Archive for the Reviews 2007 Category

Theatre/ Opera Review (LA): Don Giovanni by Mozart at the LA Opera – Dec. 1st 2007

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on December 2, 2007 by Giorgia

by Robert Machray (Blogcritics Magazine)

«The Los Angeles Opera has brought back its controversial production of Mozart’s masterpiece Don Giovanni. It is the production itself that is controversial – not the singers or the music, but the concept, by Polish theatre and opera director Mariuz Trelinski.

Like most Polish theater the production is rooted in movement, color, and surreal images. I happen to love this kind of concept, though it has its limitations. On the one hand it constantly surprises you with ever-shifting images; on the other it limits the actors’ approach to their characters and the audience’s response to them. Instead of living, breathing villains and protagonists in naturalistic settings, you have characters who are so stylized that you feel alienated from any sort of feeling you might normally have had for the dramatis personae and their situations.

This approach also really puts the focus on the score, as it’s the evening’s only grounding in reality. Once again I loved it. Even Mozart can on occasion bore the average listener, with so much recitative and harpsichord. But because the images were so alive, I was constantly engaged.

The singing was superb. Starring as Don Giovanni was Erwin Schrott, repeating the now famous portrayal that launched his career into super-stardom. He is now considered the definitive Don Giovanni round the globe. His rich baritone voice, sleek sexy figure, basic good looks, and terrific acting are reasons enough to see this production.

Also outstanding was Charles Castronovo as Don Ottavio. His voice was made for Mozart, and his high notes were crystal clear. I also enjoyed Alexanda Deshorties as Donna Anna and Maria Kanyova as the irritating ex-lover Donna Elvira.

I must also mention the choreography, by Emil Wesolwski, another Pole. The scene where Don Giovanni has the Commendatore (Kang-Liang Peng) to dinner, and Don Giovanni’s subsequent descent into Hell, were absolutely riveting.»

“Don Giovanni” seduces with devilish, elegant charm – LA, 27th November 2007

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on November 28, 2007 by Giorgia

by Madeleine Shaner (Reuters)

«Mozart played dice with his characters in his exalted opera “Don Giovanni,” breaking the rules of theater, morality and custom. The trickster, seducer and rapist never realistically gets his come-uppance because he’s an antihero of such charm and force that he’s irresistible, even to those who have suffered at his hands.

Playing the colorful role is the force of nature himself, Erwin Schrott, who made his L.A. Opera debut in the role in 2003. He’s magnificently devilish, charming and irresistible, so attuned to his reprehensible role that he doesn’t seem like the bad guy at all. Maybe because of its combination of wit, drama, satire, farce, tragedy and some undeniably sublime music, “Don Giovanni” is one of the most comedic, dramatic and entertaining of operas.

Under the direction of Mariusz Trelinski (who directed it here in 2003), it becomes, in perhaps the most suitable way, director’s theater, categorized by the elegant and amusing use of all the elements that go into the makeover of a well-known beauty.

Boris F. Kudlika’s amazing set design, Arkadius’ fantastical, weird and wonderful costumes and Brian Gale’s exquisite lighting all have important roles in the production. It seems all those elements have come out to play. While acknowledging its 17th century origins and huge nod to Expressionism, the Don, as the opera is familiarly referred to, is new again. If the characters have become caricatures, it’s clear that was intentional, and always amusing, though strategic cuts in the second act might avert the lengthy anticlimax.

As Ottavio, Charles Castronovo, a very high tenor, is outstanding in the lovely “Il mio tesoro” as he asks heaven to protect his fiancee, Donna Anna (Alexandra Deshorties), whose father’s death, at the hands of Giovanni, is the tinder that lights the fires of hell under the hellion. Deshorties as the cool, unapproachable beauty has to deal with Mozart’s too-cool arias, unfortunately achieving the pitch but not necessarily the tone of the emotion-driven woman. Kyle Ketelsen, as abused servant/fool Leporello, delivers his role with fine humor. His accounting of his master’s 2,065 conquests, in “Madamina! Il catalogo e questo,” is a highlight of the first act.

