Blog Archives

Michieletto + ROH = freestyle booing

I think this was an opera, not a discussion.

Remember how much I liked Rene Jacobs’ conducting of Idomeneo? And remember how meh I felt about Michieletto’s direction? I watched it once though I listened to it many times since. But opera should indeed be a discussion. Anything less is demeaning to the art form.

Kasper Holten brought Michieletto to ROH for Guillaume Tell and unsurprisingly Michieletto made some waves. This production involves a (gang) rape scene which was booed whilst it was going on. Not at curtain call – during the actual opera. Whether the scene is warranted or not is as usual debatable. I’ll make up my mind later this month when I go see the performance. There will be filming and a cinema relay on 5 July.

What got my head spinning was the comment section in the Guardian. It’s again the same tired comments that opera is jolly entertainment (from people who sound like they don’t go to the opera):

ROH is not the same as Tracey Emin. Modernist interpretation is best reserved for modernist theatre.

I like it when people help us understand what’s what.

Opera and reality don’t mix. People who go to the opera want a stylised, elitist experience follwed by a nice bottle of wine somewhere chic.

Wait, wasn’t this an elitist experience? The chap above might think so.

Isn’t the point of the theatre to get away from reality once in a while?


Audiences will surely stay away from new productions until they work out whether or not they will want to sit through them.

An educational outcome? I can only hope more people will look a bit into what they’re going to see. Hats off to Michieletto, then.


Ornament City hosts The Battle of Trills

Take me down to Ornament City
Where the runs are quick and the trills aplenty

(to the tune of G’n’R’s Paradise City)

Tancredi seems to have gained considerable ground. We don’t know if it’ll reach our fair shores any time soon but it’s frequently staged in Europe these days. I came around to this year’s Lausanne production via Yijie Shi’s Argirio. It boasted our much appreciated acquaintances Anna Bonitatibus, aka Boni and Jessica “eardrum hazard” Pratt as the doomed couple. Here’s their (extended) take on my beloved Ah, come mai quel’anima. That first trill made my eyes pop out. And there’s 8 more minutes of countless notes. I think there’s also feeling but I couldn’t focus on that just yet.

The mysterious popularity of the big, bad Amenaide

It’s been a popular topics fixture since I released it on an unsuspecting world. But really, why should this post (appear to) be so popular? As any WP aficionado knows, the secret’s in the title.


That being said, isn’t this a good description of Amenaide:

7. Female ninjas will usually grow up to be caring, kind and compassionate, despite being raised in an environment that harshly and violently discourages such behavior. (12 Things I learned from watching Ninja Assassin)


Il turco in Italia (ROH, 20 April 2015)

Operas about opera tend to be tongue-in-cheek. This one is blowing a raspberry. Amico Felice Romani by way of none other than Caterino Mazzola of Mozart’s Tito fame sometimes tries a little too hard to be funny but the central concept is, as usual with Rossini, humour based on keen self awareness. So soon after Adriano in Siria, Don Geronio and Fiorilla’s reconcilliation duet (she compares herself to a thirsty vine, he to an elm left naked without his vine) came off even more hilarious. The production goes the same route – no stereotype left behind.

Fiorilla: Aleksandra Kurzak
Selim: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
Don Geronio: Alessandro Corbelli
Don Narciso: Barry Banks
Prosdocimo: Thomas Allen
Zaida: Rachel Kelly
Albazar: Luis Gomes
Conductor: Evelino Pidò | Orchestra and Chorus of the ROH

When writer’s block strikes, Prodoscimo the librettist literally runs into walking cliches: the cuckold, the cheating wife, her current lover, the exotic prince, the exotic prince’s even more exotic true love and the true love’s current lover. The opera writes itself. Crucial to Rossini, the lone tenor (the cheating wife’s lover of the week) is mercilessly taken the piss out of, the insatiable soprano is busy hunk-hopping and the (faithful in her heart) mezzo marries the (faithful in his heart) bass. Quite the righteous order of fachs 😉

A curious thing happened: as the opera progressed I went from slightly nonplussed to the brink of fandom regarding Aleksandra Kurzak’s voice. Her last interventions comprised some of the most pleasurable belcanto singing I’d heard in a while. On record I didn’t exactly care one way or another and so I wasn’t itching with curiosity to hear her live. But she squarely won me over with a very nicely burnished tone and relaxed agility that suited the role to a t. I guess for complete surrender I would’ve liked a bit even more chutzpah in her acting, though it was by no means poor in a production that asks the singers to do a lot of stuff whilst singing.

D’Arcangelo, on the other hand, made less of an impression. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, intelligent singing with very well timed “romantic” touches but I missed a mocking/knowing wink in the voice and kept thinking back to Francois Lis in La pietra del paragone. It’s one of those things you either have or you don’t. I guess it could be argued that Selim is more of an innocent abroad type than funny per se. His acting was very good in that context.

Alessandro Corbelli was perfect as the put-upon husband and Barry Banks was hilariously ridiculous as the lover of the week. Rachel Kelly was convincing as the faithful Zaida. Having seen her a few times now I think this was the most solid singing I’ve heard from her. Thomas Allen seems to have made a second career out of these witty behind the scene types.

