Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

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.

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.

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.’

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.’

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.

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.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.



Soraya Mafi as Gilda in Rigoletto [Photo by Philip Newton]
19 Aug 2019

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.

Rigoletto at Seattle

A review by Roger Downey

Above: Soraya Mafi as Gilda in Rigoletto [Photo by Philip Newton]

All photos courtesy of Seattle Opera


Imagine our relief, then, when Lindy Hume’s remount of her 2012 New Zealand staging proved to be a brisk, colorful, and unskewed production.

Designer Richard Roberts’ quasi-contemporary design for act one promised a show in itself. It did not disappoint, rising, folding, and rotating, from full stage to intimate scenes and back again.

It was particularly felicitous in making sense of the notoriously hard-to-stage nocturnal episode outside the Ceprano Palace and Rigoletto’s humble flat. It was good to have Roberts’ set to keep us interested, because the performance it framed was curiously inert.

As the lights came up and the well-dressed all-boy chorus began to yap with anticipation of booze and flooze to come, the mopy white-jacketed gent we’d glimpsed during the overture all but vanished in the melée.

This had to be Rigoletto, though he looked like an aged busboy wearing a Groucho mask. But as the action unfolded, the living threat the jester has to generate to dominate a stageful of enemies never emerged.

20190808_rigoletto-day02_seattleopera_sunnymartini_8064.pngGiuseppe Altomare as Rigoletto [Photo by Sunny Martini]

Rigoletto as a nebbish: not even a waspish Groucho, more a whining Woody Allen. Giuseppe Altomare has a sizable dark bass-baritone, but with very little range of color and no heat. He’s just miscast in a role that demands sweetness one moment and lava the next.

His boss and nemesis, the playboy Duke, played beige to his charcoal. Yongzhao Yu is a big boyish lad; he has all of the notes and none of the flair the role requires: no humor, no malice, no passion: zip.

It is up to the Gilda of Soraya Mafi to shoulder the weight of this production, and she very nearly manages to get it off the ground. When she is on stage, her tiny post-adolescent figure and adorably open face fix our attention utterly, and when she sings we rise with her. I have never heard a more perfectly phrased “Caro nome,” but her every note and moment are equally simple, moving and right.

Slavic singers seem to have a corner on the role of Sparafucile: Croatian Ante Jerkunica has exactly what the role requires: an inky bass that’s naturally scary, a shaved dome and loose, lanky body that’s made to wear a dark hoodie and scuffed tennis shoes, and a kind of brutal innocence that’s more creepy than overt menace.

It’s too bad that Jonathan Dean’s supertitles stick him with a revolver (that doesn’t go off) instead of a dagger, confusing the drama of Gilda’s fatal wounding. (It’s even more distracting when Dean forgets a moment later and the word “knife” appears on the screen.)

20190808_rigoletto-day02_seattleopera_sunnymartini_7824.pngYongzgao Yu as the Duke of Mantua [Photo by Sunny Martini]

In a way that’s characteristic of this Rigoletto: always interesting to look at, it’s dotted with little details that that don’t come off : the Duke’s sleepy-mask while he laments the loss of Gilda; the two bishops in full regalia who take part in her abduction: the Duke pretending to hide behind an armchair in Rigoletto’s kitchen, like an oversized Cherubino; Monterone turning up in a dressy new costume in the Duke’s morning-room on his way to execution…

And except for Gilda and her assassin, just not very movingly sung. Carlo Montanaro is an essentially lyric conductor, who drifts toward moderato whatever the tempo marking to moderate tempos and favors a suave sound over anything harsh or edgy.

I suspect he’s what is known in the trade as “a singers’ friend.” But what makes singers comfortable may let the passion seep away.

Roger Downey

Cast and production information:

The Duke of Mantua – Yongzhao Yu; Rigoletto – Giuseppe Altomare; Gilda – Soraya Mafi; Sparafucile – Ante Jerkuniča; Maddalena – Emily Fons; Borsa – Bernard Holcomb; Marullo – Barry Johnson; Count Ceprano – Jonathan Silvia; Countess Ceprano – Meghan Folkerts; Count Monterone – Clayton Brainerd; Giovanna – Nerys Jones; Page – Ivy Zhou. Direction – Lindy Hume (associate Daniel Pelzig); Design – Richard Roberts; Lighting – Jason Morphett; Supertitles – Joinathan Dean; Fight director: Geoffrey Alm. Seattle Opera Male Chorus (chorusmaster – John Keene). Members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Carlo Montanaro, conductor.

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