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 Performances

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

A disappointing Prom from Nathalie Stutzmann and BBCNOW

Nathalie Stutzmann really is an impressive conductor. The sheer elegance she brings to her formidable technique, the effortless drive towards making much of the music she conducts sound so passionate and the ability to shock us into hearing something quite new in music we think we know is really rather refreshing. Why then did this Prom sometimes feel weary, even disappointing at times?

Merola’s Striking If I Were You

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have become an indispensable presence in the contemporary opera world, and their latest premiere, If I Were You, found the duo at the very top of their game.

The Thirteenth Child: When She Was Good…

Santa Fe Opera continues its remarkable record for producing World (and American) Premieres with The Thirteenth Child, music by Poul Ruders, libretto by Becky and David Starobin.

The Sopranos at Tanglewood

Among classical music lovers, Wagner inspires equal measures of devotion and disdain. Some travel far and sit for hours to hear his operas live. Others eschew them completely.

Agrippina at the Bavarian State Opera

And still they come. The opera world’s obsession with Handel’s operas shows no sign of abating. The Bavarian State Opera has, since Peter Jonas’s Intendancy, stood at the forefront of Handel staging; this new production of Agrippina was dedicated to him. As ever, I was pleased to see one of these operas for the first time in the theatre – how could I not be pleased to see almost anything in Munich’s wonderful Prinzregententheater – but again, as ever, I was left unable ever quite to put to one side the dramaturgical difficulties/problems/flaws/inadequacies. (Call them what you will.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

21 Jan 2019

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.

Dangerous Liaisons, Koninklijke Schouwburg, The Hague

A review by Jenny Camilleri

 

No wonder that, by the end of the evening, they have all defected to join the revolution. As imaginative and ambitious as their previous projects, OPERA2DAY’s latest production is a pastiche of vocal gems from Antonio Vivaldi’s operas, his Stabat Mater and Juditha triumphans, his only surviving oratorio. Sonatas and concertos provide the instrumental intermezzos. The libretto, by Stefano Simone Pintor and Serge van Veggel, is an adaptation of that fecund inspiration for plays, films, operas and ballets, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s 1782 epistolary novel Les liaisons dangereuses. Arias were reworded and recitatives added. Composer Vanni Moretto threaded it all together and scored the recitatives, which at times sounded more like Mozart than Vivaldi. Despite an uneven cast and a debatable finale, the production was visually entertaining and had many striking moments.

Since Vivaldi supplied the music, the setting was moved from France to Venice. Otherwise, the quintet of soloists more or less sticks to the original tale. Two jaded aristocratic ex-lovers, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, casually ruin a young couple in love while chasing the real prize, Madame de Tourvel, a morally spotless judge’s wife. It all starts off light-heartedly, with much innuendo about the storming of citadels. Things turn grim, however, when Valmont unexpectedly falls in love with Marie de Tourvel and the Marquise is consumed with jealousy. Perhaps alluding to this green-eyed monster, the mixed-era costumes are in every shade of green imaginable, from wrinkled pea to deep olive, contrasting with the set’s scarlet-and-gold palatial splendor. Actors and extras play an army of servants, constantly fetching and carrying props. Van Veggel, who also directs, marshals them with droll inventiveness. When the flunkey-flogging Valmont seeks out Madame de Tourvel in church, one of his men carries in a huge cross and, like Christ on the road to Calvary, buckles under its weight. The theatrical high point is the consecutive conquests by the older couple of the Chevalier Danceny and Cécile de Volanges. Under the guise of lessons in the art of seduction, the convent graduate and her music teacher are deflowered on a canopy bed with a perfect mix of eroticism and humor. Coloratura leading to orgasm is a mainstay of Baroque opera, but Stefanie True’s Cécile atop countertenor Yosemeh Adjei’s Valmont did it in the best of taste, while warbling “Sperai la pace qual usignolo” from Orlando, finto pazzo.

True was a charming Cécile. The core of her pleasant soprano was a tad flimsy, but it rose clearly to a flute-like top. As Danceny, male soprano Maayan Licht displayed a bewildering flexibility. Apart from his unusual voice type, he had the technical proficiency to deliver the role’s musical witticisms in the most natural manner. Adjei’s highly amusing Valmont swaggered around on high-heeled boots with complete confidence, even when fornicating with a fortepiano. He sang very well, but, his voice not having the cut for the furious arias, was much more convincing in lyrical mode. Contralto Candida Guida showed plenty of temperament as the Marquise. Unfortunately, on opening night she was not in good voice. Uncertain intonation and imprecise runs marred such virtuoso challenges as “Nel profondo” from Orlando furioso. Singing with a velvety legato, mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj as Madame de Tourvel made her every appearance an event, including the favorite “Sposa, son disprezzata”, filched by Vivaldi from Geminiano Giacomelli. In the pit, the Netherlands Bach Society under Hernán Schvartzman were limber and expressive and gave one of the best musical performances of the evening.

The opera hops along nicely until the seventh and final scene, when swathes of spoken dialogue provide the denouement. Suddenly, we’re in a play rather than an opera. The disillusionment of the young couple when they realize they’ve been used, the Marquise humiliating Valmont, Valmont allowing Danceny to kill him in a duel—all this happens without a single sung note. No doubt this was a deliberate choice, but it felt as if the writers had lost faith in opera as narrative. Laughing hysterically, the Marquise prepares for her final ball. In a gown of iridescent raven feathers, she dances to Moretto’s arrangement of the Trio Sonata in D minor Op.1 no.12,La Follia”. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the Marquise’s breakdown and the ancien régime collapsing all around her. Moretto’s orchestration highlights the dissonants in La Follia’s wild conclusion and the opera ends with an arresting pairing of sound and visuals, which could have done without the wordy lead-up. Instead, more great vocal stuff was called for, such as when Cécile and Madame de Tourvel both retreat to convents, the former to take the veil and the latter as a mental patient. Their lonely cries rose forlornly out of the darkness in the echo aria “L’ombre, l’aure e ancora il rio” from Ottone in villa—piercingly beautiful. Dangerous Liaisons continues to tour the Netherlands until the 16th of March. Performances are subtitled in English and Dutch.

Jenny Camilleri

Vivaldi: Dangerous Liaisons

Marquise de Merteuil: Candida Guida; Vicomte de Valmont: Yosemeh Adjei; Présidente de Tourvel: Barbara Kozelj/Ingeborg Bröcheler (February 13 and 21); Chevalier Danceny: Maayan Licht; Cécile de Volanges: Stefanie True/Emma Fekete (February 1 and 8); Victoire: Emma Linssen; Azolan: Merijn de Jong; Lahaye: Fabian Smit; Serafia: Emma van Muiswinkel; Faubourg: Luciaan Groenier. Direction and Concept: Serge van Veggel; Libretto: Stefano Simone Pintor and Serge van Veggel. Additional Music: Vanni Moretto. Set Design: Herbert Janse; Costume Design: Mirjam Pater; Lighting Design: Marc Heinz. Conductor: Hernán Schvartzman. Netherlands Bach Society. Seen at the Koninklijke Schouwburg, The Hague, on Thursday, 17th of January, 2019.

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):