“Well, I think my Norma is something in between Maria Callas and Cecilia Bartoli.” Sonya Yoncheva, stepping into the title role at Covent Garden when Anna Netrebko decided Norma wasn't for her after all, was giving herself plenty of wriggle room when interviewed last month in The Sunday Times. Perhaps it was good she raised the spectre of Callas herself, because plenty of others would have been ready to do so. In the end, Yoncheva's Norma is a good deal closer to the legendary Greek soprano on the vocal spectrum than many would have wagered.Joseph Calleja's warm vibrato and liquid golden tone is a throwback to the age of Björling, Gigli and Tagliavini – a far cry from the clarion tenors often associated with the role of the Roman proconsul Pollione. He suffered a few intonation issues at the start, but quickly settled to deliver a performance which almost made Pollione sympathetic, despite being the love-rat in the nest.Act II opens on an unsettling domestic scene – Norma's children blithely playing with Scalextric and a Spacehopper while Watership Down is aired on the flatscreen television (Richard Adams' timid rabbit Fiver referencing the Druid's clairvoyant powers?). Ever the practical priestess, Norma lays down plastic sheeting to minimise the mess as she prepares to commit infanticide. Revealing that she has betrayed her vows, Norma condemns herself to the sacrificial pyre. Crucifixes begin to glow as a giant cross flickers animated flames to which Norma and Pollione seem destined, before a cruel twist at the end denies her that Brünnhilde-like immolation. Pay attention, or you'll miss it! A striking production and a terrifically enjoyable evening, especially for Yoncheva's superb assumption of the title role.
A stagey child of the 80s would drool at the prospect of designs by William Dudley, costumes by Maria Björnson, lighting by David Hersey and choreography by Eleanor Fazan. And the dream team doesn't disappoint, with a vast, versatile split-level set that accommodates intimate exchanges and near-CGI crowd scenes involving the admirable Royal Opera Chorus with equal panache.Most of the singers raised the temperature, with Vittorio Grigòlo on top scenery-chewing form in the title role. The young tenor knows the value of firmly motorised arm gestures, and he has the chops to dispatch Hoffmann's showpiece arias with an overflow of passion. Few tenors fill the reverie that interrupts the 'Kleinzach' song with quite so much Italianate ardour. All that's missing is the vulnerability of a true romantic.Of his three loves, Christine Rice was a sultry Giulietta in Schlesinger's eye-scorching Venice act, while her extravagant vocal colours were matched by Sonya Yoncheva's silver-voiced beauty as Antonia, the doomed singer, in the next scene. (There are many good reasons, musical, textual and theatrical, why the order of these two acts should be reversed—and it often is these days—but the production is fixed.) Earlier, Sofia Fomina had given a tidy if unremarkable account of Olympia, the mechanical doll. Thomas Hampson was gleefully baleful as the quartet of bad guys, always with a glint in his eye and an implicit wink at the audience, and there was fine multiple-character work, too, from Vincent Ordonneau who, with his fellow Frenchman Christophe Mortagne (Spalanzani), set a standard of pronunciation that eluded most of his colleagues. No one, though, eclipsed Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse, Hoffmann's 80°-proof spiritual muse. The American mezzo's every appearance lifted this revival above the routine, and from the famous barcarolle to a stylish farewell her limpid tones had the warm glow of sugared absinthe. Santé. Les Contes d'Hoffmann runs in repertory at the Royal Opera House until 3 December.The performance on 15 November will be relayed to cinemas as part of the ROH Live season.
