Un ballo in maschera glitters but doesn’t ignite in Budapest

Verdi: Un ballo in maschera

Erkel Theatre, Budapest, 21 April 2018

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The Naples censor rejecting the original libretto for Un ballo in maschera, then called Un vendetta in domino. Caricature by Melchiorre Delfico

The final scene in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera invites stage directors to dazzle their audiences with a sumptuous masked ball. The public at this new production was duly dazzled, in the best of taste, and not just by the scintillating golds and pinks of the ball gowns.

Full review on Bachtrack.

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Thrilling singing in Simon Boccanegra at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Concertgebouw, 16th September 2017

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Victor Maurel sang the title role in Simon Boccanegra at the premiere of the revised 1881 version

This is what Verdi should sound like. Idiomatically sung by confident singers, with role-tailored voices that make one sit up and listen. The NTR ZaterdagMatinee concert series at the Concertgebouw, a long-standing institution financed with public broadcasting funds, traditionally opens with an opera. This year it was Simon Boccanegra, Verdi’s sombre study of personal tragedy lurking behind public success.

Full review on Backtrack.

Solid La forza del destino opens Dutch National Opera season

Verdi: La forza del destino

Dutch National Opera, 9th September 2017

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The fatalism that pervades the Verdi’s La forza del destino is mostly incongruous with our rationalist times, as is the idea of spiritual redemption. However, although destiny steers the characters in Forza towards unlikely chance encounters, their motives ­– prejudice, hatred, love, revenge – remain ageless.

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.

Rigoletto is mad but the singing is fine at Dutch National Opera

Verdi: Rigoletto

Dutch National Opera, 9th May 2017

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Le roi s’amuse (1932) by Victor Hugo

What happened to Rigoletto after the hitman he hired to kill his daughter Gilda’s abductor murdered her instead? He went mad and was committed to a mental institution. This is Damiano Michieletto’s twist on Verdi’s compact but tremendous tragedy Rigoletto for Dutch National Opera. Although intriguing, the production is overanalytical and is ultimately sabotaged by its own cleverness. The cast compensates with a good old Verdi singfest.

Full review on Backtrack.

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The Rigoletto Ticket Price Comparison

Much debate goes on about the cost of going to the opera, but ticket prices vary widely by theatre and price band. Here’s a quick comparison between eleven opera houses that are staging Rigoletto between now and the end of June, 2017. Verdi’s violent drama is a popular staple, of average length, and accessible to a wide audience, and I think it’s a good candidate for comparing admission prices.

First, the performances in ascending order by the Cheapest Ticket price:

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In ascending order by the price of a Mid-Price Ticket:RigMidPriceTicketAscedning.png

And in ascending order by the price of the Most Expensive Ticket:RigTopPriceTicketAscending.png

When possible, I’ve chosen a weekend performance (Friday, Saturday or Sunday) that is not a premiere, and I’ve left out (student) discounts and festival prices. A “mid-price” ticket is difficult to define in houses where price bands are determined by seating sections with widely divergent prices. In such cases, I picked the cheapest price in the mid-range section.

A couple of observations:

  • It will surprise no-one that Eastern European prices are the cheapest and American houses the most expensive.
  • Some A-list theatres, such as the Vienna State Opera and the Bastille, sell some of the most expensive Rigoletto tickets in Europe, but also cater for tight budgets with 15-euro tickets. Whereas Dutch National Opera and Dresden choose to rob less from the rich to give to the poor. The gap between their bottom and top prices is much smaller. Which is the more democratic price structure?
  • It can cost you as little as 5 euros (Paris) and as much as 417 euros (New York) to hear Željko Lučić as Rigoletto.

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

Verdi: I due Foscari

Concertgebouw, 17th September 2016

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Bust of Doge Francesco Foscari by Bartolomeo Bon © Sailko via Wikimedia Commons

 

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

Full review on Opera Today.