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

02 Apr 2019

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).

Orfeo ed Eurydice at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Carlo Vistoli as Orfeo, Mariangela Sicilia as Eurydice [all photos courtesy of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma]

 

In Rome there was but an excavated grave.

It was Canadian stage director Robert Carsen’s 2006 Lyric Opera of Chicago take on the ancient Orpheus legend as told by Virgil in his Georgics and then reimagined in 1762 Vienna by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck — these days simply called Gluck — as a one and one half hour azione teatrale.

Mr. Carsen revived his production of Gluck’s azione teatrale last November (2018) in Paris with famed French counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky and French soprano Patricia Petibon, and just now (March 21) he staged it again in Rome with an all-Italian cast and conductor. Note that when Gluck refashioned his opera in French for 1774 Paris it became a full-blown drame héroique, Orphée was now a non-controversial haute-contre (a naturally high tenor voice) rather than a contralto castrato (a voice once disliked by the French), and of course Gluck added airs, choruses and dances to make a lengthier evening.

Orfeo_Rome2.pngCarlo Vistoli as Orfeo with Act I mourners

Back in 1762 Vienna there were two brief dances in the drama — one by the infernal spirits, another by the Elysian spirits — and now in Rome (as well as Paris!) there were none. Robert Carsen’s stage was but a bed of pebbles, an excavated grave, a hand held bowl of fire and a sky. The black silhouettes of mourners bemoaning the death of Eurydice transformed themselves into barely visible, supine, white covered infernal spirits who slowly transformed themselves into black silhouetted blessed spirits, movement that sufficed to prolongate Gluck’s drama.

If there was actual dance in the Carsen Orfeo ed Euridice it was in the duet of Euridice’s escape from hell. Euridice, beautifully sung by Mariangela Sicilia, repeatedly implored Orfeo to place his loving gaze upon her, when he did not she turned away in dismay. Orfeo then faced the back of her head to beg her repeatedly to wait. She would not.

The emotional stillness of director Carsen’s bleak choral landscape was initially shattered by Orfeo’s thrice repeated,“Euridice” in a spine chilling cry by Italian counter-tenor Carlo Vistoli. Mr. Vistoli is the perfect swain — young, handsome, masculine, immaculately groomed musically, endowed with a beautiful contralto voice. Though Gluck’s arias for Orfeo were much simplified from the highly ornamented singing of the Baroque, Mr. Vistoli did not eschew adding the occasional appoggiatura. These chokes and sobs rendered his laments heart wrenching.

If conductor Gianluca Capuano normally conducts period instrument orchestras, in Rome he revelled in exploiting the resources of a modern symphonic ensemble (the Rome Opera orchestra) to create an immediacy that did not falter through the intermission-less duration. It was a close reading of Gluck’s score that left no emotive phrase unremarked, taking us to an emotional level that in fact betrayed Gluck’s intention to purge Baroque opera of its excesses.

Orfeo_Rome3.png

The great tension of Baroque opera is love vs. duty. It is indeed this same tension that pervades Gluck’s reform opera. It is Orfeo’s duty to not look at Euridice, and finally it is his love for Euridice that forces him to forsake his pledge, his passion overwhelming the art that had so moved the infernal spirits.

By the time we arrived, with Orfeo, to his “Che faro senza Euridice” we were all in a state of utter despair, Gluck’s azione teatrale having become an expressionistic nightmare.

Fortunately Gluck’s Amore, sung by Hungarian born, Italian formed soprano Emöke Baráth, saved the day reuniting Orfeo and Eurydice through the power of love, thus averting Orfeo's suicide, indeed the mass suicide of all of us who, with Orfeo, had endured the tragedy of this splendid evening.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Orfeo: Carlo Vistoli; Euridice: Mariangela Sicilia; Amore: Emöke Baráth. Orchestra and chorus of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. Conductor: Gianluca Capuano; Production: Robert Carsen; Sets and Costumes: Tobias Hoheisel; Lights: Robert Carsen and Peter Van Praet. Teatro dell'Opera, Rome, Italy, March 21, 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):