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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. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.
Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.
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. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.
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.
Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
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.
06 Oct 2005
ORFF: Carmina Burana
Once hailed by the Nazis as a symbol of Aryan supremacy, Carmina Burana has come to be recognized as a powerful expression of the gluttony and depravity present in a medieval, pagan society. An effective performance of Orff’s musical adventure must allow audiences to envision the “imagines magicae,” or magical images conveyed through the convergence of music and choreography.
In the absence of a stage presence, the performers must strive to pointedly depict the illustrative tales portrayed in love songs, drinking songs, and fantasies that together form the rich tapestry that is Carmina Burana.
In this work, Carl Orff thoughtfully selected twenty-five Goliardic poems from the thirteenth-century Benektbeuren manuscript to set to music. The mood of each poem is so remarkably distinctive that in creating a musical setting, each required a drastically different approach. Through this wide-ranging contrast, Orff was able to demonstrate his amazing versatility as a composer. Likewise, Günter Wand and the musicians of the NDR Sinfonieorchester and Chorus commendably mirrored Orff’s talents.
The opening “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,” radiated the necessary strength and power to rival the most prominent of ensembles. “O Fortuna” lends itself to images of greatness, and this performance never diminishes the desired outcome. On the contrary, the strength of the chorus, the carefully balanced orchestra, and the well-articulated unison passages, all added to the percussive effect to create a feeling of imposing dominance.
In contrast to the bold statements in this first section, the “Primo Vere,” a section devoted to Spring, was lyrical and well-phrased, reinforcing the diversity of the piece and its interpreters. Baritone Peter Binder showcased his talents as well through his smooth voice and relaxed delivery. The springtime feeling continued in “Uf dem Anger” (On the Lawn) where the strings interjected playfully syncopated melodies that where delightfully light and care-free.
“In Taberna” (In the Tavern), a colorful section opening with Baritone Peter Binder and featuring Tenor Ulf Kenklies, was among the more dramatic (in the Thespian-sense), in that the inebriation referred to in the text certainly came across in the soloists’ voices. Ulf Kenklies noticeably exaggerates the intoxicated inflections in a quite entertaining way, depicting images of swan resigned to its miserable fate, as described in the text.
The love songs of the “Cour D’Amour” are characterized by lilting voices in the chorus and Soprano Maria Venuti, as well as seductive calls from the tenor and bass soloists. The songs range from playful, to mischievous, to utterly romantic. Maria Venuti is simply amazing in “Dulcissime,” the last song of the section, showing off with her unwavering tone and power in a register-taxing, cadenza-like passage.
The restatement of the “O Fortuna” is as impressive in the closing frame of the work as in the opening. The variety of styles and themes that come together to form such a complex entity tend to leave audiences fully satisfied. Carmina Burana fans won’t want to miss out on this extraordinary performance that exceeds the already high expectations generally attributed to this monumental work.
University of Tennessee