Thursday, August 17, 2017
Short operas vary wildly: they encompass extremely short gems like Hindemith´s "Hin und Zurück" but also almost long ones like Richard Strauss´ "Elektra" (100 minutes, so intense that it´s always given alone). They are often coupled, such as that verista duo "Cav-Pag" (Mascagni´s "Cavalleria rusticana, Leoncavallo´s "I Pagliacci"). I will follow the chronology and start with Antonio Salieri´s "La grotta di Trofonio", presented by the Colón Chamber Opera at the Teatro 25 de Mayo. I believe it has been done here before but I don´t have the exact data. It´s his opera Nº 22 out of 42 (!) and this comic item in two acts written in 1785 for Vienna is considered by Grove´s Dictionary "the best of its kind (in the composer´s production) and one of his finest works"; it had "an extraordinary success and was engraved by Artaria". On a libretto by Giovanni Battista Casti, it refers to a magic grotto that changes personality: the one who enters, if he is shy emerges totally extrovert, or viceversa. Two pairs of lovers are affected by it, and even the father of the girls, a sceptic, is eventually convinced. However, the condition isn´t permanent: they go again into the grotto and come out in their old selves. The magician is Trofonio; for almost the whole of the opera we have straight comedy, but the final minutes become sinister, which seems to me a mistake. Nevertheless, the music is likeable and flows with fine classic technique, though nothing is memorable. The best singers were the experienced Walter Schwarz (Artemidoro) and Luciano Miotto (Trofonio), but the two couples did well: Victoria Gaeta (soprano) and Trinidad Goyeneche (mezzo), Agustín Gómez (tenor) and Mariano Fernández Bustinza (baritone). Twenty players were nicely coordinated by Martín Sotelo. The director Diego Cosín does, in his own words, a cocktail of situations of Old Greece, the XVIIIth century and our time; in his own terms it was well done, with adequate stage design by Gastón Joubert, costumes by Isabel Gual and lighting by Rubén Conde, plus projections by Natalio Ríos. "La scala di seta" ("The silk ladder") is one of the funniest Rossini one-acters. It was written for Venice´s Teatro San Moisè in 1813 with libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa based on a French text by Planard for an opera by Pierre Gaveaux (1808). Rossini was only 21; his style was already unmistakable, with his famous "crescendo" and the ability to concoct ensembles intercrossing the characters´ bewildered feelings, plus the witty fast pieces and the cantabile ones. I had an early contact with this creation back in 1964 at the Piccola Scala with splendid artists (Bruscantini, Sciutti, Alva, conductor Bartoletti) and I rejoiced to reacquaint myself with it in the very good Colón 1973 première, brought weeks later to the Vienna Festival; the Colón also offered it in 1977, and I´m told that around 2000 there was another revival from a different source. So after forty years I had the pleasure of hearing it live again in a presentation of Buenos Aires Lírica at the Teatro del Picadero. It´s a small amphitheatre that seats (I believe) about 230 people and has good acoustics. At least in this production, the stage was minimal, in the shape of a half-moon, and to the left, but directress Cecilia Elías managed to use every available inch with great skill. The instrumental ensemble, to the right, had only eleven players (five strings, four woodwinds, horn and harpsichord) led with style by Carlos David Jaimes. I single out the beautiful playing of the first violin part by Cristina Tartza, but all were good; the harpsichordist was unnamed: pity, for he was resourceful in the recitatives. New names were positive in a production that evoked the Nineteenth Century: stage design, Rodrigo González Garrillo; costumes, Julieta Harca; lighting, Ricardo Sicca. In this comedy a lot seemed to anticipate the vaudevilles of Feydeau, based as it on spying, a fool that wreaks havoc by misinterpreting what he sees, and people that come in and out of the same door generally at the wrong time. Although Elias was generally well oriented, she certainly overdid things by suggesting that Germano (the fool) had sex with Giulia, who is a coquette but is also married secretly with Dorvil (that´s the clinching revelation at the end). Constanza Díaz Falú is young and sensual, with an incisive voice that reaches the heights easily but lacks warmth; she acted in an extrovert manner. Dorvil was sung by tenor Sebastián Russo, who was taxed by his difficult aria but otherwise gave a believable performance