Posts Tagged ‘Verdi’
Picture: Set model of RIGOLETTO designs by Richard Roberts
The NBR New Zealand Opera is presenting performances of a new production of Verdi’s RIGOLETTO during May and June in Wellington and Auckland.
The new and daring production is directed by Australian director Lindy Hume (the Artistic Director of Opera Queensland), designed by Australian theatre designer Richard Roberts, and features AustraliansWarwick Fyfe, Emma Pearson and James Clayton, veteran NZ bass baritone Rodney Macann, and exciting young Mexican tenor, Rafael Rojas. The full cast and creative teams are as follows:
Conductor WYN DAVIES
Director LINDY HUME
Production Designer RICHARD ROBERTS
Lighting Designer JASON MORPHETT
Rigoletto WARWICK FYFE
Duke of Mantua RAFAEL ROJAS
Gilda EMMA PEARSON
Sparafucile ASHRAF SEWAILAM
Maddalena KRISTIN DARRAGH
Count Monterone RODNEY MACANN
Count Ceprano JAMES CLAYTON
Matteo Borsa DEREK HILL
Cavaliere Marullo MATTHEW LANDRETH
Countess Ceprano EMMA FRASER
Giovanna WENDY DOYLE
The Usher MOSES MACKAY
Accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
With the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus
Single Tickets: $49.50 to $189.50. Concessions are available
Performances are in Wellington on the 19th to 26th May, and in Auckland on the 7th to 17th June.
For further information see:
While in July, The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will be presenting Wagner’s DIE WALKURE in three concert performances in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland with a truly stellar International cast. The cast is as follows:
Edith Haller Sieglinde
Christine Goerke Brünnhilde
John Wegner Wotan
Jonathan Lemalu Hunding
Margaret Medlyn FrickaPietari Inkinen Conductor
Australasians Simon O’Neill and John Wegner are certainly stellar International stars in this repertoire, but after hearing Christine Goerke as an electrifying Princess Eboli in the Houston Grand Opera production of Verdi’s DON CARLOS little over one month ago, and Jonathan Lemalu as an equally dramatic and vocally resplendent Queequeg in the State Opera of South Austrlia’s production of MOBY DICK last year, this is truly shaping up to be a major musical event NOT to be missed !
Performances are on Sunday, 22nd of July in Wellington, Wednesday, 25th July in Christchurch and Saturday, 28th July in Auckland.
For further information see:
Grand opera in 5 Acts by Guiseppe Verdi
Original French libretto by Camille du Locle and Joseph Mery, based on the dramatic play, DON CARLOS, INFANT VON SPANIEN by Friedrich Schiller (1787).
First Production commissioned by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra ( Paris Opera) and premiered at the company’s theatre, the Salle Le Peletier, on 11th March 1867.
Performance by Houston Grand Opera on Sunday, 22nd April 2012 at the Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center Houston, Texas.
A co-production with the Welsh National Opera and Canadian Opera Company.
Conductor Patrick Summers
Director John Caird
Scenery Designer Johan Engels
Costume Designer Carl Friedrich Oberle
Lighting Designer Nigel Levings
Choreography Denni Sayers
Chorus Master Richard Bado
Don Carlos Brandon Jovanovich
Elizabeth de Valois Tamara Wilson
Princess Eboli Christine Goerke
Rodrigue Scott Hendricks
Phillipe II Andrea Silvestrelli
Le Grand Inquisitor Samuel Ramey
Spirit of Charles V Oren Gradus
Thibault Lauren Snouffer
A Celestial voice Brittany Wheeler
Le Comte de Lerma Boris Dyakov
Forrester Mark Diamond
DON CARLOS is the 25th of the 29 operas composed by Verdi, and his third fully blown, French grand opera composed for the Paris Opera. Verdi had toyed with the idea of setting Schiller’s play, ‘Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien’ twenty years earlier in 1850. The idea had not left his mind when he visited the Spanish royal palace – the Escurial in 1863. Commissioned by the Paris Opera, the initial work on the libretto was commenced by Joseph Mery, and completed by Camille du Locle, the son-in-law of the the General Manager of the Paris Opera. Most of the work on the opera was done in 1866 but due to a conflict between Italy and Austria the work was interrupted. Verdi in fact asked to be released from the contract but was refused and the premier was scheduled for the autumn of 1866. However, the opera was not premiered until March 11, 1867 due to various obstacles, including a strike and illness. In its original form it was an elaborate spectacle featuring a ballet, huge crowd scenes, and twice as much music as LA TRAVIATA. When the rehearsal period at the Grand Opera was coming to a close in February of 1867, Verdi had to make extensive cuts because of the length of the opera. Some of the scenes that were cut, included a long Prelude and Introduction to Act 1, part of the Philip-Posa duet in Act 2, and both the Elisabeth-Eboli and the Carlos-Philip duets in Act 4.
