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

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

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.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

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.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

Walk for 10 minutes or so due north of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and you come to Brunswick Square, home to the Foundling Museum which was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for children lost but lucky.

O19’s Phat Philly Phantasy

It is hard to imagine a more animated, engaging, and musically accomplished night at the Academy of Music than with Opera Philadelphia’s winning new staging of The Love for Three Oranges.

Agrippina: Barrie Kosky brings farce and frolics to the ROH

She makes a virtue of her deceit, her own accusers come to her defence, and her crime brings her reward. Agrippina - great-granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, sister of Caligula, wife of Emperor Claudius - might seem to offer those present-day politicians hungry for power an object lesson in how to satisfy their ambition.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Adam Plachetka, Marianne Crebassa, and Lawrence Brownlee [Photo © Todd Rosenberg courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
09 Oct 2019

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Adam Plachetka, Marianne Crebassa, and Lawrence Brownlee [Photo © Todd Rosenberg courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]

 

The role of the wily Rosina, ward of Doctor Bartolo, is sung by Marianne Crebassa. Her suitor Lindoro, or Count Almaviva, is performed by Lawrence Brownlee. Bartolo is Alessandro Corbelli, and the music master Don Basilio is sung by Krzysztof Baczyk. The barber Figaro is Adam Plachetka. The roles of the domestic Berta and Almaviva’s helper Fiorello are sung by Mathilda Edge and Christopher Kenney. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Michael Black has prepared the Lyric Opera Chorus. The original production is by Rob Ashford and the revival director is Tara Faircloth. The set designer is Scott Pask and the lighting design is by Howard Harrison. Ms. Edge and Mr. Baczyk make their house debuts in these performances.

During the overture, led by Davis with varying tempi in keeping with the changeable stage action to follow, a tawny yellow scrim covers the stage. Stylized sketches of the Count and Rosina facing each other on this scrim are flanked by a faceless form bearing a wig and positioned as though in watchful proximity. As the scrim lifts an outdoor scene represents the darkened streets of Seville. Although the lighting at this point in the performance indicates a nocturnal scene, rotating elements of the stage and a judicious use of lighting will subsequently transform the stage into an interior setting. For now the Count’s men led by Fiorello appear beneath the balcony of Dr. Bartolo’s house. Group movements are humorously staged, and blocking sets the men in comical tandem with motivic shifts in the orchestra Count Almaviva’s entrance and ardent serenade of the beloved Rosina does not minimize but rather enhances the humorous movements of the supporting group. AS Almaviva Mr. Brownlee delivers a meltingly heartfelt performance of “Ecco ridente.” The plaintive, touchingly decorated line in the first part of the aria is expanded into daringly accurate runs and exciting top notes in the conclusion of the piece. At the sound of others approaching the outdoor scene empties and is immediately transformed into the barber’s public domain. Mr. Plachetka’s Figaro is athletic, both in physical movement and vocal projection. In his solo aria, ”Largo al factotum,” Plachetka negotiates leaps and hurdles on the stage while at once soaring to top pitches with equivalent ease. His breath control yielded a final, sustained pitch of remarkable evenness. Plachetka’s agility in coloratura line is noted only in the following duet with Almaviva, who returns for a conspiratorial duet outdoors with the barber. In this scene Brownlee’s glittering and rapid runs, punctuated with fervent top pitches, are matched by Plachetka’s simultaneous line, sung with comparable decoration. The plan between the two is made.

Lighting and rotation reveal an instant transformation for the balance of the act into the home of Dr. Bartolo. In her reaction to the sound of Lindoro’s voice from without Rosina sings “Una voce poco fa.” Crebassa’s approach to this well-known number illustrates a strategic use of vocal color. Her extension of low notes is particularly strong so that her downward runs in this aria elicit a rich, full sound; since the voice tends to grow thinner at the top, Crebassa accents individual phrases so that meaning is enhanced by an alternate projection. In a further male progression of planing and advice, now inside the house, Dr. Bartolo and Don Basilio discuss plans for Rosina and the matter of Almaviva’s reputation. Mr. Corbelli has so frequently identified with this role internationally that his singing seems equivalent to an extension of the character’s speech-patterns and bodily movements. Mr. Baczyk’s Don Basilio leaves an appropriately surly impression, yet more importantly he sings with a full palette of expressive color and technique. In the first part of “La calumnia” rubato phrasing is cleverly tucked into decorated lines, while the rapid tempo and forte pitches of the second part capture the threat imposed in the text of the aria. The menacing flourish executed by the music-master with his cape was conceived perhaps as an emphatic gesture with a comic self-assuredness, yet Baczyk’s vocal performance alone communicates this tone with decided elegance. The finale to the first act is populated with frenetic singing and motion, interrupted by lyrical, repeated phrases and the arrival of the municipal police. Brownlee feigns inebriation believably and lends discreet correction to bring this ensemble to a close.

In Act Two the music lesson and its aftermath are staged to emphasize the growing zeal in the attraction felt by the young lovers while Dr. Bartolo continues to snooze in his adjacent chair. The staging is here especially laden with humor” Brownlee is dressed as a slighter Don Basilio, sporting cape and mortarboard, while Crebassa’s florid aria os punctuated with Dr. Bartolo’s resonant snores. Before he awakens to deliver his own idea of musical form, the lovers have at least initiated plans fir subsequent meeting. Berta’s commentary on the tumult in the household shows Ms. Edge singing a flexible line with assured pitch and graceful transitions. Despite Plachetka’s urgently expressive attempts to coax the lovers to leave, the sober logic of action does not interrupt their Romantic duet of revealed identity, as here lovingly performed. Caught as they are by such multiple vocal delays, Dr. Bartolo insists that the authorities should intervene. The moment prompts Almaviva to sing “Cessa di piu resistere,” easily the most exciting vocal display of the performance. Brownlee excels in this type of writing with a wide range of decoration, rapidly accelerating runs, rubato and sudden shifts in tempo, as well as the opportunity to include individualized notes as here. The aria brought a volley of approval from the audience and led to the final ensemble of this happy production.

Salvatore Calomino

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):