Dutch touring Tosca is an edge-of-your-seat thriller

Puccini: Tosca

At the Zuiderstrandtheater, The Hague on the 25th of October, 2018

Who needs another Tosca? Seasoned opera buffs can be blasé about repertoire mainstays. But the Nederlandse Reisopera’s production currently touring the Netherlands is worth seeing, whether it is your first or your hundred-and-first acquaintance with Puccini’s political drama.

Full review on Opera Today.

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Dutch National Opera revives a musically gorgeous La bohème

Puccini: La bohème

Dutch National Opera, 1 December 2017

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The original Café Momus, the Christmas Eve party venue in La bohème

Benedict Andrews’ staging of La bohème is seriously flawed, but this revival was a triumph, thanks to picture-perfect, vocally enticing soloists and the copiously talented young conductor Andrea Battistoni.

Full review on Bachtrack.

Wrong rep sinks opera evening at the Concertgebouw

Devos, Blondelle, Oliemans/NOB/Marković: Mozart, Bellini, Verdi et al.

Concertgebouw, 12th July 2017

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The people deserve good opera. Even at popular “greatest hits” concerts, the quality should be as high as budget and availability allow. At this “Robeco SummerNight at the Opera” the audience had to make do with a couple of nuggets and a series of mismatches between repertoire and performers.

Full review on Bachtrack.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at Dutch National Opera

Puccini: Manon Lescaut

Dutch National Opera & Ballet, 10th October 2016

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Casanova (1976), directed by Federico Fellini

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

Full review on Opera Today.

In the best tradition: Hungarian State Opera’s glossy Turandot

Puccini: Turandot

Erkel Theatre, Budapest, 30th January 2016

Traditional does not have to mean tired. This production of Puccini’s Turandot is a happy medium between drastic re-imaginings of opera plots and literal stagings that follow every comma in the libretto. Although none of the individual performances touched greatness, conductor János Kovács kneaded them all together into fast-paced theatre with grand flourishes.

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Turandot at Hungarian State Opera © Attila Nagy

Full review on Bachtrack.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Concertgebouw, 16th January 2016

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

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Long and loud ovation for Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw, 16th January 2016

Full review on Opera Today.

Not your baguette-and-butter Bohème

La Bohème (1926)

Lillian Gish and John Gilbert in La Bohème (1926), directed by King Visor

That Very Good Idea by the European professional opera association, the Opera Platform, is now offering Stefan Herheim’s La Bohème for the Norwegian National Opera. I would argue that this extraordinary production is equally suitable for viewers new to opera as for those who can’t be bear to see yet another set of shivering, partying Bohemians.

Herheim stages the opera as Rodolfo’s fantasy retelling of his love story with Mimì, as she lies dying of cancer in a contemporary hospital. Rodolfo is, after all, a poet, and it is totally plausible that he resorts to his art to deal with his tragedy. The action moves back and forth from the hospital ward to Paris in the 1830s, but not just in simple fantasy-filtered flashbacks. By cross-pollinating the two settings, Herheim encourages veteran audiences to look with fresh eyes at the work. Updating Mimì’s death from tuberculosis to a sadly more familiar situation increases the immediacy of the drama for viewers with all levels of operatic experience.

Many of us still think of TB as a disease that disappeared with the nineteenth century. Its widespread contagion was not successfully curbed until the start of the twentieth century, when it was still claiming victims. In fact, the actress Renée Adorée (1898-1933), who played Musette in King Vidor’s 1926 silent film based on the opera, died in her thirties of the disease.

 

Renée Adorée as Musette

Renée Adorée as Musette

Although drug-resistant tuberculosis is still a reality, its mention does not strike immediate fear in our hearts, as with Puccini’s Bohemians. Sadly, we have all known or heard of a Mimì with incurable cancer. The fact that Mimì dies in the pungent warmth of a hospital, instead of the romantic cold of a studio-attic, intensifies her hopeless tragedy. This production also features some beautiful singing, especially by Marita Sølberg as Mimì. Happy/sad armchair viewing.