The historical milieu at the time of composition and the operas premier saw the Italian States still fighting for unification, the war with Austria over the Venetian States had failed, but Austria – which had been defeated by Italy’s ally Prussia, was forced to give up the Venetian States to France (which eventually gave them to Italy). Only 2 years earlier in 1864 France had agreed to the withdrawal of the troops of Napoleon III from Rome if the Papal States were preserved, and arguments continued in both France and Italy concerning the temporal power of the Catholic Church and the fate of Rome. Is it no wonder that Verdi was attracted to an opera pitting the characters against forces of Church and State, and freedom or suppression in the midst of a family melodrama ? Indeed these conflicts are as relevant today as they were for Verdi in the 19th century.
Houston Grand Opera has bravely staged the original DON CARLOS almost as originally envisaged by Verdi. Back were the opening chorus for the foresters and their wives in the Fontainebeau Scene, the duet for Elisabeth and Eboli in Act 4, Scene 1, the duet for Carlos and the King after the death of Posa in Act 4, Scene 2, an exchange between Elisabeth and Eboli during the insurrection in the same scene and several other previously cut sections. The ballet “La Pérégrina” was not performed. The production was originally staged for the opening of the Wales Millennium Centre. Interestingly Australian director Neil Armfield had originally been engaged to direct the production with designers Brian Thompson, Carl Friedrich Oberle and Nigel Levings, but Armfield was forced to drop out 5 months prior to the opening due to a health scare. John Caird, an experienced stage and musical director who had never directed an opera, but had recently staged the Schiller play Don Carlos was approached, and became the director of this production.
Caird and his new set designer, Johan Engels have produced a staging that constantly reminds the audience of the influence of the Church. With a fixed set consisting of black walls, tiers of black steps on three sides, individual scenes were promptly altered by additional elements either being flown in, or the black, back wall up stage opening, to reveal new design elements. The forest in the Fontainebleu scene consisted of a forest of gigantic crucifixes amidst swirling fog, the chorus entered for the Auto-da-fe all baring red crucifixes in their hands which were later stood on the stairs around the stage for Phillipe II’s room. The stage action moved well and characters were well delineated by an exceptional cast of singing actors. With the gigantic stage of the Brown Theatre the chorus of 72 with 8 extras had difficulty in filling the set particularly for the Auto-de-fe scene. The heretics were burnt on a pile of crucifixes atop a wagon down stage centre, and the unusual finale saw Don Carlos eye cut out prior to being killed.
Musically the production was in the exceptional hands of Houston Grand Opera Music and Artistic Director, Patrick Summers.Together with the exceptional Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus the performance was a stunning musical treat of probably Verdi’s darkest and edgiest score. The chorus work in particular was exceptional and extremely precise. Their sound was very bright and open rather than the warmer, fuller sound usually experienced in Australia and Europe.
The title role was delivered in robust style by American tenor, Brandon Jovanovich. Here is a voice to watch ! With good looks, stage smarts, and a voice capable of so many colours his was a stunning performance and justified the staging of this opera (well Don Carlos is the title role !). Jonas Kauffman better watch out, because the US is nurturing their home grown version. Tamara Wilson, who was a stunning Aida in Sydney a few years ago, has developed beautifully since then. Her voice is even more secure and focused, her beautiful golden tone even more luscious, and her dramatic abilities have also considerably developed. Again here is a true star in the making. Her singing in the final scene was electrifying.
Mr Summers opted for a soprano Eboli with Christine Goerke. She is a true force of nature with a big dramatic voice and bottom notes that many a mezzo would die for. Coupled with her highly dramatic instincts this was an electrifying performance from start to finish.
