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An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent. Holten connects Der fliegende Holländer to Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg and even to Parsifal by bringing out sub-texts on artistic creativity and metaphysics. And what amazing theatre this is, too, and very sensitive to the abstract cues in the music. .
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
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