English sung here

Among the highlights of the English National Opera’s 2006-2007 season: Catherine Malfitano as the Kostelnicka in David Alden‘s Cold War era Jenufa, a new David McVicar production of Handel’s Agrippina starring Sarah Connolly and Rebecca Evans, plus the world premiere of the opera Gaddafi, based on the life and career of the “Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” Steve Chandra Savale (score) and Shan Khan (libretto) are responsible for the score and libretto; Gaddafi is played by the Irish-Indian rapper JC001. (Unfortunately, this new work comes too late for the ideal interpreter of the role of Muammar al-Gaddafi, tenor Franco Bonisolli, who milked his final earthly bow in 2003.)

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22 Responses to “English sung here”

  1. Yniold Says:

    The Jenufa is a shared production with Houston. Any reports before I book a seat?

    The Laca is Stuart Skelton whom I have just heard as Parsifal in Frankfurt. The most burnished and refreshing young Heldentenor I’ve heard in years. The beauty of tone of Jerusalem and the baritonal support of King.

    Check out his web site http://www.stuartskelton.com

  2. rysanekfreak Says:

    I saw it in Houston with Racette and Malfitano. Yes, it was updated. I remember a motorcycle, maybe an old car. One of the tenors strutted around in tight jeans. (I thought he was doing an Elvis impression, but he was probably trying to be the village James Dean.) The village women were walking around in frumpy 1950-ish housedresses. It worked because they are all trapped in that poor mountain village, where sex is the only diversion, and those kinds of villages are timeless. They’re everywhere in every century.

    The set was very bare and spartan, so that there was no intermission between Acts Two and Three. This also meant there was almost zero applause after Act Two, which I thought was strange because (to me) the whole point of “Jenufa” is have a prolonged ovation for the Kostelnicka after Act Two if her hysterical screaming is loud enough.

    Malfitano was quite good, but she didn’t make me forget that I saw Rysanek do the role twice. And I participated in the prolonged demonstrations for Rysanek after Act Two.

    By all means, go see it. Malfitano has turned into quite the singing actress.

  3. Racette and Malfitano will both be here in DC for Jenufa next season, too.

  4. leontyneschiava Says:

    Anja Silja also MUST be seen as the Kostelnicka- riveting performance- it is impossible to keep your eyes off of her

  5. Racette is great as Jenufa, one of my Top 10 operas. And yes, there should definitely be a break after Act Two. If the Kostelnicka and Jenufa have done their jobs, the audience needs the break just to start breathing again.

    I got lucky when I started going to the opera in the 1970s in San Francisco and got to see Soderstrom as Jenufa when she was a bit long in the tooth to be playing a teenager but she was awesome nonetheless. The Kostelnicka was none other than Sena Jurinac who had to be in her late 60s or early 70s. After the first act, we all thought she had a pretty decent voice for such an old dame. By the end of the second act, when her voice had peeled the paint off the walls, and every hair on every listener was standing up alertly, everyone stumbled to the bar wondering if we could even make it to the finale. I’m afraid that’s when I became an opera queen.

  6. JATM2063 Says:

    Hmmm. Malfitano. I saw her Carmen in Cincinnati. It was a disaster both vocally and physically. The varicose veins on her legs could be seen in the balcony (Cincinnati’s Music Hall seats well over 3000). Her voice was in poor shape and she really couldn’t be heard.

    Handel’s Agrippina. Baroque Opera. Yawn.

    As for the premiere…..the subject matter is a joke in very poor taste. And if the lead is going to be sung by a rapper, so is the music. I really think most modern composers are just f*****g with audiences.

    I think I might write a musical treatment of Gone with the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara can be sung by Kelly Clarkson. Star Jones can sing the role of the black housekeeper. And let’s see, maybe Hugh Jackman as Rhett Butler.

    Now that I think about it more carefully, Hugh Jackman playing Rhett Butler isn’t a bad idea at all. We’ll have his shirt off all the time just like Nathan Gunn.

  7. Baritenor Says:

    It’s been tried, Jatm. The Gond with the Wind Musical flopped int he 80s on broadway. I believe Leslie Ann Warren played Scarlett. I do, however, agree with you about Malfitano’s Carmen….Yuck. Her Emila Marty in Makropolous, though, is a differant story.

  8. Daniel Says:

    As one who is generally “easily pleased” I don’t know what it is about Mme Malfitano that just doesn’t do it for me. Lord knows in everything I’ve seen her in she’s been competent enough vocally- but there’s just something not there in the voice that leaves me wanting.

    What didn’t help was the first time I saw her in that televised “Tosca” which was so badly costumed – her entry done in a powder blue suit with a pill box hat for God sake- looking every inch of 60 rather than 16. The third act in daylight was even less kind – not her fault, but someone in the production dept let her down badly. I’ve seen Joan do Lucia when she was 60 and she almost looked 16 thanks to appropriately scaled sets, costumes and lighting – and it worked.

