Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

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.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

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.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

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: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘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.

Nabucco at Orange

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.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

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.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

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.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

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.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

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.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘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.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

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?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

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.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘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.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

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).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

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 : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

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.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Carl Nielsen: Maskarade
05 Aug 2005

NIELSEN: Maskarade

From the start of its lively and distinctive overture Carl Nielsen's 1906 comic masterpiece Maskarade calls for a light and ironic approach, yet one which brings the ensemble forward with sufficient directorial force.

Carl Nielsen: Maskarade

Ib Hansen, baritone; Gurli Plesner, contralto; Tonny Landy, tenor; Mogens Schmidt-Johansen, baritone; Christian Sorensen, tenor; Gert Bastian, bass-baritone; Edith Brodersen, soprano; Tove Hyldgaard, soprano; Jorgen Klint, bass; Ove Verner Hansen, bass; Aage Haugland, bass; Danish National Radio Choir; Danish National Symphony Orchestra; John Frandsen, conductor.

DaCapo 6.220507-08 [2 SACDs]

 

The Danish National Symphony Orchestra's recording of Maskarade succeeds admirably in striking a careful balance between these ideals. The present DaCapo SACD is an enhanced reissue of a 1977 presentation of Nielsen's opera. In addition to the model recording the essays and performance data in the generous booklet invite further study and appreciation of this acknowledged favorite among Danish operas. Performances of Maskarade during the 2005 Bregenz festival suggest a renewed interest and reappraisal of this work for the musical stage. Despite a perceived unevenness by some of music supporting the dramatic action, the current performances have emphasized the strengths of Nielsen's work.

The three acts of Maskarade are joined by a dramatic unity underscored through temporal designations in the text. On a single day in 1723 Leander, the son of Copenhagen's citizen Jeronimus, tells of his adventures at the masquerade ball on the previous night. Contrary to his father's wishes that he marry the daughter of Leonard, Leander declares his love for a young woman whom he met at the masquerade. He balks at his father's insistence and resents both the diatribe and proscription of future participation. Those taking sides for and against the masquerade are divided into two camps, with most at least secretly yearning to attend. The next two acts take place later on the same evening (II) and then during the masquerade that night (III). After its resolution of plots and disguises for the ball, it is finally revealed that Leander's love is actually the daughter of Leonard, and that he simply had not earlier apprehended her identity.

The integration of music and plot in Maskarade is especially evident in the present recording. Under John Frandsen the Danish National Symphony Orchestra emphasizes carefully Nielsen's striking compositional patterns for orchestra and for accompanied voice. In the overture, the modulation between larger repeating themes and lighter dance rhythms is attentively observed as here played. The repeated themes are then - in part - identified with emotions and characters' situations, whereas dance motifs are associated with the integration of the masquerade into human lives. The overture closes on an increasing diminuendo, ending thus on the softest chords. Such a subdued conclusion highlights at the opening of this drama the sleepy pair of Leander and his servant Henrik, who had both spent the previous night until all hours at the ball. The roles of young gentleman and manservant are given convincing portrayals here by Tonny Landy and Mogens Schmidt Johansen respectively. In their singing and acting, especially in interchanges during all three acts, both men create the character-types of the love-struck young hero and his clever valet who manipulates from behind the scene. Johansen, the baritone servant, holds forth convincingly by imitating the voices of those who would complicate his master's life, while Landy basks in a moody reverie of nascent infatuation. Neither singer relies on cliche to achieve characterization but rather preserves a distinct individuality of portrayal. This same approach can be appreciated in other members of the ensemble as well. Leander's mother Magdelone, aware of his nocturnal escapades, enters the room early and begs to know if she might still attend the masquerade as she had in her youth. In the role of Magdelone the contralto Gurli Plesner delivers a lesson in singing and dramatic representation, as she courses through various melodic styles to describe what had been her adolescent skill at dance. Frivolity in this small group ends abruptly with the stark appearance of Leander's father, Jeronimus, sung in this recording with appropriate bluster and irritability by the established baritone Ib Hansen. Arguments, counter-plots, and denial figure among the characters who alternate in duets and larger ensembles. In response to a condemnation of the masquerade as morally tainted, Henrik defends the entertainment as benevolent and having socially egalitarian properties. As Jeronimus gives orders for his son to be guarded at home so that he might marry Leonard's daughter on the following day, we sense that Henrik will devise a ruse to spirit him out of the house and off to the alternate world of the masquerade.

In contrast to the appropriately lively and harried tone of the overture to Act I, the orchestral prelude to the second act is taken as softly lyrical under Frandsen's direction. Here the emphasis on romantic and dreamy nocturnal sentiments functions as a transition to the later excitement of the dance and masquerade that will dominate much of Act III. In that final part of the opera the Danish National Symphony Orchestra resumes its concisely spirited playing in its approach to the well-known "Dance of the Cockerels." Between these orchestral pieces the interplay of romance and humor follows a tight pattern: when Leander and Leonora meet again, they declare their love alongside numerous comical attempts to enhance or to thwart their relationship. The role of Leonora, appearing first in Act II, is given a clear lyrical focus by Edith Brodersen, whose mutual song of romance with Tonny Landy recurs melodically with haunting polish later in the scene. In keeping with Henrik's assertion of social equality in the masquerade, he too is paired in the ensemble with Leonora's maid Pernille, here performed with soubrette brilliance by Tove Hyldgaard. By the close of the opera the misunderstandings and mistaken identities caused by disguise are resolved to the good of those involved, just as the lead romance is allowed to prosper outside the masquerade. Henrik's claim for the benevolence of the institution remains untouched.

The predominantly Scandinavian and German cast in this recording performs the declaimed and spoken parts of the text with natural idiomatic clarity. It is to be hoped that the re-issue of this performance will contribute to a greater familiarity in the operatic community with Nielsen's masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino
Madison, Wisconsin

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):