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

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

Ovid and Klopstock clash in Jurowski’s Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’

There were two works on this London Philharmonic Orchestra programme given by Vladimir Jurowski – Colin Matthews’s Metamorphosis and Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. The way Jurowski played it, however, one might have been forgiven for thinking we were listening to a new work by Mahler, something which may not have been lost on those of us who recalled that Matthews had collaborated with Deryck Cooke on the completion of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony.

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique
06 Sep 2018

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique play Berlioz

Having recently recorded the role of Dido in Berlioz' Les Troyens on Warner Classics, there was genuine excitement at the prospect of hearing Joyce DiDonato performing Dido's death scene live at the BBC Proms. She joined John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique for an all-Berlioz Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 5 September 2018. As well as the scene from Les Troyens, DiDonato sang La mort de Cleopatre and the orchestra performed the overture Le Corsaire and The Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, and were joined by viola player Antoine Tamestit for Harold in Italy.

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Joyce DiDonato (soprano) and John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Photo credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

 

Playing standing, the orchestra launched into Le corsaire with enormous energy. Throughout the music was by turns headlong and thoughtful with a real tang to the timbres, creating a vivid performance full of contrasts.

This was followed by La mort de Cleopatra, Berlioz's third attempt at winning the Prix de Rome (in fact that cantata was far too daring for the jury). It is a striking sequence of recitative and aria which Berlioz sets in a fluid manner, creating a single narrative. Joyce DiDonato gave a dramatic performance, full of arresting detail and a vivid attention to the words. She was complemented by the timbres and textures of the orchestra, everyone making the music full of quick changes of mood. The death scene at the end was terrific.

Next came the Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, the ballet sequence which is as much orchestral showpiece as anything else. Gardiner started quietly but again it was the sound and contrasts of the period instruments which brought the music alive. Gardiner brought the off-stage brass on-stage so that we were able to make the most of the saxhorns, and it was lovely to be able to hear the contrast between the smooth even tone of the saxhorns and the more varied timbres of the hand-stopped French horns. This was a performance full of contrasts and textures you could cut with a knife, a vivid and theatrical orchestral experience.

We plunged on directly to Dido's death scene, with Joyce DiDonato rushing on during the prelude. She gave us fluidly shaped recitative, complemented by the colours in the orchestra. She made a passionate and dignified Dido, with touching references back to the love duet. Unfortunately, given such a vivid performance, we did not get the final death scene and the performance finished with the air 'Adieu, fiere cite'.

In the second half we returned to earlier in Berlioz' career with his symphony Harald in Italy. Gardiner and the orchestra began the first movement with the soloist, Antoine Tamestit, off stage. Gardiner brought a classical sweep to the music, yet the timbre of period instruments gave romantic spice to the music. The piece is hardly a concerto, Harold is the eternal observer, and Tamestit emphasised this by coming on stage and observing the orchestra before playing, and he rarely stood in the classic soloist’s position, instead wandering round the stage creating a sense of visual dramatic narrative. He plays quite a big viola with a beautiful singing sound, so that though not a virtuoso work Tamestit's melodic line was the passionate centre of attention, and both Tamestit and Gardiner brought sheer energy to the work. The second movement was full of attractive textures, whilst Tamestit’s playing had real poetry to it in the third movement. In the lively last movement, Gardiner and the orchestra emphasised the crisp and lively rhythms, whilst Tamestit's viola wandered in and out of the orchestra both physically and musically.

This was a programme which showed what can be gained from performing Berlioz on period instruments, and Gardiner and his team complemented this with a vivid sense of energy. It was lovely to hear DiDonato in the snippet from Les Troyens, but as with the recent Proms performance of two arias from Samuel Barber's Anthony and Cleopatra, it made you wish that room could have been made for more substantial excerpts or even the whole work. As it was, there was rather a sense of greatest hits about the evening, but what hits they are.

Robert Hugill


Prom 71: Hector Berlioz - Le corsair, La mort de Cleopatra, ‘Royal Hunt and Storm’ (Les Troyens ), Dido’s death scene (Les Troyens), Harold in Italy

Joyce DiDonato - soprano, Antoine Tamestit - viola, John Eliot Gardiner - conductor Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique.

BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London; 5th September 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):