Samuel Ramey, who had just turned 70 years of age was singing his last operatic performance as the Grand Inquisitor. Although the voice had a prominent wobble on this occasion, it took nothing from his musical and sinister performance of the role. His performance was an abject lesson in the use of stillness to achieve dramatic tension. Less successful were Scott Hendricks as Rodrigue and Andrea Silvestrelli as Phillipe II. Hendricks singing was a little inconsistent and seemed not quite in the same league as Wilson, Goerke, and Jovanovich. While Silvestrelli, who possesses an enormous voice suffered from an excessive vibrato. Smaller roles were well sung, particularly Boris Dyakov as the Comte de Lerma.
Well, was the full version worth hearing ? – a most emphatically yes. There was not a dull moment or wasted section of music in the score presented, and the performance seemed to pass far too soon. This was a striking and musically vivid performance of one of Verdi’s great masterpieces that deserves to be heard much more frequently in its original French without the cuts.
Opera in 4 Acts by Guiseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after the play LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS by Alexandre Dumas fils (1852)
Performance by Opera Australia on Friday, 30th March 2012 at Lady Macquarie’s Chair on Sydney Harbour.
Conductor Brian Castles-Onion
Director Francesca Zambello
Scenery Designer Brian Thompson
Costume Designer Tess Schofield
Lighting Designer John Rayment
Choreography Stephen Baynes
Sound Designer Tony David Cray
Site Designer Ross Wallace
Producer/Assistant Director Michael Campbell
Second Assistant Director Matthew Barclay
Violetta Emma Matthews
Alfredo Gianluca Terranova
Pere Germont Jonathan Summers
Flora Margaret Plummer
Gastone Martin Buckingham
Baron Douphol James Clayton
Marquis d’Obigny Christopher Hillier
Doctor Grenvil John Bolton Wood
Annina Sarah Sweeting
Violetta’s servant Samuel Sakker
Messanger Tom Hamilton
American conductor Andrew Litton, is returning to Australia in 2013 to conduct performances of the new production of Verdi’s LA FORZA DEL DESTINO for Opera Australia during June and July.
He is the Music Director of Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest, and Conductor Laureate of Britain’s Bournemouth Symphony. He guest conducts the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies and has a discography of almost 100 recordings, including a Grammy and other honors.
After his superb job conducting the recent revival of Opera Australia’s DER ROSENKAVALIER, this is a most welcome return.
If you had ANY doubts about attending the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour LA TRAVIATA, I think these pictures will soon change your mind. With one last last dress rehearsal tonight, the opera opens tomorrow night.
After months of rain, the skies have cleared and sunny days and balmy nights are promised for the coming week at least.
One of the Opera Insider team is attending the final dress rehearsal tonight, but reporting on this is useless – it’s just going to be magnificent and awe-inspiring.
As you can see the production looks absolutely fantastic, so if you were planning on being a couch potato, or didn’t think it would be worth the trip to Sydney – think again, get on the net or phone and order your ticket now !
Quick, book your tickets and a jet if you are interstate. Tickets may be booked on line at:
For opera fans both new, old and inquisitive who are going and are still unsure of the details for travel and catering check out the following link:
Last evening at the performance of Opera Australia’s COSI FAN TUTTE, audience members were able to see the ongoing preparations for the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour.
The stage, audience stands, and set are all now installed. Only the fitting out of the restaurants and bars remains to be completed. As dusk set, the stage lights were lit, as well as the gigantic chandelier that is the focal point of the set. I have to say that the impression of the chandelier viewed from the Opera House is truly AMAZING, sparkling and shimmering in the evening dark.
During the intermission the set was still in the process of being lit and a rehearsal was in progress, the chandelier was now green and the COSI audience was incidentally treated to a demonstration of the fireworks to be used during performances. The fireworks, while not as grand as New Year’s Eve in Sydney, are still a show stopper for a Parisian party updated to the 1950′s.
If you haven’t bought your tickets to this show yet – buy one as soon as you can. Once the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has opened and the word is out, I predict you won’t be able to beg, borrow or steal a ticket !
Tickets for the opera and dinner packages can be purchased on line from the Opera Australia website:
Interstate and overseas visitors may still be able to book weekend packages from Renaissance Tours:
Are you prepared for the bicentenary of the births of both Richard Wagner AND Giuseppe Verdi in 2013 ? It is going to be a VERY BIG year, with Opera Australia mounting a new RING in Melbourne together with an associated month long Wagner Festival, new productions of LA FORZA DEL DESTINO and UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, and a third Verdi opera. If the answer is no, you better get into gear for the ride ! What better way to start than with a a new in depth coffee book on both composers !
