Thursday, May 26, 2016
While D.C. Wagnerians wait for Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde to arrive next week, “Trove Thursday” presents the erstwhile Valkyrie of another compelling diva: Anna Caterina Antonacci as Brunehild, the heroine of Ernest Reyer’s Sigurd, a French grand opera also based on the Nibelungenlied. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsbl6q_g4gk The fascinating Antonacci recently collaborated with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the Wesendonck Lieder, but she hasn’t yet ventured any Wagner heroines. However, in 2013 she headlined this rare concert performance in Geneva of Sigurd opposite rising tenor Andrea Carè in the title role. Although Sigurd had to wait until 1884 for its first performance in Brussels, it was completed well before then and was thus written contemporaneously with some of Wagner’s Ring. The plot of Götterdammerung mirrors that of Reyer’s work, although Hilda (Sigurd’s Gutrune) is a much more active player and Attila (!) hovers off-stage. The opera quickly reached the United States in 1891, but it has never been performed at the Met although one of Sigurd’s arias was sung by tenor Albert Saléza at an 1899 concert. I’ve been unable to track down the date or location of the most recent US performance of Sigurd, but it might be an ideal work for Leon Botstein to revive at Bard SummerScape. There was a brief burst of interest in Sigurd in France in the mid-1990s when it was performed in Montpellier with Chris Merritt in the title role and then in Marseille with Françoise Pollet as Brunehild. It was staged just last year in Erfurt, but otherwise Reyer’s ambitious opera remains best known—if at all—via excerpts recorded by singers from Georges Thill and Germaine Lubin to Régine Crespin to Roberto Alagna and Bryan Hymel. A complete French radio performance from the early 1970s conducted by Manuel Rosenthal and featuring Andrea Guiot, Guy Chauvet and Robert Massard has circulated over the years on both tape and CD. Reyer: Sigurd Genève 8 October 2013 Broadcast Brunehild: Anna Caterina Antonacci Hilda: Anne Sophie Duprels Uta: Marie-Ange Todorovitch Sigurd: Andrea Carè Gunther: Boris Pinkhasovich Hagen: Tijl Faveyts Un prêtre d’Odin: Khachik Matevosyan Un barde: Nicolas Courjal Rudiger: Nicolas Carré Orchestre de la Suisse Romande Conductor: Frédéric Chaslin As befits an epic, Sigurd is over two-and-a-half hours long, so if you want to download it or last week’s Purcell-fest with Scholl and Jaroussky, just go to this link in iTunes or find them via any RSS reader.
I was a young boy when I first watched and listened to a live performance of this opera. I remember the feeling of excitement and passion that was sung and acted in this story. Now we have a new recording that tells this story in a somewhat different way. Bizet: Carmen Recorded at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2011 The singers are Béatrice Uria-Monzon (Carmen), Roberto Alagna (Don José), Erwin Schrott (Escamillo), Marina Poplavskaya (Micaëla) With the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Marc Piollet conducting. In this production at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, controversial stage director Calixto Bieito sees in Carmen the embodiment of the mythical gypsy and touches upon sensitive issues such as racism, xenophobia and right-wing politics. Bieito conjures up a sensual and realistic atmosphere full of powerful symbolism. An outstanding quartet of vocal stars, led by a “splendid and sensual” (El Periódico) Béatrice Uria-Monzon in the title role, delivers one of the most exciting Carmens in recent years: Roberto Alagna as Don José, Erwin Schrott as Escamillo and Marina Poplavskya as Micaëla. SUBTITLES: French (original language), English, German, Spanish, Catalan, Chinese, Korean
