From Studio to Stage

Stage Direction

SHOWCASE comprising excerpts from:

DIE ZAUBERFLOTE – Overture and extract from Act I (Mozart)

ANNA BOLENA – Duet from Act.I (Donizetti)

L’ELISIR D’AMORE – Extract from Act.II (Donizetti)

CH’IO MI SCORDI DI TE – Concert Aria “Idomeneo” (Mozart)

EUGENE ONEGIN – Overture and extract from Act I  (Tchaikovsky)

LA RONDINE – Extract from Act II (Puccini)

music > Mozart, Donizetti, Tchaikovsky & Puccini | Conductors > David Syrus, Michele Gamba & Paul Wingfield | Piano > Helen Nicholas | Costumes > ROH Costume Departments | Lighting > James Simpson | Set: Ezio Frigerio – La Rondine Act II | Main Auditorium of the ROH| London UK | 2013

Backdrop Image: © ROH / Clive Barda 2013

> Brief note

Some of these scenes have cuts or are just too small for someone who has never seen the entire opera to understand the story behind each character. So they were staged in a way that the singers to play only with the actions inside of these small life pictures.


“The afternoon’s performance fell somewhere between an extended amuse bouche and a  compact smorgasbord that featured two helpings of Mozart, two also of Donizetti and single extended samplings of  both Tchaikovsky and Puccini to round out the palette of flavours on offer. The occasion provided an opportunity for many of the singers to bring to the stage roles that they have covered throughout main productions during the past season. It also provided the Programme’s stage director, Pedro Ribeiro, with the challenge of utilising the set for the production of La rondine, in situ from its final stage rehearsals, to provide credible settings for the action, and providing one was willing to stretch one’s imagination on a couple of occasions, he achieved his goal. (…) During the overture, the curtain rose and a précis introduction of the drama preceding the sung extract from Act I was silently enacted. Michel de Souza proved an entertaining and jocular Papageno, whilst David Butt Philip’s Tamino was a clear and resonant contrast to Dušica Bijelić’s spirited Pamina. Pablo Bemsch lent more to the role of Monostatos with his acting than in vocal terms, whilst the three ladies of Susana Gaspar, Hanna Hipp and Justina Gringyte maintained the mystery of their veiled appearance but projected their lines with ease. (…) As the King, Jihoon Kim utilised the reserves of his bass voice well to command a presence. His acting showed a different aspect of character, with a realisation of the predicament Enrico is placed in by the demands of Seymour and Anna Bolena, the other suitor for his affection. The switch from bel canto high drama to the more tender and humorous aspect of love left almost unspoken was made within an extract from Act II of L’elisir d’amore. Pablo Bemsch’s pliant yet slightly tight tenor tone proved ideally suited to the role of Nemorino, earning deserved applause for the sensitivity of feeling that he brought to ‘Una furtiva lagrima’. Fresh from representing Portugal in the recent BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, Susana Gaspar was a winsome Adina, coquettish and quick of flirtatious inference in her cleanly articulated singing as also with her gestures and sideways glances to Nemorino. (…) Polish mezzo-soprano Hanna Hipp took centre-stage in Mozart’s concert aria ‘Chi’o mi scordi di te’, originally written for Nancy Storace, who created Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. Her rich timbre, supported by careful vocal control, effectively caught the inference of farewell that runs throughout the text. Ribeiro’s stage direction might have almost made it a film noir tableau, transferring the action to a scene in a 1940s cafe with the singer nostalgically wishing an absent love farewell before a long journey. (…) Act I, scene one of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was given in its entirety (…) Justina Gringyte brought a light-touch sense of motherliness to the role of Madame Larina, whilst keeping a watchful eye over her daughters Tatyana and Olga (…) With sisterly relations believably established during their folk song duet, Bijelic’s initial reticence of character warmed appreciably with the entrance of Onegin, whose mien of thinly veiled sufferance for Lensky’s liking of the surroundings was effortlessly conveyed in the superior arrogance of Ashley Riches’ portrayal. It said much for the success of this scene that I wished to see the quartet of main characters continue with their roles (…)  Hopefully, a future full production awaits them. Part of Act II of Puccini’s La rondine brought the afternoon to a fitting conclusion that saw all the singers together (…) What is more these young artists seemed not the least daunted by the fact that some of opera’s starriest names would shortly be heard in their roles, such was the palpable dedication to the performance. Susana Gaspar might yet give Angela Gheorghiu a run for her money as Magda in years to come.”  > Evan Dickerson | Music OMH ****