Peter Bassett, Australian author, speaker, broadcaster, dramaturg and opera artistic administrator has written and assembled what is probably the definitive book on these two operatic masters.
1813 – Wagner & Verdi
This beautiful book has been published to mark the bicentenary of the births of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi whose operas continue to enrich the lives of opera lovers everywhere. They were born at a time when Europe was convulsed by the Napoleonic wars, and when the nation states of Germany and Italy did not yet exist. Each became a master of musical-dramatic forms and transformed the way music was composed for the theatre. Their influence extended well beyond the stage.
Peter Bassett’s new study of these two great figures of the nineteenth century is richly illustrated in full colour with art works drawn from opera houses, museums and private collections. It features insightful commentaries and magnificent photographs of locations associated with the composers and their works. It is printed on high quality art paper and runs to 232 pages in large format.
Here are some example pages:
About the author
Peter Bassett is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on Opera, particularly the works of Richard Wagner. He has written five books on opera, and is a regular contributor to opera journals and programmes.
Peter has led 20 tours for Renaissance Tours since 2001, including to Germany, France, Switzerland, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Czech Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, China, Spain, Austria, the US and Canada, and within Australia
He was closely involved with the 1998 production of DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN in Adelaide and the 2001 Australian premiere of PARSIFAL, Artistic Administrator, Dramaturg, lecturer and coordinator of ancillary events for the 2004 State Opera of South Australia’s production of the RING, and a consultant for West Australian Opera’s 2006 TRISTAN UND ISOLDE and the State Opera of South Australia’s 2009DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER. He contributes to programme books and publications of opera companies and symphony orchestras in Australia and New Zealand.
Peter served for twenty years in the Australian Diplomatic Service in embassies in East and West Europe, Asia and the Pacific and was, for a further decade, chief of staff to two Governors of South Australia.
Also available is Peter’s excellent book on Wagner’s DER RING DES NIEBELUNGEN.
For further information on obtaining your copy of either or preferably both of these books, go to Peter’s website:
The two images are on the cover of “1813 Wagner and Verdi” are:
Above: Plácido Domingo in the title role in Simon Boccanegra at the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, 2009. Photo copyright Monika Rittershaus.
Below: Lisa Gasteen as Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung at the Festival Theatre, Adelaide, 2004. Photo copyright Sue Adler.
The Alex Olle directed LE GRAND MACABRE staged at the Adelaide Festival in 2010.
Leaks are surfacing of a new production of Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA to be directed by Alex Olle (one of the artistic directors of La Fura dels Baus) for Opera Australia and the bicentenary of Verdi’s birth in 2013.
Alex Olle (pictured below) has staged numerous operas over the years, including Manuel de Falla’s ATLANTIDA (in collaboration with Carlus Padrissa), Debussy’s THE MARTYR OF SANT SEBASTIAN, Berlioz’ THE DAMNATION OF FAUST which premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 1999 and DQ, DON QUIJOTE EN BARCELONA , with music from José Luis Turina and libretto from Justo Navarro, a production of the Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona.
Mozart’s MAGIC FLUTE was presented in the Rühr Biennial in a co-production with the Opera de Paris and the Teatro Real inMadrid. Bartok’s BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE and JOURNAL D’UN DISPARU were co-produced by the Opera Garnier de Paris and Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona.
In collaboration with Valentina Carrasco, he directed Ligeti’s LE GRAND MACABRE, which premiered at the Theatre La Monnaie in Brussels in a co-production with the Gran Teatro del Liceo, the English National Opera and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. The opera was performed for the opening of the 50th Festival of the Arts in Adelaide, Australia.
The rumours don’t extend to details such as other members of the creative team, conductor or casting, or even whether it will be a main stage production or a Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (my bet for the 2013 Opera on Sydney Harbour is Bizet’s CARMEN).
Neither is it clear whether the new production of UN BALLO IN MASCHERA is in addition to the long awaited and rumoured DON CARLO revival or new LA FORZA DEL DESTINO. Given the excellent revival of the Jarvelt BALLO only a few years ago, the money might be best spent on a new FORZA, which has not had a good staging since the Bernthark/Lingwood production in 1970. I also wonder whether Alex Olle talents are appropriate for this opera and whether his avant-garde and flamboyant style might be more appropriate for other works. Despite these quibbles, the prospect of him working in Australia is exciting news.