Anna Netrebko © Dario Acosta, 2014 Norma NEW (12 September–8 October 2016) Vincenzo Bellini Conductor: Antonio Pappano Director: Àlex Ollé Antonio Pappano conducts an all-star cast led by Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja in a new production of Bellini’s operatic masterpiece, directed by Àlex Ollé of La Fura dels Baus. Norma – Anna Netrebko Pollione – Joseph Calleja Adalgisa – Sonia Ganassi Oroveso – Brindley Sherratt Flavio – David Junghoon Kim Clotilde – Vlada Borovko Live cinema relay: 26 September 2016 Il barbiere di Siviglia (13 September–11 October 2016) Gioachino Rossini Conductor: Henrik Nánási Director: Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier Henrik Nánási conducts a cast including Javier Camarena, Daniela Mack and Vito Priante in this revival of The Royal Opera’s sparkling production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Rosina – Daniela Mack Count Almaviva – Javier Camarena Figaro – Vito Priante (Sept) / Florian Sempey (Oct) Doctor Bartolo – José Fardilha Don Basilio – Ferruccio Furlanetto (Sept) / Carlo Lepore (Oct) Berta – Madeleine Pierard Fiorello – Gyula Nagy Così fan tutte NEW (22 September–19 October 2016) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor: Semyon Bychkov (except 19 Oct) / Paul Wynne Griffiths (19 Oct) Director: Jan Philipp Gloger Semyon Bychkov conducts a cast of young and up-and-coming talent including American soprano Corinne Winters in a new production of Mozart and Da Ponte’s opera on the nature of love. Fiordiligi – Corinne Winters Dorabella – Angela Brower Ferrando – Daniel Behle Guglielmo – Alessio Arduini Don Alfonso – Johannes Martin Kränzle Despina – Sabina Puértolas Live cinema relay: 17 October 2016 Meet the Young Artists Week (St Clement Danes) The annual Meet the Young Artists Week gives audiences a chance to meet the new intake of the stars of tomorrow, and hear them perform with those continuing for their second season. Monday lunchtime recital – 3 October at 1pm Vlada Borovko , Francesca Chiejina , Jennifer Davis , Emily Edmonds , Angela Simkin , Thomas Atkins , David Junghoon Kim , Gyula Nagy and Simon Shibambu perform operatic arias and ensembles, accompanied by David Gowland . Tuesday lunchtime recital – 4 October at 1.30pm Francesca Chiejina and Thomas Atkins perform art songs, accompanied by David Gowland. Director’s workshop – 6 October at 1pm Richard Gerard Jones works with Angela Simkin, Gyula Nagy and Simon Shibambu on Handel’s Oreste, which the Programme will present at in November. Juke Box – 9 October at 12.30pm and 6pm Two separate events presented by all the available Young Artists: the audience at the lunchtime session choose the repertory for the evening recital, followed by an opportunity to meet the Young Artists over a glass of wine. A Man of Good Hope (Young Vic) (6 October–12 November 2016) Based on the book by Jonny Steinberg, adapted by Isango Ensemble Conductor: Mandisi Dyantyis Director: Mark Dornford-May Award-winning South African theatre company Isango Ensemble tell the true story of a young refugee’s journey through Africa, based on the book by Jonny Steinberg. Noluthando Boqwana, Ayanda Eleki, Zamile Gantana, Sifiso Lupuzi, Pauline Malefane, Bongiwe Mapassa, Zanele Mbatha, Katlego Mmusi, Zoleka Mpotsha, Busisiwe Ngejane, Sonwabo Ntshata, Luvo Rasemeni, Masakane Sotayisi, Luvo Tamba, Ayanda Tikolo The Nose NEW (20 October–9 November 2016) Dmitry Shostakovich / New English translation David Pountney Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher Director: Barrie Kosky Barrie Kosky makes his Royal Opera debut with a new production of Shostakovich’s surrealist satire, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher and translated by David Pountney. Platon Kuzmitch Kovalev – Martin Winkler Ivan Iakolevitch/Clerk/Doctor – John Tomlinson Osipovna/Pretzel Seller – Rosie Aldridge The Nose – Alexander Lewis District Inspector – Alexander Kravets Old Lady – Susan Bickley Iaryzhkin – Peter Bronder Pelageya Podtotschina – Helene Schneiderman Podtotschina’s daughter – Ailish Tynan Les Contes d’Hoffmann (7 November–3 