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

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

The Enchantresse and Dido and Aeneas
in Lyon

Dido and Aeneas, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Tchaikowsky’s L’Enchantresse, the three operas of the Opéra de Lyon’s annual late March festival all tease destiny. But far more striking than the thematic relationship that motivates this 2019 festival is the derivation of these three productions from the world of hyper-refined theater, far flung hyper-refined theater.

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):