Lauren McNeese and James Creswell (as the new bride, Zerlina, and her cuckolded groom, Masetto) cutely represent the economic underclass who are beneath the notice but not the exploitation of the arrogant sexual braggart. McNeese joins Schrott splendidly in the familiar “La ci darem la mano.”

Maria Kanyova is lively as the seduced and abandoned Donna Elvira, who can’t stay away from Giovanni’s fire.

The L.A. Opera Orchestra, under the controlled baton of Hartmut Haenchen, joins the fun onstage but can’t top the extreme visual battery of the overwhelming design, costumes, lighting and inventiveness of the production.»

Una noche apasionada bajo la dirección de Plácido Domingo [concert in Puerto Rico]

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on October 11, 2007 by Giorgia

by Yaisha Vargas (El Vocero de Puerto Rico)

«Plácido Domingo dirigió en cuerpo y alma a la Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, en su primer encuentro, la noche del martes.

Pero la función ‘‘Una noche de amor y pasión’’ significó mucho más para el tenor español, pues compartió el escenario con sus hijos artísticos: la potente soprano rusa Anna Netrebko y el imponente barítono uruguayo Erwin Schrott.

Al igual que lo ha hecho en innumerables ocasiones con su admirable voz, Domingo conquistó batuta en mano al público puertorriqueño.

En su papel de director, el artista de 66 años no restó nunca protagonismo a los intérpretes vocales, por quienes ha profesado una alta estima y a quien ha ayudado en sus luminosas carreras.

Durante el repertorio en el que predominaron varias de las arias y dúos más conocidos del repertorio operístico, Domingo no dejó una articulación inmóvil en las piezas rápidas y su batuta flotó con sutileza en las melodías suaves.

El varias ocasiones estrechó las manos de los músicos, haciendo gestos de agrado por su interpretación.

Netrebko fue la estrella de la noche. Comenzó enamorando al público con su potente y aguda voz en la segunda pieza, ‘‘Quiero vivir’’, de la ópera ‘‘Romeo y Julieta’’ de Charles Gounod. Pero fueron quizás sus gestos atrevidos, además de su expresión intensa, los que la acercaron más al público, que le respondió constantemente con aplausos y bravos.

En una repetición de ‘‘Meine Litten’’, de la opereta ‘‘Giuditta’’ de Franz Lehár, dejó a la audiencia boquiabierta cuando se quitó los zapatos y danzó la pieza rápida con intensa libertad. Su largo traje violeta alzó vuelo. Se sentó en el borde del escenario con las pantorrillas y los pies desnudos, sonriéndole a las primeras filas. Luego se levantó y corrió por el escenario.Al terminar la pieza, el público enloqueció en aplausos.

Schrott, de 35 años, fue muy aplaudido en ‘‘Deh vieni alla finestra’’ y ‘‘Fin ch’han dal vino’’, ambas de ‘‘Don Giovanni’’ de Mozart, y se llevó aplausos efusivos y varias ovaciones tras interpretar ‘‘Abre los ojos’’ de ‘‘Las bodas de Fígaro’’, del mismo autor.

Exteriorizó con maestría la angustia y rabia del personaje por ‘‘la inconsistencia’’ de las mujeres, y lució lo mejor de su voz de bajo barítono en la canción del torero Escamillo ‘‘Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre’’, de la ópera ‘‘Carmen’’ de Georges Bizet.

Ofreció además una sorpresa inesperada al interpretar los tangos ‘‘Nostalgias’’ y ‘‘Esta tarde gris’’, acompañado por un violonchelo, un violín, un acordeón y un piano. Netrebko, aún descalza, se sentó entre el público para verlo y le aplaudió efusivamente.

El par mostró su apasionada química en el escenario con los duetos ‘‘Quanto amore! Ed io spietata’’, de la ópera ‘‘L’elisir d’amore’’ de Gaetano Donizetti y ‘‘Lippen schweigen’’, de la opereta ‘‘La viuda alegre’’ de Franz Lehár. Dejaron a la audiencia queriendo más.