December 2016) Jacques Offenbach Conductor: Evelino Pidò Director: John Schlesinger Vittorio Grigolo and Leonardo Capalbo share the title role and lead an excellent cast including Thomas Hampson, Sonya Yoncheva, Christine Rice and Sofia Fomina in Offenbach’s fantastical operatic drama The Tales of Hoffmann. Hoffmann – Vittorio Grigolo (except 28 Nov, 3 Dec) / Leonardo Capalbo (28 Nov, 3 Dec) Four Villains – Thomas Hampson Olympia – Sofia Fomina Giulietta – Christine Rice Antonia – Sonya Yoncheva Nicklausse – Kate Lindsey Spalanzani – Christophe Mortagne Crespel – Eric Halfvarson Four Servants – Vincent Ordonneau Spirit of Antonia’s Mother – Catherine Carby Nathanael – David Junghoon Kim Hermann – Charles Rice Schlemil – Yuriy Yurchuk Luther – Jeremy White Live cinema relay: 15 November 2016 Oreste NEW (Wilton’s Music Hall) (8 November–19 November 2016) George Frideric Handel Conductor: James Hendry Director: Richard Gerard Jones Southbank Sinfonia See the opera stars of tomorrow in a blackly comic production of Handel’s masterful pasticcio, in the atmospheric setting of Wilton’s Music Hall. Ermione – Vlada Borovko Ifigenia – Jennifer Davis Oreste – Angela Simkin Pilade – Thomas Atkins Filotete – Gyula Nagy Toante – Simon Shibambu Manon Lescaut (22 November–12 December 2016) Giacomo Puccini Conductor: Antonio Pappano Director: Jonathan Kent Antonio Pappano conducts Sondra Radvanovsky and Aleksandrs Antonenko in the first revival of Jonathan Kent’s thought-provoking production of Puccini’s first operatic triumph. Manon Lescaut – Sondra Radvanovsky Chevalier Des Grieux – Aleksandrs Antonenko Lescaut – Levente Molnár Geronte di Revoir – Eric Halfvarson Edmondo – Luis Gomes Dancing Master – Aled Hall Singer – Emily Edmonds Lamplighter – David Junghoon Kim Sergeant – David Shipley Naval Captain – Nicholas Crawley Il trovatore (4 December 2016–9 February 2017) Giuseppe Verdi Conductor: Richard Farnes Director: David Bösch The first revival of David Bösch’s new production for The Royal Opera, with two casts including Maria Agresta, Roberto Alagna, Lianna Haroutounian, Anita Rachvelishvili and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Leonora – Maria Agresta (Dec) / Lianna Haroutounian (Jan, Feb) Manrico – Roberto Alagna (Dec) / Gregory Kunde (Jan, Feb) Count di Luna – Quinn Kelsey (Dec) / Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Jan, Feb) Azucena – Anita Rachvelishvili Ferrando – Gábor Bretz (Dec) / Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Jan, Feb) Inez – Jennifer Davis (Dec) / Francesca Chiejina (Jan, Feb) Ruiz – David Junghoon Kim (Dec) / Samuel Sakker (Jan, Feb) Live cinema relay: 31 January 2017 Der Rosenkavalier NEW (17 December 2016–24 January 2017) Richard Strauss Conductor: Andris Nelsons Director: Robert Carsen Andris Nelsons conducts two starry casts including Renée Fleming, Alice Coote and Rachel Willis-Sørensen in Robert Carsen’s new production of Richard Strauss’s charming operatic comedy. Marschallin – Renée Fleming (17, 20 Dec, 8, 11, 14 Jan) / Rachel Willis-Sørensen (22 Dec, 17, 24 Jan) Octavian – Alice Coote (17, 20 Dec, 8, 11, 14 Jan) / Anna Stéphany (22 Dec, 17, 24 Jan) Sophie von Faninal – Sophie Bevan Baron Ochs – Matthew Rose Faninal – Jochen Schmeckenbecher Valzacchi – Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke Annina – Helene Schneiderman (except 8, 11, 14 Jan) / Angela Simkin (8, 11, 14 Jan) Italian Singer – Giorgio Berrugi Marschallin’s Major Domo – Samuel Sakker Faninal’s Major Domo – Thomas Atkins Marianne – Miranda Keys Inn Keeper – Alasdair Elliot Police Inspector – Scott Connor Notary – Jeremy White Written on Skin (13–30 January 2017) George Benjamin Conductor: George Benjamin Director: Katie Mitchell George Benjamin conducts a superb cast in The Royal Opera’s first revival of his and Martin Crimp’s highly acclaimed opera– an unmissable event in contemporary music. The Protector – Christopher Purves Agnès – Barbara Hannigan (13, 23, 30 Jan) / Georgia