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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

06 Jul 2018

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

Ariadne auf Naxos at the Aix Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Zerbinetta on Ariadne's table with two of the three sprites [All photos by Pascal Victor / Artcompress © courtesy of the Aix Festival].

 

Among her Aix projects Mme. Mitchell staged George Benjamin’s Written on Skin with libretto by British playwright Martin Crimp. Mr. Crimp has subsequently served as dramaturg for Mme. Mitchell’s Aix Pelleas et Melisande and now for Ariadne, both productions brilliantly moving to meta-theatrical levels (metatheater is a Martin Crimp coined term). This simply means that it is theater as seen by theater — the original exists as well as how it is seen. Like metaphysics.

Of crucial contribution to the Aix Ariadne was the conducting of German born Marc Albrecht, now chief conductor of the Dutch National Opera. This maestro exploited the chamber music voice of the Strauss score in the expanses of the open air Théâtre de l’Archeveché, the grandness of Strauss’ orchestral introduction to the prologue monumentally minimized, but energized to accommodate the frantic transformation of the host’s (“the richest man in Vienna”) grand parlor into a makeshift theater space (a square of sand with a dinner table).

The maestro pulled out the intricacies of the myriad instrumental solos to create the usual intensity of backstage energy now augmented by the negotiations of merging commedia dell’arte with opera seria. Zerbinetta’s persuasive arguments to the opera seria’s composer seamlessly flowed into a passing moment of private musing by the composer, his fervent ode to music magically absorbed into the behind-the-scenes maelstrom.

Ariadne_Aix2.pngThe totality of the Katie Mitchell production

And finally Mo. Albrecht transformed Strauss’ bombastic Ariadne Bacchus duet into an intimate discussion between two lovers accompanied by the exquisitely sweet comments of Dryad, Naiad and Echo, Bacchus taking frequent gulps of water from a plastic water bottle.

As Strauss and Von Hofmannsthal intended it was chamber opera, though now with Mme. Mitchell’s superimposed household on top of it — remember that the original intention was that Strauss’ opera seria was but an ending for Moliere’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme (translated by Von Hofmannstahl). In fact Mme. Mitchell’s household’s cross-dressed host and hostess sometimes interrupted Strauss’s opera with sarcastic comments (spoken) before they too climbed onto the stage to participate in Ariadne’s plight* and Zerbinetta’s solutions.

*Ariadne was pregnant.

Strauss was a very reluctant partner in this second, purely operatic version of the Strauss Von Hafmannstahl play-cum-opera, fearing with grave and indeed quite pertinent concerns a lack of comprehensibility for such a far-out, obliquely sculpted narrative. Katie Mitchell brilliantly brokered this Von Hofmannstahl/Strauss dispute by pulling it all together into one totality. The play within a play, the location and circumstance of the play, the guests at the play, the actors in the play (the commedia dell’arte troupe became transfixed by Ariadne’s outpourings), the exposed backstage psychologies, the opera indeed coalesced into pure metaphysics.

Ariadne_Aix3.pngZerbinetta, the richest man in Vienna, Ariadne, three of the commedia troupe

The Aix Festival is famed for its casting sophistication, and this Ariadne is no exception. Young Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen let out immense, inhuman howls to welcome us to Ariadne’s solitude on Naxos. She added fine musicianship and vocal finesse in the use of her hugely powerful voice. French soubrette Sabine Devieilhe as Zerbinetta cooly seduced first the composer, and then she lectured Ariadne with splendrous soubrette tone in her lengthy, very lengthy “Großmächtige Prinzessin…So war es mit Pagliazzo.” The aria is punishing in its brilliant, stratospheric tessitura, flawlessly exuded in this Zerbinetta’s atypical soft charm and compassion that fit perfectly into the metaphysics of the production.

American mezzo-soprano Angela Brower as the composer physically conducted her opera though of course she sang not a word after the prologue, her presence in the opera seria adding the concept of creation and pride of creation to Mme. Mitchell’s inexhaustible philosophical complexities. She somehow seamlessly integrated her “Sein wir wieder gut” into the conceptual flow of the prologue, emanating gorgeous silvery tones in her radiant declaration of the powers of music.

Austrian bass baritone Josef Wagner as the Music Master was indeed authoritative in his deftly sung, deft management first of the spoken majordomo (actor Maik Solbach) and then of household’s two sets of performers. He was aided by the household’s very tall Dance Master, cross dressed and made taller by stiletto heels in the person of British tenor Rupert Charlesworth who for all his draggy, swishy flightiness was cooly supportive of the fraught performers in frank, masculine voice.

Like Zerbinetta the comedia dell’arte troupe (Harlequin, Brighella, Scaramuccia and Truffaldino) had costumes that lighted up (ah, what riches LED lights have brought to opera), in this case the exaggerated cumberbunds of their matching formal wear (black pants, white shirts) lighted up to make the flashiness of their comedic performances apparent, and in stark contrast to their weighty, maybe drab operatic counterparts.

Dryad, Naiad and Echo were physically matched to be sprites of nature, and vocally matched to be the sweetly voiced handmaidens of nature and its eternal renewal. Bacchus was sung by American heldon tenor Eric Cutter who served and re-served in stentorian voice (lubricated by gulps of water) the cake-like boxes of starry lights to Ariadne’s table throughout her death scene.

This Ariadne auf Naxos is an Aix Festival co-production with Barcelona, Paris, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Luxembourg. Be advised, it is a production worth crossing continents, even oceans to see.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Primadonna / Ariadne: Lise Davidsen; Der Tenor / Bacchus: Eric Cutler; Zerbinetta: Sabine Devieilhe; Der Komponist: Angela Brower; Harlekin: Huw Montague Rendall; Brighella: Jonathan Abernethy; Scaramuccio: Emilio Pons; Truffaldin: David Shipley; Najade: Beate Mordal; Dryade: Andrea Hill; Echo: Elena Galitskaya; Ein Musiklehrer: Josef Wagner; Ein Tanzmeister: Rupert Charlesworth; Ein Offizier: Petter Moen; Ein Perückenmacher: Jean-Gabriel Saint Martin; Der Haushofmeister: Maik Solbach; Ein Lakei: Sava Vemić; L'Homme le plus riche de Vienne: Paul Herwig; Sa Femme: Julia Wieninger. Orchestre de Paris. Conductor: Marc Albrecht; Mise en scène: Katie Mitchell; Dramaturge: Martin Crimp; Set Design: Chloe Lamford; Costumes: Sarah Blenkinsop; Lighting: James Farncombe; Responsable des mouvements: Joseph W. Alford. Théâtre de l”Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence, July 4, 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):