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Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?
Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).
Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.
Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.
Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.
On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.
Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.
In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.
Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.
Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.
The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.
If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.
Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.
With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.
05 Aug 2005
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.
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.