Wednesday, 10 October 2007

From this month's Opera

Gleanings from the October edition of Opera Magazine.

The big feature, of course, is an assessment of the life and career of Luciano Pavarotti. But Janet Baker and Max Loppert contributed tributes to the critic Alan Blyth who died recently. Margaret Atwood and Andrew Porter paid tribute to Richard Bradshaw, the conductor of Canadian Opera who died in August. Another obituary is for Teresa Stich-Randall, who is best known by me as the Sophie on the Karajan Rosenkavalier. Towards the end of her life she lived in Vienna and drove and Alfa Romeo sports car (so she must have had good taste) which she called 'the red devil'.

The interview is with Sylvie Valayre, who sang Lady Macbeth with Glyndebourne this summer. I caught the performance at the Proms and, though I found her interesting, it was not my favourite account of the role. But then, I was hearing it in the Albert Hall!. The soprano has her own website, www.sylvievalayre.com. It is far less formal than some singers' web sites, mainly because it is controlled by the soprano herself rather than her agency or record company. The late Regine Crespin is a thread that keeps running through items recently, Valayre did not actually study with her but sat in on some of her classes. And you've got to love someone who says that the role she'd like to play is Leporello!

A new production of Tosca appeared on the floating stage in Bregenz; alas Tosca did not leap into the lake at the end (though evidently Senta did in the Flying Dutchman production in 1973!). Over in Toulouse, Philippe Fenelon's 4th opera, Faust, has premièred; to its credit it has vocal lines which are singable and actually project the text. Sounds quite positive.

Alas in Goettingen, Stephen Petitt did not like the new production of Handel's Giulio Cesare. Of the singers who did come in for commendation, Petitt mentions Laura Cherici ' doing a Bartoli, only better', now that sounds fascinating. At another festival, Wexford, Kurt Weill's Der Silbersee was on offer with Anita Dobson (from EastEnders) as Frau von Luber. Rodney Milnes was not impressed, shame because I still have extremely fond memories of the production at the late lamented Camden Festival (with Nigel Robson). Still at Wexford, Milnes was also unimpressed by Rusalka, being as the production included a character playing the Moon, I'm not surprised.

Over in Mexico City, Respighi's orchestration of Monteverdi's Orfeo made an appearance. The only comment here can be, why? Respighi lowers the pitch, reduces the no. of acts from five to three, transposes some roles into lower range and added interludes which precede each act. Well, I suppose it makes it available for opera houses, but I'm still not convinced.

Dorset Opera have just done the Berio ending of Puccini's Turandot whilst Midsummer Opera continue to champion the uncut Alfano ending (hurrah!). Midsummer Opera are performing the work with uncut Alfano on November 4th at the theatre in Catford. Over at Clonter Opera, Jamie Hayes set Don Giovanni in the 1960's with the Commendatore being battered to death with a cricket bat.

I missed Christine Brewer's performance as Brunnhilde at the proms, but Peter Reed said that she ' had that generosity and involvement of singing that reminded me of the great Gwynneth Jones'. I hope that we get a chance to hear her in the role in the UK again soon.


Telarc have issued a 2 CD set of Dukas's Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, one of those rarely performed pieces which it is lovely to come across (I never did catch the Opera North production with Anne Marie Owens). Julian Grant, in his review, describes Ariane as a 'scary composite of an earnest Mary Poppins mixed with Camille Paglia', scary indeed. It is one of those problem low soprano/high mezzo roles, commonly called Falcon after the soprano who created Rachel in La Juive. Again Crespin threads her way in, as Grant feels the role would have been ideal for her in the 1960's.

Finally, it seems that Michael Berkely is composing a new opera (hurrah!), this time to a libretto by Ian McEwan. It will be interesting to see how McEwan alters his style to suit the operatic purpose.

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