Look north I write to correct certain misrepresentations in Christopher Norton-Welsh’s review of Opera Bergen’s Schumann staging, Das Paradies und die Peri (February, pp. 199-200). Mr NortonWelsh states correctly that there are two opera companies in Bergen. Opera Bergen, about whom he is writing, is a company that engages many local amateur choristers, along with professional singers. It serves an admirable purpose in the city, and has done so for many years. The ‘other’ company to which he alludes is Den Nye Opera, fully professional and supported by the Norwegian government, which presents four main-stage productions a year with both Norwegian and international performers, along with a number of smaller music-theatre performances. We also have a large and active education department, and regularly co-produce with major European companies. Den Nye Opera maintains strong partnership agreements with both the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Bergen International Festival.
Mr Norton-Welsh states entirely incorrectly that Den Nye Opera has ‘so far, with one exception, bought in performances’. Since its inception in 2005, Den Nye Opera has created 12 new productions, ‘bringing in’ only four revivals. In 2010-11 alone, Den Nye Opera presents new productions of Puccini, Stravinsky, Glenn Erik Haugland and Knut Vaage. For 2011-12, new productions of Rossini, Handel, Gisli Kverndock, Debussy and Beethoven are planned, along with Chabrier (the re-creation of a NYCO staging). Then 2012-13 will see new productions of Judith Weir, Britten, Mendlessohn, Janáček and Rossini.
We are delighted that there is such a hub of operatic activity here in Bergen, and that two companies with very different make-ups and objectives are able to thrive.
We hope that OPERA will support us both with enthusiasm. Mary Miller General and Artistic Director Den Nye Opera, Bergen ‘Lucrezia’ doggerel With a single exception, I wholeheartedly agree with Rodney Milnes’s review of ENO’s Lucrezia Borgia (April, pp. 444-6). But why skate over Paul Daniel’s truly awful translation? It was one of the reasons that the production was so dreadful and the best way I can imagine to persuade people that this type of opera should be sung in the original language.
I acknowledge that Mr Daniel is gifted but, alas, not as a producer (Il trovatore, 2001) nor as a translator. I and most of the Upper Circle guffawed at the sheer nonsense of the English version. As for the removal of the prelude and other cuts, words fail me. What with ENO’s squandering of its Arts Council subsidy on such productions, I may have to reconsider my Friends’ membership and indeed my attendance at ENO altogether. Rowland Agius Via email Right composer, wrong opera I’m afraid that in her interesting review of the Catania production of Gnecchi’s Cassandra (April, pp. 423-4), Sara Patera has got her Strauss operas confused. The problem with this important opera was not ‘certain similarities with Strauss’s Salome’, but quite a number of similarities with Elektra—for example, the opening. Strauss was considered the plagiarizer here, but of course his masterpiece was the winner. Anyone interested in this affair should consult F. Balilla Pratella’s book Luci ed ombre: per un musicista italiano ignorato in Italia (Rome, 1933). Rein A. Zondergeld Göttingen
Opera, May 2011 People: 390
Hugh Canning Evans sings her first Liù at Welsh
National Opera this month
Twenty years have passed since Rebecca Evans won all hearts as Mozart’s Ilia in Welsh National Opera’s production of Idomeneo for the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death. It was a portentous occasion for the young Welsh soprano, doubly so as it was her first musical collaboration with Charles Mackerras (then the company’s music director), an association that endured for the rest of the conductor’s life. (Two of his final opera recordings, The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel for Chandos’s Opera in English series, had Evans sounding radiantly youthful as the female leads.)
This month Evans returns to her home-town company once more for her first performances of Liù in Turandot. The staging is a revival of Christopher Alden’s striking production, with 1950s iconography—Puccini’s Ice Princess as a dressed-to-kill Eva Perón lookalike—and its photographic wall of memory to previously unsuccessful aspirants to her hand. Evans has never seen it, so she comes to the production with no preconceptions. ‘In fact, I’ve only seen the opera once, at the Staatsoper in Munich. I did sing “In questa reggia” when I was 12, but I won’t be going anywhere near the title role, not in this life anyway. Puccini’s scoring is much thicker than most of the music I have sung. It’s a different brush stroke, and I am a light lyric, not a full lyric like Mirella Freni, so I will sing it within my capabilities. The length of Liù’s role is perfect for me, so I won’t get tired.’
These words are classic Evans: she has forged her already long career with scrupulous awareness of her vocal possibilities and made her repertoire choices with admirable caution. She has retained the youthful freshness of her bright, lyric soprano but its timbre has undoubtedly acquired the fuller, richer colours required by Liù and Mimì (which she sang first in Cardiff in 2006, and then at Covent Garden last season), and she has moved with natural ease from the lighter Mozart roles of Susanna and Zerlina to the Countess (which she sings at both WNO and Covent Garden next season) and Donna Elvira (which she sang late last year for ENO). As a Mozart singer she has followed in the footsteps of the sopranos she idolizes: Lucia Popp and Mirella Freni. But Evans is much more than a Mozart soprano.
As that precocious ‘In questa reggia’ might suggest, Evans knew she wanted to be a singer from a very young age. ‘I think it was when I was standing singing hymns in assembly at primary school. I knew I was slightly different from everybody else. I didn’t
Opera, May 2011