“(…) Oh what joy! This year’s showcase, entitled From studio to stage has done just that: made the transition from studio theatre to main stage. And the house was very nearly full of really enthusiastic opera buffs of all ages, as well as a wealth of movers and shakers from the opera business. Presenting this showcase on the main stage with a Puccini/Tchaikovsky-sized orchestra must surely be of considerably more use to the casting directors in attendance. In a 2000-seater venue you can get a clear idea of how the voices carry over a full-sized orchestra, whether the artist can act and fill the space with personality and drama and whether they are able to cross the footlights and interact with a large, responsive audience.  I am very happy to report they could all be heard and all the Jette Parker Young Artists acted their stockings/farmer’s wellies off. It was an interesting exercise to compare these snapshots of artists’ work with the recent televised final rounds of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. Actually there was no contest. The JPYA showcase works because we see six complete scenes in costume (including Laurent Pelly’s wellies and dungarees,) enabling us to see how the ‘trainees’ respond to movement direction. What we the audience got was even more than that. Each artist not only assumed the role he/she was playing in minutes, but was able to convey a back story with a combination of physical and vocal acting skills. (…) the set (…) proved to be a useful marbled lobby of a palace or hotel, cleverly lit by James Simpson to create the appropriate atmosphere for each excerpt. The showcase overall was directed by Pedro Ribeiro and this year I felt he worked carefully to ensure each of the singers had the best possible platform on which to display their talents.(…)”  > Miranda Jackson | Opera Britannia

We began with a smidgen of The Magic Flute. Paul Wingfield conducted the Overture, and very well too, attentive to details and dynamics, the music given time to express itself and in healthy-sounding timbres. (Colin Davis came to mind.) During its course the curtains opened to reveal an imperious setting and a dimly lit, misty stage. (…) Justina Gringyte was quite stunning in the Anna Bolena duet; she is someone with impressive vocal command and genuine stage presence, her Jane Seymour (who has caught the eye of Henry VIII) made here a formidable figure suspicious of said king and concerned for her mistress Anne Boleyn. This was gripping stuff, Gringyte living the role, and not far behind her in vocal and acting skills was the royal presence of Jihoon Kim. A different Donizetti followed (…) ‘Una furtiva lagrima’, smoothly and affectingly, and with a lightly strummed harp and expressive clarinet coming from the pit. His beloved Adina then shows, the nice girl next door, sweetly and ease-fully sung by Susana Gaspar with some amusing off-the-cuff reactions. (…) There was a taster (teaser) of La rondine (…) Here was something close to opulence in the staging, tables and chairs now usable, a top restaurant created, and also an extra depth of field (daylight through windows). You’ve got to hand it to Puccini; he knows how to manipulate your emotions. La rondine may not be his greatest score, but this Act II snippet ended the afternoon on a passionate high, a quartet that steals the heart and found the principal singers rapturous. Are critics allowed tears in their eyes?” > Colin Anderson | Classical Source

“(…) The only unifying feature of these performances is usually a set from an opera currently in the repertory. In this case it was from Act II of La rondine, Ezio Frigerio’s palatial split-level restaurant setting brought an all-pervading art deco elegance to what we saw and disguised by some suitable murky lighting from James Simpson it worked reasonably well throughout for all the excerpts. (…) After the interval we were shown a staged Mozart concert-aria (‘You ask that I forget you?’) accompanied by the orchestra and Helen Nicolas’s piano spotlit stage right. A business suited Hanna Hipp was given an atmospheric Brief Encounter moment surrounded by tables and chairs to sing her poignant aria of regret and deep affection. (…) Finally there was some of Puccini’s La rondine performed on the set that was designed for it and its obvious opulence therefore came into its own as the Parisienne nightspot Bulliers. This late work from the composer is more operetta than opera and its passionate swelling melodies were given full value in a performance involving all nine singers (…) that ended the afternoon on a rapturously emotional highpoint.”  > Jim Pritchard | Seen & Heard International