Archive for the Reviews 2008 Category

Schrott seductive as ‘Don Giovanni’ – 02-10-2008

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2008 on October 3, 2008 by Giorgia

by Bradley Bambarger (The Star-Ledger / nj.com)

«Mozart’s three operas written with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte are comedies about a serious thing: sex. Two of these revolve around the complications that arise when sex rubs up against issues of class (“Le Nozze di Figaro”) and loyalty (“Cosi fan Tutte”). With “Don Giovanni,” it’s the tragicomedy of sex and morality — the culpability of both the seducer and those who want to be seduced.

In the Metropolitan Opera’s “Don Giovanni,” Erwin Schrott plays Don Juan as demonic peacock, strutting on stage with his muscled chest just out in front of his arrogant pout. This compulsive rake is an emotional nihilist who loathes the losers in his seduction games — those women in thrall to his looks and skills despite what they know and say. Sometimes the rogue has to trick his prey; sometimes they’re asking for it.

Schrott is the Don of the day, a 35-year-old Uruguayan bass whose career ascent has been measured (top prizes at Placido Domingo’s 1998 Operalia competition notwithstanding). Now, he has a Decca record deal, as well as his share of celebrity headlines. The world’s hottest opera star — Russian soprano Anna Netrebko — had his baby last month.

These days, opera singers have to look their parts, as well as sing them. Schrott’s Latin looks provide ideal verisimilitude for a Don Juan (think Antonio Banderas). Director Gina Lapinski takes full advantage, having him shirtless in the opening scene. But Schrott’s virile voice fills the bill, too. His tone is coffee-colored; his phrasing beautiful but dramatic, like heightened speech. He is also a natural stage creature, radiating energy.

The entire cast is excellent. Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova plays Donna Anna. She is nearly raped by Don Giovanni, who kills her father, the Commendatore, somewhat reluctantly when he attempts a rescue. (The Commendatore’s ghost will haunt the Don by the end, although Schrott plays haunting better than haunted.) Stoyanova got Wednesday night’s biggest cheers for an exquisitely shaded “Non, mi Dir,” the aria where she puts off her fiance until she can resolve her Don Giovanni issues (ostensibly revenge, but maybe it’s not that simple).

Isabel Leonard is sweet of face and voice as Zerlina, who nearly succumbs to the Don on her wedding day but is able to soothe her ruffled fiance with a coo or two. Susan Graham has the hardest role, as Donna Elvira, an older woman who, despite her protestations, keeps falling for the rogue, to his disgusted amusement. The strong American mezzo seems a bit uncomfortable playing a patsy, but she sings stylishly.

As for the guys who don’t get many points for being good, tenor Matthew Polenzani, as Anna’s intended, makes the most of his haplessly lyrical moments. Joshua Bloom, as Zerlina’s Masetto, looks and sounds like he could play Don Giovanni, if given a chance. The opera’s heart is Leporello, Don Giovanni’s semi-reluctant right-hand man. Italian bass Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (who also looks Don-worthy) fills the part with subtle warmth, his “Catalog Aria” low-key but charming.

The ensembles of mixed emotions, from trios to septets, came together wonderfully on Wednesday, and the Met orchestra played with its usual acuity. Conductor Louis Langree — director of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival — has a leaner, more period-influenced way with the composer than has often been heard at the Met. But his phrasing seems more apt for light than shade, as the ever-incredible overture and “stone guest” scene could have used a darker power.

For all the hearts racing on stage, Marthe Keller’s rather conservative 2004 production lacks the conceptual edge that a 21st-century “Don Giovanni” should have. Still, designer Michael Yeargan’s stone walls are evocative of the Don’s hard heart, the shadowy spaces just right for those who don’t care.»

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The Seduction Catalog: A Bad Boy on the Prowl – 29-09-2008

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2008 on September 30, 2008 by Giorgia

by James R. Oestreich (NYTimes)

«Marthe Keller’s production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Metropolitan Opera opened in March 2004, several months before Peter Gelb was named the company’s next general manager, and it was revived a year later, many months before he actually took control. But in its current revival, which opened on Saturday afternoon, this production stands as a plausible representative of the Gelb aesthetic that elevates theater to a near par with music.

With rudimentary but versatile sets by Michael Yeargan, Ms. Keller takes the monumentality of the Met stage in stride rather than trying to amplify it, as Franco Zeffirelli had done in the production that hers happily replaced. No one is lost in dark corners, and the focus of the action is always clear despite Jean Kalman’s subdued lighting. The singers are attractive and mostly believable in their roles, and many are more than passable actors.

The Uruguayan bass Erwin Schrott, in fact, may be the Don Giovanni of choice today, acclaimed at least as much for his acting as for his singing. Taking the role for the first time in the house (having sung it with the Met in Japan in 2006), he inhabited it animalistically, all but panting toward the next sexual adventure. So much was he the character that his singing seemed to flow out as naturally as speech, well paced and well tuned if not always glamorous in tone.

