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

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

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):