Posts with the label opera
Showing posts with label opera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opera. Show all posts

Monday, 4 April 2022

La Traviata, Royal Opera House | Review


La Traviata
Royal Opera House
Reviewed on Saturday 2nd April 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

Richard Eyre's production of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata is certainly a landmark one, having stood the test of time and remaining a timeless version in its 28th season since 1994. The opera encompasses all the swooping storylines you'd expect, with grandeur, passion, sex, family, betrayal, romance and tragedy sewn into every moment. Of course there's also the key element: Verdi's stunning melodies. Even if you haven't listened to the opera before you'll surely recognise a few pieces and as operatic works go, it's very accessible for opera newcomers. This is evident in the audience attracted, with a variety of ages filling the auditorium at the Saturday morning performance.

It's quite clear why this is such a well-loved production. The entire thing is completely opulent and so visually impressive. Gloriously detailed period costumes transport the audience to a 19th-century Paris which feels worlds away from Covent Garden. Despite the grandeur, there's also a subtlety that comes alongside the proceedings. Whilst yes, it is dramatic and luxurious, Bob Crowley's set is also cosy and makes the Royal Opera House's auditorium feel small and inviting. This is also helped by the cast, namely leading lady Violetta, played by Pretty Yende who grabs the attention of all and wraps you up in her tragic story from the moment she steps on stage.

La Traviata tells the tale of a famed Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry. Seemingly carefree, she is secretly struggling with tuberculosis so when she meets and falls in love with Alfredo, she believes she gets a new chance to live and be happy. They run away together and life off of her money and sale of her property. However one day Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont appears and begs her to leave his son as he is disgracing his family. Due to her strong love, she agrees and from there further drama and pain ensues.

As Violetta, Pretty Yende is a perfect fit. A fantastic soprano, she embodies the role fully and completely shines both vocally and as an accomplished actress. Yende's technique is faultless and she soars throughout with beautifully spun lines, breath control that grasps the audience and complete accuracy on every note.  She is completely in command throughout and is especially wonderful in Addio del passato in the final act.

Partnered with Stephen Costello as her suitor, the pair work together nicely. Costello at times is overpowered but really comes into his own towards the end when he shows more outward intensity that is mirrored in his vocal performance and really captures the romantic majesty.

Giacomo Sagripanti conducts the orchestra with the perfect amount of sensitivity and creates an atmosphere like no other.

This is a version of La Traviata that will surely run for another 28 seasons and is a must see for opera lovers and opera newbies.

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

La Traviata, Royal Opera House | Review

Monday, 4 April 2022

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Rigoletto, New Victoria Theatre (Glyndebourne Tour 2019) | Review


Rigoletto
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 27th November 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Surprisingly this is the first time Rigoletto has been part of Glyndebourne's rep but Christiane Lutz's radical rewrite definitely proves a welcome addition. Verdi's dramatic revenge tragedy based on Victor Hugo's play is full of emotion and provides great opportunities for stand out performances.

Rigoletto, the hunchbacked jester, seeks revenge on his employer, the Duke of Mantua for generally being a bit of a jerk, but mainly for kidnapping and seducing his daughter, whom he has protected and kept hidden for most of her life. There are disguises, storms and in the end it's Rigoletto who loses the most. 

In Lutz's production, the plot has been transferred from 16th-century Mantua to 1930s Hollywood, where a hunchback-less Rigoletto has become Charlie Chaplin and his vicious employer the Duke, is a movie director. In this version the opening scene features courtier Monterone's daughter committing suicide seemingly due to the way the Duke (encouraged by Rigoletto) took advantage of her and then tossed her aside. She leaves behind a baby daughter Gilda whom Rigoletto adopts, but not before both he and the Duke are cursed by the distraught courtier. What follows in a 17 year gap and an incestuous relationship (neither the Duke or Gilda ever find out they are in fact father and daughter), envisaged by neither Hugo or Verdi. 


Overall the changes are mostly effective but the plots feels much more complicated than necessary and it's hard to follow the various relationships, with the end of act one leaving many audience members scratching their heads. The whole added dynamic of Gilda and the Duke proves less compelling and more confusing. That's not to say this production doesn't work and the modernised setting is very effective, but some of the changes feel too dramatic to have not been resolved by the end of the opera.

