The Royal Opera: Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package, SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Sunday 6th July

Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Karita Mattila Ariadne/Prima Donna
Roberto Saccà Bacchus
Jane Archibald Zerbinetta
Ruxandra Donose The Composer
Markus Werba Harlequin
Sir Thomas Allen The Music Master
Ed Lyon Dancing Master
Ashley Riches Wig Maker
Jihoon Kim Lackey
Wynne Evans Scaramuccio
Paul Schweinester Brighella
Jeremy White Truffaldino
David Butt Philip Officer
Sofia Fomina Naiad
Karen Cargill Dryad
Kiandra Howarth Echo
Christoph Quest Major Domo

Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos 130’

This concert has a running time of c 2 hours 35 minutes including one 25 minute interval.

The Royal Opera’s visits to Symphony Hall are always highlights of the season, and with Sir Antonio Pappano conducting a cast that includes Karita Mattila and Sir Thomas Allen, this performance of Strauss’s brilliant chamber opera, in the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, should be something genuinely special. In baroque Vienna, a grand opera company and a panto troupe are forced onto the same stage: what happens next is uproarious, unpredictable – and ultimately sublime.

This production has already attracted some fantastic reviews. Read The Guardian’s 4* review here and the Financial Times’s 4* review here.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended this afternoon’s concert:

Richard Strauss’s opera is a clever piece of commentary on the role of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art – as well as a hilarious and sometimes slapstick dig at Viennese upper class society. The music, as you’d expect from Strauss, is ravishing – and you might want to keep your ears peeled for some death-defying vocal acrobatics in Part II courtesy of the fiery Zerbinetta…

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The three nymphs held the trials and tribulations of Ariadne together. They entered rear centre, first Karen Cargill as Dryad and Sofia Fomina as Naiad, to be joined by Kiandra Howarth as Echo. I thought Aussie Howarth, another Jette Parker Young Artist, deserves special mention for her delightful contribution, achieving the appropriate vagueness to her character. Overall the nymphs emanated an ethereal aura, in keeping with their function. This included their angelic guardianship role over Ariadne whilst also expressing her innermost thoughts: her states of tenderness, hatred, traumatism and bliss all emerged. One celestial highlight was their Töne, töne, süsse Stimme (Sing on, sing on, sweet God) one of Strauss’ best loved tunes. Not that Mattila didn’t display these emotions as well, if not better; she was stunning, a prima donna in every sense. Although there was no semblance of a cave, with head slightly bowed, she was a stationary sleepwalker, abandoned by Theseus. How could this hero reward the woman who saved him from Crete and the Minotaur with such a fate? The languor of the situation was made absolute by the silvery harps of Lucy Wakeford and Hugo Webb. I wondered whether Mattila might have donned a shawl/mantle, as referred to in the magnificent libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but it was superfluous. Her bearing said it all. Mattila was the best Ariadne I have seen and heard, she was Ariadne. When occupying centre stage, which was for considerable periods, she exuded class and presence. There was no need for Pappano to hold back his players whilst she was singing; she effortlessly rose above them with passion and quality – and over the whole register required of her. When she was longing to meet with death, in Wo war ich? Tot? (Where was I? Dead?) I was on the edge of my seat! When she first hears the voice of Bacchus, there was no turn of the head at this double mistake in identity; her catatonic state was so intense it took a while to break it – a nice touch in direction I thought as liberation was still someway off. Comparable to the great Wagnerian ones, the love duet between Mattila and Roberto Saccà as Bacchus, was as wunderbar as the lines of Hofmannsthal. Indeed Saccà, albeit in a lesser role, was as good as Mattila, his heldentenor delivery both forceful and true.”     …

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Leading the comedy cast is Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta who is happy to flirt with anyone if it helps her achieve her aim. We see the masterstroke of Strauss in Zerbinetta though because while she appears a superficial butterfly, her words belie a deeper desire to be truly loved and to love in return, creating a parallel with Ariadne.

Karita Mattila is the Prima Donna engaged to play Ariadne. She is imperious and supercilious in the first act but really comes into her own in the second as she takes on the role of the abandoned Ariadne. Here is a woman singing her soul out as she shares her loneliness and begs to die.

Her agony ensures the juxtaposition when the comedy troupe come onstage is all the stronger. She may be in the depths of despair but Zerbinetta and her friends tell us a woman can jump from one man to another with ease.