Over the last dozen years Verdi has been sorely neglected with endless revivals of the early middle period works LA TRAVIATA, RIGOLETTO and IL TROVATORE, a recent excellent revival of the Jarvelt UN BALLO IN MASCHERO and occasional outings of very flawed productions of SIMONE BOCCANEGRA, OTELLO, NABUCCO, AIDA and MACBETH. Excellent productions of I MASNADIERI, FALSTAFF and DON CARLO have not seen the light of day in years. During the 1970′s Verdi was a staple of the repertoire and 3 works were often staged in a single season. Over the last decade Opera Australia has failed to cultivate Australian voices required to sing these works and lost its corporate memory for staging them. Lets hope the Verdi bicentenary in 2013 elicits a new wave of regular and exciting performances of his larger works.
The topic of whether opera, or some operas should be translated into English for perforamnce in Australia has recently been raised again. Surely there is no clear cut answer to this age old question, but rethinking the dilemna from time to time is healthy, as views, public perceptions and competition for audiences changes.
The arguments in favour of translation include better understanding of the text, and making the opera more accessible to the audience - particularly the NEW and YOUNGER audience members . There is certainly an argument for the rich, narrative texts and complex emotions and thoughts in the music dramas by Wagner and Richard Strauss being sung in English. Indeed the first performances of DER ROSENKAVALIER in Australia in 1972 were sung in English as it was the Australian premier and it was a rich text comedy. Indeed the policy of The Australian Opera at the time was to perform comedies, new lesser known works and operas in difficult languages such as Russian or Czech in English. Mozart comedies during the1990′s were sung in English including new productions of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, THE MAGIC FLUTE, DON GIOVANNI and COSI FAN TUTTE. Prokofiev’s WAR AND PEACE that opened the Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre was performed in English as was Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE in the opening season and Janacek’s JENUFA the following season. Later Auber’s French comic opera FRA DIAVOLO was also sung in English – all to great acclaim. Over the last 25 years this policy of limited performance of some works in English has fallen by the way side. Certainly the performance of 19th Century operas in English has never been entertained due to the repetitive nature of some of the text, relatively straight forward plots and the audience being accustomed to hearing them in the original language (although this may not have been the desire of the composer – see below). More recently again Opera Australia has tentatively explored productions of opera in English again. THE MAGIC FLUTE has recently been staged sung in German but with the dialogue in English, the recent Sharman production of COSI FAN TUTTE was in English and this year’s production of Handel’s PARTENOPE was also sung in English.
The arguments against performing opera in English include not altering the pulse of the music and disparity of vowels to the music, difficulties with obtaining good translations and the difficulty with international singers having to fit into productions if they are not in the same language. The availability of an excellent quality translation is the key to overcoming the musical problems. As performance of operas in the original language seems to be the International standard these days, few International singers know their repertoire in English as well as the original language or are unwilling to learn them. This was not the case in Europe during the 19th Century when many operas were translated for performance in other languages in other cities, and the ability of 19th Century and early 20th Century singers to do this is a facility perhaps many modern singers have almost lost. Not all, as we have recently seen such great (and also Australian) singers such as Yvonne Kenny perform the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER with the English National Opera (in English), and Opera Australia and the Vienna Sate Opera (in German), and Stuart Skelton performing the title role in PARSIFAL for the English National Opera (in English) and Opernhaus Zurich (in German). OzOpera – the touring branch of Opera Australia takes operas on tour to many regional centres around Australia and all operas are performed in English. Performances over the years have included CARMEN, THE MAGIC FLUTE, HANSEL AND GRETEL, RIGOLETTO, LA TRAVIATA and LA BOHEME . So some reasonable translations must be available. Why then the use of translated performances of opera for regional Australia against main-stage performances in Sydney or Melbourne? Perhaps a perception that the works will be more accessible and inviting to an audience less exposed to opera.
Despite what opera managers and audiences may prefer, surely the wishes of the composers should get a say with how their works are performed? It seems not. Consider the following:
WHAT DO THE COMPOSERS THINK?
Wagner arrived in Australia (metaphorically speaking) on 18 August 1877, one year after the first Bayreuth Festival, when LOHENGRIN was performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Melbourne by William Lyster’s Royal Italian and English Opera Company.Soon after the LOHENGRIN performances, a local resident Emil Sander wrote to Wagner to inform him of this noteworthy event – a fact recorded by Cosima in her diary. The entry for 21 October 1877 reads: ‘He receives a letter from a theatre director in Melbourne, according to which LOHENGRIN last month made its ceremonious entry there, too.’
