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

Andrew Davis conducts Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ at Hoddinott Hall

A weekend commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) entitled Berlioz: The Ultimate Romantic was launched in style from Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall with a magnificent account of L’enfance du Christ (Childhood of Christ). The emotional impact of this ‘sacred trilogy’ seemed to gain further weight for its performance midway between Christmas and Easter, neatly encapsulating Christ’s journey from birth to death.

Love Songs: Temple Song Series

In contrast to the ‘single-shaming’ advertisement - “To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?” - for which the financial services company, Revolut, were taken to task, this Temple Music recital programme on 14th February put the emphasis firmly on partnerships: intimate, impassioned and impetuous.

Philip Glass: Akhnaten – English National Opera

There is a famous story that when Philip Glass first met Nadia Boulanger she pointed to a single bar of one of his early pieces and said: “There, that was written by a real composer”. Glass recalls that it was the only positive thing she ever said about him

Rachvelishvili excels in ROH Orchestra's Russian programme

Cardboard buds flaming into magic orchids. The frenzied whizz of a Catherine Wheel as it pushes forth its fiery petals. A harvest sky threshed and glittering with golden grain.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

Down in flames: Berlioz's Les Troyens, Opéra de Paris

Hector Berlioz's Les Troyens with Philippe Jordan conducting the Opéra National de Paris. Since Les Troyens headlined the inauguration of Opéra Bastille 30 years ago, we might have expected something special of this new production. It should have been a triumph, with such a good conductor and some of the best singers in the business. But it wasn't.

Lucrèce Borgia in Toulouse

This famed murderess worked her magic on Toulouse’s Théâtre du Capitole stage, six dead including her beloved long lost son. It was Victor Hugo’s carefully crafted 1833 thriller recrafted by Italian librettist Felice Romano that became Donizetti’s fragile Lucrezia Borgia.

Amanda Majeski makes a stunning debut at Covent Garden in Richard Jones's new production of Kát’a Kabanová

How important is ‘context’, in opera? Or, ‘symbol’? How does one balance the realism of a broad social milieu with the expressionistic intensity of an individual’s psychological torment and fracture?

Returning to heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

The Cardinall’s Musick invited us for a second time to join them in ‘the company of heaven’ at Wigmore Hall, in a recital that was framed by musical devotions to St Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Diana Damrau’s Richard Strauss Residency at the Barbican: The first two concerts

Listening to these two concerts - largely devoted to the music of Richard Strauss, and given by the soprano Diana Damrau, and the superlative Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the second - I was reminded of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s observation that German music would be unthinkable without him.

De la Maison des Morts in Lyon

The obsessive Russian Dostoevsky’s novel cruelly objectified into music by Czech composer Leos Janacek brutalized into action by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski beatified by Argentine conductor Alejo Pérez.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

La Nuova Musica perform Handel's Alcina at St John's Smith Square

There was a full house at St John’s Smith Square for La Nuova Musica’s presentation of Handel’s Alcina.

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

Vivaldi scores intriguing but uneven Dangerous Liaisons in The Hague

“Why should I spend good money on tables when I have men standing idle?” asks a Regency country squire in the British sitcom Blackadder the Third. The Marquise de Merteuil in OPERA2DAY’s Dangerous Liaisons would agree with him. Her servants support her dinner table, groaning with gateaux, on their backs.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

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):