Jarman (18, 27 Jan) Angel 1/The Boy – Iestyn Davies Angel 2/Marie – Victoria Simmonds Angel 3/John – Mark Padmore La traviata (16 January–4 July 2017) Giuseppe Verdi Conductor: Daniele Rustioni (Jan, Feb) / Maurizio Benini (Jun) / Christopher Willis (Jul) Director: Richard Eyre Joyce El-Khoury, Ekaterina Bakanova and Corinne Winters lead three excellent casts in Richard Eyre’s much-loved production of Verdi’s most famous opera. Violetta Valéry – Joyce El-Khoury (Jan, Feb) / Ekaterina Bakanova (14, 17, 20, 23, 25 Jun) / Corinne Winters (27, 30 Jun, 4 Jul) Alfredo Germont – Sergey Romanovsky (16, 19, 25 Jan, 1 Feb) / Liparit Avetisyan (28 Jan) / Atalla Ayan (Jun, Jul) Giorgio Germont – Artur Ruciński (Jan, Feb) / Nicola Alaimo (14, 17, 20, 23, 25 Jun) / George Petean (27, 30 Jun, 4 Jul) Annina – Elizabeth Sikora (Jan, Feb) / Sarah Pring (Jun, Jul) Flora Bervoix – Angela Simkin Baron Douphol – Yuriy Yurchuk (Jan, Feb) / Gyula Nagy (Jun, Jul) Doctor Grenvil – David Shipley Gastone de Letorières – David Junghoon Kim (Jan, Feb) / Samuel Sakker (Jun, Jul) Marquis d’Obigny – Jeremy White BP Big Screen: 4 July 2017 Adriana Lecouvreur (7 February–2 March 2017) Francesco Cilea Conductor: Daniel Oren Director: David McVicar Angela Gheorghiu and Hrachuhi Bassenz star in the first revival of David McVicar’s sumptuous production of Cilea’s tragic opera. Adriana Lecouvreur – Angela Gheorghiu (except 21 Feb, 2 Mar) / Hrachuhi Bassenz (21 Feb, 2 Mar) Maurizio – Brian Jagde Abbé di Chazeuil – Krystian Adam Princesse de Bouillon – Ksenia Dudnikova Prince de Bouillon – Bálint Szabó Michonnet – Gerald Finley (except 27 Feb; 2 Mar) / Alessandro Corbelli (27 Feb; 2 Mar) Mlle Jouvenot – Vlada Borovko Mlle Dangeville – Angela Simkin Poisson – Thomas Atkins Quinault – Simon Shibambu Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg NEW (11–31 March 2017) Richard Wagner Conductor: Antonio Pappano Director: Kasper Holten Kasper Holten makes his farewell as The Royal Opera’s Director of Opera with Wagner’s comic opera, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring Bryn Terfel. Hans Sachs – Bryn Terfel Walther von Stolzing – Gwyn Hughes Jones Eva – Rachel Willis-Sørensen Sixtus Beckmesser – Johannes Martin Kränzle Veit Pogner – Stephen Milling David – Allan Clayton Magdalene – Hanna Hipp Fritz Kothner – Sebastian Holecek Kunz Vogelgesang – Andrew Tortise Balthazar Zorn – Alasdair Elliott Konrad Nachtigall – Gyula Nagy Ulrich Eisslinger – Samuel Sakker Augustin Moser – David Junghoon Kim Hermann Ortel – John Cunningham Hans Schwarz – Jeremy White Hans Foltz – Brian Bannatyne-Scott Nightwatchman – David Shipley Madama Butterfly (23 March–25 April 2017) Giacomo Puccini Conductor: Antonio Pappano (Mar, 4, 7, 10 Apr) / Renato Balsadonna (13, 17, 20, 22, 25 Apr) Directors: Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier Antonio Pappano and Renato Balsadonna conduct two great casts led by Ermonela Jaho and Ana María Martínez in Puccini’s deeply poignant opera. Cio-Cio-San – Ermonela Jaho (Mar, 4, 7, 10 Apr) / Ana María Martínez (13, 17, 20, 22, 25 Apr) Pinkerton – Marcelo Puente (Mar, 4, 7, 10 Apr) / Teodor Ilincai (13, 17, 20, 22, 25 Apr) Sharpless – Scott Hendricks Goro – Carlo Bosi Suzuki – Elizabeth DeShong Bonze – Jeremy White Kate Pinkerton – Emily Edmonds Imperial Commissioner – Gyula Nagy Prince Yamadori – Yuriy Yurchuk Live cinema relay: 30 March 2017 The Exterminating Angel NEW (24 April–8 May 2017) Thomas Adès Conductor: Thomas Adès Director: Tom Cairns Thomas Adès conducts a huge ensemble cast of world-class singers in the UK premiere of his latest opera, inspired by Luis Buñuel’s iconic film. Leonora – Anne Sofie von Otter Blanca – Christine Rice Nobile – Charles Workman Lucia – Amanda Echalaz Raúl – Frédéric Antoun Doctor – John Tomlinson Roc – Thomas Allen Francisco – Iestyn Davies Eduardo – Ed Lyon Leticia – Audrey Luna Silvia – Sally Matthews Beatriz – Sophie Bevan Lucas – Hubert Francis Enrique – Samuel Sakker Seńor