There are moments of real comedy genius in Ariadne auf Naxos and that humour comes out of the disjoint between the two companies and their outlooks. When the opera company stress that Ariadne is alone and broken-hearted on her island the comic return that it’s a good job they are going to come along to keep her company. Their complete lack of awareness of the spirit of opera makes every opera-goer in the audience smile.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is conducted with plenty of enthusiasm by Sit Antonio Pappano who teases out the subtleties of Strauss’s music but also ensures gusto when needed.

The concert production doesn’t appear to lack anything by being performed without sets – if anything it concentrates the audience’s attention on Strauss’s lyrical wit.”

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The Royal Opera: Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events…

Part of Entertaining Erdington… more events…

Sunday 7th July

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

The Royal Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Sir Antonio Pappano conductor

Thomas Hampson Simon Boccanegra

Hibla Gerzmava Amelia Grimaldi

Ferruccio Furlanetto Jacopo Fiesco

Russell Thomas Gabriele Adorno

Dimitri Platanias Paolo Albiani

Jihoon Kim Pietro

Verdi Simon Boccanegra 150’

This concert has a running time of c.3 hours including one 25’ interval.

The Royal Opera returns to Symphony Hall to celebrate the 2013 bicentenary of Verdi’s birth in one of the highlights of the season. For this visit, music director Sir Antonio Pappano has chosen Verdi’s dark lyrical drama, Simon Boccanegra. Set in 14th-century Genoa, this great work is a brooding tragedy and a psychological study of power, treachery and the unbreakable bond between a father and his daughter.

An evening as much of Verdi’s music as the singing, driven (we are lucky to have him) by Antonio Pappano’s tremendous feel for drama in music as conductor.  The Independent

Hampson’s interpretation is nothing short of ideal Thomas Hampson as Simon Boccanegra at Wiener Konzerthaus, bachtrack.com

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Watch: Antonio Pappano on The Royal Opera’s performance in Birmingham *Click HERE*

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “This Royal Opera concert performance certainly kept us all on our toes as it succeeded in bringing to life the troubled city state and the joys and pains of its characters.

Thomas Hampson was an imposing Boccanegra who balanced his formidable and ruthless might as a leader with compassion and love for his daughter. He was thoroughly believable in both public and private mode – with his final collapse into his daughter’s arms a really tragic moment.

Hibla Gerzmava was a gentle Amelia who also betrayed her own fire in the belly when she felt either her lover or her father were in danger.

Playing that lover Adorno, Russell Thomas swept us all of our feet with his beautifully rich tenor voice while Boccanegra’s long term foe Fiesco was played with just the right amount of anger by Ferruccio Furlanetto.”     …

The Royal Opera: Die Meistersinger

Wednesday 11th January 2012 – 4:30pm

Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

This concert has a running time of c. 5 hours 45 minutes including two intervals.

Royal Opera Chorus
Renato Balsadonna Chorus Director
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sergey Levitin Co-concert Master


Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Wolfgang Koch Hans Sachs
Emma Bell Eva
Simon O’Neill Walther
Toby Spence David
Peter Coleman-Wright Sixtus Beckmesser
Sir John Tomlinson Veit Pogner
Heather Shipp Magdalene
Pablo Bemsch Augustin Moser
Nicholas Folwell Konrad Nachtigall
Martyn Hill Balthazar Zorn
Colin Judson Kunz Vogelgesang
Jihoon Kim Hermann Ortel
Robert Lloyd Nightwatchman
Donald Maxwell Fritz Kothner
Andrew Rees Ulrich Eisslinger
Jeremy White Hans Foltz
Richard Wiegold Hans Schwarz

Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival opens with an unmissable event: The Royal Opera makes its much-anticipated return to Birmingham to launch a sequence of Wagner’s four greatest music dramas. Hear an outstanding cast in Wagner’s epic comedy about the power and glory of song, under the inspired baton of Sir Antonio Pappano.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, recommends tonight’s concert:

Here’s a chance to catch the composer at his more light-hearted, performed by a world-class bunch of musicians. Wagner’s greatest tunes coupled with a touching storyline will ensure the time will fly by.