Como sorpresa final, cantaron ‘‘La ci darem la mano’’, de ‘‘Don Giovanni’’, tras la cual el barítono se llevó a la soprano en brazos, dejando atrás una enardecida audiencia en ovación.»

¡Noche de inmortales! [concert in Puerto Rico]

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on October 11, 2007 by Giorgia

El maestro Plácido Domingo y sus “hijos artísticos”, Anna Netrebko y Erwin Schrott, convirtieron el concierto de anoche en una experiencia memorable para los melómanos que colmaron la Sala de Festivales del CBA Luis A. Ferré.

by Mario Alegre Barrios (El Nuevo Día)

«Hay artistas que trascienden el momento y tan sólo la mención de sus nombres se asocia a la excelencia, a la entrega absoluta y -¿por qué no?- a la inmortalidad.

A esta categoría pertenece sin duda el maestro Plácido Domingo, quien anoche revalidó el entrañable afecto y admiración que le profesa el público puertorriqueño en el marco de la gala Una noche de pasión, celebrada en el Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferré, en una producción de Guillermo Martínez para CulturArte.

De la misma manera que lo ha hecho en infinidad de ocasiones con su voz, en esta ocasión el artista español conquistó a la audiencia desde el podio de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, batuta en mano, acompañando a la espectacular soprano Anna Netrebko y al imponente barítono Erwin Schrott, quienes justificaron no solamente las esplendorosas referencias con las que fueron adoquinados sus debuts en la Isla, sino también la altísima estima que el maestro Domingo profesa por sus voces y el cuidado con el que ha abonado sus respectivas y luminosas carreras.

Con un repertorio en el que predominaron varías de las arias y dúos más conocidos -y hermosos- del repertorio operístico, la velada arrancó de modo eminentemente orquestal con la obertura de Las bodas de Fígaro, de Mozart, para dar paso a intervenciones alternadas en solitario de Netrebko y Schrott: “Je veux vivre”, de Romeo et Juliette; “Deh vieni alla finestra… Fin ch’han dal vino”, de Don Giovanni; “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta”, de La rondine; otro interludio orquestal con la obertura a Nabucco; “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi”, de Las bodas de Fígaro; “Quando m’en vo”, de La Bohéme, y el dueto “Quanto amore! Ed io spietata”, de Elisir d’Amore. Luego del intermedio la oferta incluyó arias de Norma, Macbeth, Risalka, Carmen y La Wally.

Al cierre de esta edición se esperaba que los cantantes ofrecieran algunos encores para reciprocar el entusiasmo con el que el público abrazó la velada.»

A Sensible, Musical ‘Figaro’

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on October 4, 2007 by Giorgia

by Jay Nordlinger (NY Sun)

«Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” has a large cast, but the most important performer of all is the conductor: He’s the one who drives, controls, and shapes the opera. He is the spirit on which the opera depends (if you leave out Mozart and his librettist, Da Ponte). And in the pit of the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday night was Philippe Jordan.

A young man from Switzerland, the son of the late, eminent conductor Armin Jordan, he has had success all over the world, notably in Salzburg and New York — and notably in Mozart. He acquitted himself well on Tuesday night.

Although the overture wasn’t the best. It was not fully together, and did not shine in its glory. It was rather perfunctory, dutiful — another day, another dollar. And this eternally thrilling piece deserves better.

The orchestra was guilty of sloppiness all evening long, and often this sloppiness was minor, but annoying. For example, the last notes of “Porgi, amor” weren’t together. An air of uncrispness settled on the whole performance.

But Mr. Jordan knows his Mozart, and he led a sensible, musical “Figaro.” He grasps the composer’s contrasts, and his sense of play. Indeed, he seems to share

that sense. His tempos were never extreme, although, in my judgment, the second half of “Dove sono” was harmfully slow.

And he had many laudable moments, did Mr. Jordan. I’ll give you two: The nervous confusion between Susanna and Cherubino — they’re trying to get out of a jam — was just right. This is in Act II. And, later in that act, during a vocal quartet, Mozart takes a memorable look back at the Baroque: at Bach and Handel. This, Mr. Jordan emphasized beautifully. By the way, those who have conducted “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Met include some of the best Mozart conductors in history: Böhm, Krips, Walter … and Mahler.