However, the singers are top notch and this is an opera worth visiting purely for the drama and intensity of the score. At this performance, Nikoloz Lagvilava was unwell so the role of Rigoletto was sung by Michael Druiett and walked on stage by Jofre Carabén van der Meer. Duiett gave an outstanding vocal performance which resonated beautifully and conveyed every emotion exceptionally. Having the role acted separately was actually extremely effective, with Jofre almost taking on the role of a silent movie star against the film set background from Christian Tabakoff. This added a new element to the opera and in a way, let Gilda shine throughout. 

As Gilda, Vuvu Mpofu achieves great success in her vulnerable performance and her top register soars elegantly. Matteo Lippi's resilient Duke is surprisingly charismatic despite his flawed personality and is entertaining throughout.

Despite being somewhat hard to follow, this is a strong production with great theatrical elements, that are entertaining and superbly performed.

Rigoletto, New Victoria Theatre (Glyndebourne Tour 2019) | Review

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Thursday, 20 June 2019

The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall | Review


The Light in the Piazza
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 19th June 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

The Light in the Piazza is a contemporary musical which invokes all the feelings of the golden age and is a sumptuous treat for the eyes and ears. The marvellously swooping score by Adam Guettel whisks you away from the opening moment and enthrals you in the beauty and magic of this delicate Italian love story.

Margaret Johnson (Fleming) is a well to do Southern lady who brings her fragile daughter Clara (Cameron) to Florence for a holiday. When Clara falls for a young Italian, Fabrizio (Houchen), Margaret is understandably protective and sceptical. Other than that, very little happens book wise but thanks to the glorious performances and production values, this is a divine musical.

As Clara, Dove Cameron is a marvel. A perfect combination of charm, innocence, an unruly heart and a headstrong mind, she lights up the stage every second she's on it (which is most of the show). Equally, the more intensely dramatic moments of the musical are performed with a candor and aggression which strikes and moves the audience. Cameron is a true star with vocals to match her captivating performance.


Rob Houchen has a way of surprising audiences with each role he takes on. This time it's the Italian leading man, Fabrizio, who is swoon-worthy, humourous and charismatic. As always Rob's acting performance is strong, with the comedic moments especially landing well; but it's Houchen's vocal performance which solidifies him as the dream casting choice for this role. The swooping vocals seem to pour out of thin air as Rob captures every moment with ease and control. Alongside Cameron, the pair create a chemistry which fizzles around the Festival Hall and creates a fuzzy feeling from start to end. 

Taking the role of the protective mother, Renée Fleming soars. Her deep operatic voice fills the festival hall but still manages to capture the intimate vulnerability she feels throughout. Mention must go to Mick Potter who has designed the sound of this show excellently. With the mix of operatic and musical theatre performers, there is always a risk of one overpowering the other, especially with opera performers usually being unmiced but this is not the case at all and the two styles meld and compliment each other fantastically.

Celinde Schoenmaker oozes sass as she struts across the stage in a smooth two piece and provides some of the musicals conflict during her marvellously performed The Joy You Feel. Liam Tamne is light relief as her husband Guiseppe Naccarelli. Alex Jennings also gives a memorably suave performance as patriarch Signor Naccarelli.


Brigette Reiffenstuel's 'frocks' are completely divine and indulgent, with floating fabrics and tailored Italian suits covering the stage. Backed by Robert Jones' simplistic but intuitive set, Dove Cameron seems almost doll like as she twirls around Italy in her magnificent pastel coloured clothing.

Sure, the story is lacking, but this is a show about love and you can't help but feel overcome by warmth as you watch it all play out. There are many a predictable moment, but thanks to Daniel Evans' direction, they're all carried out so well that they feel fresh and unexpected, regardless.

The Light in the Piazza runs at the Royal Festival Hall until 5th July 2019

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall | Review

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Tosca, Royal Opera House | Review


Tosca
Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Monday 27th May 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

The Act One finale of Puccini's swooping opera has got to be up there on the list of the best theatrical moments ever. The curtain comes down on Scarpia singing his menacing lament and we enter the first interval feeling utterly wrapped up in this glorious production; a feeling which continues until the very end. 

