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

J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Third and Fourth Sundays after Easter
26 Oct 2005

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 18

Here we have another part of John Eliot Gardiner’s remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, undertaken to perform—and record live—all of Bach’s surviving church cantatas at many different churches in a single year.

J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Third and Fourth Sundays after Easter

Brigitte Geller, William Towers, Mark Padmore, Julian Clarkson, Robin Tyson, James Gilchrist, Stephen Varcoe, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner (cond.)

Soli Deo Gloria SDG 107 [2CDs]

 

This volume contains 6 cantatas, 3 each for the third and fourth Sundays after Easter. Despite the unimaginable number of difficulties in coordinating the series (differing pitch of various organs, very limited rehearsal time, changes in personnel, travel arrangements for some 40 musicians and a crew of other people) that such a project entails, this disc ranks in quality with the finest in modern Baroque performances.

From the titles of the cantatas for Jubilate Sunday, the first group of three, we might gather that the works provide a lugubrious mood: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, Wailing, Fretting, Fearing), BWV 12; Ihr werdet weinen und heulen (Ye shall weep and lament), BWV 103; and Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen (We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God), BWV 146. (As the reader may note, Richard Stokes’s English translations, provided in the accompanying booklet, can be quite inelegant, even though they were not devised to match the German text syllable for syllable so that they could be sung without altering the music.)

The mournful feeling is reflected in the first two numbers of BWV 12: a sinfonia with a slow, plaintive, and beautifully played oboe solo (are there ever slow, non-plaintive oboe solos?), followed by a choral movement that Bach later adapted for the Crucifixus of the Mass in B minor to portray the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the cross. Gardiner terms each of the first four words “a heart-rending sob” that may be thought of in connection with the “four hammer blows nailing Christ’s flesh to the wood of the cross.” The image takes on credibility when one realizes that the corresponding syllables in the Mass are Cru-ci-fi-xus, He was crucified.

The words of the alto recitative that follows, Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal from Acts 14:22, would later find their way into the title and opening chorus of BWV 146. The mood brightens considerably in successive arias for bass and tenor, both with a trumpet obbligato playing the melody of the Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my delight), and the closing chorale is positively joyful: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (What God does is well done).

The Cantata BWV 103 follows a somewhat similar trajectory: weeping, lamentation, and transgression are the subjects of the first three movements, although Bach plays a little trick on listeners. The opening orchestral introduction sounds quite jolly, but when the solo voices enter, we realize that “the festive instrumental theme represents not the disciples’ joy at Christ’s resurrection but the skeptics’ riotous laughter at their discomfort” (Gardiner). Then an alto recitative begins to turn things around, trusting “that my sadness shall be turned into joy”; a rapturous tenor aria declares that Jesus will reappear; and the happy and uplifting chorale at the end of the work is a verse from Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh’ allzeit (What my God wants, that will always happen), stating that brief pain shall turn to joy.

Finally, in the third cantata for Jubilate, BWV 146, we hear an opening sinfonia that sounds suspiciously like the first movement of the D minor Harpsichord Concerto (BWV 1052a) with an organ playing the solo part. Well, that is exactly what it is, and the opening chorus that follows, Weinen, Klagen, equals the second movement of the concerto with added choral parts. The now-familiar turn to happier matters occurs more gradually through the middle movements, and the cantata ends with a verse from the chorale Werde munter, mein Gemüte (Become enlivened, my spirit).

Disc 2 of this set includes three works composed for Cantate Sunday, the fourth Sunday after Easter, including Wo gehest du hin? (Whither goest thou), BWV 166; Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe (It is expedient[!] for you that I go away), BWV 108; and Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut (Give laud and praise to the highest good), BWV 117. I will let the listener enjoy the disc without comment, except to point out a single cut: the dramatic and sensitive performance of the closing chorale of BWV 166, Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende (Who knows how near my end is). It is Gardiner and his group at their very best.


Michael Ochs

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):