Russell – Sten Byriel Colonel – David Adam Moore Julio – Morgan Moody Pablo – James Cleverton Meni – Elizabeth Atherton Camila – Anne Marie Gibbons Don Carlo (12 May–29 May 2017) Giuseppe Verdi Conductor: Bertrand de Billy Director: Nicholas Hytner Bertrand de Billy conducts a cast led by Bryan Hymel and Krassimira Stoyanova in Nicholas Hytner’s acclaimed production of Verdi’s opera on love, ambition and intrigue in 16th-century Spain. Don Carlo – Bryan Hymel Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa – Ludovic Tézier Elizabeth of Valois – Krassimira Stoyanova King Philip II – Ildar Abdrazakov Princess Eboli – Ekaterina Semenchuk Grand Inquisitor – Paata Burchuladze Frate – Andrea Mastroni Voice from Heaven – Francesca Chiejina Tebaldo – Emily Edmonds Count of Lerma – David Junghoon Kim Flemish Deputies – James Cleverton, Gyula Nagy , Simon Shibambu , David Shipley and Yuriy Yurchuk Ravi Shankar project (May 2017) The iconic Indian musician Ravi Shankar is celebrated in a major new touring project, a co-production between The Royal Opera and London Philharmonic Orchestra in association with Curve Theatre, Leicester. More details to be announced in due course. L’elisir d’amore (27 May–22 June 2017) Gaetano Donizetti Conductor: Bertrand de Billy Director: Laurent Pelly Laurent Pelly’s sunny production of Donizetti’s joyous opera returns with two world-class casts, led by Pretty Yende and Rolando Villazón, and Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna. Adina – Pretty Yende (May, 3, 6, 11 Jun) / Aleksandra Kurzak (13, 16, 19, 22 Jun) Nemorino – Rolando Villazón (May, 3, 6 Jun) / Ivan Magrì (11 Jun) / Roberto Alagna (13, 16, 19, 22 Jun) Dulcamara – Alex Esposito Belcore – Paolo Bordogna (May, 3, 6, 11 Jun) / Adam Plachetka (13, 16, 19, 22 Jun) Giannetta – Vlada Borovko Otello NEW (21 June–15 July 2017) Giuseppe Verdi Conductor: Antonio Pappano Director: Keith Warner Antonio Pappano conducts a new production of Verdi’s thrilling Shakespeare-inspired opera directed by Keith Warner, starring Jonas Kaufmann and Gregory Kunde in the title role. Otello – Jonas Kaufmann (21, 24, 28 Jun, 2, 6, 10 Jul) / Gregory Kunde (8, 12, 15 Jul) Desdemona – Maria Agresta (21, 24, 28 Jun, 2, 6, 10 Jul) / Dorothea Röschmann (8, 12, 15 Jul) Iago – Ludovic Tézier (21, 24, 28 Jun, 2, 6, 10 Jul) / Željko Lučić (8, 12, 15 Jul) Cassio – Frédéric Antoun Roderigo – Thomas Atkins Emilia – Kai Rüütel Montano – Simon Shibambu Lodovico – In Sung Sim Live cinema relay: 28 June 2017 Mitridate, re di Ponto (26 June–7 July 2017) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor: Christophe Rousset Director: Graham Vick Christophe Rousset conducts an excellent cast including Albina Shagimuratova, Bejun Mehta, Lucy Crowe and Michael Spyres in Graham Vick’s acclaimed production of Mozart’s early opera. Mitridate – Michael Spyres Aspasia – Albina Shagimuratova Farnace – Bejun Mehta Ismene – Lucy Crowe Marzio – Andrew Tortise Sifare – Anett Fritsch Arbate – Jennifer Davis Turandot (5 July–16 July 2017) Giacomo Puccini Conductor: Dan Ettinger Dir: Andrei Serban Christine Goerke and Lise Lindstrom take the title role in Andrei Serban’s striking staging of Puccini’s final opera. Turandot – Christine Goerke (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / Lise Lindstrom (8, 11, 14, 16 Jul) Calaf – Aleksandrs Antonenko (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / Roberto Alagna (8, 11, 14 Jul) / Alfred Kim (16 Jul) Liù – Dinara Alieva (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / Aleksandra Kurzak (8, 11, 14, 16 Jul) Timur – In Sung Sim (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / Brindley Sherratt (8, 11, 14, 16 Jul) Ping – Michel de Souza (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / Zheng Zhong Zhou (8, 11, 14, 16 Jul) Pang – Aled Hall (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / Samuel Sakker (8, 11, 14, 16 Jul) Pong – Pavel Petrov (5, 9, 12, 15 Jul) / David Junghoon Kim (8, 11, 14, 