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

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Photo by Christian Dresse courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille
01 Feb 2020

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Isolde, Act II
All photos by Rocco Casaluci courtesy of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

 

Gossip has it that Bologna’s 1871 Lohengrin was the first Wagner opera to be heard in Italy because Giuseppe Verdi did not engage the Teatro Comunale’s principle conductor Angelo Mariani to conduct the premiere of Aida in Cairo, and furthermore that Verdi had encouraged star soprano Teresa Stolz, Mariani’s lover, to leave him. Thus Mariani wreaked revenge on Verdi by bringing Verdi’s archival into Italy! Verdi did attend one of the performances of Lohengrin, and later wrote to his publisher that it made him want to throw up. It is rumored that Teresa Stolz then became Verdi’s mistress.


Tannhauser was programmed in Bologna the following year, 1872 the year Wagner accepted honorary citizenship of Bologna! Rienzi came in 1876 and Dutchman in 1877. The Teatro Comunale gave the Italian premiere of Tristan und Isolde in 1888. This 2020 production of Tristan is the twelfth in the Teatro Comunale’s history. The stage director of the 1983 third last version situated the opera in the Otto Wesendonk living room [his wife Mathilde a Wagner lover and muse], stage director Ruth Berghaus set the 1996 penultimate version on a space station.


Surely taken right in stride by the Bolognese this 2020 version occurs within a work of art, an installation that surely would be most at home in hip, chic, intellectual Berlin. Stage director Ralf Pleger and his designer Alexander Polzin are numbingly credentialed within the film/art/opera avant-garde establishment.


Tristan_Bologna2.pngAct I

The first act was in a maze of slowly, very slowly descending stalactites that illuminated, lightning-like, from within at that crucial moment, the second act was a huge revolving tumbleweed-like sculpture from which oozed white worms (dancers) in crucial moments in Wagner's love death enactment. The third act was a highly abstracted starry sky back wall that in the considerable magic of the lighting effected by John Torres sometimes appeared as a ceiling that was a floor, and at that crucial moment the wall moved in toto, somehow, startlingly forward.


Tristan_Bologna3.pngAct III

There was no action. No one drank the magic potion, the lovers never touched much less looked at one another except in rare, very rare strategic moments, Isolde did not even glance at the dead Tristan, Melot’s spear did not wound Tristan or kill Kurvenal. There was no action. None.


It was spectacular, never mind whatever philosophical underpinnings or artistic intuitions one may conjure (director Pleger suggests it as a drug trip). It was abstract art as image in music. It was not drama in music.


Musically Wagner’s opera soared within these images, conductor Valčuha finding surpassing warmth and an astounding intimacy from the Teatro Comunale’s splendid orchestra, the winds and brasses singing in tones of purest color, the tempos in spontaneous and natural unison with the text declamation and the progression of images. There was no drama, no musical trauma in Mo. Valčuha’s exposition of this Wagnerian rite.


German tenor Stefab Vinke was Tristan. Mr. Vinke began as a light lyric dramatic tenor (jugendlicher heldontenor), later adding all the Wagner heldon tenor roles to his repertoire. It was reported that he tired though the trials of Siegfried in the recent Metropolitan Opera Ring, and here there seemed to be a moment of distress in the second act love duet. But for the murderous third act monologue he was in superb voice to his death, riveting us as an image of wounded suffering in a red tunic, finally trailed by six dancers in red tunics to create a swirling red line.

King Mark was sung by German bass baritone Albert Dohmen, a formidable Bayreuth Wotan. Of imposing presence Mr. Dohmen stated the case of the betrayed king in absolute clarity and exquisite dignity, adding occasional portamento (sliding tone) in his attack of a phrase to startling vocal effect. Russian mezzo soprano Ekaterina Gubanova provided the Brangāne in gorgeous, present voice throughout, her second act warning ”Einsam wachend in der Nacht” was one of the evening’s most beautiful moments as she hung on the turning sculpture bathed in golden light. Tristan’s squire Kurvenal was sung by German baritone Martin Gantner who infused his sympathetic evening-long presence with Tristan in warmly focused voice.

The production’s Isolde was 54 year-old Danish soprano Ann Petersen. Mme Petersen produces a mighty tone that she manages with little nuance. She is an accomplished veteran of the role and thus delivered a performance that was generic though sufficient for us to understand and enjoy composer Wagner and stage director Pleger’s intentions.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Tristan: Stefan Vinke; Isolde: Ann Petersen; King Mark: Albert Dohmen; Kurwenal: Martin Gantner; Brangäne: Ekaterinburg Gubanova; Melot: Tommaso Caramia; Shepherd: Klodjan Kaçani. Chorus and orchestra of Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Conductor: Jura Valčuha; Stage Director: Ralf Pleger; Scenery: Alexander Polzin; Costumes: Wojciech Dziedzic; Lights: John Torres/Kate Bashore; Choreography: Fernando Melo. Teatro Comunale di Bologna, January 26, 2020.

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):