Like Glyndebourne, Aix treats Mozart and Rossini as “house” composers, but Rossini has traditionally taken second place. This summer, in Provence as much as in Sussex, Rossini comes off better. After its two disappointing Mozart productions in the Théâtre de l’Archevèche at the weekend, the Aix festival decamped to the gardens of a dilapidated but enchanted estate outside the town for an evening of pure joy, courtesy of a new Barber.
Barely a month ago, Rotterdam and the music world generally celebrated the first performance of Vivaldi’s Motezuma since those held in Venice in 1733. Musicologist Steffen Voss reconstructed the opera’s score in large part from a manuscript he found while examining documents recently returned to the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin by the government of Ukraine. Kees Vlaardingerbroeck, the artistic director of Rotterdam’s De Doelen, declared, “This is the most important Vivaldi discovery in 75 years.”
Franco Alfano is best known for having composed the standard ending to Puccini’s Turandot. But he wrote some 12-13 operas under his own name as well. A few of these are revisions of earlier operas. The most familiar of his works have long been La resurrezione (1904), Sakuntala (1922, revised 1952) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1936). Cyrano seems to be coming into its own in the last few years, what with a performance in Kiel and a revival planned for Montpellier in 2003. The latter was cancelled due to strikes (although it was filmed anyway). This was followed by a few performances at the end of the 2004-5 Metropolitan Opera season, with more performances planned at Covent Garden in 2005 and the Met for the 2005-06 season. It is very much the tenor’s opera, with the revival (that never really happened as far as the general public is concerned) in Montpellier featuring Roberto Alagna, and that at the Met featuring Placido Domingo, now approaching the end of a fantastic career. He is also scheduled to sing it at Covent Garden, and again at the Met next year. It is my understanding that Alagna will also sing some additional performances.
The second in a series called Parallel Lives, this book consists of a series of essays by one author. The same Daniel Felsenfeld also authored the first in the series, which set Charles Ives and Aaron Copland side by side. By comparison to that juxtaposition only, Britten and Barber make an intriguing and appropriate pair for analysis. Felsenfeld’s book, however, is slim yet repetitive, and far from stylishly written. The inclusion of a CD of selections from Naxos recordings of both composers may, however, make the volume of interest to some readers.
You see a lot of plays when you’re a drama critic, and you don’t always get to pick them. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have a way of sinking deeper into the velvet-lined ruts of our own well-established tastes when left exclusively to our own devices. To be a working drama critic, on the other hand, is to engage with what’s out there, good and bad alike. Just because I expect to be exasperated by a show, or bored silly, doesn’t mean I can afford to pass it by. Besides, I’ve been a critic long enough to know that only a fool writes his review on the way to the show. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been surprised at the theater – both ways.