Kristine Opolais strongly performs Tosca, with all the shrieks needed and a wonderfully characterised lovers tiff in act one where she is a flirty and and playful diva. At times her vocals feel a little light purely due to the power of Vittorio Grigòlo's booming Caravadossi but overall the vocals are as soaring and emotive as you desire. Opolais balances the diva and naive sides well both characterisation and vocal performance.

Grigolo gets the passion and vulnerability of Caravadossi to feel natural and all-encompassing at once. The tenor gloriously performs Puccini's music finding explosive moments at the top of his range, as well as drawing us in with his highly controlled legato and dynamics; E lucevan le stelle is a particular, chill-inducing highlight.


Ironically it is a delight to see and hear Bryn Terfel as he brings the cruel, lascivious character of Scarpia to life. Despite being one of the most evil opera villains, one can't help but want him on stage more as his performance is so strong. The role requires not only serious vocal chops, but serious acting ones as well, Terfel provides both to create a perfect performance.

Paul Brown's set seems to get more beautiful with each act. Beginning in the Church, there are hints of magic and mystery, as well as small details of the trails being faced in the outside world. Scarpia's apartment is big, dark and overwhelming. Bookshelves devoid of books and an intimidating statue of a man crushing an opponent are signs of the way this cruel man runs his life. The final act is the barest of them all, featuring sharp angles in muted tones, the emotion is really the focus. Mark Henderson's lighting helps bring to life the love and hated which seeps through this production.

Alexander Joel's conducting brings out every ounce of tenderness and cruelty from the divine score as the Royal Opera House Orchestra soar through every moment. Jonathan Kent's production of Tosca is a must-see and is a perfect introduction to the drama and beauty of opera. 

photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

Tosca, Royal Opera House | Review

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Friday Night is Music Night, Queen Elizabeth Hall | Review


Friday Night is Music Night: Live From The Queen Elizabeth Hall (Concert)
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre
Reviewed on Friday 8th February 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

The iconic Friday Night is Music Night, led by Ken Bruce took over the recently refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall last night for an eclectic 2 hours of outstandingly virtuosic performances. From Shostakovich to Barry Manilow there was something for everyone and whether you were in the room or listening on the radio, you surely had a fantastic night. 

The ever wonderful BBC Concert Orchestra showcased their impressive ensemble work as they performed a variety of pieces, including highlights from West Side Story and Jurassic Park. Under the baton of Bramwell Tovey, the orchestra created magic that filled the space of Queen Elizabeth Hall with power whilst, also bringing moments of tranquility to the auditorium. A contrast, which listening back to the radio broadcast, transferred very well indeed. 

Also part of the proceedings was supremely talented cornet player, Thomas Nielson who was awarded the 2018 BBC Young Brass Award. With the talent and stage presence of someone much older, Thomas showed just how versatile the cornet can be with his renditions of Napoli and Someone to Watch Over Me. With highly impressive breath control, a wonderful aura and bucket loads of talent, there's no doubt that Thomas will be highly successful in the music scene.

Gary Wilmott and Sarah Fox contributed even more beautiful performances. Gary opened with the tongue-twister Ya Got Trouble from The Music Man which showed his impressive linguistic skills. Wilmott's strong vocals were showcased more in Billy's Soliloquy (Carousel) which built to a powerful and emotive ending that had the audience in instantaneous applause. Song To The Moon was the perfect piece to highlight Sarah's strong soprano voice and provided a lovely contrast to the other pieces in the programme. Cleverly transitioning from a story which inspired a Disney film, to a Mary Poppin's number from a Disney film, the night flowed very well and shone light on the versatility of all the performers.

Joyous performances made for a really magical and highly entertaining night at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Although for most people, every night is music night, there's something special about being part of such an iconic BBC feature; and when it's as well performed as last night, you can't really go wrong.

