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It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.
Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.
30 Oct 2005
Ewa Podleś — Rossini Gala
If Rossini could set a laundry list to music, then Ewa Podleś is one of the few candidates available to sing it. In this CD, recorded live at the Polish Radio Hall in Wroclaw (Wratislavia), during the thirty third International Festival Wratislavia Cantans Music and Fine Arts, the Polish contralto gives ample proof of her status as one of the great singers of her generation.
Podleś is one of those singers whose versatile instrument is as comfortable singing Tancredi, in the opera by the same name, Isabella (L’Italiana in Algieri), Rosina (Barbiere di Siviglia), Adalgisa (Norma), Eboli (Don Carlo), or La Haine in Gluck’s Armida. In fact, this singer can tackle any role she desires, and do it successfully. Her voice is dramatic, and she possesses an extraordinary technique which enables her to show off an impressive range spanning three octaves. She is a remarkable artist whose effortless singing comes through in her emotionally charged performances.
The timbre in her voice is warm, bronzed and pleasant to the ear; her ability to switch registers with great ease is well demonstrated, as in Arsace’s aria,“ A quel giorno,” springing from the depths of her being, and ending with crystal clear soprano-like high note; and the reverse is also true as in the finale of “Non temer d’un basso affetto” from Maometto II. She displays a firm, secure, staccato with short, rapidly sung notes, which Bernard Holland (New York Times, May 5, 2005) has likened to “bayonet charges.” When listening to this CD, other singers come to mind, not as a point of comparison, but as a compliment to her artistry and her ability to convey the drama, emotions, and the “Bel Canto” of what she is singing. Podleś delivers a rock solid performance—close to sixty minutes of non-stop singing, in what must have been an electrifying concert.
Podleś’ is clearly not one to please every listener—like any other singer she has her “own” mannerisms, some which are more noticeable in live performances; but the qualities of her instrument and her artistry cannot be denied. The contralto was in powerful form for this concert, and after listening to this CD her detractors will also come out her most ardent fans.
The Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra, under conductor Wojciech Michniewski, is very effective in accompanying Podleś. This CD also includes one solo selection for the orchestra, the overture to Rossini’s Il Babiere di Siviglia.
Daniel Pardo 2005