The following day, Wagner replied to Sander as follows:
My very dear Sir, I was delighted to receive your news, and cannot refrain from thanking you for it.
I hope you will see to it that my works are performed in ‘English’: only in this way can they be intimately understood by an English-speaking audience. We are hoping that they will be so performed in London.
We (that is, I and my family) were extremely interested to see the views of Melbourne which you sent me: since you were kind enough to offer to send us more, I can assure you that I should be only too delighted to receive them.
Please give my kind regards to Herr Lyster, and, however remote your part of the world may be, continue to be so well-disposed towards
Your most grateful servant, Richard Wagner
Clearly, Wagner wished his dramatic works to be performed in the local language so every nuance of the text could be understood. However, he was not as fussed as Verdi as who would do the translating .
Verdi was also attune to his works being performed in the local language . JERUSALEM was Verdi’s first commission for the Opera de Paris. It is a grand opera in 4 acts set to a French libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz which was partly translated and adapted from Verdi’s original 1843 Italian opera, I LOMBARDI ALLA PRIMA CROCIATA . There are significant changes in the location and action of the French version, especially given the need to locate them in a French context. The first performance was given by the Opéra at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris on November 26th, 1847. In 1850, the French text was translated into Italian by Calisto Bassi and performed as GERUSALEMME at La Scala, Milan on 26 December. However, it failed to supersede I LOMBARDI in the affections of Italian audiences.
IL TROVATORE was premiered in Italian at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on the 19th January 1853. It was first performed in Paris in Italian on the 23rd December 1854 by the Theatre des Italiens at the Salle Ventadour. A French version translated by E. Milien Pacini and called LE TROUVERE was first performed at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels on the 20th May 1856 and at the Paris Opera at the Salle Le Peletier on the 12th January 1857. Verdi made some changes to the score for the French premiere of LE TROUVERE including the addition of music for the ballet in Act 3 and several revisions focusing on the music of Azucena, including an extended version of the finale of Act 4, to accommodate the role’s singer Borghi-Mamo.
Verdi’s LES VEPRES SICILIENNES , a grand opera in five acts by set to a French libretto by Charles Duveyrier and Eugene Scribe, was first performed at the Paris Opera on the 13th June 1855. As was later to happen with Verdi’s DON CARLOS, which was also based on a French libretto, an Italian libretto was quickly prepared under Verdi’s supervision by the poet Ettore Caimi with the title, GIOVANNA DE GUZMAN. Verdi was aware that in Italy at that time, it would have been impossible to place the story in Sicily[ but, based on Scribe’s suggestions for changing the location, it became Portugal in 1640 while under Spanish control. This version was first performed at the Teatro Regio in Parma on the 26th December 1855. After 1861 in the new post-unification era, it reverted to its setting under the name of I VESPRI SICILIANI.
DON CARLOS, Verdi’s next commission for the Paris Opera, a 5 act grand opera to a French language libretto by Camille du Locle and Joseph Mery. It received its first performance at the Theatre Inperial del’Opera on the 11th March 1867. Over the following twenty years, cuts and additions were made to the opera, resulting in a number of versions being available to directors and conductors. A translation of DON CARLOS into Italian was in preparation as early as the autumn of 1866, and Verdi insisted that the opera, still referred to as DON CARLOS, be given in the same five act version plus ballet as at the Paris Opera. This Italian translation – with some cuts and alterations – was presented first at the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden on the 4th June 1867, and received its Italian premiere – uncut – at the Teatro Communale di Bologna on the 27th October of that year. A new Italian translation of a revised French text, re-using much of the original 1866 translation by de Lauzières, was made by Angelo Zanadarni. The La Scala première of the revision, now re-titled DON CARLO , took place on 10 January 1884.
MACBETH, LA FORZA DEL DESTINO AND AIDA were also to be translated into French for their French premieres by Verdi working with Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter and Charles du Locle.
In more recent times Gyorgy Ligeti’s only opera LE GRAND MACABRE, composed in 1997 and revised in 1996, was written by Ligeti in collaboration with Michael Meschke and unlike many operas, this one was written specifically with flexibility of language in mind so it could be performed in the language of the audience. Only a few notes need be changed to perform the opera in any language.The original libretto was written in German, and the opera has been performed also in Swedish, English, French and Italian as was the composer’s intentions.