Friday Night is Music Night is available for catch up here

Friday Night is Music Night, Queen Elizabeth Hall | Review

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Friday, 8 February 2019

Anthropocene, Hackney Empire | Review


Anthropocene
Hackney Empire
Reviewed on Thursday 7th February 2019 by Lucy Jardine
★★★

Anthropocene opened at the Hackney Empire on Thursday 7th February. After some considerable hype and therefore a sense of anticipation, I found myself scratching my head and, frankly, was left with a sense of disappointment. 

Anthropocene is the story of an arctic expedition, with various set-piece characters: the journalist out to get his story, the pompous funder of the expedition and his wife, his daughter and her love interest (who is murdered) thrown in for good measure.... The story centres around the discovery, by the expedition team, of an ethereal being trapped in ice, who proves to be alive once the ice is hacked away. Jennifer France, who plays 'ice', was the star of the show. Her high soprano matched the other-worldly nature of the character she played; it was a joy to listen to her. 


As for the score, well, call me old-fashioned, but I like a bit of a melody. There was none, and nothing to latch on to. The most exciting parts were when all three female leads sang together, creating the only too brief and infrequent magical moment. 

The set itself was fairly sparse - some white drapes, a white ladder or two and some odd-looking red shapes at front stage left and front stage right - it took me nearly up to the interval to realise that they were meant to represent the outline of the ship and that we were therefore supposed to be inside it.

All in all, I'd say if you're in the neighbourhood, do pop along, but don't go out of your way.

Anthropocene runs at the Hackney Empire until 9th February 2019

photo credit: James Glossop

Anthropocene, Hackney Empire | Review

Friday, 8 February 2019

Monday, 3 December 2018

Carmen, Royal Opera House | Review


Carmen
Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Friday 30th November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★

Twisting Carmen on it's head, the Royal Opera House's revival of Barrie Kosky's production brings modernity, a narrator, simplicity and vibrance together to create a fresh and mostly effective production. 

Taking the place of the original dialogue/recitative is new text performed by pre-recorded narrator, Claude De Demo who sounds sultry and gives vibes of Carmen herself. Whilst this narration does bring a flow and more typically theatrical feeling to the show, overall Carmen does feel somewhat un-cohesive as it tries to be a bit too clever for it's own good. 

Katrin Lea Tag's set comprises of a vast stair case which covers the stage and prompts us to use our imaginations to see the tobacco factory and other settings. The simplicity effectively highlights the performances and provides a great backdrop for more dramatic and colourful moments of action; although at times it seems in the way of the flow of the show. There are times where the performers are legging it up the deep steps, that it feels there would be much less struggle and more payoff if they were not the main entrance, exit and focal point throughout the entire production.


Performance wise, this is an incredibly strong production. Stepping in last minute as Carmen, Gaëlle Arquez is astounding. From the various sleek costume changes from a pink matador, to a gorilla, to a suit and various dresses; to the elegant way she crosses the stage and of course her powerful but vulnerable vocals, Arquez demands to be seen in the title role. Brian Jagde brings an equally commanding passion to Don José but at times lacks characterisation that would bring a more menacing and psychologically commanding aspect to the character. With his booming bass and charismatic performance Alexander Vinogradov as Escamillo makes it clear why Carmen would choose him over Don José.

Otto Pichler's choreography emphasises the Cabaret theme which runs throughout the show, with six dancers who work hard to showcase various dance styles. There are moments when the choreography really works, creating a frantic, popping energy.


A melting-pot of movie, musical and pop culture references, this production of Carmen does a good job of refreshing and modernising the opera but feels at times that in attempting to be too accessible that it instead becomes unaccessible. 

Carmen runs until 22nd December at the Royal Opera House

photo credit: ©ROH. Bill Cooper

Carmen, Royal Opera House | Review

Monday, 3 December 2018

Monday, 26 November 2018

Glyndebourne's Cendrillon (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Cendrillon (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Friday 23rd November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★

Fiona Shaw takes the lead in directing Glyndebourne's first production of Massenet's ravishing fairytale, and turns it somewhat on it's head. The line from the opera "don't be ordinary, nor too original" feels very fitting for this production which has moments of magic but doesn't leave you utterly wowed. 

From the get go, the show is a little frantic, with lots of action but no clear centre for us to focus on. Whilst this does make the later scenes of peace and tranquility more affecting, it sometimes feels unnecessary and indulgent.  However, the act one scene of the Stepmother and Stepsisters preparing for the ball, is perfectly overindulgent, just like the characters. Social media obsessed, snapping selfies throughout the whole process and getting padded up to the nines a la the Kardashians, Agnes Zwierko, Eduarda Melo and Kezia Bienek are humourous, vocally excellent and suitably annoying.

Also well performed is the relationship between Cendrillion and her country-loving, spineless father played by William Dazeley. The pair are tender with one another and Dazeley provides some comic relief as he tries to stand up to his wife. Alix Le Saux and Eléonore Pancrazi are convincingly youthful as Cendrillon and the Prince as they perform with heart and passion.


The real star of the show is soprano Caroline Wettergreen as the Fairy Godmother. Dressed in an Elsa-esque coat, with braided hair and sparkles adorning her face; Wettergreen casts spells before reclining in her chair with a cigarette and is perfectly nonchalant but magical. Her coloratura is outstanding and the oak tree dance in act three really shows off her voice, as well as Sarah Fahie's choreography which is perfectly timed with every trill and ornament.

Jon Bausor's set brings not only magic to the stage but makes it feel expansive. The use of mirrors throughout, transports us to a huge ballroom and makes the stage seem double the size it truly is. Small details such as the butterflies symbolically appearing across the stage, alongside Anna Watson's clever use of projections do bring an element of magic as well as keeping the stage uncluttered with unnecessary props.

The ultimate magic of Cendrillon is truly Massenet's gloriously sumptuous score but this production does a good job of making the classic fairytale more psychological as well as retaining the mystical feel we desire, especially at this festive time.

photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Glyndebourne's Cendrillon (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Monday, 26 November 2018

Saturday, 24 November 2018

A Stagey Guide to Singing... Mané Galoyan | La Traviata | Interview

Mané Galoyan is currently helming the UK tour of Glyndebourne's La Traviata where she plays the heartbreaking character of Violetta. Watching the opera, one thing was evident: Mané's voice and technique are second to none, so I jumped at the chance to get some inside information and tips all about singing from the lady herself...



Can you tell me a little about your vocal journey and training?
I started voice and piano lessons at the age of 9 and I’ve always been lucky because I had the best teachers. I hold my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory, after which I was a studio artist at Houston Grand Opera for its 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons.


Violetta is a vocally demanding role, how do you maintain your voice and vocal health?
For me, the only thing that is very important is a good night’s sleep. Since our instrument is our body itself, we just need to treat our body with respect and care, but nothing is better then a good night’s sleep and healthy food. Other than that, I live my life as I normally would (without any extremes, of course! ha ha)


Violetta is also an extremely emotional role, how do you distance yourself from the emotion so your voice remains strong and you're not overly affected by it personally?
The truth is, you can’t fully distance yourself from Violetta. It is an extremely relatable role and I remember when I first started working on the score I was sobbing reading through the text. But it is important to understand that you are not the character – you are just the one who gives voice to the character and keeps it alive. It is indeed a fine balance to keep the emotions and the technique on the same level, but that is the challenge and of course the rehearsals are there to help you to find it!


What is your pre-show warm up like?
I usually do at least 5-10 minutes of yoga to stretch my body and warm it up first. It’s much easier to warm up your voice after your body is warmed up and your breath is going. And then some humming, a couple of scales, check in with the score and ready to go!


Who is your dream duet partner?
A partner who is always present dramatically and who I can make beautiful music with! And right now I am very lucky to have Luis Gomes as my partner in La Traviata. He is the best!


If you could describe performing in 5 words, what would they be?
Sharing, living, exciting, transforming, loving.


What's your top piece of advice for aspiring singers?
Always be open to accept feedback from the professionals around you, but never forget to listen to your own intuition…

La Traviata is on again at the New Victoria Theatre on 24th November, before continuing it's tour.

Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell


A Stagey Guide to Singing... Mané Galoyan | La Traviata | Interview

Saturday, 24 November 2018