Posts Tagged ‘William Burden’

The Tempest, Metropolitan Opera live cinema relay, November 2012

11 November, 2012

This remarkable opera by Thomas Adès, to a libretto by Meredith Oakes, dares turn Shakespeare’s play into an opera, and succeeds.

All images MetOpera/ Ken Howard

First performed in 2004 at Covent Garden in an intriguing production by Tom Cairns, it was originally co-produced with the Copenhagen Opera House and the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg. This production at the Met by Robert Lepage, co-produced with the Quebec Opera and the Vienna State Opera, shows Prospero’s body tattooed with knowledge from the vast library he owned in Milan before his exile, whereas in Cairns’ production he used a laptop. That single difference is emblematic of the distinction between these productions, the first ethereal, the second set on the stage of an early nineteenth century La Scala with costumes to match. Rather appropriate since the play shows how Prospero’s stage magic wins him back the Dukedom of Milan plus a marital alliance with the Kingdom of Naples.

Prospero and Miranda

The forging of that alliance, between his daughter Miranda and Prince Ferdinand of Naples, is rather different from Shakespeare, where one might suppose that Prospero intended it all along. Here the libretto makes clear that he greatly detests the intrusion of Ferdinand, and in this production he strings him up.

Prospero and Ariel

The Met did well to cast Simon Keenlyside as Prospero, which he sang in the original production and performed here with huge vocal strength and commanding stage presence. Isabel Leonard as his daughter Miranda was a study in perfection, and she and Alek Shrader as Ferdinand made a lovely couple. As Prospero’s monstrous servant Caliban, Alan Oke made a terrific impression from his very first entrance, and in this production he appeared almost as a dark alter-ego to his master. He, Prospero and Miranda, inhabitants of the island before the storm that brings Prospero’s enemies to judgement, carried the opera between them, but other roles were notably well performed. Toby Spence, who sang Ferdinand in London, came over very well as Antonio, the usurper who took the Dukedom of Milan from his brother, and Christopher Feigum sang strongly as brother to the King of Naples, nobly represented by William Burden.

The production starts with a gymnastic Ariel cavorting on a chandelier with shipwrecked passengers bobbing around in a stormy sea. Soon after, Audrey Luna as the singing Ariel showed she was no mean gymnast herself as she flitted about, barely ever touching the ground. Carried by invisible hands at times she seemed to float, and finally became a twelve legged insect hovering above the stage, a remarkable physical performance.

Caliban

Congratulations to the Met for putting on a modern British opera, conducted by the composer himself, who provides a beautiful musical tapestry, from the devilishly magical to a gentle love duet for Ferdinand and Miranda. Such is the stuff that dreams are made on, and at the end Caliban is alone, all others being melted into air, into thin air.

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne, July 2010

24 July, 2010

This production starts with a bang. The audience, seated in a lighted auditorium, is suddenly plunged into blackness as the first chord comes thundering from the orchestra. Then as the stage gradually lights up during the overture we see a cubical building of stone slowly rotating, showing different facets, and I thought of Dr. Who’s tardis. This turned out to be right on the mark, as the building later opens out to reveal various sets, the last of which shows a long table adorned for dining in a raked and dissolute room. The Commendatore appears from beneath, and drags the Don to hell at the front of the stage. This Jonathan Kent production is cleverly lit by Mark Henderson, and the designs by Paul Brown suggest a spooked version of La Dolce Vita in late 1950s Italy.

The End of the Party in Act I, Glyndebourne photo by Bill Cooper

Within this context, Gerald Finley is the perfect Don, suave and brutal. His killing of the Commendatore is done by dragging him to ground and clobbering him with a brick. After that, both he and Luca Pisaroni as Leporello performed with an insouciance that gave the impression either one would happily shop the other if push came to shove. Their singing had a clarity and attack that made them seem a nasty pair of scoundrels, and with such performances the rest of the cast could be almost passengers, yet there was some excellent support.

The Don with Zerlina, photo by Bill Cooper

Guido Loconsolo performed well as an unusually assertive Masetto, with his two-tone shoes and youthful physicality, and Anna Virovlansky as Zerlina was prettily seductive and absolutely infuriating in her flippant responses to him. Kate Royal sang well as a mousey Donna Elvira, still in love with the Don but clearly incapable of attracting his attentions, apart from her angry assertions of his callous inconstancy, and William Burden was a very fine Don Ottavio, restrained yet powerful. Brindley Sherratt sang well as the Commendatore, and Anna Samuil did her own thing as Donna Anna, singing out strongly for her fans in the audience, yet never quite integrating with the rest of the cast.

The Commendatore crushes the Don, photo by Bill Cooper

This was, at least for me, a super production, and the first orchestral bang at the start was followed by another when the wedding party suddenly poured forth from the cubical structure, and a third at the start of Act II. My only complaint was that the Act II fight where the Don beats up Masetto was poorly done — the blow knocking Masetto to the ground was very wide of the mark — but this is something that should be rehearsed by fight director Alison de Burgh before every performance. However, Vladimir Jurowski did a superb job with the orchestra, which played with immense feeling for the light and shade of Mozart’s score.

Performances continue until 27th August.