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“Man is an abyss. It makes one dizzy to look into it.” So utters Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, repeating what was also a recurring motif in the playwright’s own letters.
National Opera Company of the Rhine has marked this year’s Benjamin Britten celebration with a remarkably compelling, often gripping new production of the seldom-seen Owen Wingrave.
Once upon a time, Frankfurt Opera had the baddest ass reputation in Germany as “the” cutting edge producer of must-see opera.
Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto can serve as a vehicle for individual singers to make a strong impression and become afterward associated with specific roles in the opera.
Just in case we were not aware that the evening’s programme was ‘themed’, the Britten Sinfonia designed a visual accompaniment to their musical exploration of night, sleep and dreams.
Poor Aida! She never seems to have anything go her way.
Is it possible to upstage Jonas Kaufmann? Kaufmann was brilliant in this Verdi Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House, London, but the rest of the cast was so good that he was but first among equals. Don Carlo is a vehicle for stars, but this time the stars were everyone on stage and in the pit. Even the solo arias, glorious as they are, grow organically out of perfect ensemble. This was a performance that brought out the true beauty of Verdi's music.
The big names were absent: Duparc, D’Indy, Debussy, Ravel
and while Fauré, Chausson, Roussel and several members of Les Six put in an appearance, in less than familiar guises, this survey of French song of the early 20th century and interwar years deliberately took us on a journey through infrequently travelled terrain.
Composed between 1718 and 1720, Handel’s Esther is sometimes described as the ‘first English Oratorio’, but is in fact a hybrid form, mixing elements of oratorio, masque, pastoral and opera.
Hector Berlioz's légende dramatique, La Damnation de Faust, exists somewhere between cantata and opera. Berlioz's flexible attitude to dramatic form made the piece unworkable on the stages of early 19th century Paris and his music is so vivid that you wonder whether the piece needs staging at all.
St. John’s Smith Square was the site of Elizabeth Connell’s final London concert, intended as a farewell to London on her moving to Australia. It was rendered ultimately final by her unexpected death.
With the building of the Suez Canal, Egypt became more interesting to Western Europeans. Khedive Ismail Pasha wanted a hymn by Verdi for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo, but the composer said he did not write occasional pieces.
Back for its fourth revival, David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte has much charm, beauty and artistry.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro has a libretto by Lorenzo daPonte based on the French play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799).
For its world class Easter Festival, Baden-Baden mounted a Die Zauberflöte that owed more to the grey penitential doldrums of Lent than to the unbridled jubilance of re-birth.
Once Berkeley Opera, renamed West Edge Opera, this enterprising company offers the Bay Area’s only serious alternative to corporate opera, to wit Bonjour M. Gauguin.
In the first of pianist Julius Drake’s three-part series,
‘Perspectives’, our gaze was directed at Gustav Mahler’s eclectic musical
responses to human experiences: from the trauma and distress of anguished love
to the sweet contentment of true friendship, from the agonised introspection of
the artist to the diverse dramas of human interaction.
The Los Angeles opera company marketed its spring production of Rossini's La Cenerentola as Cinderella though there is no opera by that name. The libretto of La Cenerentola is not the Cinderella story we know.
The Paris Opéra has not staged a full Ring Cycle since 1957, but its current season will conclude with a correction of this grand operatic gap.
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