I’ve been quite a fan of Pidò’s belcanto conducting and he didn’t disappoint, keeping things very sprightly and winky. Also nice job the flute(s) several times during the opera, such as the “Turkish vs Italian customs” duet between Selim and Don Geronio. Another shout-out should go to the timpanist who went to town during the Act I finale. Initially I thought it was way too loud but then decided it suited the zaniness of the whole thing.

The production in bold colours illustrating the Naples shore worked very well. I was very pleased with the chunky boat on which Selim arrived (complete with unfolding stair). The whole scene looked to me like Rossini was mocking his own Di tanti palpiti. There is at least one instance where he clearly reprised a few bars from Tancredi.

All in all, it was good fun, nothing earth shattering but a very enjoyable evening for anyone who likes belcanto and can take a good dose of slapstick.

ROH Summer 2015 general booking now open

This year it opened at 8am and it went very smooth for me (done in 10min). I got tickets to Don Giovanni (specifically to see Roschmann as Donna Elvira), Guillaume Tell (though I’m bracing myself for what Michieletto has in mind), JPYA Summer performance since I liked what I saw last year and the Operalia final out of curiosity as to who are considered the next big things these days. I shall be casting my vote for the audience prize 😀

The Amenaide as ninja assassin Tancredi (Salzburg, 1992)

This draft has been biding its time since the Autumn of 2013 in the dark and mossy opera, innit? vault. Yesterday thadieu and Smorg showed unexpected interest in it and since I happened to have a day off, its day in the sunshine has come. Thadieu, I’m only talking about the bits you posted on youtube as I don’t have the rest.


Tancredi: Vesselina Kasarova
Amenaide: Nelly Miricioiu
Argirio: Donald Kaasch
Orbazzano: David Pittsinger
Isaura: Ruxandra Donose
Roggiero: Caroline Maria Petrig
Conductor: Pinchas Steinberg | Vienna State Opera Choir | ORF Symphonieorchester | Felsenreitschule | Salzburger Festspiele (August, 1992)

Given that it was performed at Felsenreitschule I mourn the fact that it was a concert performance (I can only imagine how they could’ve handled the boat). The ‘schule is such an odd, badass venue. And yes, the word that comes back again and again regarding this performance is badass. And odd.

As the story goes, back in ye olde early ’90s, Salzburger Festspiele thought they were cool (don’t they always?) and booked cult Tancredi Marilyn Horne as the slightly morose knight. Since things often don’t go as planned, she cancelled rather late in the game. I think the original Amenaide also dropped out but I can’t remember who it was (big name belcantist – Katia Ricciarelli maybe? Edita Gruberova! Cheers, t & S). When Salzburger Festspiele saw themselves without main singers they chanced on the 27 year-old VK who was just then eager to pounce on the opera world, one long and difficult role at a time. Finally, belcanto gun for hire Miricioiu saved their Amenaide-less hide – for a terrible price 😉 fear and trills in Siracusa

One for the Mezzo beard Hall of Fame


There’s also a coloratura mezzo who plays a trouser role, Edoardo. Not only does she wear pants, she also has a beard and a mustache that she shaves off with a sword in the second act. (Mathilde di Shabran)

Spectacular idea! 😀 Only ballsy mezzos need apply.

Now if you’re curious about Mathilde (or if you forgot how the hell that one goes – The Taming of the He-Shrew), here’s another funny reminder:

A group of unidentified woman (sic) appear and tell Corradino that he’s a wretch for having condemned Mathilde to death – Mandare a morte.

Clearly, the ghosts of scorned women past. Other than that, I think Mathilde is rather eh. Almost four (four?!) hours on a rather annoying and most certainly thin plot…

Blasts from the past: La donna del lago, ROH, 7 June, 2013

Last year’s production of La donna del lago had great reviews and a very enthusiastic reception from the public. It was indeed a good opportunity to hear Rossini sung the right way, as I found out for myself on 7 June 2013:

to the Highlands

En proie a la tristesse (Rossini 101)

Typical Rossini, eh? Rossini does facetiousness very well, it’s the basis of his comedy. All hail subtext. So you need a lot of star quality to pull off a Rossini lead, not just the ability to sing coloratura in your sleep. If you have both it’s the stuff of dreams. If you’re missing either one… say you only got coloratura then you’re the best canary on the block. If all you’ve got is star quality… well, that can go a long way, depending on how racy the production is 😉

Here‘s JDD deconstructing the piece with a very competent “contestant” whom I hope to hear more from in the future. And here‘s the side-splitting end product. It’s a lot of fun watching them one after the other. My very brainy brain wishes all arias came with 30min+ walk-throughs from people who get it. That would make for fun DVD extras.

My subtext for this post is I’m going to see Damrau as Violetta in little over a week! I think she’s a fabulous singing actress and a pretty good singer, too 😉 all right, better than pretty good, note-worthy.

Awwwpera moment…

I’m not a total grouch and being that toaday is for gushing and hearts, the Daily prompt has actually spurred me to share my first moment of awwwpera:


p style=”text-align:justify;”>I was looking around on youtube, just getting my feet wet, listening to a bit of this and a bit of that and feeling somewhat unsure about how this exploring opera thing went, when I came across this rendition. I immediately thought it was the most adorable thing. I then went on a JDD rampage (there was a lot of youtube pillaging, yes). To this day JDD is my favourite Rosina, just the right mix of playfulness and venom 🙂