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, after some stiffness in his opening number, proved an excellent foil as Leporello, matched closely enough with Mr. Schrott in voice, physique and manner that their exchange of costumes worked seamlessly and all the more hilariously. Without slighting the comic possibilities, Mr. D’Arcangelo made the character genuinely affecting.

Susan Graham’s innate dignity was somewhat undercut in the role of Donna Elvira by the otherwise effective costuming of Christine Rabot-Pinson and stage direction of Gina Lapinski. Were those garish red gloves in the first act supposed to set off the big head of hair (more orange than red to my eyes)? With most of the stock mugging behind her in the second act, Ms. Graham fared better. But her singing, for all its admirable qualities, still lacked a certain fire that the role demands.

Matthew Polenzani sang beautifully as Don Ottavio, with a rich, sure tone, and made the best of the hapless character. But set against his youthful appearance, Krassimira Stoyanova seemed a bit matronly in her bearing, and her soprano, though ranging freely through registers and dynamics, sometimes had a hard edge that spread throughout her last aria.

Isabel Leonard inhabited the role of the impudent, innocent Zerlina as thoroughly as Mr. Schrott did the Don, and the chemistry between them was sizzling. Her singing was fresh, effervescent and lovely.

Joshua Bloom, making his Met debut as the bluff Masetto, more than held his own in this exalted company. Phillip Ens was a sturdy Commendatore.

Louis Langrée, one of New York’s foremost Mozarteans, as music director of the Mostly Mozart Festival, conducted, and he made a fine job of the second act. The first was plagued by slippages, major and minor, between stage and pit.

For the rest, the orchestra displayed its typical agility and finesse. Among its finest moments was the simplest: the plush underlay of Don Ottavio’s aria “Dalla sua pace,” as gorgeously rendered as the melody above it.»

Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival – 29th March 2008

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2008 on April 1, 2008 by Giorgia

(from Al Arab Online)

«The first week of the 5th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival had set a very high-standard of musical quality and pushed audience enthusiasm to frantic levels. Indeed, after the world class performances of the London Philharmonic, the powerful and soulful revival of Arabic Classics with Asmma Monaoar and Khaled Selim and the Bolshoi triumph, one might have wondered what this 5th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival had in stock to keep up with such ground-breaking performances.

The challenge was met by ADMAF on the evening on the 29th of March at the Emirates Palace Auditorium. Indeed, the Bolshoi Orchestra was there again that evening, but not to play to the gravity-defying, ever so graceful dancers, but to a different type of other-worldly talents: opera singers.

In this Opera Gala, Anna Netrebko, the internationally acclaimed soprano performed with the graceful mezzo-soprano Elina Garanča and the no-less talented Erwin Schrott to a full house comprising His Excellency Khaldoon Mubarak, Chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority and CEO of Mubadala, His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent and many distinguished guests from the Emirati and foreign community. A detail was telling of the expectations raised by the sweeping international attention this 5th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival has drawn: two Kuwaiti visitors confessed they had come specially from their home country to attend this evening’s performance.

The first half of this evening’s performance was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s and began with Le Nozze de Figaro’s Overture: a fitting choice to debut this Opera Gala as the energetic, immensely pleasing opening statement of this famous W.A. Mozart masterpiece gave a sampler of how melodic, powerful and quite simply merely entertaining the rest of this evening would be. Alexander Vedernikov’s conducting was generous and energetic as he skilfully led the orchestra and the audience into this evening of opera.

Enter the divas! Netrebko and Garanča appeared on the stage in glittering dresses, looking stunning: if their appearance had anything to do with their performance, it promised to be stellar. And indeed it was. Their performance of the love duet “Ah perdona il primo affetto” was vibrant and engulfed the audience in all the emotion the Opera has to offer. The audience thundered in applause as the two singers left the stage.

Erwinn Schrott appeared, bringing his relaxed, friendly charm to the stage: his interpretation of the Don Giovanni extract “Madamina, il catalogo e questo” was extraordinary: in addition to the perfect singing, the audience simply saw a wonderful actor’s performance. Working the stage playfully; skilfully involving the audience and the orchestra in his rendition of the list of Don Giovanni’s many conquests across Europe, Schrott demonstrated how the Opera was not only about vocal skill but about emotion, acting and storytelling, making it an immensely elaborate and entertaining form of music. This was followed by another excerpt of “La Clemenza di Tito” in which Elina Garanča lent her commanding presence and her perfect performance to this piece, literally hypnotizing the audience.

