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

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

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):