as he has to dissemble and apparently promote the arrogant Blansac as Giulia´s future husband, instigated by Giulia´s tutor Dormont. Luis Loaiza Isler (baritone) was a convincing Germano, singing with firm voice a typical buffo character. Bass-baritone Sergio Carlevaris sang smoothly as Blansac, dominating from his towering height, subtle in his innuendos. Tenor Patricio Oliveira as Dormont was the lively caricature of a hectoring tutor. And the competent mezzo Guadalupe Maiorano as the self-effacing Lucilla will finally be the one that marries Blansac, an old flame revived. One big plus: the excellent notes of Claudio Ratier and the finely selected photographs in the hand programme. There are few operas for children that have quality, and I´m unhappy with the adaptations of operas which aren´t for children such as Mozart´s "The Magic Flute". I can mention only two: Humperdinck´s "Hänsel and Gretel" and Britten´s "The Little Sweep". Hans Werner Henze was the best German opera composer after WWII, but unfortunately not one of his long operas has been offered here, where we only knew two short ones, "El Cimarrón" and "The wonder theatre". So I welcomed the première of "Pollicino" ("Tom Thumb"), libretto by Giuseppe Di Leva translated into Spanish by César Bustamante and Helena Cánepa as "Pulgarcito" and given at the Colón on their programme "My first opera". Based on the tales by Collodi, Grimm and Perrault, premièred in Italian at Montepulciano (Tuscany) in 1980, it lasts a bit over an hour telling the story of children abandoned by their parents due to extreme poverty and later finding themselves at the house of an Ogre and his wife and escaping from it with a happy ending. The inventive orchestration of 19 players includes no less than 8 recorders, two Krummhorns, strings, guitar, organ and piano, but there´s also the addition of several percussionists (Percussion Ensemble of the Conservatory Astor Piazzolla, led by Marina Calzado Linage). Besides the four adult roles, the rest are children: Tom Thumb and his brothers, the forest animals, the sisters of Clotilde (daughter of the Ogre that helps the boys to escape). The music for the children is fresh, melodic and singable, the adults sing in heightened recitative, and there are some interesting orchestral interludes, more audacious. The adult singers were weak, the kids much better, especially Tom Thumb, and the playing was very good, conducted by Bustamante (also director of the Colón Children Choir). The staging was splendid, with charming and colorful stage designs by Verónica Cámara, fine costumes by Aníbal Lápiz, skillful directing by Matías Cambiasso and lighting by Rubén Conde. For Buenos Aires Herald
Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies. Here Gens presents extracts from Grand Opéra, reflecting her Tragodienne series of operatic arias. Visions is a stunner, rich and so rewarding that you want to rush out and hear each opera as a whole. This might be easier said than done, for some of the operas here aren't well known. Thus, all the more reason to get this recording because some real gems are included which you've almost certainly not heard done as well as they are done here. Véronique Gens is a great pioneer of French repertoire. So intoxicating is this recording that if you come to it as a taster, you could end up addicted. Visions - visions of ecstasy, religious or romantic, exotic dreams and horrifying nightmares, virgins, nuns and heroines, plenty of variety, yet each piece a work of theatrical imagination Alfred Bruneau's Geneviève (1881) for example, from the cantata the young Bruneau dedicated to Massenet. The piece begins with a dizzying evocation of a storm. If this sounds Wagnerian, the scène lyrique that rises from it is decidedly French. "Seigneur ! Est-ce bien moi que vous avez choisi?", for she is just a shepherdess tending a flock. But the nation needs her, and she must put her mission above herself. From César Franck's Les Béatitudes (1879), a moment of quietude interrupted by the fierce scream that introduces the récit et air de Leonore from Louis Neidermeyer's Stradella (1837), its rhythms influenced by Rossini, enhanced by florid vocal frills. Benjamin Godard's Les Guelfes (1882) is represented by an orchestral prelude introducing a song describing Jeanne d'Arc's journey to Paris, her way lit by angelic harps. From history to fantasy, Félicien David's Lalla Rookh (1862). French orientalism gloried in exotic images. This song is exquisite, its delicate perfumes warmed by the beauty of Gens' clear, pure expression. It also evokes the aesthetic