The Met was reviving its 1998 production by Jonathan Miller, a superb production — Mozartean and Da Pontean. If you see a production like Salzburg’s, which alters and indeed subverts the story, you appreciate Mr. Miller’s all the more.

Portraying Figaro was the Uruguayan bass Erwin Schrott. He is suave and handsome, and so is his singing. His sound has an enviable glow to it. Initially, he had some pitch problems, and, in “Se vuol ballare,” he was far too obvious, blunt: Mozart is subtle but clear. You don’t have to help him out much. Overall, however, Mr. Schrott gave satisfaction.

So did Lisette Oropesa, an American soprano, who portrayed Susanna. She stood in for Isabel Bayrakdarian, who is great with child. Ms. Oropesa has a lovely voice — a voice with some vitality — and she sings naturally. In Act I, her sound did not quite carry, hanging behind. But, in later acts, that sound opened up like a flower. And Ms. Oropesa made an exceptionally smart and savvy Susanna. An experienced and beloved Mozart singer, Hei-Kyung Hong, was the Countess — poised and gracious as always. Some things were more pure than others, but, on balance, the soprano had a good night. Her high notes were wonderfully free. She lost a bit of her sound — sheer volume — at the end of “Dove sono,” but this hardly mattered. The Count was Michele Pertusi, an Italian bass. He was dashing and seigneurial, and, where he needed to be, vocally sensitive. His upper register was a surprise and a delight. Toward the end of the opera, his sound tightened, but he experienced nothing ruinous.

Making her Met debut as Cherubino was Anke Vondung, a German mezzo-soprano. Even when she didn’t sparkle or score, she was competent. Cherubino can be high-testosterone, pantingly male — and Ms. Vondung was more dignified, even subdued. But what she did worked.

A veteran mezzo, Anne Murray, was Marcellina — and she made the absolute most of this role. Ms. Murray sounded and sang great. Also, she acted and looked great. The touch of stringency in her voice was exactly right, for the music and role. It was simply a treat to see this lady on stage.

As Don Bartolo, Maurizio Muraro was rightly and amusingly selfimportant. As Don Basilio, Robin Leggate had a very tough act to follow: This role was recently taken by Michel Sénéchal, a scream, and audience favorite. But Mr. Leggate succeeded on his own terms. And a young soprano, Kathleen Kim, made her Met debut as Barbarina (a traditional and good debut role). She showed the spunk and freshness we want.

A footnote or three, if you will. In its programs, the Met has taken to giving the birthplaces of the singers, rather than their proper hometowns, or nationalities. This can be misleading and unhelpful. For example, Anke Vondung was born in Como, Italy — a fabulous place to be born (or simply to be). But Ms. Vondung is German. Isabel Bayrakdarian was born in Lebanon — interesting to know. But she is Armenian-Canadian.

Quite helpful, however, was the fact that the Met went down to one intermission for “Figaro.” This streamlines the evening — which, at more than three and a half hours, is still long enough. On her way out, one lady was heard to say, “It was enjoyable, but just too long.” Many people have felt that way about Mozart operas, madam, even if they haven’t voiced it.

But I remember the words of Werner Hink, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In an interview a couple of years ago, he said that he had played “The Marriage of Figaro” over 500 times — and never tired of it, always basked in it. Here we have an example of true Mozart appreciation.»

Even with subs, the Met is Figarollin’

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on October 4, 2007 by Giorgia

by Clive Barnes (NY Post)

«Beneath Mozart’s form and dazzle lies the complexity of flesh and blood and humanity – never more so than in “Le Nozze di Figaro” (“The Marriage of Figaro”), which returned to the Metropolitan Opera Tuesday night with a couple of surprises.

On short notice, the young soprano Lisette Oropesa replaced a pregnant Isabel Bayrakdarian as Figaro’s bride, Susanna, and the earlier announced substitution of Hei-Kyung Hong for the indisposed Dorothea Roschmann as the Countess lent the performance a certain piquancy.