16 Jul) Emperor Altoum – Robin Leggate Mandarin – Yuriy Yurchuk Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance (16 July 2017) Director: Richard Gerard Jones The annual summer showcase given by the Jette Parker Young Artists is an unmissable highlight for anyone interested in the work of some of the most talented emerging performers on the operatic stage. Sopranos – Vlada Borovko , Francesca Chiejina , Jennifer Davis Mezzo-sopranos – Emily Edmonds , Angela Simkin Tenors – Thomas Atkins , David Junghoon Kim Baritone – Gyula Nagy Basses – Simon Shibambu , David Shipley The Merchant of Venice NEW (Welsh National Opera ) (19–20 July 2017) André Tchaikowsky Conductor: Lionel Friend Director: Keith Warner André Tchaikowsky’s Shakespeare-inspired opera is an important rediscovery in 20th-century opera and receives its London premiere in Welsh National Opera’s production, directed by Keith Warner Shylock – Lester Lynch Antonio – Martin Wölfel Lorenzo – Bruce Sledge Duke of Venice – Miklós Sebestyén Bassanio – Mark Le Brocq Solanio – Gary Griffiths Gratiano – David Stout Jessica – Lauren Michelle Portia – Sarah Castle Nerissa – Verena Gunz
Manon Lescaut - Metropolitan Opera, 3/8/2016 Opolais, Alagna, Cavalletti, Sherratt / Luisi Madama Butterfly - Metropolitan Opera, 4/2/2016 Opolais, Alagna, Zifchak, Croft / Chichon The end of Manon Lescaut's run here was less awful than its beginning. No, the production didn't get any more palatable (and I should mention, as I didn't last time, that the couple ending up in a bombed-out version of their initial meeting spaces further misreads the linear progression of the story into a circular one), but Roberto Alagna had worked himself up to singing des Grieux more respectably. This, unfortunately, made Kristine Opolais's lack of success more evident. Her Manon won't even look at des Grieux, much less engage emotionally with him. But her Butterfly works. Her interpersonal affect is still relatively chilly - not reserved, as would befit the young Japanese girl, but oddly disengaged - and so the first act is the least engaging. The next acts, however, play more to her strengths. Here Butterfly's emotional course is set - a full-throated longing reversed on itself - and backed up by pit and production. So the energy and full-force sound (most expressive in its middle) Opolais pretty easily maintains through this arc becomes an unmissable virtue, and the lack of expressive detail (musical or physical), fatal to her Manon Lescaut (who must fascinate), becomes secondary. Alagna, too, is helped by the specifics of this later Puccini opera. Pinkerton just isn't as strenuous a sing as (Puccini's) des Grieux, nor is the relatively unvaried vocal color he shows even at his strongest these days particularly missed in this role. It's a bit odd for the American soldier to be significantly shorter than his Japanese teenage bride, but Alagna does convey Pinkerton's youthful carelessness quite well. (In fact, given Opolais's characteristically imprecise acting, he often seems younger than Butterfly!) Meanwhile, it seems like Dwayne Croft has been singing Sharpless forever, and his account is as admirably humane as always. The main thing that changed since Manon Lescaut, though, is the quality of the production. There's really no such thing as a performer-proof show, but this first and only Met production of Anthony Minghella has proven pretty close. As long as the singers are working with the opera and not against it, the images and framing of the production tell its story in stark, powerful form. And whether the principals pay attention to detail or not, the setting's little touches are preserved in the character parts - and the odd but distinctive movements of the puppet son. Debuting conductor Karel Mark Chichon kept everything moving in the right direction and with the right proportions, but wasn't particularly outstanding. The credit for this event's success seems principally to be Minghella's.