of the Belle Époque. Thus a song from Henry Février's Gismonda (1919) a reverie with tolling bells where a solo violin shadows the voice.The protagonist is a nun, but longs, without much hope, for sensual love. Camille Saint-Saëns's arrangement of Étienne Marcel's Béatrix is altogether stronger stuff . Cello rather than violin, and mournful winds and a resolute vocal line. Béatrix knows that the love she knew will never return. "O Beaux Rêves évanouis ! Éspérances tant caressées!". This song is reasonably well known, and Gens does it beautifully. This selection from Jules Massenet's La Vierge (1880) begins with an orchestral interlude. The Virgin Mary is about to die. The mood is subdued. But the Gates of Heaven open showing the Virgin a vision of Paradise. "Rêve infini, divine extase, l'éther scintille et s'embrase!" Gens voice glows, illuminated by rapture. After that explosive high, we return to the relative sedate Blanche from Fromental Halévy's La Magicienne (1885) who chooses the cloister, and to the prayer of Clothilde from Georges Bizet's Clovis et Clothilde (1857). Another song whose loveliness lies in its simplicity, again ideally suited to Gens's clear, pure timbre. .To conclude, L'archange from César Franck's Rédemption (1874) a vision of the End of Time. "L'homme rebelle n'obéit pas", and God, in anger chastises him. "Mais que faut-il pour son pardon? Après des siècles d'abandon , une heure de prière!" A rousing and rather cheerful end to a very good recording.
Garsington Opera, 50 minutes’ drive from central London, has turned in record attendance figures for this summer. If the season were longer and the pop-up house larger (just 600 seats), it could probably do twice as well. The performance quality just keep on getting higher. We saw Rossini’s Turco in Italia yesterday – a piece of fluff for a summer’s night, redeemed by quicksilver comic direction (Martin Duncan), pinpoint orchestral playing (conductor: David Parry) and a sex-manic, melting, matchless account of Fiorilla by the inexhaustible Sarah Tynan – so swift about the stage you couldn’t imagine the role sung or played any better. The laughs came thick and fast. Geoffrey Dolton kept the cuckold role of Geronio just the right side of farce, Quirijn de Lang was a convincing Riviera Turk and if Katie Bray’s Zaida all but disappeared in the second act that was more Rossini’s fault than hers. Compared to the 1954 Callas recording from La Scala, this was lighter and more musical in every department. The notion that an English country house could match the home of Italian opera in a Rossini repertoire piece might sound absurd, but Callas’s voice was too shrill for Fiorilla, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni was portentous as the Turk, the rest of the cast was variable and the orchestra was decidedly poor. Give me Sarah Tynan at Garsington any summer’s night. photo: Alice Pennefather/Garsington Opera
OVERVIEW This 2-week intensive workshop features epic repertoire (music by Beethoven, Debussy, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Dvorak) and outstanding faculty (Maestros Neil Varon, Kirk Trevor, and Tomáš Netopil), and takes place in the charming UNESCO-preserved city of Kromeríž. With great repertoire, amazing teachers, 2 weeks in beautiful hotels, 100+ minutes […]
Juan Diego Flórez in La fille du régiment © Bill Cooper Whether cast as heroic warriors, ardent lovers, romantic poets or revolutionary outsiders, tenors are the undisputed kings of opera. We look at a few of the greatest – and most challenging – tenor roles: Idomeneo – Mozart ’s Idomeneo Idomeneo is a rare example of a tenor role with no love interest. However, Mozart more than makes up for it by giving the eponymous King of Crete one of the greatest virtuoso arias in the tenor repertory, 'Fuor del mar', and through his moving musical representation of Idomeneo's struggle to reconcile paternal love and religious duty. Arnold – Rossini ’s Guillaume Tell Arnold famously led to the birth of the ‘modern tenor’ , when his first interpreter, Gilbert Duprez , sang the high C in the Act IV cabaletta ‘Amis, amis’ in full voice rather than the customary falsetto. From the flamboyance of this stirring cabaletta to the lyricism of Arnold’s Act II duet with his beloved Mathilde and his mournful Act IV aria ‘Asile héréditaire’, there are plenty of vocal delights for any tenor bold enough to take on the challenge. Arturo – Bellini ’s I puritani Luciano Pavarotti described the role of the heroic monarchist Arturo, caught between love and political duty during England’s Civil War, as ‘pure