COMPETITION | Win a copy of Juan Diego Flórez's new DVD
26 March 2012
Opera Now is giving away five copies of Le comte Ory starring Juan Diego Flórez!
To enter, simply drop us an email with the subject FLOREZ to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a postcard to Rhinegold Competitions, 20 Rugby Street, London WC1N 3QZ. Please include your full name, address and a contact telephone number. (Deadline: 30 April 2012)
Le comte Ory is Rossini’s last comic opera and, although relatively rarely performed, it ranks alongside The Barber of Seville in its deft torrent of screwball hilarity and irrepressible, florid music.
It’s all riotous fun from the outset: a randy French aristocrat (Count Ory) is desperate to seduce the beautiful and virtuous Countess Adèle while all the men of the town are away at the Crusades.
Hi makes his bid in various cunning disguises, first as a hermit and then, improbably, as a nun. In fact, it is Ory’s young pageboy, Isolier, whom the Countess ends up loving. In spite of all his cunning, the last laugh is on Ory: his schemes are foiled at every turn and in a darkened tryst, he mistakenly attempts to seduce his pageboy.
The opera, with all its cross-dressing antics, drunken nuns and gender-bending seduction scenes, must have seemed rather racy when it was first performed in Paris in 1828. In the Met’s 2011 production, award-winning Broadway director Bartlett Sher conceives of the scenario as an ‘opera within an opera’, and at the denouement, he captures the erotic innuendo of the lovers’ tryst by putting all three main characters in a big bed, where they disappear into a tangle of limbs.
The Met has fielded an absolutely first-rate international cast: Juan Diego Flórez as the Count, Diana Damrau as Adèle and, best of all, Joyce DiDonato as Isolier the pageboy are the accomplished trio at the heart of it all, never missing a comic beat among all the vocal fireworks demanded of them. Impressive too are Stéphane Degout’s dark-toned Raimbaud, who delivers a rollicking drinking song, and Michele Pertusi as the disapproving Tutor.
Rossini specialist Maurizio Benini conducts this breathless romp with tremendous comic pacing, and the DVD captures all the rich colour and zany energy of a production that is sure to become a Met classic.
BBC 2 TV launches a new series of Maestro
19 March 2012, London, UK
The line-up of celebrities for a new series of the BBC 2 TV series Maestro has been announced as part of a partnership between the BBC and London’s Royal Opera House.
Four stars, including the judge of BBC 1 TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood, will compete to master the art of conducting, with the winner going through to conduct an entire act from an opera.
Antonio Pappano and Sir Mark Elder are among the experts chosen to coach the stars, who have all admitted feeling daunted by the challenge ahead after watching a recent ROH performance of The Marriage of Figaro.
[Pictured, right: Maestro contestants Marcus Du Sautoy, Craig Revel Horwood, Josie Lawrence and Trevor Nelson at London’s Royal Opera House]
Mandela Trilogy to tour the UK this summer
16 March 2012, London, UK
Aubrey Poo (Nelson Mandela) with Gloria Bosman (Dolly Radebe) in Cape Town Opera's 'Mandela Trilogy'(Photo: Val Adamson)
Tickets are now on sale for the forthcoming UK tour of Cape Town Opera's ground-breaking Mandela Trilogy, which tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s life and work. The tour in June and July will also mark the production’s European premiere.
A unique collaboration involving three composers, each act of the Trilogy presents a different aspect of South African musical culture – Xhosa oratorio, jazz musical and opera. This stylistic transition mirrors Mandela’s own development from birth to marriage (Act I), his political education and emergence as a community leader (Act II), and finally his trial, incarceration and release (Act III).
The tour, which visits Birmingham, Edinburgh Festival, the Wales Millennium Centre, Canterbury, Southampton and London’s Coliseum, also includes a revival of Porgy & Bess set in South Africa at the height of apartheid.
Barcelona's Liceu reverses plans for closure
16 March 2012, Barcelona, Spain
After nearly two months of intense negotiations, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu (pictured, right) has come to an agreement with workers that reverses an earlier cost-cutting plan to close for eight weeks.
The theatre, which has a running deficit of €3.7 million (£3.1 million), announced in January that 27 performances of seven productions would be cancelled in the periods 20 March to 10 April and 5 June to 8 July.
To prevent this, 450 workers have agreed to postpone their extra summer payment to a later date, saving the theatre €1.5 million. As yet, no terms have been agreed for the delayed payments.
The Catalan Minister for Culture, Ferran Mascarell, expressed his satisfaction with the agreement, saying: ‘The prestige and the future of the theatre have gone before individual interests’, adding that the deficit ‘without any doubt might have put the quality of the programme and activities at risk’.
Representatives of the workers’ committee are reported to be less pleased with the handling of the crisis, however, and believe that it could lead to the resignation of some members of the Liceu’s senior management team.
Puccini's La Rondine at Florida Grand Opera, Miami
12 March 2012, Miami, US
Elizabeth Caballero as Magda and Bruno Ribeiro as Ruggero
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.
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