Prévost´s story about Manon Lescaut is an early Eighteenth Century romance that inspired Nineteenth Century opera composers. The girl is sensual, quite young and beautiful, the Chevalier Des Grieux rescues her both from the convent and an old seducer, but the attraction of splendor leads her astray and she will live in a palace with a rich protector. Eventually, Des Grieux has her back, but she will pay dearly: she is condemned to prison in the colonies , falls ill and dies in the arms of her lover. In his charming opera Daniel Auber accentuates the lightness rather than the drama, but in the much better known "Manon" by Massenet the comedy of the initial acts becomes gradually more dramatic, though never losing its refined Gallic air. In Puccini´s 1893 "Manon Lescaut", his first success, there is less comedy and the drama becomes stark already in the final minutes of the Second Act. And the style of the music is clearly Italian and even verista. In Massenet´s version the libretto makes Manon die in Le Havre; in Puccini there is a scene at that port in which he tries to liberate Manon but fails; however, he appeals to the captain to take him on and he goes with her to New Orleans. And the final act takes place in a wasteland, for they are fugitives. There´s no wasteland near that city in real geography, but no matter, the libretto says so; she dies there, and so will probably be the destiny of Des Grieux, though we are not told. No less than four librettists labored on the libretto for Puccini, not a good thing for there are too many styles of writing and it shows. Nevertheless, the composer made a giant jump from his "Edgar", very uneven and with a truly bad libretto. Here the passionate melody, the feel for character and the skillful harmony, plus the colorful orchestration, make "Manon Lescaut" the first Puccini opera that has remained in the repertoire. In fact, this year we will see it at the Avenida in the season of Buenos Aires Lírica. The Metropolitan Opera´s HD Live performances are seen at the Teatro El Nacional and presented by the Fundación Beethoven, and by now they are a yearly and very welcome feature, for we see many artists that don´t visit the Colón with good sound and image. The protagonists dominate "Manon Lescaut", for she and even more Des Grieux have long parts with several arias and duets, and the flank roles add little. When it was announced, Jonas Kaufmann was supposed to sing the Chevalier, and as he has recorded it with Kristine Opalais (the Met´s Manon) I was looking forward to their joint interpretation. Unfortunately, Kaufmann fell ill; fortunately, Roberto Alagna learnt the role in record time and partnered the soprano. And although I deeply admire Kaufmann, truly Alagna was a splendid Des Grieux. In excellent voice, he showed a complete command of the part and acted with conviction. A veteran of a hundred Met performances, he is a stalwart tenor. This was the first time I had a chance to appreciate the art of Latvian soprano Kristine Opalais. Born in 1979, at 37 she looks gorgeous, with as fine legs as any model, and although both artists are far from the age of their characters (Manon only 18, Des Grieux in his early Twenties) they prove to be quite believable. She has made a specialty of Puccini roles, and in fact the next date of this series couples them in "Madama Butterfly". In Manon looks certainly help, but Opalais is also a gifted actress and sings with a fine expansive voice; she has a natural feeling for Puccini´s long lines and a communicative warmth that is crucial in these parts. The timbre isn´t particularly individual, and sometimes she is slightly under the note in her high range, but she remains quite a find and is having an important career. Manon's brother, Lescaut, was sung correctly but with too much vibrato by Massimo Cavalletti. Geronte, the old seducer, was perfectly sung and acted by bass Brindley Sherratt. The others were in the picture. Fabio Luisi is the Met´s Principal Conductor and he has just been named to very important posts, for he will be Zurich Opera's Musical Director and has also taken over the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He deserves them for he combines fine technical control with a sense of color and phrasing that makes his conducting dynamic and expressive. And of course the Met's Orchestra is admirable. So is the Choir. Alas, the Met is cutting corners with coproductions with Europe, in this case the Festival Hall Baden/Baden, and that comes with the distortion that nowadays pervades opera in that continent. Producer Richard Eyre has had the absurd idea of moving this staging to 1941 occupied France, thus ruining a lot of what happens, mixing the German soldiers with the joyful crowd of the First Act or the prisoners at Le Havre. Curiously, the Spanish translation of the libretto had distortions of its own, the stagecoach becoming a train! The stage designs (Rob Howell) had their faults in the three initial acts, but became ridiculous in the Fourth, where the "wasteland" was replaced by the uncomfortable ruins of a city. The costumes (Fotini Dimou) at least allowed Manon to be sexy. For Buenos Aires Herald
