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

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

Daring Pairing Doubles the Fun by Pacific Opera Project

Puccini’s only comedy, the one act Gianni Schicchi is most often programmed with a second short piece of tragic fare, but the adventurous Pacific Opera Project has banked on a fanciful Ravel opus to sustain the mood and send the audience home with tickled ribs and gladdened hearts.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam in <em>The Moderate Soprano</em> [Photo © Johan Perrson]
15 Apr 2018

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Moderate Soprano

A review by Mahima Macchione

Above: Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam in The Moderate Soprano

Photos © Johan Perrson

 

Now on its second run having been transferred to the Duke of York in the West End from Hampstead Theatre where it premiered in 2015, the play does so much more than just tell the story of the Sussex opera festival.

The man under the spotlight is of course John Christie, in a charismatic performance by Roger Allam, whose love of Germany, Wagner and his wife lead him in the quest for the ideal. Audrey Mildmay, the moderate soprano and John Christie’s much younger wife is delightfully played by the Olivier Award winner Nancy Carroll who is in many ways the true driving force behind the enterprise, ruling with grace and intervening with tact and diplomacy when artistic tensions rise. In the process, she also steers Christie into keeping the standards high: ‘If you’re going to spend all that money, John, for God’s sake do the thing properly!” she urges him.

l-r-Jacob-Fortune-Lloyd-Nancy-Carroll-Roger-Allam-Paul-Jesson-and-Anthony-Calf-in-The-Moderate-Soprano-at-the-Duke-of-Yorks-Theatre.-Credit-Johan-Perrson.png(l-r) Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Nancy Carroll, Roger Allam, Paul Jesson and Anthony Calf in The Moderate Soprano at the Duke of York's Theatre.

For an opera festival which is now seen as quintessentially English it is no small irony that at its heart lay the talent of three Hitler refugees: Paul Jesson as conductor Dr. Fritz Busch, Anthony Calf as Professor Carl Ebert and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Rudolf Bing, who was later to become General Manager at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The story incorporates a penetrating account of the rise of Nazism and its effect on various opera houses across Germany in the early 1930’s—the realities of which many across Europe were slow to fully grasp.

In Hare’s portrait, Glyndebourne’s founder is a wealthy and eccentric landowner who has a peculiar fondness for ‘efficiency’ and praises Germany for its ‘flowers everywhere, perfect roads, good houses, clean streets, cultured people, perfect traffic control’. He is said to have attempted to establish a Ministry of National Conscience and, interestingly, saw opera as public service: ‘My fellow countrymen need cheering up!’, he utters—and he’s the man to do it. Not a view we should perhaps entirely dismiss today. His love of the art form is then beautifully captured in his impassioned speech on the virtues of the sublime and the purpose of art.

It all takes a very unexpected direction however when the theatre as built is found unfit for staging Wagner’s monumental works: ‘For a jewel box theatre, you need jewel box music’, the conductor informs us. Much to Christie’s (amusing) exasperation, the first season in 1934 does not open with Parsifal but with two operas, both by Mozart—a state of affairs which would continue in subsequent years. The opening night with the Marriage of Figaro was a resounding success and drew a full house to what was then a 300-seat auditorium. The following production of Così Fan Tutte was less of a triumph, with only 7 seats sold at first—a situation which was quickly remedied once they got on top of promoting the festival.

The sets are cleverly designed by multi award-winning theatre and opera designer, Bob Crowley, and include a beautifully decorated home interior and a fun take on the gardens at Glyndebourne. Skillfully directed by Jeremy Herrin, the play is a tribute to artistic vision and the love of an art form. It is also a piercing portrait of an era, an institution and a marriage—one that opera-goers should not miss.

Mahima Macchione

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):