Another of the many highlights of this first part of the Gala dedicated to Mozart was “D’Oreste D’Aiace” performed by Netrebko. Quite the opposite of the playful Don Giovanni excerpt, this tormented and anguished piece provided an extraordinary opportunity for Netrebko to propel the audience in another world, that of anger and madness of her character Electra. Netrebko’s mastery was such that her virtuosity never was the issue: it was simply and powerfully serving the notes of Mozart and this terribly expressive song that accelerates and stops, bursts in laughter of dementia and is absolutely unpredictable as can be anger and madness. The audience hit new heights of frenzy as it clapped on and on to salute Netrebko’s perfectly tormented performance.

The three singers returned to the stage after a March from Idomeneo in order to perform “Soave sia il vento”, one of the songs that sets the story of Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte” in motion: Schrott’s Don Alfonso was acted perfectly as were Netrebko and Garanča playing the two fiancés wishing gentle winds to the men they love: Don Alfonso’s deceitful friendliness and both women’s shared concern for their loves was a powerful and very unique combination, based on moving individual performances, but just as much on an intricate chemistry between the performers. This perfect balance served Mozart and the audience superbly.

The audience avidly applauded, already missing Netrebko’s, Garanča’s and Schrott’s magic, be it only for a short intermission. The conversations amongst the festival-goers during the interval gave the clear impression that the audience that night was a mix of seasoned opera lovers and first-timers: an interesting, yet challenging mix, as the program and performance could easily loose one part of the audience, while catering to another part. Based on the enthusiastic applause in the auditorium moments earlier, but also on the very interesting conversations between opera fans and opera debutants, one could feel that the excellence of the performances that evening combined with the very smart programming made this Opera Gala directly speak to the heart and soul of all present. Quality has this equalizing effect: it simply elevates all those that it touches to the same levels of bliss. This was definitely the case in the Emirates Palace auditorium that evening, during the first part of the Opera Gala. It would be even more so moments later, when the audience regrouped for what would be one of the defining moments of the 5th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival…

The Bolshoi orchestra did not leave anytime for pause for the audience: Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino’s” Overture masterfully cast a cloud of threat and power, those of destiny as the title indicates, over the auditorium. A very fitting introduction as the following piece was one from Verdi’s Macbeth. Demonstrating the range of his voice and his acting, Erwin Schrott returned to the stage to perform a riveting song over the course of which General Banco expresses his feelings that threat looms over him. The beginning of that song was particularly impressive on the part of Schrott as much as the orchestra: indeed, the singer’s a cappella performance was nothing less than perfect, engulfing the audience in the General’s sense of doom, while the orchestra responded ever so lightly, in both a moving performance and one that let Schrott’s acting and singing fill the auditorium. The audience could only salute such heights with powerful, spontaneous applause.

The program that evening simply would not let the audience enjoy one minute of respite, taking them from one emotion-filled performance to another. Seconds after Schrott left the stage, Anna Netrebko came back to the stage, resplendent in a red dress. It was time for the opera equivalent of a “hit”: “Casta Diva”, a fitting title to describe the opera legend standing onstage. Netrebko was in a trance: she let herself be carried by Bellini’s music, and engulfed in the emotion of the music, she passed it on to an audience simply overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. As the song ended with Netrebko’s perfect, soulful a capella ending, the orchestra could only respond subtly with the last few notes written by Bellini as a closing statement. The conductor Vedernikov did not break the spell cast by Netrebko’s voice, as he delivered those last notes with a very subtle touch, in order to leave the dumbstruck audience fully immersed in Netrebko’s soulful performance.

The applause continued relentlessly well after Netrebko left the stage. Garanča appeared, her too in a new dress, reminiscent of a flamenco dress. “Nacqui all affanno” from Rossini’s La Cenerentola is a paradoxical piece: indeed it is a recollection of hardships of the past at a moment of happiness of the present. Garanča’s interpretation managed to set both those elements in her performance, providing the audience with a prime example of how the opera is not an exercise of vocal power, but quite the contrary, one of subtlety both in voice and in acting.

This Opera Gala was truly voyage across Europe and its opera: after Mozart’s take on European classics such as Don Giovani or le Nozze de Figaro, the second part offered us Scottish Macbeth to the Italian tunes of Verdi, or as the musical transition would propose a “sinfonia” of “Il Viagio a Reims”, a regal piece, describing the convergence of European leaders to Reims for the coronation of Charles X.

Garanča was the one wearing the flamenco dress, but Netrebko would be the one leading the audience to Spain through the notes written by French composer L. Delibes and the words of French romantic poet Alfred de Musset. “The Girls from Cadiz” was a blissful description of Spain, Netrebko singing in a subtle, playful yet concentrated performance, her arms slowly and gracefully raised in a posture reminiscent of a flamenco dancer.

