costume design - Esther Bialas, Chorus and Orchestra of English National Opera.
English National Opera at the London Coliseum; 17th March 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):