Jenufa tells a heartbreaking story of rural life in the 19th century: a baby is killed to protect a young girl's honour. This tragedy befalls the family of the old miller, the Grandmother Buryjovka, a respected figure in a small country village. The pressure of the extremely closed, morally repressive and hypocritical society leads the protagonists to inexorably holding to such traditional values as honour and respect, no matter what the costs.
The production, sung in the original Czech, was directed by French-Austrian opera director Olivier Tambosi. His version of the work was first produced at the Metropolitan Opera New York in 2003 to high acclaim and was revived there at the beginning of 2007. In 2005 it was staged in Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu – once again proving the opera house to be Spain's most successful and internationally renowned stage.
Natalia Makarova's version of La Bayadére , based on the original 1877 creation by the great master of Russian classical ballet, Marius Petipa has become the standard since the famous Kirov Company made it popular worldwide.
The plot around the dancing shades or “bayaderès“ has aroused erotic fantasies ever since Goethe paid tribute to what he imagined were Indian temple dancers with his ballad, Der Gott und die Bajadere , written in 1797. Ideas of dancing and singing beauties from the Hindu Kush have since overwhelmed European stages and influenced the perspective on Asia.
This was certainly true of Bayaderka , originally a ballet in four acts and seven tableaux with a concluding apotheosis that received its first performance at St Petersburg's Maryinsky Theatre in January 1877. The composer was Ludwig (Léon) Minkus (1826–1917) and the choreographer the then fifty-nine-year-old French ballet master, Marius Petipa, who by the late 1870s was at the very peak of his reputation as Russia's leading choreographer.
La Bayadère tells of a series of typically Romantic conflicts presented in an ancient Indian setting: love and jealousy, intrigue, murder and revenge. In the final climax, the temple dancer Nikiya and Solor, her warrior lover, are...
When Canadian opera director Robert Carsen produced his intense and cogent staging of Francis Poulenc's compelling opera Les Dialogues des Carmelites at the Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam in 2001, it impressed audiences and critics alike, and also gained the interest of Riccardo Muti, then musical director of La Scala in Milan. He arranged for the production to be staged by the famous Milanese opera company in 2004. Muti himself conducted Orchestra and Chorus of the Scala and a superb, handpicked cast of singers.
In this production the clash between religion and revolution is made strikingly clear from the outset. Robert Carsen introduces the chorus as a mass of nameless individuals whose silence makes them all the more threatening and who later develop into a crowd and finally into a bloodthirsty mob. This provides the staging with its outer framework. Internally, by contrast, the work is held together by the theme of fear: the opera confronts us with the searing sounds of dying, and the fear that permeates the entire piece proves ultimately to be the mortal anguish of an age that is moving inexorably to its end.
The story of the beautiful but cruel princess Turandot, who had her suitors beheaded if they failed to solve her three riddles, has a unique place among Puccini’s works. Turandot shows the composer's ability to reflect the musical trends of his time more convincingly than any of his other operas. Here he combines advanced techniques with his own idiom without compromising the foundations of the traditional melodramma. Even today, and in spite of its wealth of inspired melodies (among them Calaf's aria "Nessun dorma" in the third act), the opera's chief fascination remains its clever, imaginative tonality and subtle instrumentation.
Filmed in 2004, this production of Turandot was first staged in 1999 to inaugurate the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, which was reopening after repairs to extensive fire damage.
The director, Núria Espert, retained the lavish settings traditionally associated with the opera: the magnificent sets are the work of Ezio Frigerio, while the costumes were designed by Franca Squarciapino. None the less, Espert's approach to the work is founded on the doubts that the composer himself expressed about the final scene of the work. In Espert's conception of the piece, Turandot remains incapable of turning into an ordinary, docile woman...
Paul Curran's production, originally created for Naples in 2004, and presented to rapturous acclaim in Genoa in May 2006, finds a rather unusual setting for this moral tale. He sets the story in the year 1912, in his own words, 'because I wanted to draw attention to social conflicts, and this was a period when class differences were very real'. The setting inspires some Art nouveau imagery in Pasquale Grossi's set designs, while Zaira De Vincentiis's costumes evoke both an elegant sophistication for the prince and Cinderella and a comic exaggeration on the sides of Don Magnifico and his daughters.
The 20th century setting works well as the social differences become immediately palpable for modern audiences, lending the main theme of forgiveness and reconciliation even more prominence. However, the comic side of the opera does not go missing and the clown-like choreographies for the duets, trios etc. dramatises the absurdities of the "bad" characters' behaviour.
Making his operatic debut in Genoa with this production, conductor Renato Palumbo – recently appointed Artistic Director for the Deutsche Oper Berlin – used Alberto Zedda's critical edition of Rossini's work. He was praised in the Italian press for his 'rapid, clearly-defined interpretation of the...
Originally created for the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro 1999, this staging by Pier Luigi Pizzi was subsequently revived in Pesaro before travelling on to Rome and – due to its ongoing success – to the renowned Maggio Musicale Florence.
