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Opera Now provides a unique and all-encompassing perspective on the international opera scene through its lively and colourful mix of news, reviews, interviews, travel articles and commentary.

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Puccini's La Rondine at Florida Grand Opera, Miami

12 March 2012, Miami, US

Elizabeth Caballero as Magda and Bruno Ribeiro as Ruggero
Elizabeth Caballero as Magda and Bruno Ribeiro as Ruggero

Corinne Winters as Lisette
Corinne Winters as Lisette(Credit: FGOpera)

Review by Karyl Charna Lynn

Only Puccini’s early operas, Edgar and Le villi, are as neglected as La Rondine – unfortunately with good reason.

La Rondine (The Swallow) has an identity crisis: it’s neither an opera nor operetta, and falls between the cracks. Puccini’s successful operas grab you emotionally through their heart-wrenching music, which carries the audience along on an emotional journey. An operetta’s main mission is entertainment with pretty sounds and dazzling sights in a tightly woven story.

Despite La Rondine’s relevant message – one can’t escape his/her past (the story deals with a courtesan rediscovering romance) – its delivery is disjointed, with the first two acts akin to operetta, and the third act metamorphosing into a (soap) opera when the two lovers must part. The score, superbly executed here by Florida Grand Opera’s new music director, Ramon Tebar, is a mosaic from Puccini's most successful operas (Butterfly, Bohème, Turandot) together with waltzes and other dance melodies, but instead of builiding to dramatic climaxes offers only beautiful melodic patches. Its emotional impact is therefore limited.

The work unfolded amidst realistic sets, handsomely recreating the opera’s three locations: Magda’s rich-looking salon apartment; Bullier’s (nightclub) with colorful can-can dancers; and the Italian Riviera in the 1920s, complete with flapper dresses, dancing, and sprinkled with Art Deco touches. Unfortunately, however, the opera’s two main characters, Magda (Elizabeth Caballero) and Ruggero (Bruno Ribeiro), failed to project the essence of their characters. Caballero, who possesses a substantial instrument, sang with riveting intensity, despite a rocky start, and her aria 'Chi, il bel sogno di Doretta' was exquisite, with perfectly floated high notes. Yet her mundane presence made it difficult to believe that she was a courtesan. Ribeiro’s problem lay more with his voice. Despite looking the part with his tall, dark, handsome presence (Ribeiro is Portuguese) and intense acting style, his voice, although not bad, wasn’t appropriate for the role: he lacked the requisite urgency and passion for a leading tenor heartthrob.

The cast standout was Corinne Winters as Lisette, Magda’s maid. Although a stock operatic character, the working class gal who outwits those she serves, Winters made the most of the role, outsparkling and outsinging all those wealthy, uppercrust characters.

 

Swedish academy to stage rediscovered Donizetti opera

8 February 2012, Stockholm, Sweden

Gaetano Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti

The Vadstena Academy in Stockholm is to stage Donizetti’s Enrico di Borgogna (Henry of Burgundy) for the second time ever since its 1818 world premiere.

An heroic opera based on August von Kotzebue’s 1798 play Der Graf von Burgund, Enrico was Donizetti’s third stage work, but the first to be performed. It received a warm response at its premiere, with one critic noting a ‘regular handling and expressive quality in his style’, for which ‘the public wanted to salute Signor Donizetti on stage at the end of the opera.’

Vadstena Academy’s new production, directed by Clara Svärd, will feature seven young soloists from Hungary, Germany and Sweden under the baton of Olof Boman, including mezzo-soprano Kinga Dobay as Enrico.

Performances at Vadstena Castle run from 20 July to 7 August 2012.

Angela Meade wins seventh Beverly Sills Award

2 February 2012, New York, US

Meade as Elvira in the Met’s 'Ernani'
Meade as Elvira in the Met’s 'Ernani'(Photo: Marty Sohl)

Soprano Angela Meade has been named the seventh recipient of the Metropolitan Opera’s Beverly Sills Artist Award.

Launched in 2006, the annual $50,000 Award is open to singers aged 25 to 40 who have performed solo roles at the Met.

Meade made her Met debut in 2008 as Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani, and has subsequently appeared as the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and, most recently, in the title role of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.

‘I would have loved to have met Ms Sills,’ said Meade, ‘since we share much of the same repertoire, and her interpretations of Norma, Anna Bolena, Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux, Cleopatra and Violetta have been a great inspiration to me.’

Glyndebourne wind turbine unveiled

25 January 2012, East Sussex, UK

Glyndebourne's executive chairman Gus Christie with Sir David Attenborough
Glyndebourne's executive chairman Gus Christie with Sir David Attenborough(Photo: Charlotte Boulton)

A wind turbine on the Glyndebourne Estate in East Sussex has been launched by the veteran broadcaster and environmentalist, Sir David Attenborough.

Although designed to provide the opera house with renewable energy, the 67-metre turbine has also succeeded in generating its fair share of controversy, with detractors claiming that it is a blot on the South Downs’ landscape.

Attenborough, who spoke in support of the project at a public inquiry in 2008, described the finished result as ‘beautiful’, adding: ‘It is a joy to be involved in something which is working with the environment and not against it.’

Barcelona's Liceu announces cost-cutting closure

24 January 2012, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona's Gran Teatro del Liceu
Barcelona's Gran Teatro del Liceu

Financial difficulties have forced Barcelona’s Gran Teatro del Liceu to plan eight weeks of closures, from 20 March to 10 April and 5 June to 8 July.

Cuts in subsidies from the Spanish Culture Ministry and Catalonia’s regional government, combined with a fall in corporate sponsorship and ticket sales, have left the company with a running deficit of €3.7 million ($4.8 million).

A total of 27 performances of seven productions will be affected, and temporary staff layoffs are also expected. Unions representing the company’s 395 workers have already begun negotiations with management.

The Liceu’s director general, Joan Francesc Marco, said: ‘It is sad and regrettable to cut performances but we cannot compromise on artistic integrity.’


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