Magazine article Musical Opinion

WNO's Summer Season

Magazine article Musical Opinion

WNO's Summer Season

Article excerpt

Welsh National Operas Summer programme contained the only brand new production of the 2001/02 Season, but James's MacDonald's production of Verdi's Rigoletto on 3 May wasn't strong enough to dispel the somewhat negative vibes that have hovered around the Company for too many months.

The revival of the tawdry and musically unsatisfactory staging of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte on 15 May only heightened the sense of unease surrounding Catalan Director Calixto Beito's new staging of Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, due to open the 2002/02 Season. That feeling is now inevitably exacerbated by the demise of Nicholas Payne at English National Opera and the speculation concerning the contributions of Beito's versions of Mozart's Don Giovanni and Verdi's Masked Ball to ENO's difficulties. The very negative Coliseum vibes may by comparison make WNO seem to have turned a difficult corner; on the other hand, one cannot avoid the worrying possibility that there could be a further downturn in fortunes in the wake of the next Beito offering.

MacDonald's Rigoletto suffered from being too like Jonathan Miller's production for ENO. It is possible to argue that, since not everyone saw that production, it should not invalidate a similar approach, namely updating the opera to the 1960's Washington DC of John Kennedy and making the Duke of Mantua President of the USA. Changing emphases in such ways can be illuminating, but MacDonald's ploy only weakened the role of Rigoletto, sung by Chen-Ye Yuan, in the whole structure while the young Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, singing the Duke/ President did not have the vocal stature to sustain the shift of balance. Calleja is, however, a personality to look out for in coming Seasons. The American soprano, Celena Shaffer, also promises great things, but carrying the burden of a Director's view of Gilda which seems always to be at odds with Verdi didn't really allow her to shine as she doubtless can. …

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