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

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

Death in Venice at Deutsche Oper Berlin

This death in Venice is not the end, but the beginning.

Saint Cecilia: The Sixteen at Kings Place

There were eighteen rather than sixteen singers. And, though the concert was entitled Saint Cecilia the repertoire paid homage more emphatically to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and to the spirit of Christmas.

Insights on Mahler Lieder, Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen

At the Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide in a recital of Schubert and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Rückert-Lieder. Schuen has most definitely arrived, at least among the long-term cognoscenti at the Wigmore Hall who appreciate the intelligence and sensitivity that marks true Lieder interpretation.

Ermelinda by San Francisco's Ars Minerva

It’s an opera by Vicentino composer Domenico Freschi that premiered in 1681 at the country home of the son of the doge of Venice. Villa Contarini is a couple of hours on horseback from Vicenza, and a few hours by gondola from Venice).

Wozzeck in Munich

It would be an extraordinary, even an unimaginable Wozzeck that failed to move, to chill one to the bone. This was certainly no such Wozzeck; Marie’s reading from the Bible, Wozzeck’s demise, the final scene with their son and the other children: all brought that particular Wozzeck combination of tears and horror.

Korngold's Die tote Stadt in Munich

I approached this evening as something of a sceptic regarding work and director. My sole prior encounter with Simon Stone’s work had not been, to put it mildly, a happy one. Nor do I count myself a subscriber or even affiliate to the Korngold fan club, considerable in number and still more considerable in fervency.

Exceptional song recital from Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

Thanks to the enterprise and vision of Lynton Atkinson - Artistic Director of Dorset-based Hurn Court Opera - two promising young singers on the threshold of glittering careers gave an outstanding recital at Salisbury’s prestigious Art Centre.

Lohengrin in Munich

An exceptional Lohengrin, this. I had better explain. Yes, it was exceptional in the quality of much of the singing, especially the two principal female roles, yet also in luxury casting such as Martin Gantner as the King’s Herald.

Hansel and Gretel in San Francisco

This Grimm’s fairytale in its operatic version found its way onto the War Memorial stage in the guise of a new “family friendly” production first seen last holiday season at London’s Royal Opera House.

An hypnotic Death in Venice at the Royal Opera House

Spot-lit in the prevailing darkness, Gustav von Aschenbach frowns restively as he picks up an hour-glass from a desk strewn with literary paraphernalia, objects d’art, time-pieces and a pair of tall candles in silver holders - by the light of which, so Thomas Mann tells us in his novella Death in Venice, the elderly writer ‘would offer up to art, for two or three ardently conscientious morning hours, the strength he had garnered during sleep’.

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Scene from Cosi fan tutte [Photo by Hans van den Bogaard]
05 Oct 2019

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.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Scene from Così fan tutte

Photos by Hans van den Bogaard

 

In their treatment of this coming-of-age comedy, in which two young men trick their girlfriends into cheating on them with themselves in disguise, the directors emphasise the extreme youth of the couples. They even transform the sonorous Dutch National Opera Chorus into a pack of slouchy, surly teenagers. In this adolescent context, the couples’ overreactions to setbacks in their love life, including several suicide threats, make perfect sense.

Unfortunately, despite plenty of frantic stage business, the production is practically devoid of humour. Whenever the audience laughed it was at Da Ponte’s dialogue. The staging as a whole is illogical. Yes, even the improbable premise that two women can become intimate with each other’s boyfriends and not recognize them has to follow some kind of psychological, if not naturalistic, logic. When the sisters first meet their suitors, in reality their boyfriends pretending to be minor celebrities, Despina the waitress/chambermaid is treating them to a striptease in the hotel lobby. It’s anyone’s guess why Fiordiligi and Dorabella should be so outraged by this. After being rejected, the celebs start making out with each other, under the influence of the poison they pretend to have swallowed—an original idea that contributes nothing to their wearing down the women with their incessant wooing and pestering. Even worse are the unmusical choices, such as the silent scenes. There’s no excuse for stopping the music while characters get dressed when there’s yards of rhythmic, bouncy recitatives. Equally exasperating is the defacement of arias with unacceptable noise, such as Dorabella smashing a sideboardful of breakfast things during “Smanie implacabili”.

