Based on Gogol’s fantastical and comic story of the Devil’s antics on Christmas Eve, this magical blend of opera and ballet is brought to vivid life in Francesca Zambello’s colourful production. Magnificent set designs (Mikhail Mokrov) and costumes (Tatiana Noginova), and an excellent, largely Russian cast provide authenticity. Splendid dancing by The Royal Ballet and Cossack dancers completes the spectacle.
In 1974, British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in turn decided to focus on the two protagonists for an ambitious ballet that could translate the feelings and emotions of two souls abused by the accidents of life and their own personal weaknesses. In short, how a young girl on her way to a convent manages to elope with the young student with whom she has just fallen in love, only to leave him to escape destitution and finally allow herself to be persuaded by her brother Lescaut to yield to the advances of wealthy “protectors”. Accused of prostitution and deported to Louisiana, Manon is rescued by Des Grieux. Driven to murder by Manon’s jailer, he escapes with her into the marshes where the young girl ultimately succumbs. Although sincere, the love that Manon and Des Grieux share for each other cannot stand up to the vagaries of existence. As a result, neither is able to escape moral or social decline. Rather than reuse the score of Massenet’s opera, MacMillan entrusted Leighton Lucas with the task of arranging a series of extracts taken from a selection of the French composer’s operatic, symphonic and vocal scores… The end result was a huge success from its debut performance in London in 1974 onwards.
Gluck‘s wonderful but neglected 1774 opera Iphigénie en Tauride, inspired by the Greek legend, is treated with forceful and convincing simplicity in Klaus Guth‘s revolutionary production staged at the Zurich Opera House. The psychological drama in a tense atmosphere of fears and traumas is underlined by Guth‘s use of huge masks and enclosed spaces. Conductor William Christie and his typically transparent but never cold orchestral sound perfectly match the descriptive elements in Gluck’s score, while the Armenian mezzosoprano Juliette Galstian as a fabulously good Iphigénie, the leading American opera baritone Rodney Gilfry as Oreste and the deceased South African tenor Deon van der Walt as Pylade head a superb cast.
In Glyndebourne’s first-ever staging of a opera by Rameau, director Jonathan Kent presents a production which, in his own words, ‘strives to appeal to every sense and show audiences how engrossing and musically ravishing French Baroque opera can be’. Rameau’s inventive take on Racine’s great tragedy Phèdre is brought to life by Paul Brown’s colourful and elegant designs and Ashley Page’s playful choreography. Ed Lyon and Christiane Karg give captivating performances as the titular young lovers, while Sarah Connolly, making a welcome return to Glyndebourne, ‘invests Phaedra with both grandeur and a desperately human vulnerability’ (The Independent). Leading exponent of early music William Christie ‘sets an exhilarating pace, galvanising the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to playing of tremendous panache’ (The DailyTelegraph).
Described by Tchaikovsky as ‘lyric scenes’, Eugene Onegin receives a spectacular reinterpretation from the Norwegian director Stefan Herheim. His productions create controversy and excitement around Europe, and here he takes Pushkin’s story of illusion, disaffection and frustrated love, and places the protagonists – world-weary Onegin and naïve, passionate Tatyana – in a triple temporal perspective, referencing the theatrical present, the period of the work’s composition, and the pageant of Russia’s history. Mariss Jansons, renowned for his mastery of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, conducts this performance from Amsterdam’s Muziektheater.
Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful idiom, but performances are few and far between; this realisation of his penultimate and grandest stage work is a very rare and special experience. Kitezh is known as ‘the Russian Parsifal’, which encapsulates its mystical flavour and steady unfolding of a legend of redemption. A largely Russian cast (headed by the stunning Svetlana Ignatovich) and production team works within a set that moves from opulent naturalistic scenery to some startling theatrical coups worthy of Rimsky’s underrated dramatic instincts.
Antonio Vivaldi wrote hundreds of largely famous instrumental works, and his glorious church music is well known; but it wasn’t until recent decades that his operas – of which he is said to have created more than fifty – were resurrected. Orlando furioso occupies a central and very significant place among Vivaldi’s works. Not only does the whole score of this opera demonstrate its composer’s full, creative maturity, but its outstanding features are also an extraordinary musical beauty, an attractive recitative line and a balance thus created between the various parts of the dramatic and musical whole. This exceptional musical achievement was no doubt partly due to the famous theme of the original story, as well as the literary and dramatic qualities of a fi rst-rate libretto. Pier Luigi Pizzi’s 1979 production of Orlando furioso in Verona marked the beginning of contemporary international interest in Antonio Vivaldi’s operas. Ten years later the same director once more produced this work at the San Francisco Opera, where it was a great success.
Glyndebourne has brought to light a long-overlooked winner in Donizetti’s Poliuto, delivering ‘a superb musical performance’ (The Telegraph) offering ‘lucent accounts of the principal roles and an incandescent London Philharmonic Orchestra, under Enrique Mazzola’ (New York Times). This first ever professional UK staging of the story of third-century Armenian martyr St Polyeuctus features a ‘trio of world-class young singers’ with Fabiano, winner of the Beverly Sills and Richard Tucker awards, displaying a ‘thrilling, vibrant tone’ in the title role, Martínez providing Paolina with ‘pinging coloratura’ and Golovatenko giving a ‘radiant-toned’ voice to Severo. (The Guardian)
The Mariinsky label is delighted to release the first of four operas on DVD in 2013 with Verdi’s 'Attila'. Released in celebration of Verdi’s anniversary year, acclaimed Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov stars in the title role, in this the premiere of Arturo Gama’s production. He is ably supported by soprano, Anna Markarova in the role Odabella; baritone, Vladislav Sulimsky in the role of Ezio and tenor, Sergei Skorokhodov.