Molto curati i ruoli di fianco, che hanno una forte rilevanza drammaturgica e musicale: tra gli altri, il Principe Alexis del tenore Giorgio Misseri, che mantiene Stephana e viene mortalmente ferito da Vassili, motivo poi della condanna ai lavori forzati in Siberia, il mezzosoprano Caterina Piva, la governante Nikona madrina di Vassili che tenta invano di interporsi tra lui e Stephana e, nel cameo del secondo atto il promettente soprano Caterina Meldolesi, la fanciulla in cerca del padre.
davvero eccellenti i comprimari fra i quali bisogna citare almeno i due meno comprimari degli altri, Giorgio Misseri che fa Alexis e Caterina Piva che fa Nikona, la cameriera di Stephana, più Caterina Meldolesi che ha lasciato un’ottima impressione nella scena della Fanciulla del terzo atto, un bozzetto patetico cui evidentemente Giordano non riusciva a rinunciare, quasi un pendant della micidiale sceneggiata della vecchia Madelon dello Chénier.
" Nézet-Séguin wanted to conduct the piece in French. Now, as the company’s music director, he has made it so. It speaks to his passion for the score that this is the first opera in his still-young Met career for which he is leading a third run, and his conception of it — long-breathed, patient, light-textured — embodies the vast elegance of French grand opera."
Floria Tosca is an opera singer, a diva, but in Victorien Sardou’s play – and in Puccini’s opera – we mainly see her as a woman in love, tormented by jealousy, whose life is shattered by a powerful, unprincipled man who does not hesitate to sentence her lover to death and blackmail her into submitting to his desires in her desperate attempt to save him. Director Robert Carsen, in his 1990 production, focuses almost entirely on “the diva”. The setting is in a theatre: in the first act Cavaradossi is painting the scenery, and the Te Deum is sung by the audience in the orchestra stalls. The second act is backstage, while Tosca sings on a stage the other side of the backdrop, and the third act takes place on stage, as seen from the back.
Lighting (courtesy of Davy Cunningham) greatly enhances this particular production. Shafts of light come in from all angles, protagonists hide in the shadows, whilst there is a row of very bright stage lights at the end, after Tosca leaps to her death – not into the River Tiber (which, in reality, one probably cannot quite reach from the top of the Castel Sant’ Angelo) but into the pretend orchestra pit at the back of the real stage.
On connaît la qualité de la Staatskapelle de Berlin, l’expressivité, l’énergie et le lyrisme que lui insuffle son chef Daniel Barenboim. Pour Médée, le chef exacerbe la violence de la partition, sculpte avec précision et fermeté un climat sombre et furieux, étire les tempi, accentue les contrastes, ose des nuances très faibles sans renoncer à la brutalité. L’orchestre, superbe, se montre particulièrement menaçant, acéré et déploie des couleurs amples et intenses, mystérieuses et weberiennes.
In the title role, Elena Maximova disappointed. She has the looks and moves for the part, power to burn and the right sort of dark colour in the voice. But a thick accent was allied to awful diction, with hardly a consonant intelligible all evening. I spent the evening struggling to work out the words from a combination of memory and back-translation of the surtitles, and that kills any possibility of being swept away by siren-like sexuality, which is required to make the whole opera plausible. Just like the singing, the orchestral performance was mixed. Bertrand de Billy kept things moving nicely and strings and woodwind gave good, precise performances: the prelude to Act III, when they’re playing on their own, was the orchestral highlight of the evening. But there were simply too many errors and hesitancies in brass and percussion: this is a score where anything less than immaculate timing of triangle or tambourine notes can throw the whole flow of the music. The result was an orchestral performance that was adequate without ever touching greatness. Zambello’s staging is appealing: her take on 19th century Seville is well lit and bustling, very much one’s ideal of a Hispanic city in the burning sun gathered from Zorro movies or elsewhere. But it gives a lot of rope on which a revival director can hang himself: there is a huge amount of movement on stage and it all needs to be executed crisply. Under the revival direction of Duncan Macfarland and choreography of Sirena Tocco, last night’s cast and chorus were good enough to execute it all correctly, but not good enough to give the sense of doing so with abandon. The defining example was extras abseiling down the walls, who landed with care rather than with a thump and a flourish; the exception was the Royal Opera Youth Company, with the children throwing themselves into the action with delightful abandon and brio. For anyone seeing Carmen for the first time, this production will have been a more than satisfactory evening. Old hands hoping to see something extra will find it in Hymel and Car, but not elsewhere.