Oropesa, deliciously pert in her acting and extraordinarily vocally assured, was the winner of the 2005 Met Opera National Council Auditions, but the New Orleans soprano appeared in only a couple of small roles last season.

She looks and sounds like a real find.

Hong made a lovely, creamy-voiced Countess. Though the popular South Korean soprano had sung 23 different roles at the Met since her 1984 debut, this was her first Countess, and the Met hadn’t placed her on the roster at all this season.

That seems to have been a real mistake.

Both newcomer and veteran fitted smoothly into the splendid ensemble cast, led by the rising Uruguayan bass Erwin Schrott. In his first Met “Figaro,” he was bold, funny, sexy and often vocally a touch naughty, incorporating the odd laugh, sneer or snarl into the musical phrase. All in all, he was terrific.

Michele Pertusi provided a handsome solid Count, and we had two interesting Met debuts, Anke Vondung as a sprightly Cherubino, and Kathleen Kim, sweet in the small, telling role of Barbarina.

Jonathan Miller’s happily conventional, yet heartfelt, staging of this bittersweet comedy of love and marriage has become a little blurred in detail over the years, but Peter J. Davison’s shabbily ornate settings are still just right, and Swiss conductor Philippe Jordan proved brisk and stylishly Mozartean.»

A ‘Figaro’ With Youth, Agility and Eros

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2007 on October 4, 2007 by Giorgia

by Allan Kozinn (NYTimes)

«For a while, the return of Mozart’s “Nozze di Figaro” to the Metropolitan Opera stage promised at least one interesting quirk: Isabel Bayrakdarian was to sing Susanna, Figaro’s bride, though she is very visibly pregnant. A pregnant Susanna being chased by the Count and flirted with by Cherubino would have given the story a different spin.

But it was not to be. Ms. Bayrakdarian withdrew from the production last week, just a few days before the Tuesday opening. The soprano Lisette Oropesa, 24, a winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 2005 and currently in the company’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, took over the role. Before Tuesday, she had sung microscopic roles in Met productions of “Idomeneo” and “Suor Angelica.”

Ms. Oropesa’s last-minute elevation turns out to be a more interesting story than a pregnant Susanna. She proved a vocally and physically agile Susanna, with an attractively silky, flexible timbre. Her fine comic instincts and cheerfully bright sound put her in command of the stage during much of the first two acts. But she conveyed emotional depth too, most notably in her moving, dark-hued account of “Deh vieni, non tardar” in the final act.

Putting Ms. Oropesa in a cast that already included Erwin Schrott, a youthful Uruguayan bass, as Figaro, was a smart move: this nine-year-old Jonathan Miller production, now stage-directed by Robin Guarino, has worked best when the casts are not only vocally commanding, but young and trim as well. Mr. Schrott is a natural comedian and has a sonorous voice that served him well in a rambunctious “Se vuol ballare” and later, more seriously, in “Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi.”

Anke Vondung made her house debut as a believably boyish, love-struck Cherubino in the mold of Frederica von Stade’s classic portrayal. Her taut, polished “Non so più” could have been a touch more breathless, but it could hardly be said to have lacked passion. And her “Voi che sapete” was a thing of beauty: it was the only explanation necessary for why Ms. Guarino had Hei-Kyung Hong, the Countess, all but ravishing Cherubino in the moments before the Count’s untimely arrival.

Ms. Hong, long the Met’s utility Countess, has made her character warmer and more vulnerable here than in past appearances, and her “Dove sono” was as wrenching, but also as dignified, as it needs to be. Michele Pertusi’s Count was solid and suitably vexed, if less imperious than some.

The company also cast the smaller roles well. Ann Murray as Marcellina, Maurizio Muraro as Don Bartolo and Robin Leggate as Basilio gave more focused performances than those characters often get. Kathleen Kim rendered Barbarina’s music sweetly, and Bernard Fitch and Patrick Carfizzi made brief comic contributions as Don Curzio and Antonio.

Philippe Jordan’s conducting was energetic and stylish, and the orchestra played at its considerable best.»

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