Magazine article Opera Canada


Magazine article Opera Canada


Article excerpt

L'Opera de Montreal succeeded in presenting good voices and great music in Strauss's Salome (seen Mar. 19), but alas, the staging by Sean Curran failed. This was perhaps the most unfortunate staging of Salome I have ever seen, the action supposedly transposed to the present. The guards were dressed in Goth costumes, the Jews in Hassidic garb, Herodias in a black evening dress, Salome in a white party dress and, oddly, Herod in a historic Judeo-Roman robe. Bruno Schwengl's sets and costumes left a lot to be desired. The cistern in which John the Baptist is imprisoned was neither underground nor above, but a prison cell in the wall behind what looked like a submarine door or a bank safety vault. As a result, the tense moment when the executioner "descends" into the prophet's cell loses much of its dramatic intensity.

Soprano Nicola Beller Carbone had a strong dramatic voice, though the timbre was not beautiful. Fortunately, it improved as she warmed up, leading to a vocally exciting final scene. Strangely, the diction of this German native was the least clear among the five leading roles. Despite good looks and youthful appearance, this Salome was not very convincing dramatically. She was spoiled in such an exaggerated way that the little sympathy or pity one might feel was not there. She was also too unabashed to be credible as a young Judean princess in Biblical times. And despite Beller Carbone's attractive figure and good looks, her Dance of the Seven Veils was hardly seductive.

The royal couple, sung by John Mac Master (Herod) and Judith Forst (Herodias), were highly convincing. Both had excellent stage presence, and often took the spotlight away from Salome. British bass-baritone Robert Hayward was vocally imposing as John the Baptist, and Roger Honeywell was an appealing Narraboth, vocally and dramatically. The best feature of this production, however, was the wonderful sound from I'Orchestre Metropolitain under the baton of Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

In March, Handel's rarely performed Imeneo was given its Canadian premiere by Opera McGill. This was Handel's penultimate opera, premiered in London in 1740. The story is simple and effective. Two young Athenian women, Rosmene and Clomiri, are abducted on their way to a pilgrimage by pirates. The valiant Imeneo kills the pirates and saves the women. In return, he expects the hand of Rosmene, who is in love with her betrothed, Tirinto. Meanwhile, Clomiri is in love with Imeneo, who ignores her. The conventional love triangle is expanded into a quartet, and, in the process, we get four Handel virtuoso roles. The intrigue is surprising in its denouement. In romantic opera, passion would have triumphed and the lovers, Rosmene and Tirinto, would have been reunited, while the rejected suitor might have fallen for the previously unnoticed Clomiri. Here, however, the relentlessly overbearing Imeneo insists and gets the girl, leaving Clomiri and Tirinto to grieve and accept their fate.


As is often the case in university productions, there were split casts. On Mar. 26, sopranos Myriam Leblanc and Rebecca Woodmass portrayed the two maidens convincingly, displaying all the bravura required in many of the arias and ensembles. Tenor Garry McLinn revealed a powerful voice as Imeneo, but perhaps sang a bit too forte, perhaps to provide more prowess in a role originally written for a bass. …

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