Cavalleria Rusticana Pagliacci - Metropolitan Opera, 2/6/2016 Urmana, Costa-Jackson, Lee, Maestri / Luisi Frittoli, Berti, Gagnidze, Lavrov, Stevenson / Luisi This David McVicar production, the under-recognized success of last season, returned with some cast changes in 2016. In its original run, George Gagnidze sang both baritone leads and Marcelo Alvarez sang both tenor leads, which was a neat but unrevealing stunt. Here there was no duplication, just two groups singing to strong effect. McVicar's Cav is revelatory from its very start. The circle of chairs that form the initial scene suggest, as no literal staging has done, the mutual examination and ever-imminent rivalries of a one-square town. Everyone snoops, everyone is jealous... until the circle dissolves into daily bustle. Eventually the dangerous all-human circle is transformed in the Easter service into a pure, singing whole: the adoring ordered ranks facing the divine sign before them (in joy) instead of each other (in potential rivalry). But the fallen girl Santuzza's (self?) exclusion holds the tension of the setup just outside the church, and as she's reabsorbed into the scene it forms, in Mama Lucia's tavern, into small groups with that original danger now again close. And, rivalry now enflamed by Santuzza (carrying out her own, non-face-to-face rivalry with the walk-on Lola), the men circle again as Turridu's group faces Alfio's before their offstage duel. The crowd shapes, all by themselves, reflect at every point the tension of the tale, and McVicar's minimalization of other visual elements (including the color palette) give this part of the double-bill a primal character. The latter part - Pag - is quite different in style, and the meaning of the shift didn't become clear to me in the show's original run last season. In this revival, absent cast crossover between halves, it's obvious: the bare-bones human scene of the first part has acquired a self-reflective layer, the play-within-a-play that dominates the opera and production. It begins in the prologue, where Tonio appears as emcee (with mic) before what's later revealed to be the troupe's show curtain, and as the curtain rises on apparently the same town square a half-century after Cav we see more mess, more color... and the electrical and telephone wires that signal modernity. In this new world, the troupe's truck and its stage occupy and expand the Cav-era altarpiece's position in the community: center, focus, and maintainer of its peace. This centerpiece, of course, moves. It reflects and makes light of the viewers' rivalries and frustrations rather than just dissolving them for a time. And perhaps because of this there's a more pervasive peace and relaxation in the town. The locals sit in orderly rows facing the performance, but before then even the troupe's arrival is enough for a festive welcome. (Of course, the performance is going on even during this welcome, as the silent members of the troupe, in a very nice addition by McVicar, help unload and unpack the truck Three Stooges-style.) But those who don't get to watch the show - primarily Canio and Tonio, more or less analogous in their rivalries to Alfio and Santuzza respectively - still feel the old poisons of jealousy and envy. * * * Roberto Alagna was originally scheduled to sing Canio in this run, before Kaufmann's cancellation from Manon Lescaut pulled him into that dud. His replacement was Marco Berti, whose work in the radio matinee seems to have elicited some negative responses. Now in Verdi his lopsided force-to-refinement ratio can certainly be faulted, but in the house, in this less orderly context, the huge unfettered sound of his despair made for a great and appreciated success. Call him "Barco Merti" if you like, but with affection. The scale of Berti's work matched, as an Alagna success would have not, that of the night's most thorough success - spinto tenor Yonghoon Lee as Turridu in the double bill's opener. With veteran mezzo-turned-dramatic soprano Violeta Urmana now hindered by declining high notes as well as her characteristically deliberate, longer-time-scale approach that works better in Wagner, it's left to Lee to convey the urgency of the story. This he did magnificently, making the climax of the action - Turridu's farewell to his mother - the emotional and sonic climax as well. All others did their bit effectively as well - not least Marty Keiser, Andy Sapora, and Joshua Wynter, who reprised their actual (silent) clowning in Pag from last season's original run.
Great opera singers