Bryn Terfel has regrettably had to withdraw from the role of Hans Sachs due to a chest infection. We are pleased to be able to announce that the role will be taken by German bass-baritone Wolfgang Koch, who has been delivering outstanding performances as Sachs in the current staged production at the Royal Opera House. Koch has previously triumphed as Hans Sachs at the Vienna Staatsoper, and his highly praised Wagnerian roles also include Alberich (Das Rheingold, Siegfried) and Amfortas (Parsifal). All other casting remains as before.

If you are a ticket holder for this performance and you have any queries, please contact the Box Office on 0121 345 0600.

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

One of a series of Wagner’s greatest operas, performed in the space of 6 months as part of Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival.
Tristan und Isolde – Saturday 3 March
Good Friday: Gergiev conducts Parsifal – Friday 6 April
Wagner’s Ring: Die Walküre – Saturday 30 June

www.thsh.co.uk

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

...     “The principals were uniformly magnificent, headed by Wolfgang Koch as Hans Sachs: the indisposed Bryn Terfel was not missed here, Koch displaying all the intricacies of Sachs’ maverick yet wise character, and with a huge range of emotion in evidence.

Simon O’Neill was a sturdy, ringing Walther von Stolzing, rising superbly to Wagner’s cruel Prize Song challenge at the end of a long sing; John Tomlinson brought an endearing sense of bewilderment to Veit Pogner, wondering if he’s done the right thing in offering his daughter’s hand to the Prize Songwinner; that daughter, Eva, was sung and acted by Emma Bell with more personality than we sometimes see in the role, and her companion Magdalena was portrayed again far more roundly than usual by Heather Shipp.

And everyone’s hearts were captured by the David of Toby Spence, open-voiced and despatching his apprentice duties so appealingly.”

Review by Rohan Shotton, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The soloists were largely superb in both voice and character, none more so than Sir John Tomlinson, whose Pogner exuded a glorious mix of power and grace: he was not the stale, daughter-selling fool he could be, but noble and commanding, and hinting at wistfulness in announcing the gift of his daughter. His presence filled the hall from the moment of his entry to his bow (greeted by the largest cheer of the evening), and he sang faultlessly with a magnificently full tone. His dialogue with Emma Bell as Eva early in Act II was touchingly gentle from both parties. Bell sang beautifully, mustering broad, lengthy lines with barely an effort. She switched from haughtiness with Sachs to radiant glow at the sight of Walther with fine command of both moods, and her vocal control was very impressive.”     …

Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The star of Scene 2, and indeed the singer who throughout was the perfect fit for his role, was Toby Spence as David. Both his interaction with the other apprentices (twelve on this instance and constituting the front row of the centre choir stalls) and his instruction of Walther in the ways of the Nürnberg singing contest were exemplary. Seeing David later taking up his indentures from Sachs, made me wonder how long it might be before Spence himself plays the noble cobbler. His Der Meister Tone und Weisen was full of beautiful tone and melody, loud notes and soft, short ones and long, a contrasting range of colour, a diversity of flora and animal sounds; David knew the endless list of rules and Spence delivered them all.”     …

Comment by SCO Helen at the Guardian:

Link here

“Your reviewers have missed a treat – Birmingham Symphony Hall last night was the place to be! The concert performance of the Royal Opera House’s production of Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg was absolutely wonderful. Although Bryn Terfel was ill and could not take the role of Hans Sachs, he was admirably replaced by Wolfgang Koch, who played the role at the ROH. This meant that we were seeing the whole ROH cast, and they were very relaxed and natural with each other, acting far more than in usual in concert performances and thus giving us a very near approximation of the staged production. This was complemented by excellent surtitles, so that the dialogue was easy to follow. It was admirably and clearly sung in every case, with Sir John Tomlinson outstanding as Pogner and Toby Spence radiant as David.
The acoustics of Symphony Hall made the effect of the orchestral highlights and, particularly, of the chorus ‘Wach Auf’ in the final act absolutely overwhelming. And – a delight for a Guardian reader – Hans Sachs was reading yesterday’s copy of The Guardian onstage in Act 3 !

I should also have mentioned the magnificent orchestra under Antonio Pappano, who clearly has many Birmingham fans – he was greeted with cheers as soon as he walked onstage. Die Meistersinger is an incredible marathon for the orchestra and conductor – almost 5 hours of playing, with the final act lasting two hours without a break. They were superb throughout.”