Spain seen through the inspiration of French composer remained onstage till the end of this second part of the Opera Gala, with Bizet’s Carmen, and more specifically Schrott performing a powerful, manly “Toreador” and Garanča playing masterfully with “La Chanson Boheme’s” high notes and expressive escalation. Bizet’s classics were both grounds for perfect performances and sheer entertainment, a combination that led the audience to an unstoppable thunderous applause, as the performers came to the stage to bow gracefully.

The audience responded by an enthusiastic standing ovation and continued its applause on and on. The performers disappeared and reappeared on the stage, as the applause unrelentingly went one for more than 5 unwavering minutes of grateful salute to the artists, as “bravos” and “encores” rang through the audience.

After this long, deserved salute, the performers graced the audience with an encore: “La Ci Darem la mano” from Don Giovanni. In a beautiful game of complicity between the singers, and with both the audience and the orchestra, Netrebko, Schrott and Garanča playfully performed this piece over which the male lead is playfully torn between two women… as the song and quite simply the fun escalated to a frenzy, Netrebko took the conductor Vedernikov with her, as the orchestra played on, the singers sang on, leaving the stage, and the audience simply sprang back to a standing ovation drowning the last notes in their irrepressible urge to salute the artists that had swept them off their feet.

Generosity was truly in the auditorium that night, as the performers seemed to greatly appreciate their audience, and the audience spared no efforts to express their recognition. The Opera Gala was a powerful, key moment for the 5th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival as it demonstrated how an uncompromising quality driven approach to music and culture can be all inclusive, leaving room for all, be it seasoned music lovers or intrigued first timers. This evening was a shining example of what Abu Dhabi has to offer world performers –generous, appreciating, sophisticated yet spontaneous audiences- and what those performers can bring to Abu Dhabi.»

Ópera en concierto: Le dernier jour d’un condamné – Valencia 12-02-2008

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2008 on February 16, 2008 by Giorgia

by Joaquín Guzman (abc.es)

«Éxito sin paliativos de los Alagna en un Palau de Les Arts, que llenó en sus dos terceras partes el auditorio superior. No fue un aplauso de compromiso sino sincero. Pero no es oro todo lo que reluce: David Alagna es todavía un joven compositor y se nota. Se entrevé cultura musical, lo que es arma de doble filo y debe despojarse de clichés y lugares comunes si quiere encontrar un lenguaje propio. No orquesta mal y en su música hay esfuerzo y propósitos, quizás demasiado ambiciosos, y los resultados son cuestionables. Falta inspiración y abundan los pasajes en una suerte de Adagio Lamentoso iniciados por una nota pedal descriptiva de la irrespirable escena, desembocando en cierta monotonía. La visita de diversos personajes al condenado la dotan de una frescura y ritmo que se echan en falta en no pocas ocasiones. David Alagna parece querer abarcarlo todo y se queda en el intento convirtiendo la partitura en previsible. Esto oí y lo hago mío: «Quizás una música demasiado blanda para una historia tan dura» El tiempo juzgará.

Roberto Alagna es un tenor controvertido. Se reparten por igual sus detractores y admiradores. Alagna es un artista muy estimable con una media voz sólida, facilidad, brillantez en el agudo y suficientes medios. Su timbre es expresivo y musical. Le falta sin embargo matizar más. Dio lo mejor de sí mismo, no aprecié la fatiga de la que se habla, y el público supo reconocerlo. La Manfrino no me dijo gran cosa. Buena cantante sin más. Schrott es un animal escénico y un magnífico cantante. Su breve intervención como desahuciado fue de lo mejor de la noche. Esperemos que su relación con Valencia vaya a más. Villard es un profesional sin alardes, el coro efectivo y la orquesta a buen nivel, obediente pero sin rutilancias.»

Le dernier jour d’un condamné – Valencia 12-02-2008

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2008 on February 15, 2008 by Giorgia

(Levante)

«Roberto Alagna estrenó anoche con éxito en el Auditorio del Palau de les Arts Le dernier jour d’un condamné, una ópera en concierto, que dirigió Franck Villard en lo musical, y en la que intervinieron la Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana y el Coro Filarmónico de Praga.
Aparte del tenor francés Alagna cantaba la soprano Nathalie Manfrino, el bajo Erwin Schrott y Stefano Antonucci.
Ha sido la primera ópera que se ofrece en concierto en el Auditorio. Y no consiguió ayer llenar el aforo de la sala.
La ópera, basada en una novela de Victor Hugo, tiene un libreto de Roberto y David Alagna, y la música es de este último. Según indicó es una denuncia de la pena de muerte, que aún existe en algunos países.
La música no es nada revolucionaria, está llena de efectos pétricos y representa, paralelamente, la historia de un condenado a muerte en la Francia de tiempos de Victor Hugo, y de una condenada del mundo actual. Las historias discurren en paralelo y, alternadamente, cada uno de los protagonistas va recibiendo las visitas del alcaide de la prisión, del verdugo y del cura, hasta el fatal desenlace.»