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 Performances

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Siegfried in San Francisco

We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

A culinary coupling from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

What a treat the London Music Conservatoires serve up for opera-goers each season. After the Royal Academy’s Bizet double-bill of Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen, and in advance of the Royal College’s forthcoming pairing of Huw Watkins’ new opera, In the Locked Room, based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, and The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have delivered a culinary coupling of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner and Sir Lennox Berkeley’s The Dinner Engagement which the Conservatoire last presented for our delectation in November 2006.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Courtesy of OPERA2DAY
11 Mar 2018

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above courtesy of OPERA2DAY

 

This production, enhanced with cinematography, is a triumph of the imagination over limited resources. Even the chronic coughing of a rather restless Amsterdam audience could not diminish its visual impact and raw emotion. So how does a small opera outfit successfully adapt a five-act grand opera?

First, by cutting a good chunk of the score. This version is not for purists, although it is for everyone who appreciates take-no-prisoners theatre. Gone are the ballets, marches and spring festivals. With the focus on the dysfunctional royal family and Ophelia, secondary characters like Ophelia’s father Polonius fade into the periphery. Since Thomas diverges at several plot points from Shakespeare, these reductions bring the opera closer to the play. Voice-over fragments from Hamlet’s Shakespearean monologues in French translation upgrade Carré and Barbier’s effective but conventional libretto. There is no chorus. The soloists, supplemented by three highly competent female singers as courtiers, sing the choral parts. This approach passed the acid test of the opera’s most dramatic moment, when, aided by Hernán Schvartzman’s driven conducting, the singers rose to the challenge of the Act 2 finale. The spine-tingling ensemble after Hamlet publicly accuses his stepfather of murdering his father was satisfyingly grand of gesture. Later on, the women’s singing at Ophelia’s funeral was both tonally glowing and incredibly touching. In the same way, the New European Ensemble, a chamber-sized orchestra, played with a keen sense of drama. Schvartzman led them in an unflaggingly expressive and suspenseful performance. Technically they were challenged by the rapidly ascending and descending figures that mark moments of psychological crisis. The exquisite solo intros, however, were of a different caliber altogether. The onstage brass band, who later doubled as pallbearers, also acquitted themselves commendably. Although not always polished, the orchestral playing never lost sight of the emotional heart of the score.

The visual trump card onstage is the projection of filmed sequences both on a backdrop and on a scrim at the front, creating a striking three-dimensional effect. Quivering images in mossy shades reveal Hamlet’s mind’s eye while the elegantly costumed singers act out the plot. Director Serge van Veggel deliberately smudges the line between real events and the prince’s imagination, keeping the viewer continuously engaged. This juxtaposition of reality and fantasy yields unforgettable images, none more so than Ophelia’s harrowing suicide in front of an idealized image of her floating corpse. But all this sophistication of form would mean little without the fine cast of singing actors. In the title role Quirijn de Lang looks like an English Romantic poet, John Keats at Elsinore as it were. His plangent, slightly nasal baritone fits the character and the language. De Lang produces his voice skillfully across all registers and is a gifted, instinctive actor. His Hamlet hurts so intensely and behaves so insufferably that, like his mother, you want to protect him, but you also feel like slapping him, like his stepfather. The signs of vocal tiredness towards the end were a small trade-off for the fierceness of his interpretation.

Soprano Lucie Chartin’s Ophelia starts out with a charming twinkle in her eye, then gradually collapses into the frangible victim of Hamlet’s bullying and abandonment. After taking a few phrases to settle vocally, Chartin sang very naturally, as if she were speaking, which rendered her portrayal intimate and immediate. In her mad scene she dispensed with pretty warbling and mined deep pathos from Ophelia’s folk song. Accurate and tortured, her high-flying cadenzas sliced the air like stiletto knives. The other singers all delivered the goods. Martijn Sanders and Martina Prins were vocally commanding as the royal couple, Sanders an unempathic and stiff Claudius and Prins a regal and soft-hearted Gertrude. Gertrude is written for a mezzo-soprano and Prins, being a dramatic soprano, had easy, ringing high notes as well as a formidable middle range. Jan-Willem Schaafsma’s willowy tenor left a very favorable impression as Laertes, Ophelia’s brother. The quality bass of Yavuz Arman İşleker was on double duty, most memorably as the ghost of Hamlet Senior. Bass-baritone Patrick Pranger and tenor Georgi Sztojanov completed the estimable roster of soloists as Hamlet’s friends Horatio and Marcellus. They also added a touch of gruesome humor as a pair of skull-tossing gravediggers.

This distilled Hamlet, adapted with informed respect and performed with passion, is a gripping music drama. It continues to tour until April. The last two dates are at the company’s home base, the Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague. Performances are subtitled in Dutch and English.

Jenny Camilleri


Cast and production information:

Hamlet: Quirijn de Lang; Ophélie: Lucie Chartin; Claudius: Martijn Sanders; Gertrude: Martina Prins; Laërte /Player Queen: Jan Willem Schaafsma; Horatio/First Gravedigger: Patrick Pranger; Marcellus/Second Gravedigger: Georgi Sztojanov; Polonius/Ghost (Voice)/ Player New King: Yavuz Arman İşleker; Ghost (Actor)/ Player Old King: Joop Keesmaat; Courtiers: Judith Pranger, Sonja Volten and Adélaïde Rouyer; Hamlet Voice-Over: Jonathan Rouah. Director: Serge van Veggel; Play Director: Femke Luyckx; Set Design: Herbert Janse; Costume Design: Mirjam Pater; Lighting Design: Uri Rapaport; Film: Margo Onnes; Sound Design: Arne Bock. Conductor: Hernán Schvartzman. New European Ensemble. Seen at the Royal Carré Theatre, Amsterdam, on Saturday, 10th of 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):