Recently in Performances
Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.
The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
15 Oct 2004
Two Reviews of "The Dialogues of the Carmelites"
Unbearably Good Classical Music BY JAY NORDLINGER [New York Sun] October 14, 2004 Is there any opera more shattering than "The Dialogues of the Carmelites," when it's done well? On Tuesday night, City Opera did it well. It was...
BY JAY NORDLINGER [New York Sun]
October 14, 2004
Is there any opera more shattering than "The Dialogues of the Carmelites," when it's done well? On Tuesday night, City Opera did it well. It was almost unbearable - that's how good it was.
"Dialogues," of course, is Francis Poulenc's masterpiece from 1953. It tells the story of nuns who suffer and die - are killed - in the French Revolution. Your high-school teachers and college professors may have been rahrah about this revolution; Poulenc, bless him, was not.
It so happens that, two seasons ago, the Metropolitan Opera performed "Dialogues" unforgettably. In that cast were Patricia Racette, Heidi Grant Murphy, Felicity Palmer, and Stephanie Blythe. (I should throw in Matthew Polenzani, too, to name one man.) Ms. Palmer, in particular, was consummate as the Old Prioress. James Conlon led understandingly from the pit.
City Opera's singers are not as famous as the Met's, but they are far from shamed. In the central role of Blanche is Rinat Shaham, an Israeli mezzo-soprano. She gave just about all one could ask, musically and dramatically. She captured a woman's searching and turbulence - and fear. Always fear, except perhaps in the opera's final moment. Her voice is a little smoky, but not impure. (We can hear Carmen in that voice, even when she is Blanche.) The upper register is vibrant, and the lower one bottled. Ms. Shaham showed a sure technique, featuring intonation and evenness. This was especially gratifying in Poulenc's exposed lines. And she never slopped over his intervals.
[Remainder of article here (no subscription required)]
A synopsis of this work may be found here.
Dialogues of the Carmelites, New York City Opera
By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times]
Published: October 15 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 15 2004 03:00
Modern opera is not the most popular attraction in cultural Manhattan but Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites has proved to be an encouraging exception. Completed in 1957, this examination of the crisis of faith during the French revolution was first performed here - rather ineptly - by the New York City Opera in 1966.
The mighty Metropolitan followed suit in 1977 with a powerful staging by John Dexter that remains a staple in the big house at Lincoln Center. Now the brave City Opera, next door, has come up with an alternative that sheds its own light.
The best news involves communication. Although Poulenc wanted his philosophies to be articulated in the language of the audience, the Met respected this wish only in the early years. The City Opera, however, reverts to the vernacular.
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