So what is the answer? There is none, but there is little point sticking to a prescriptive policy of ALL operas in the original language in these modern times.
Currently we live in a time of a global economic recession of indeterminate length. Australia is in a lucky position in that we are affected less than most places around the globe. Despite this we ARE effected , and opera is also affected by increased competition for the entertainment dollar between theatre, opera, concerts, movies and musicals. 30% of ticket sales to opera in Sydney for Opera Australia is said to come from the tourist dollar which is currently in decline due to the global recession. Yet ticket sales to large scale musicals are currently growing at the rate of 10% per annum in Australia.
Opera in Australia has to compete directly with live musicals which are getting more lavishly staged, as well as HD Movie broadcasts of truly great opera productions from some of the greatest opera houses in the world on our cinema screens (and soon in 3D) at a smaller cost than a live opera ticket. Therefore anything that makes the live opera product more attractive , ACCESSIBLE and marketable to not only current opera goers, but also new and younger potential audience members HAS to be considered.
Limited use of opera in English is worth considering to grow the new and young opera audiences and compete against large scale musicals and cinema opera. The Mozart comedies, other comedies, new and less well known operas may benefit from stagings, or OCCASIONAL stagings in English. For these works, which are usually performed by the resident company principals, the argument for staging them in the original language for guest artists is not relevant. Many of the same resident principals have already sung some of the standard repertoire works in English as they rose through the ranks with OzOpera or the Opera Studio.
I think few would argue a more radical approach with ALL opera sung in English in Australia with only one National opera company. Especially works by Verdi, Donizetti, Puccini or Wagner (despite the wishes of some of these composers), as the original words and music have become so closely knit and accepted.
Simply put, each work could be scrutinised on a case by case basis, balancing audience appeal, how well known the work is, complexity of libretto and text, available translations, singer availability and the desires of the company, director, musical staff and singers.
Perhaps the question needs to be asked “what does our potential audience want?” instead of ”what are we prepared to give them?”
Opera Australia has officially launched it’s first HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR tonight.
The first production will be (as previously hinted in my Opera Australia 2012 Season leaks article in January of this year) Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA. The cast and creatives are as follows:
Opera in 4 Acts by Guiseppe Verdi
Conductor Brian Castles-Onion
Director Francesca Zambello
Choreographer Stephen Baynes
Set Designer Brian Thompson
Costumes Tess Schofield
Lighting John Rayment
Violetta Emma Matthews alternating with Rachel Durkin
Alfredo Ji-Min Park alternating with Gianluca Terranova
Germont Jonathan Summers alternating with Warwick Fyfe
Quoting from Opera Australia’s media release tonight – ‘Fireworks, a harbour stage and a giant chandelier will transform opera in Sydney like never before when Opera Australia presents La Traviata on Sydney Harbour for an exclusive three-week season starting 24 March 2012. It will be the first opera in Australia to be held on a tailor-made stage built over the water off the Royal Botanic Gardens and will be directed and designed especially for this unique outdoor staging. It is the Company’s most ambitious project to date, working in conjunction with Events NSW on behalf of the NSW Government to attract audiences from across the globe to be a part of this uniquely spectacular opera event.’
The concept is similar to the the staging of operas on an offshore island with a large audience watching from seating on the shore on Lake Constance at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.
The $11.5 million production is intended to be a drawcard for international tourists, who comprise about 30 per cent of Opera Australia’s audience at the Opera House, but who have been coming in fewer numbers since the global financial crisis.
Tickets with prices ranging from $85 – $350 with full dining and show packages available, go on sale to the public on 4 July 2011.
Opera on Sydney Harbour is sponsored by Events NSW and Japanese businessman Haruhisa Handa’s International Foundation for Arts and Culture. Dr Handa has previously sponsored the Perth International Arts Festival. The sponsorship is for three years, and a different opera will be staged next year.
Details about the set have been revealed. The floating stage will be 32 metres wide; three times the size of the Opera Theatre stage in Sydney, fireworks will erupt at the climax of the famous “Drinking Song” of Act 1, Violetta will ascend into the sky riding a dazzling chandelier which measures 9.5 metres in diameter , and the orchestra will be situated underneath the stage in a studio to ensure the best possible amplified sound quality.
Opera Australia had set up a specific site for the event which has been up for the last week (but without any detailed content).
For further information see:
or details on the event Facebook site: