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

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

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):