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A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.
26 Sep 2005
SCHUMANN: Liederkreis, op. 24; Dichterliebe, op. 48
In addition to some notable, recent recordings of selected Lieder by Robert Schumann (1810-56), two comprehensive editions of the composer’s works in this genre are underway, one by Hyperion, which is almost complete and another that is just starting on the Naxos label. Performed by Thomas E. Bauer, baritone and his wife, the pianist Uta Hielscher, the first volume is as promising as it is ambitious.
The first release includes the cycles Liederkreis, op.24 and Dichterliebe, op. 48, as well as “Der arme Peter” from Schumann’s Romances and Ballades, op. 53 (no. 3), and the song “Belsatzar”, op. 57. Bauer has an engaging sound, and his command of the text is unquestionably solid. Working together, Bauer and Hielscher achieve a remarkably fine balance and convincing interpretation of these two major sets of Lieder. As familiar as the music may be, their approach conveys a freshness often found in live performances that is sometimes difficult to capture on a recording.
Bauer’s voice is natural for Lieder, and his range of expression is well within the scope of the literature selected for this recording. He is sensitive to the poetry, and brings out critical lines, as occurs with the telling treatment of “Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden,” the fifth of Schumann’s Liederkreis, op. 24, with the short utterances and pauses that are appropriate to the text. At the same time, he allows some lines to linger just enough to reinforce the meaning. His tone rings, at times, like a warm cello, and this adds to the ambiance of the performance.
Hielscher’s accompanying is at once discreet and authoritative. She sets a tone in “Warte, warter, wilder Schiffmann,” the next song in the Liederkreis, that allows the singer to open the piece with the necessary brilliance. Her playing reflects a sensitivity that is often extolled, but not always heard. It is welcome here, where the accompanist and the vocalist must unite to present the Lieder as a kind of chamber music. At times the piano must be prominent, but not for the extended passages as occurs with some of Brahms’s Lieder. At some points, the accompaniment requires a full sound that must not overpower the singer, and Hielscher is clearly sensitive to such moments in the score. The give-and-take of these performers is entirely appropriate to these songs, and is borne out in the later set, Schumann’s Dichterliebe, where the accompaniment has a more involved role in that cycle.
The opening song of the Dichterliebe is particularly effective with its tentative, somewhat hovering sense of rhythm that solidifies once the voice enters. Upon entering, Bauer conveys a musing, dreaming quality, which sets the tone for the cycle. This contrasts their more decisive approach to “Ich grolle nicht,” a turning point in the cycle, where the perspective of the narrator shifts, and this is clear in Bauer’s dramatic – and wholly musical – execution of the final strophe. Such definition is evident in the subsequent song and those that follow, and Hielscher confirms that in her approach to the accompaniment, which is prominent without being intrusive. “Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen” has a dance-like quality that suggests in its conclusion the kind of gesture Mahler would use in “Des Antonius Fischpredigt” and some other points in his Wunderhorn settings. (In fact, the couple has released a recording of Mahler’s Lieder, which merits attention for the effective performances it captures.)
“Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen” retreats from this more extroverted style, allowing the ditty in the title to emerge from the lingering tempo they use to approach this song. From the pacing given to this and the remaining pieces in the cycle, it is clear that Bauer and Hielscher worked out their interpretation of this familiar music, and it is a convincing one. Those who want to hear a fine singer matched with an equally sensitive pianist will enjoy their performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. The title “Die alten bösen Lieder” [“The old, bad songs”] is hardly appropriate for this fresh and convincing performance of that song and the entire cycle. For those who wish to hear more from these performers the two additional pieces included on this recording, “Der arme Peter” and “Belsazar,” are worth hearing in Bauer’s interpretation. In these more sustained Lieder, Bauer offers a laudable presentation of the text with his clear diction and sensitivity to both the rhythms of the music and those of the poetry.
In these songs and the others on this CD, the couple demonstrates a masterful approach to Schumann’s Lieder, and they should offer some excellent interpretations in the remainder of his repertoire in subsequent volumes of the series. Already the second volume of the series is announced, and it includes selections from Liebesfruhling, op. 37, “Minnespiel”, op. 101, and Lieder aus Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a. Given the quality of the first release, the next should be worth hearing, along with the rest of this exciting new edition of Schumann’s Lieder.
While it is not entirely essential when the focus should be on the fine performance, the liner notes are minimal, with the entire insert typeset on two pages. Since this is well-known repertoire by Schumann, it should not be a problem to find texts elsewhere, either by consulting editions of the music or other CDs. Naxos makes texts and translations available at the following URL: www.naxos.com/libretti/schumannlieder1.htm. This is a small concession that should be no means detract from the fine performance found on this recording.
James L. Zychowicz