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

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

Billy Budd in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera’s Billy Budd confirms once again that Britten’s reworking of Melville’s novella is among the great masterpieces of the repertory. It boasted an exemplary cast in an exemplary production, and enlightened conducting.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

11 Jun 2019

A Classy Figaro at The Grange Festival

Where better than The Grange’s magnificent grounds to present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Hampshire’s neo-classical mansion, with its aristocratic connections and home to The Grange Festival, is the perfect setting to explore 18th century class structures as outlined in Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto.

Le nozze di Figaro: The Grange Festival, Hampshire

A review by David Truslove

Above: Toby Girling (Count Almaviva), Wallis Giunta (Cherubino) and Ellie Laugharne (Susanna)

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 

His critique of prevailing social values is treated by Mozart with lacerating humour. No surprise that Beaumarchais’s original play La Folle Journée ou Le marriage de Figaro was banned by King Louis XVI in 1784, or that Nicholas Till in his Festival programme article ‘The Quintessential Revolutionary Artist’ suggests Napoleon Bonaparte considered the play to have been “the first step towards the French Revolution”.

Mozart and Beaumarchais are uproariously subversive, yet this new production from Martin Lloyd-Evans manages to amplify both social power struggles and adulterous intrigues with great wit (not least in its Shakespearean cross-dressing and lecherous scheming) and pointedly highlight issues lurking beneath a seemingly respectable surface. There’s an undeniable sense of unease looming over this comic farce, less associated with the abuse of privilege - the Count’s claim to feudal rights over newlyweds is bad enough - more the dark underbelly of domestic strife exemplified by suggestions of alcohol addiction, self-harm and wife-beating. It’s not exactly black comedy but shades of charcoal repeatedly make a lightning strike just as you’ve been laughing at Cherubino hiding in a closet or Antonio believing he/she has suddenly grown taller as Figaro claims to have leapt from a bedroom window.

Despite the elegant period costumes and conventional designs mostly of flats and screens (respectively Kate Lyon and Tim Reed), contemporary resonances abound, aided and abetted by some well-defined performances of which some are outstanding. Chief amongst these is Toby Girling’s brutish Count Almaviva whose pugnacious, Putin-like features add much to his power-obsessed portrayal which detonates with explosive force in his Act 3 rage aria - a defining moment where his lust for vengeance is truly psychotic. Allied to a strong stage presence is a robust, well-projected baritone, flexible enough to furnish menace and warmth but his insidious bullying leaves you in little doubt of a disturbing nature.

Simona Mihai (Countess Almaviva) and Roberto Lorenzi (Figaro).jpgSimona Mihai (Countess Almaviva) and Roberto Lorenzi (Figaro). Photo credit: Clive Barda.

The Count’s adversary, Figaro, sung by Roberto Lorenzi is no less convincing vocally (with an emphatically delivered ‘Se vuol ballare’) yet a little old-fashioned in expression and gesture. His performance underlines the ease with which Ellie Laugharne creates a vibrant Susanna, impressing as a feisty no-nonsense wife-to-be in the opening duet, and thereafter determined to thwart the Count’s libidinous schemes, while also making sure her beloved toes the line. It’s a full flesh-on-the-bones characterisation that contrasts sharply with Simona Mihai as the neglected and emotionally crushed Countess. (Full marks for the sense of resignation achieved here but are we to believe an 18th-century Countess would not turn a blind eye to a husband’s philandering?) Her ‘Dove sono’ was beautifully sung but I was unmoved.

Of the smaller roles Rowan Pierce is an enchanting Barbarina who commands the stage with her winning glances and in just a handful of lines sings with effortless assurance to deliver a memorable cameo. Wallis Giunta as the handsome gender bending Cherubino also holds the ear and eye and superbly imitates a hip-swinging gait when dressed as a woman while supposedly being a boy - it’s all brilliant buffoonery. Her two arias are nicely turned out too, with lots of adolescent frustration in 'Non so più’ and ardour in ‘Voi che sapete’ both crowned with rapt tone.

RL Fig and Rowan Pierce (Barbarina).jpg Roberto Lorenzi (Figaro) and Rowan Pierce (Barbarina). Photo credit: Clive Barda.

There are some distinguished moments too from Louise Winter as the manipulative then motherly Marcellina who comes into her own with her Act 4 aria. Just as compelling are Jonathan Best’s sturdy Dr Bartolo and Ben Johnson’s dapper Don Basilio who has much more than music-making on his mind every time he sees Cherubino. What a joy, too, to have that dramatic stalwart Richard Suart as the elderly but beady-eyed Antonio - a gardener very much the equal of his superiors.

Below stairs (as it were) the Academy of Ancient Music rose fitfully to the occasion. Notwithstanding an indifferent Overture, the orchestral playing under the helm of Richard Egarr steadily improved and eventually blossomed with some Mozartian magic in the Act 3 wedding festivities. But it was above stage which drew the most consistent and classy music-making.

David Truslove

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

Count Almaviva - Toby Girling, Countess Almaviva - Simona Mihai, Susanna - Ellie Laugharne, Figaro - Roberto Lorenzi, Cherubino - Wallis Giunta, Marcellina - Louise Winter, Doctor Bartolo - Jonathan Best, Don Basilio - Ben Johnson, Barbarina - Rowan Pierce, Antonio - Richard Suart, Don Curzio - Kamil Bien; Director - Martin Lloyd-Evans, Conductor - Richard Egarr, Designer - Tim Reed, Costumes - Kate Lyons, Lighting Designer - Peter Mumford, Grange Festival Chorus, The Academy of Ancient Music.

The Grange Festival, Hampshire; Thursday 6th June 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):