The opera – a tragic story of love against all political odds in medieval Sicily - includes the popular "Di tanti palpiti" (After such beating of the heart), sung by the Norman knight Tancredi of the title when he secretly lands again in Syracuse after having been exiled. Because he is in love with the daughter of the current ruler, his arrival has repercussions amongst the leading families that finally lead to his death.
Pier Luigi Pizzi’s severe classical imagery plays on the contrast of black and white of the factions in Syracuse against the red that characterizes the returning hero. Visually, it is overwhelmingly architectural – a mixture of columns, reliefs and an altar – and even nature is used for geometric and symbolic effect when, at the sound of the music of Tancredi’s homecoming, the magically limpid introduction to "Oh patria! dolce e ingrata patria", a solitary olive tree appears in silhouette. The similar textural clarity of the revelatory scene of Tancredi's death, with its...
The 2004 staging of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier was one of the most talked about productions of recent Salzburg festival years. The musical comedy has a deep-rooted performance tradition at the Salzburg Festival, but Robert Carsen's new reading opened up a new view of this operatic staple while Semyon Bychkov leading the Vienna Philharmonic and a cast of internationally renowned singers guaranteed a high musical standard.
Director Robert Carsen and his designer Peter Pabst adopted an approach to the piece that asked questions about the setting. Were Hofmannsthal (the librettist) and Strauss offering a nostalgic transfiguration of Maria Theresa's Vienna in the work or were they attempting to portray the decadent, valedictory atmosphere of the dying Habsburg monarchy? Both clearly came down in favour of the second of these interpretations: they transferred the action to the time at which the opera was written, to the final years of the Habsburg monarchy, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.
Carsen marked the work with a coherent vision, cleverly holding its three acts and almost 200 stage personnel together. The wide stage of the Großes Festspielhaus allowed him to keep the main action centre-stage, while the surrounding spaces were used to comment on the...
The main characters are sung by leading exponents of their respective roles, including Barbara Frittoli, who sang Alice in the production that marked the reopening of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The action revolves around Ruggero Raimondi, one of the foremost Falstaffs of recent years. Raimondi first sang the role, one of a small number of purely baritone parts in his repertoire, in 1986, and then waited until the end of the 1990s before taking it up again under Claudio Abbado in Berlin. He values the part for the way Falstaff "takes part in the action both comically and dramatically, and perhaps this is the real strength and beauty of the role."
Adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor , Falstaff was Verdi's last opera and one of his few comedies. It was also the third of Verdi's operas to be based on a Shakespearean play, and like his first adaptation of the English playwright, Macbeth , it concludes with a fugue, the famous "Tutto nel mondo e burla" (All the world's a joke). The successful first performance took place at La Scala in Milan in 1893. While not as immensely popular as the works that immediately preceded it ( Aida and Otello ) Falstaff's refinement and melodic invention have made it a long term favourite with...
Macbeth occupies a special place in Verdi's overall output: it is his only opera without an amorous intrigue, and it is also his first Shakespearean opera. Shakespeare was one of his "favourite poets," the composer admitted, "a poet whose works I have had in my hands from my earliest youth and one whom I read and reread constantly."
This staging of the four-act dramatic opera that tells the story of the Scottish nobleman Macbeth, who is corrupted by power and loses his wife, his sanity and finally his life to his ambitions. The plot, set in Scotland in the middle of the 11th century, represents Verdi's advance into realism. He developed a completely new approach to characterization, in which characters and actions are treated with a hitherto unprecedented degree of realism and began to explore his own scenario for the first time.
Thus a staging as close to the plot and its psychological context becomes inevitable. Internationally renowned film director Liliana Cavani (best known for the 1974 film Night Porter with Charlotte Rampling) takes the conflict of a man torn between two female force fields at face value and shows Lady Macbeth's lascivious insinuations and the seductive prophecies of the witches as elements of the pitfalls that both real and our subconscious urges...
One of the lesser known works by Giuseppe Verdi, Simon Boccanegra is regarded by most opera lovers as one of his finest. The action takes place in the 14th century and deals with the political and personal rivalry between the corsair Simon Boccanegra, who has been elected Doge of Genoa with the help of the plebeian vote, and the local nobleman, Jacopo Fiesco.
The staging was directed by one of the giants of the European theatre, Peter Stein, who ran the Berliner Schaubühne between 1970 and 1985, and later became theatre director at the Salzburg Festival. His production of Simon Boccanegra was first seen at the 2000 Salzburg Easter Festival. Two years later he developed the production in Vienna, using the same sets and costumes as in Salzburg. His fondness for atmospherically dense spaces in which the characters can fully develop is particularly well brought out in his Vienna production, not least because he had at his disposal two remarkable singing actors for the principal male roles - American baritone Thomas Hampson as Simon Boccanegra and Ferruccio Furlanetto who plays Jacopo Fiesco.