Così fan tutte - De Nationale Opera - Hans van den Bogaard 1165.png

There are a couple of insightful, even witty, touches. Electric lights flicker when Despina, dressed as a turbaned doctor/alternative healer, weaves her hocus pocus. And Ferrando physically attacking Guglielmo when he finds out that Dorabella has been unfaithful is totally believable. However, such moments are sparse. Eighteenth-century Naples is traded for an unspecified seaside resort in the 1960s, but if this conjures up colourful vintage postcards, think again. It is true that the hotel guests wear a garish tangle of fifties and sixties fashions. But the only beachy thing about the unspeakably ugly set, a peanut butter-colored revolving platform partitioned into three hotel interiors, is the sprinkling of anaemic sand in front of it. There isn’t a hint of blue sky or water anywhere, not even through a window. Luckily, the performers supplied the much needed elan.

Ivor Bolton maintained a sprightly pace with deft and unfussy conducting. He expertly modulated the volume of the charmingly fluent Netherlands Chamber Orchestra to suit the soloists, creating pleasingly balanced ensembles. Another asset were the dry recitatives, during which the singers and continuo players kept up a stream of well-timed, sparkling repartee. Besides Bolton on the harpsichord, and a cello, the continuo included a guitar strummed by a superfluous but endearing beach hippie. Bolton and the soloists rescued the production from being a disappointing muddle. Thomas Oliemans made a fine role debut as a pipe-smoking, beard-stroking Don Alfonso, the puppetmaster behind the sadistic charade. I think he was supposed to be the hotel owner. His vocally secure cynic crackled with energy, occasionally revealing glimpses of the sadistic nature behind his amiable bon vivant act. Oliemans’s tangy timbre contrasted nicely with the other baritone in the cast, Davide Luciano, whose voice poured out like coffee liqueur, making him a particularly attractive Guglielmo. He and Angela Brower sang an exquisite “Il core vi dono”. Such a shame that this erotically charged duet was directed to exude the sensuality of a stock-taking session.

Così fan tutte © De Nationale Opera - Hans van den Bogaard 1012.png

Brower was a delightful Dorabella, the flightier of the two sisters, her poised mezzo-soprano flawlessly produced. Soprano Annet Fritsch successfully captured Fiordiligi’s highly strung earnestness. The low notes lacked body, which is problematic in this role, and during her first big aria, “Come scoglio”, it sounded as if she was overtly managing every phrase. Given the manic staging, she probably was, having to negotiate the music’s Olympic leaps and runs while fussing aimlessly with books and glasses of water. In the second act she sang more organically, delivering a potent "Per pietà", sadly marred by a case of persistent hiccups in the horn solos, and an arresting surrender duet with her Ferrando, Sebastian Kohlhepp. Kohlhepp, who commands a robust, darkish tenor with slightly clipped Germanic vowels, sounded slightly pressed in “Un’aura amorosa”, but then went on from strength to strength. This production retains the frequently cut taxing aria “Ah, lo veggio”. Kohlhepp sang it with supreme control and conviction. Last but not least, Sophia Burgos as the free-spirited Despina left nothing to be desired. Her diction was clear, her musical instincts unerring, and her vocal acting as natural as her feline movements, even in her parodic disguises as the doctor and the notary. The cast served Mozart and Da Ponte well, even if the production team didn’t.

Jenny Camilleri


Mozart: Così fan tutte

Anett Fritsch, Fiordiligi; Angela Brower, Dorabella; Sophia Burgos, Despina; Davide Luciano, Guglielmo; Sebastian Kohlhepp, Ferrando; Thomas Oliemans, Don Alfonso. Jossi Wieler, Director; Sergio Morabito,Director; Barbara Ehnes, Set Designer; Anja Rabes, Costume Designer; David Finn, Lighting Designer. Ivor Bolton, Conductor. Dutch National Opera Chorus. Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. Seen at Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam, on Thursday, the 3rd of October, 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):