tightrope walking’. Particularly demanding episodes include the Act I aria ‘A te, o cara’ and the Act III ensemble ‘Credeasi misera’, in which the courageous Arturo has to sing some of the highest notes ever written for tenor. Aeneas (Enée) – Berlioz ’s Les Troyens Stamina and versatility are the key skills for interpreters of Berlioz’s Trojan hero. Aeneas bursts onto the stage in Act I with high, declamatory music – but the role also calls for a singer capable of delicate lyricism, particularly in the sublime Act IV duet with Dido, ‘Nuit d’ivresse’. Keeping back enough energy for Act V’s heroic and despairing aria ‘Inutile regrets’, with its huge vocal range, is also crucial. Siegfried – Wagner ’s Der Ring des Nibelungen Wagner’s Siegfried is arguably the hardest role in the dramatic tenor repertory. Episodes such as the Forging Song require immense vocal power, easy top notes and boundless energy. But it’s not all about decibels: the singer also has to convince as the tender, sympathetic lover of Act III of Siegfried and of Götterdämmerung ’s death scene. Most importantly, he needs the stamina to keep going throughout two five-hour operas and still sound fresh at the end! Otello – Verdi ’s Otello Otello is perhaps Verdi’s most challenging tenor role. It requires a wide vocal range, and the singer needs to project over a powerful orchestra. Otello also presents a host of dramatic challenges: his interpreter must convince as Act I’s heroic commander, and as the troubled, ultimately broken man of the later acts – and remain sympathetic despite his appalling actions. Gherman – Tchaikovsky ’s The Queen of Spades The role of Gherman not only requires a singer of great stamina – he’s rarely offstage – but also one with the acting skills to convey the character’s mental instability and obsessiveness, while making us sympathize with him in his love for Liza and his loneliness. The rewards for the tenor are great, though: Plácido Domingo described Gherman as ‘dramatically one of the most interesting characters I have ever played’. Rodolfo – Puccini ’s La bohème Rodolfo is a character that many singers find it easy to empathize with: his enthusiasm for life, youthful romantic passion and fun-loving, humorous streak. The role also contains much glorious music, including ‘Che gelida manina’, one of opera’s most beautiful lyric tenor arias. No wonder that great tenors including Enrico Caruso , José Carreras and Pavarotti have listed Rodolfo among their favourite roles. The Emperor – Strauss ’s Die Frau ohne Schatten Strauss never gave tenors an easy time of it, and the Emperor outdoes even the role of Bacchus from Ariadne auf Naxos in its vocal difficulty. He makes his first appearance with a heroic aria set fiendishly high in the voice, and further challenges await in Act II when he sings a 12-minute monologue of almost unbearable intensity. Fortunately, the music is as consistently glorious as it is difficult! Peter Grimes – Britten ’s Peter Grimes Peter Grimes’s ambivalent nature makes him one of opera’s most dramatically interesting roles. Is he a hero or a villain? A murderer or a visionary? And how much should we sympathize with him? Jon Vickers saw him as a Christ-like figure, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson as ‘a dangerous, violent, quixotic and very valuable person for whom things go wrong’. But whoever Grimes is, there’s no doubting his wonderful music, including the Act I aria ‘Now the Great Bear and Pleiades’. Otello runs 21 June–15 July 2017. Tickets are still available. The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 28 June 2017. Find your nearest cinema. The production is generously supported by Rolex and is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Alfiya and Timur Kuanyshev, Lord and Lady Laidlaw, Mr and Mrs Baha Bassatne, John G. Turner and Jerry G. Fischer, Ian and Helen Andrews, Mercedes T. Bass, Maggie Copus, Martin and Jane Houston, Mrs Trevor Swete, Beth Madison, John McGinn and Cary Davis, the Otello Production Syndicate, The American Friends of Covent Garden, The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and an anonymous donor.
"Gossett was widely respected as an authority on the operas of Gioachino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi, having served as general editor of the collected Rossini works and coordinating editor of the collected Verdi works." The Rossini edition in particular was crucial to the modern revival of interest in the composer's operas beyond the two or three in the standard repertory.
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