    I can’t help but think that to go “mega- verismo” (film in the actual locations) you have to have all the basics well in place to pull it off.
    In this case it would have been necessary to have a genuinely younger Diva- otherwise better to leave it where it belongs- in the theatre where the third act is usually played semi darkness. Lordy – I’ve rambled off topic – whatever it was 🙂

  9. hab mir's gelobt Says:

    sfmike, jurinac was born in 1921, so in the 70s she was merely in her fifties ;). true she started young and never spared herself so the voice started to show some wear and tear from the 60s onwards! she still looks good though nowadays – there is a dvd from the vienna state opera gala last november where she was one of the guests of honour (together with singers like gundula janowitz and christa ludwig) and u can glimpse her sitting on stage a couple of times…

    anja silja is indeed a great kostelnicka and really needs to be seen i that role (the live recording on cd by erato doesnt fully capture her stage prescence, as the voice itself is not an easy one to listen to … but oh so expressive. love it!). malfitano should be good too. i saw her twice, once as salome and once as tosca. i admit that i liked her tosca more, her salome was well acted but looked a bit too mature.

  10. meremarie Says:

    it’s a great role – having seen Rysanek do it in NY with Queler – that was beyond compare, but I also enjoyed Eva Randova do it in a fabulously grand guignol production by Yuri Lyubimov at the ROH in the late 80’s and she reduced us all to quivering wrecks – as did Rosalind Plowright recently at the Chatelet, whose work as a mezzo has so much more temperament and real commitment then it had when she was a not-always-quite soprano………I thought Anja Silja was very strong too, but her voice is a little unremitting for me……..and what about that La Scala premiere from the 70’s, available as a pirate with Olivero, who is fab when not getting lost, and la Bumbry (sic) as Jenufa…….

  11. tubsinger Says:

    I saw Malfitano in the earlier 80s subbing for Freni in boheme and she was superb. She was my first Violetta, also: again, almost unmatachble for command of the stage and beautiful singing. Her three heroines in Hoffman were fantastic, too–her Constanze, less so. I also heard Leona Mitchell’s debut as Butterfly and saw Malfitano in the lobby, obviously “observing” the evening. I thought then that she might be stretching it. The last time I saw her was in Salome, and that really didn’t work well at the Met. But I give her a lot of credit for not rolling over and playing dead as she got older. She takes the risks and I think she was always compelling to watch.

  12. calcio9 Says:

    Ah, Franco Bonisolli…First opera I ever saw at Arena di Verona was Il Trovatore with Bonisolli and I swear after a mediocre “Di Quella Pira” about five people in the audience yelled Bravo and so he sung an encore.

  13. sfmike Says:

    Dear hab mir’s gelobt: Thanks for the Sena Jurinac age clarification, and I’m thrilled she’s still around.

  14. Yniold Says:

    Does anyone remember Astrid varnay as the Kostelnicka? Heard her in about 68. The voice was in ruins but her breakdown at the end of Act 2 haunts me to this day.The Jenufa was Marie Collier, and there’s a singer whose career eclipsed most opera plots, up to the finale with a fall (or leap) from a window.

  15. Winpal Says:

    I must echo others’ comments about Rysanek’s definitive Kostelnicka. Her wide-eyed terror at the end of Act 2 was truly chilling and reached the last row of the balcony like a laser. She did the role here in SF in the 80s, with Gabriela Benackova as a superbly touching Jenufa who’s prayer in Act 2 stopped time. For any trivia buffs out there, the small role of an old shepherdess in that production was Deborah Voigt, an Adler Fellow at the time.

  16. Wotan2006 Says:

    Let’s not forget Eva Randova, who also an extraordinary Kostelnicka…
    Has anyone heard Hildegard Behrens singing the role?

  17. Kerr loves Ariadne Says:

    yes yniold amazing. Marie Collier! wow thats a while back, Amy Shuard, Joan Carlyle, Elizabeth Vaughan remember them too. But I agree that Varnays end of act 2 was just about the most memorable moment in opera I have seen, It was in English and I still remember the words “the icy hand of Death, forcing its way in” quite electrifying

  18. Calcio9 – the Trovatore where Bonisolli does de Quella Pira twice is on tape -unless he did it more than once (which is highly likely) – he always was a helluva show pony. Sorry to see him here as a Gaddafi look alike though- frightening!

    Nice to see the Australian girl Marie Collier remembered to – how strange is life and art? – she was the diva who took over from Callas doing Tosca at Covent Garden, only to die soon after by falling from a balcony in London.

  19. celticpriestess Says:

    Oh, gosh, those photos of Gaddafi
    and Bonisolli could be in one of those “Separated at Birth” books!

  20. Baritenor Says:

    Is that what happened to Marie Collier? I know her from her Chrysothemis on the Solti Elektra, of corse, and she’s a Valkyre on the Leinsdorf Walkure, but I always thought she had just faded into obscurity. I didn’t know she died young.

  21. Yniold Says:

    and Randova sings Grandmother Burja in the Erato Jenufa cd set. I think the Covent Garden performances were her stage farewell.
    Thanks for the feedback on the Houston Jenufa. Seems a must. Has anyone seen the Stiffelio DVD with Carreras and Malfitano? She wrings very drop of adulterous grief from the part and those expressive eyes!

  22. lebewohll Says:

    the Gaddafi blurb is some sort of
    put on, right? Or was this a Monty
    Python – genre thing???

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