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

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance 2018
16 Jul 2018

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance 2018

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Dominic Sedgwick (Haly), Gyula Nagy (Taddeo), Angela Simkin (Zulma), Haegee Lee (Elvira), Aigul Akhmetshina (Isabella), Simon Shibambu (Mustafà), Konu Kim as Lindoro

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 

Director Noa Naamat and lighting designer Nick Havell made the panelled oak walls which have been serving so effectively as both a 1950s country club and Windsor Forest during the current revival of Robert Carsen’s production of Verdi’s Shakespearean swansong , work surprising well as a theatre-within-a-theatre, a lunatic’s cell, a Queen’s inner chambers and the Mediterranean coast. Pendulous chandeliers, potted palms, and a silver pistol were a few of the minimal props that did good service. And, with bright penetrating colours and simple sets, moods, locales and dramatic tensions were deftly and pointedly established: the greens and purples which bathed the sleeping Ariadne, the blood red which tormented Rakewell in his dying moments before his ascent in the shimmering white clouds of the afterlife, the deep-sky blue which glistened with the sun’s gold behind the Bey’s terrace, all made a striking impression.

Conductor Sonia Ben-Santamaria was given the task of heralding the 2018 showcase, and though there were a few smudges in the opening fanfare from The Rake’s Progress the Orchestra of Opera North brass sound was bright and punchy, and the fanfare might have proved an efficient call-to-attention and curtain-raiser had it not been followed by the electronic tannoy reminder to switch off mobile ’phones and refrain from photography during the performance, rather dampening any excitement generated. And, the curtain was to stay firmly lowered for a little longer, during the overture to Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène, in which conductor Matthew Scott Rodgers conjured elegant and tasteful phrasing.

The show got underway with excerpts from Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, though the task of establishing the context twice in quick succession, when we shifted from the conclusion of the Prologue to Ariadne’s first aria, not surprisingly proved challenging and the quick sequence of disparate numbers felt a little restless. As in Katharina Thoma’s Glyndebourne production , the commedia troupe were a barbershop quartet, skilled in soft shoe shuffles and adept at twirling a brollie, and their harmonies were sweet. Angela Simkin’s Composer hit the histrionic heights with aplomb and Haegee Lee’s Zerbinetta was a festoon of candy pink and vocally assured. Best of the bunch was Gyula Nagy’s Music Teacher, a poseur par excellence who nonchalantly smoked a cigarette through the Composer’s complaints and whose fore-curtain introduction to ‘Ariadne’ was a masterpiece of physical and vocal gesture.

Condemned to mental torment - and, in this production, self-harm - in the subsequent excerpt from Act 3 of The Rake’s Progress, Thomas Atkins’ Tom Rakewell nursed his Adonis-delusions with painful conviction. Atkins’ performance was one of the highlights of the showcase, and he was ably supported by Francesca Chiejina’s vocally sympathetic Anne Truelove and Simon Shibambu’s Father Truelove. The final ascent to the heavens was both poignant and transcendent: one could almost forget that any suggestion of ‘redemption’ is overturned by Stravinsky’s epilogue which reminds us that the devil makes work for idle hands.

Jacquelyn Stucker has made a strong impression during her first year as a JPYA, as Princess Azema in Semiramide and Frasquita in Barrie Kosky’s new Carmen ; she also won Second Prize in this year’s Glyndebourne Opera Cup. Here, her Ophélie - in the opening of Act 3 of Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet - confirmed her accomplishment and stellar potential. Stucker sang with purity and colour, by turns and as required, and had plentiful stamina for the big vocal climaxes; but, more importantly, she really communicated Ophélie’s confusion, distress and emotional frailty while all the time sustaining vocal assurance and precision. Nagy returned as Hamlet, demonstrating that he can do existential frailty as well as entertaining farce; his fragmented ‘to be or not …’ monologue was consummately structured and projected. Simkin was a round-toned Gertrude while the earnestness of Shibambu’s prayer won a little sympathy for the murderous Claudius.

The best was saved till last. Attired in stunning scarlet, accessorised with designer clutch-bag and killer stilettos, Aigul Akhmetshina’s Isabella was a girl who knew her own mind and charms. Shibambu displayed a winning comic nous as the teased and tempted Bey Mustafà - tickled literally and figuratively by Isabella’s roving, fluttering fan. Haegee Lee’s emotionally wrought Elvira and Konu Kim’s hapless Lindoro threw themselves, and each other, back and forth across the wide stage, each determined to retain their loved one’s heart. The comic capers were manic, but expertly choreographed by movement director Jo Meredith, climaxing with a behind-the-plant-pot, now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t routine that was perfectly timed and flawlessly sung. Summer madness, indeed.

Claire Seymour

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance: Director - Noa Naamat, Lighting Designer - Nick Havell, Movement Director - Jo Meredith, Orchestra of Opera North.

Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress, opening fanfare
Conductor: Sonia Ben-Santamaria

Offenbach: La Belle Hélène, Overture
Conductor: Matthew Scott Rogers

Strauss: excerpt from Ariadne auf Naxos
Echo - Francesca Chiejina, Zerbinetta - Haegee Lee, Prima Donna/Ariadne - Sarah-Jane Lewis, Dryad - Aigul Akhmetshina, Composer - Angela Simkin, Naiad - Jacquelyn Stucker, Scaramuccio - Thomas Atkins, Brighella - Konu Kim, Music Teacher - Gyula Nagy, Harlequin - Dominic Sedgwick, Truffaldino - Simon Shibambu; Conductor - Jac van Steen, Piano - Nick Fletcher, Celeste - Sonia Ben-Santamaria, Harmonium - James Hendry

Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress, Act III, final scene
Anne Trulove - Francesca Chiejina, Tom Rakewell - Thomas Atkins, Father Trulove - Simon Shibambu; Conductor - Jac van Steen, Continuo - James Hendry

Thomas: Hamlet, Act III beginning
Ophélie - Jacquelyn Stucker, Gertrude - Angela Simkin, Hamlet - Gyula Nagy, Servant - Dominic Sedgwick, Claudius - Simon Shibambu; Conductor - James Hendry

Rossini: L’italiana in Algeri, Act I finale
Elvira - Haegee Lee, Isabella - Aigul Akhmetshina, Zulma - Angela Simkin, Lindoro - Konu Kim, Taddeo - Gyula Nagy, Haly - Dominic Sedgwick, Mustafa - Simon Shibambu; Conductor - Nick Fletcher

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Sunday 15th July 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):