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

Haydn’s<em>Orlando Paladino</em>: Munich Opera Festival
02 Aug 2018

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.

Haydn’s Orlando Paladino: Munich Opera Festival

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Tara Erraught (Alcina) and Adela Zaharia (Angelica)

 

Speak to the audience in Munich’s Prinzregententheater it certainly seemed to - rightly or wrongly. I could only wish that both the work and those of us in the audience who thought otherwise had not been treated with such condescension. That may sound reactionary. Perhaps indeed it is; perhaps all that matters is that those many people who enjoyed such an ‘entertainment’, to use a properly eighteenth-century word, did indeed enjoy it. Perhaps. Let me, however, try to explain why I found this, much fine singing notwithstanding, a somewhat dispiriting experience.

Munich Haydn Alcina and Pasquale.jpg Tara Erraught (Alcina) and David Portillo (Pasquale). Photo credit: Wilfried Hösl.

No one, I think, would claim Nunziata Porta to be one of opera’s greatest librettists; this is not a Da Ponte, a Wagner, or a Hofmannsthal. Nor indeed a Metastasio. However, his libretto here is, by the same token, likely to be underestimated, precisely because of where his talents lay. His principal occupation at Esterháza was to adapt texts, including provision of insertion arias. (If you do not know any of Haydn’s, for obvious reasons far less widely known than Mozart’s, then they are well worth discovering.) And that is what he did here, on a larger scale, with Orlando Paladino, helping Haydn create a rather extraordinary work, a dramma eroicomico after Ariosto. Its skill lies not just in parodying Ariosto, indeed not primarily in that at all, but in permitting Haydn to do so and indeed to parody much else besides: often wryly, subtly, sometimes more overtly - here, at least in one particular instance, in Pasquale’s ‘Ecco spanio’, Ranisch worked highly successfully with libretto and music. Otherwise, I am afraid, far too little of that came through - which was surely something a skilled production might have seen as its purpose or at least a good part of it.

Medoro and Angelica.jpgDovlet Nurgeldiyev (Medoro) and Adela Zaharia (Angelica). Photo credit: Wilfried Hösl.

Yes, one might respond, but what if an audience does not understand the conventions of late-ish eighteenth-century opera seria? Do we not need to find a way of leading many listeners in? We probably do, or at least in certain circumstances it might be a good idea. (Heaven forfend we might actually expect some work from an audience; nevertheless, if I do not read Russian, I do not claim the problem to lie in Pushkin.) A similar problem, after all, seems often to be experienced with Così fan tutte, which very few seem to understand - or, more to the point, take the trouble to try to understand. (Sometimes it is not ‘all about you’.) By all means, though, lead us in, show us what the opera is or might be about. Ranisch, however, seemed to have no interest whatsoever in doing so. Not unlike Christof Loy in his unforgivable Salzburg Frau ohne Schatten , albeit less aggressively, the message seemed to be: ‘forget about this; I do not like this story very much, so here is another one’.

Alas, Ranisch’s new story seems to me only slightly less banal than Loy’s. For all the filmic creativity - undeniable in its way, if hardly groundbreaking - what we have ultimately is a new, less than captivating, tale of a married couple who own a cinema. One of them is at least partly gay and fantasises about the handsome Rodomonte (or perhaps the actor/singer who plays him). When technical problems cause an explosion in the cinema, he takes the opportunity to wander into the scenes on screen to learn a bit more about himself. A huge amount of silly running around, pulling faces, and so on, detracts entirely from the opera and at best has one wonder what on earth is going on. Now there may well have been a way, even within this particular metatheatrical framework, to engage with the work, to do more of what I have suggested it might. It really does not seem, though, to happen here. A pair of actors, ‘Gabi and Heiko Herz’, seem the most honoured here. Ironically, however, the banality of their story, the striking Cinema Paradiso homage in Falko Herold’s designs notwithstanding, throws one’s attention back towards the singing, if only out of desperation. We end up with another tired old cliché, that eighteenth-century opera other than Mozart’s is ‘really’ only about singing. Orlando Paladino and Haydn thus found themselves doubly damned.

Gabi and Heiko Herz.jpg Gabi and Heiko Herz. Photo credit: Wilfried Hösl.

Such might have been less the case, had it not been for Ivor Bolton’s rigid, often hard-driven conducting, which paid little attention, if any, to Haydn’s harmonic rhythm, living if indeed it lived at all only in the moment - perhaps not so ill-suited a complement to the production. The playing of the Munich Chamber Orchestra was in itself excellent, however. One longed for it to be let off its leash, though, not least for the strings to be permitted greater vibrato. There seemed little doubt that they longed for that too. Nevertheless theirs was fine playing, woodwind solos especially joyous. For the real thing, though, turn on record to Antal Doráti - or even, should this be your real thing and you can somehow stand the weird perversities, to Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Those perversities may eclipse formal understanding, or at least the communication thereof, but at least they seem less generated on auto-pilot.

Rodomonte and Heiko Herz.jpgEdwin Crossley-Mercer (Rodomonte) and Heiko Herz. Photo credit: Wilfried Hösl.

It was, then, to recapitulate - more of such formal understanding from the conductor, please! - from the singers that considerable pleasure and insight was to be gleaned. Mathias Vidal as Orlando trod a fine line, sensitively and stylishly, between bravado and acknowledged weakness. So indeed did all the male singers; such, not without a pinch of what we might anachronistically think feminism, is indeed the point. Edwin Crossley-Mercer’s diction was not always clear as it might have been, especially in so small a theatre; however, his dark tone proved full of allure - increasingly compromised allure. Dovlet Nurgeldiyev, for me one of the true discoveries of the evening, offered almost heartbreaking tonal beauty, whilst also making as much of the words as the production permitted. Likewise his intended, Adela Zaharia. David Portillo, a supremely versatile singer, finely attuned both to line and style, impressed greatly as Pasquale; his aforementioned aria was probably the highpoint of the entire evening. Elena Sancho Pereg, as Eurilla, proved very much his equal: a fine foil, but also a spirited character in her own right. Tara Erraught’s rich mezzo Alcina left one longing for more. It was she, above all, who brought moments of true drama to proceedings. Perhaps she, instead, should have been directing and/or conducting.

Mark Berry

Haydn: Orlando Paladino Hob.XXVIII:11


Angelica: Adela Zaharia; Rodomonte: Edwin Crossley-Mercer; Orlando: Mathias Vidal; Medoro: Dovlet Nurgeldiyev; Licone: Guy de Mey; Eurilla: Elena Sancho Pereg; Pasquale: David Portillo; Alcina: Tara Erraught; Caronte: François Lis; Gabi and Heiko Herz: Heiko Pinkowski, Gabi Herz. Director: Axel Ranisch; Conductor: Ivor Bolton; Designs: Falko Herold; Choreography: Magdalena Padrosa Celada; Lighting: Michael Bauer; Dramaturgy: Rainer Karlitschek. Statisterie and Opera Ballet of the Bavarian State Opera.

Prinzregententheater, Munich, Sunday 29 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):