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

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.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

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.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

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’.

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

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.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

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.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

14 Oct 2019

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.

Chelsea Opera Group: Verdi’s Un giorno di regno at Cadogan Hall

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: George von Bergen (baritone)

 

The premiere of his second opera, following Oberto, was a flop; after the first-night fiasco La Scala cancelled all further performances and forgot about Il giorno di regno until 2001. There were a few other performances in Italy but after the 1859 production in the Teatro Nuovo in Naples over one hundred years passed before it was seen in an Italian opera house: at Parma’s Teatro Regio, where it was revived to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Verdi's birth.

Felice Romani’s libretto (based on Alexandre Vincent Pineu-Duval’s play Le faux Stanislas) tells of a French military officer, Il Cavaliere di Belfiore, who has agreed to help out his friend Stanislaus, the future King of Poland, by impersonating him while Stanislaus travels to Warsaw to take the throne. The ‘King for a Day’ sets about using his ‘power’ to do good deeds: that is, by disentangling some unhappy betrothals. Giulietta’s father, the Barone di Kelbar, is threatening to wed her to his elderly, rich friend, Signor la Rocca, but she’s got her eyes on the latter’s nephew, Edoardo di Sanval. Belfiore himself is adored by the Baron’s niece, a young widow, the Marchesa del Poggio, but, fed up with his philandering ways, she has engaged herself to another. A double-wedding is planned, and the Baron’s pride is tickled by the promised presence of Stanislaus. The meeting of the surprised Marchesa and the disguised Belfiore on the wedding morning results in confusion and further masquerades, as the plot twists and turns in contortions that are not always clear to the audience.

Allowing for the shortcomings of Felice Romani’s libretto, I’m not sure that Chelsea Opera Group, supporting a fine team of soloists and conducted by Tom Seligman, captured every humorous ‘nuance’ of this Rossinian tale - the laughter in the Cadogan Hall was of the occasional chuckle rather than belly laugh kind, and the Chorus, though confident and firm of voice, looked decidedly serious throughout. But, then, Verdi labelled his opera a melodramma giocoso - a drama with some humour rather than a comic caper - and, in any case, it’s hard to capture the full spirit of an opera in a concert performance. But, Chelsea Opera Group emphasised the geniality and vitality of the work with their affectionate and accomplished reading.

The cast of soloists were excellent. We don’t seem to have enough opportunities to see and hear baritone George von Bergen in London, though he has appeared at Opera Holland Park in recent seasons (in this summer’s Un ballo in maschera and Isabeau in 2018) and will sing Sharpless when Madame Butterfly returns to the Coliseum next spring. His dark, fluid, juicy tone, ability to make the most of the text, and dramatic presence made his Belfiore as dashing as he was dastardly. I described tenor Luis Gomez (a former JPYA) as a suave-toned Fenton when he appeared in the ROH’s Falstaff revival in July 2015, and ‘suave’ was an apt word on this occasion: his dulcet tenor rang freely and with refinement, emphasising Edoardo’s passion, sincerity but not neglecting his comic gaucheness.

Edoardo’s Act 2 duet with Giulietta was one of the highlights, and this was in no small part owing to the sparkling brightness of Paula Sides’ soprano. Sarah-Jane Lewis evinced a grace and maturity which befitted the older of the two women, especially in her aria of disillusionment and despair, but her Marchese lit some combative sparks with Belfiore: however, Lewis’s soprano - though warm and rich, doesn’t quite have the weight to dominate some of the exchanges or soar above the orchestral accompaniment, though did Seligman provide sympathetic support.

John Savourin (Barone di Kelbar) and Nicholas Fowell (Signore la Rocca) were a rather bitter pair of buffos, though both projected the text well and their basses were ear-pleasing. Perhaps to make the comedy felt, a greater physical and kinetic dimension is required - not easy when pinioned behind a music stand in a stationary line. And, at times the cast were rather bound to their scores, thought this is forgivable given that after this single performance they are unlikely to be asked to reprise their roles any time soon. The minor roles of Il Conte Ivrea and Un Servo were competently sung by Aaron Godfrey-Meyers (tenor) and Kevin Holland (bass) respectively.

There was a time when I found the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra less than polished with regard to style, intonation and ensemble, but things have improved steadily and markedly of late, and this was a very persuasive orchestral performance characterised by assured tuning - particularly in the woodwind and brass, who played with confident attack - well-defined colour, and technical competence. Seligman had evident faith in his players, and his economical and precise gestures ensured rhythmic clarity - important during the strings’ frequently busy accompaniments to the arias. The occasional, ever so slight, relaxation of tempo - as during some string scurrying in the overture - ensured the collective fingers found the notes tidily. If I were to quibble, I’d observe that in Act 1 the loud volume was unalleviated, but Act 2 brought far more dynamic, and thus dramatic, variation. Seligman kept things moving swiftly along, even when the action was tying itself up in contortions, and the secco recitatives were unfussily presented by harpsichordist (and assistant conductor) Davide Levi - one can imagine them being much more disruptive than they were.

I think, overall, that the soloists might have taken a few more risks. There are plentiful opportunities for hamming up, of the kind that that Savournin, especially, usually relishes and delivers with discerning style. There was some attempt to conjure some ‘action’: Giulietta gave Edoardo a feisty sideswipe, and when Belfiore’s squire Delmonte (John Vallance) delivered the King’s letter to his master, he was aided by the orchestra playing parcel-the-parcel.

This was a performance that became increasingly ebullient and lively. At the end, the cast shrugged their shoulders and declared that, in the light of all the confusion and cock-ups the best thing would be to just forget what’s just happened: sounds to me like a maxim that could usefully serve in other arenas at present.

Claire Seymour

Verdi: Il giorno di regno

Il Barone di Kelbar - John Savournin, Signor la Rocca - Nicholas Folwell, Delmonte - John Vallance, Il Cavaliere di Belfiore - George von Bergen, Edoardo di Sanval - Luis Gomes, La Marchesa del Poggio -Sarah-Jane Lewis, Giulietta di Kelbar - Paula Sides, Un servo - Kevin Hollands, Il Conte Ivrea - Aaron Godfrey-Mayes; Conductor - Tom Seligman, Chorus Director - Lindsay Bramley, Assistant Conductor & Continuo - Davide Levi, Orchestra of Chelsea Opera Group.

Cadogan Hall, London; Saturday 12th 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):