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

Covent Garden’s Otello: Superb singing defies Warner’s uneven production

I have seen productions of Verdi’s Otello which have been revolutionary, even subversive. I have now seen one which is the complete antithesis of that.

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

07 Nov 2019

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

A review by David Truslove

Above: Vito Priante (Papageno) and Elsa Dreisig (Pamina)

Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton

 

This seventh revival of David McVicar’s Die Zauberflöte, first shown in 2003 and now rebooted by Bárbara Lluch, is no less gloomy or plausible in its narrative. Thankfully, its exploration of Enlightenment values, and its narratives of morality and power, are all given a light dusting and freemasonry is all but erased in this dark and occasionally enchanting production.

The glowing orbs carried through the stalls at the start of the Overture signal where we’re heading, not necessarily plot-wise but more by suggestion in terms of emotional trajectory. Ancient superstitions are abandoned for reason and a partnership of equals emerges after several testing ordeals for Tamino and Pamina whose joyful union is ultimately celebrated. Sounds cosy, but notions of power and equality propounded by Mozart’s librettist Emanuel Schikaneder are merely ideals, and in that sense, we’ve not come very far since Viennese audiences first heard this musical fairy-tale in 1791.

Benjamin Hulett (Tamino).jpgBenjamon Hulett (Tamino). Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton.

The work’s underlining solemnity is balanced by gentle humour, generated not so much by the accoutrements of popular theatre presented here - a wriggling serpent, the rubber chicken or the air-borne bicycle - but by the characters themselves, principally the comic exchanges between Vito Priante’s engaging Papageno and Elsa Dreisig’s spirited Pamina. Their partnership is more convincing than any other on stage and enjoys a special camaraderie nowhere more obviously than in the companionable duet ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe’ - sung with effortless musicality and glorious tone and connected by a real chemistry - a bond that, had he been a tenor, Priante and Dreisig would have made a believable married couple-to-be. Benjamin Hulett’s ringing Tamino is fervently and cleanly delivered: a strong wholesome and safe-as-houses tenor arrives in ‘Wie stark ist’, but the unvarying nobility of stance and textbook movements never quite draw the eye. Tamino’s betrothal to Pamina is a plot convenience, but here manages to look more manufactured than usual simply because the rapport is missing and it’s not just Mozart’s fault.

The composer conceived the work for a theatre in a Viennese suburb for a popular audience used to family entertainment. That he elevated this Singspiel to more lofty dimensions isn’t an issue here, more the absence of any sense of wide-eyed wonder in a shadowy production that stems as much from the drab colours (even the wild animals look anaemic) as the unimaginative direction, and where singers at times are almost overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the surrounding marble columns. These crowd the stage to oppressive effect and merely highlight the post-war pallor of the costumes. Spectacle is there, of course, such as the giant moon and sun, but it needs more than a lick of paint to liven up proceedings within these, often empty, cavernous spaces. 18th-century frock coats, pretty dresses and a shabby suit for a mallard-wearing Papageno don’t quite remind us that this opera shares elements with pantomime.

Elsa Dreisig (Pamina) and Tuuli Takala (Queen of the Night).jpgElsa Dreisig (Pamina) and Tuuli Takala (Queen of the Night). Photo credit: ROH/Tristram Kenton.

Niggles aside, I enjoyed the absence of distracting movement during many of the set pieces, allowing key arias and ensemble numbers to register fully, to speak for themselves as it were. Particularly memorable was the wonderful Act Two Terzett ‘Soll ich dich’, beautifully rendered, buoyant and sung with flawless ensemble and genuine affection - a standout moment of pure bliss. Elsewhere, the trio of Ladies (Kiandra Howarth, Hongni Wu and Nadine Weissmann) eventually found an accommodation in their ensembles, a quality brought off with great assurance by the three boys Richard Wolfson, Joshua Abrams and William James who made the most of their cameo roles.

There is plenty of drama from the Finnish soprano Tuuli Takala as an admirable Queen of the Night. Her arias blazed with conviction and brought sustained applause for her efforts. Equally impressive, and at the other end of the stave, is the commanding presence and amply upholstered bass of Andres Bauer Kanabas as Sarastro. His shapely ‘O Isis und Osiris’ was especially gratifying. So, too, was the clarion and insinuating tone from Rodell Rosel as a foppish Monostatos - less a repellent monster than someone to be ridiculed. It was curious to see Papagena dressed as a woman belonging to the oldest profession, but Chilean soprano Yaritza Véliz fulfilled her portrayal with ease.

Leo Hussain directs the Royal Opera House Orchestra with flair, bringing flexible and generally forward tempi. Despite the odd disagreement between pit and stage the opening night was a musically persuasive evening and will sharpen up in time.

David Truslove

Tamino - Benjamin Hulett, Papageno - Vito Priante, Queen of the Night - Tuuli Takala, Monostatos - Rodell Rosel, Pamina - Elsa Dreisig, Sarastro - Andres Bauer Kanabas, Papagena - Yaritza Véliz, First Lady - Kiandra Howarth, Second Lady - Hongi Wu, Third Lady - Nadine Weissmann, First Boy - Richard Wolfson, Second Boy - Joshua Abrams, Third Boy - William James, Speaker of the Temple - Darren Jeffery, First Priest - Harry Nicoll, Second Priest - Donald Maxwell, Men in Armour - Andrés Presno & Julian Close; Director - David McVicar, Conductor - Leo Hussain, Revival Director - Bárbara Lluch, Designer - John Macfarlane, Lighting - Paule Constable, Movement Director- Leah Hausman, Revival Movement Director - Angelo Smimmo, Orchestra and Chorus of Royal Opera House.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Friday 1st November 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):