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

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.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

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."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

18 Sep 2019

Bampton Classical Opera: Bride & Gloom at St John's Smith Square

Last week the Office of National Statistics published figures showing that in the UK the number of women getting married has fallen below 50%.

Bampton Classical Opera: Stephen Storace’s Bride & Gloom (St John’s Smith Square)

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Robert Davies (Rosmondo) and Arthur Bruce (Artidoro)

All images © Anthony Hall/Bampton Classical Opera

 

That’s perhaps not surprising, if Stephen Storace’s comic opera Gli sposi malcontenti (The Discontented Newly-Weds) is evidence of what might await those who take the nuptial plunge: loneliness and longing, desolation and distress, if Storace’s librettist, Gaetano Bertati, is to be believed!

But, as always, Bampton Classical Opera’s Artistic Director, Jeremy Gray, has found witty ways to make Bertati’s characters’ misery the source of our own merriment in the company’s Summer 2019 production of Storace’s opera buffa, which arrived at St John’s Smith Square after performances at Bampton and Westonbirt. And, while the premiere performance of Gli sposi malcontenti resembled a wedding-day disaster - with Nancy Storace collapsing mid-aria in Act 1, bringing proceedings to a halt - there was no danger of such catastrophe at St John’s where the consistently accomplished cast of seven presented Bride & Gloom in Brian Trowell’s English translation, with charm, bonhomie and uniformly terrific diction. CHROMA provided light and lilting instrumental support, conducted by Anthony Kraus.

Jenny Stafford (Eginia).jpgJenny Stafford (Eginia).

Gaetano Brunati’s libretto serves up the anticipated buffa recipe: a suspicious husband, a domineering father, a boorish boffin hell-bent on revenge, a pair of thwarted, scheming beloveds, and a wily maidservant. (See here for detailed synopsis and historical background.)

After their tantrums and tiffs as the self-centred sisters in Bampton’s 2018 production of Isouard’s Cinderella, Jenny Stafford and Aoife O’Sullivan returned here as the stepsister rivals for Artidoro’s love, demonstrating equal grace and style in shaping Storace’s tuneful melodies. As the emotionally conflicted Eginia, Stafford’s soul-searching was delivered with focus and gravity. Her opening cavatina - think the unhappy, abandoned Countess of ‘Porgi amor’ - was poised and affecting, and Stafford established a particularly convincing musico-dramatic stature before the concluding nocturnal disguises and denouements. O’Sullivan’s sporty, spirited Enrichetta was as adept at keeping a tennis ball aloft mid-aria as negotiating the vocal challenges, singing, as always, with unwavering security, and a well-centred and appealing tone.

Gavan Ring (Casimiro).jpgGavan Ring (Casimiro).

Gavan Ring’s vocal strength and character belied Casimiro’s blandness. Ejected from his marital bed, as he nestled under a blanket on the chaise longue Casimiro may have looked content with just a shabby teddy-bear for company. But, a superb performance from Ring drew forth a rich range of developing emotions and as Ring swelled sonorously to the tenorial high-points of Casimiro’s avowal of lingering love for Eginia, we understood that beneath the Barbour and flat cap was a burning, ardent heart. No wonder that Eginia eventually comes to appreciate his hidden merits and attractions.

Arthur Bruce’s relaxed baritone conveyed Artidoro’s easy charm and confidence, cockily tossing and bouncing a tennis ball, suavely anticipating the success of his elopement scheme. When, discovered by the suspicious Rosmondo hiding under a blanket in the chair, this Artidoro did not panic when threatened by the collapse of his strategy or the bullying jabs from Casimiro, whipping out a water-pistol with the panache and poise of Indiana Jones.

Caroline Kennedy (Bettina).jpgCaroline Kennedy (Bettina), Arthur Bruce (Artidoro), Aoife O'Sullivan (Enrichetta).

Rosmondo’s patriarchal pontificating was delivered with firmness and strength by baritone Robert Davies, who achieved the difficult task of being sufficiently mean to inject credible tension but not so menacing as to preclude compromise and reconciliation. Like Adam Tunnicliffe as Valente, Davies demonstrated a good instinct for physical comedy, both singers falling over and into the chaise longue, and the wedding-cake walls, with neat timing and without undue mishap.

Despite seeming almost to strangle himself with his academic hood, Tunnicliffe’s Valente blustered and raged with bite and colour, out-tricked by Caroline Kennedy’s vivacious Bettina - a put-upon but opportunist maid who was ever on the look-out for a swig from one of her employer’s wine bottles or a smoke from Artidoro’s joint. Tunnicliffe’s dark grain was a lovely complement for Kennedy’s light, graceful soprano, especially in their final duet in which Bettina dupes the disagreeable don into believing that she will collude in his conspiracies.

Adam Tunnicliffe (Valente).jpgAdam Tunnicliffe (Valente).

Storace evidently had a fine ear for a silky cavatina, a sure sense of how to shape an ensemble-finale, and the ability to create moments of heart-warming sincerity. His arias may lack a little variety of invention and tempo, but if he doesn’t equal Mozart for musical wit and dramatic sparkle then one imagines that the latter, into whose orbit Nancy’s success drew Stephen, was not entirely unconscious of Gli sposi malcontenti’s comic episodes - a romantic interloper discovered hiding in a chair, a climactic nocturnal escapade in a garden - when he penned Figaro the following year.

Gray’s simple, witty design essentially sets the action - given a Seventies feel by the prevailing harvest-gold and burnt-orange palette - inside a wedding cake, with the proceedings overseen by outsized Ken and Barbie look-a-likes in their nuptial finery perched atop a gigantic slice of frosted sponge. The busy ensembles were deftly handled, the confusions and conflicts which end Act 1 exploding in a storm of smoke, buttercream and confetti: the icing on the cake of an evening which ended, naturally, with sweet forgiveness and harmony.

Claire Seymour

Stephen Storace: Bride & Gloom

Eginia - Jenny Stafford, Casimiro - Gavan Ring, Enrichetta - Aoife O'Sullivan, Artidoro - Arthur Bruce, Rosmondo - Robert Davies, Valente - Adam Tunnicliffe, Bettina - Caroline Kennedy; Director/Designer - Jeremy Gray, Conductor - Anthony Kraus, Associate director - Alicia Frost.

St John’s Smith Square, London; Tuesday 17th September 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):