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On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
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.
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.
21 Oct 2005
Welsh songs worth discovering
SAIN (the Welsh word for 'sound', and pronounced like the English word 'sign') is Wales' leading recording company, founded in 1969 in Cardiff by Dafydd Iwan, Huw Jones and Brian Morgan Edwards. The label has a strong social and political message, and for the first few years, SAIN specialised in songs by young singers, many of them concerning the national and linguistic resurgence of Wales, which had begun in the 60's.
So it is not surprising that the first CD's of the world famous Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel were produced by this label. His first CD was released in 1988, when Bryn Terfel was the winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship. This was before his opera debut, and the compilation on this CD seems like an unconnected collection of casting arias. Besides Welsh songs of Idris Lewis, R. Vaughan Williams, Eric Jones, Vincent Davies, W. Mathews Williams, Osborne Roberts, W. Bradwen Jones, and two traditional songs arranged by the pianist Annette Bryn Parri, you will find Schubert’s "Fischermädchen", Mozart’s "Non più andrai", Gounod’s "Vous qui faites l'endormie", Händel’s "But who may abide the day of his coming?", Tosti’s "Ideale" and Franco Leoni’s "Tally-Ho!". This may be dramaturgically strange, but it shows the great variety of the young singer at the beginning of his career. Terfel’s wonderful voice is powerful and technically effortless, but sometimes sounds on this CD a little exhausted or not quite mature. This does, however, not reduce the listening enjoyment. The booklet is sparse with only short descriptions of the songs in English, and contains nothing about Welsh composers, some of whom are not well known.
In 1990 the second Bryn Terfel CD was released with the title "Cyfrol2-Volume2", again under the label SAIN. The booklet is even more meagre than that of the debut album: the publisher did not take the trouble to name the composers of some of the pieces. The collection seems similarly arbitrary as that of the first CD. Thus we find here the well known aria from "The Fiddler on the Roof" in Welsh, three beautiful Welsh songs by Meirion Williams, Schubert’s "Ständchen", an aria from the musical "South Pacific", an aria by Handel from "Judas Maccabäus" with piano accompaniment - marvelously sung by Bryn Terfel! -, songs by William Davies, W. Albert Williams, John Ireland, Mansel Treharne Thomas and Richard Samuel Hughes, a canzonet by Haydn, the Coat aria from "La Bohème", Don Giovanni's "Serenade" - all arias with piano accompaniment. Bryn Terfel's voice is beautiful, in his own language completely free and easy. But also listening to the opera arias one can anticipate the world career of this great singer. The Welsh songs are worth discovering. One wishes for a more detailed booklet about these unknown compositions.
A year later, 1991, SAIN recorded with Bryn Terfel singing Schubert's „Schwanengesang“ with the well known pianist Malcolm Martineau. The quality of the recording is technically and musically excellent. Bryn Terfel has a beautiful flowing voice with apparently infinite breath and easy height. However his pronounciation of the German vowels and consonants is shaped by the Italian vowel sound and thus sometimes irritating to a German ear. Through this strange vowel sound each German word has a great importance, and sometimes the intermediate tones are missing; perhaps only a native speaker can produce these. This is remarkably apparent in "Abschied", where the ambiguity which one knows from Fischer-Dieskau is missing and Bryn Terfel is suffering exclusively. Every "Ade" he sings with great importance. Also the "Taubenpost" he sings similarily ponderous and suffering. However, Bryn Terfel sings "Kriegers Ahnung", "Aufenthalt", "Der Atlas" and "Die Stadt" in a wonderful way. Here his powerful bass-baritone voice and his great strength is especially effective. The booklet is in Welsh, English and German and in more detail than the ones included in the first two CD's.
1993 SAIN released the CD "Un Canu Caneuon" with songs by the Welsh composer Meirion Williams, sung by Bryn Terfel, with Annette Bryn Parri at the piano. Meirion Williams lived from 1901-1976 and was one of the composers mainly responsible for transforming Welsh classical song-writing. He always took great care to make sure that the words he used were appropriate for the expression of feelings. This CD contains the compositions of 40 years, including well known Welsh songs that Meirion Williams composed as a young man, and at the end the cycle "Adlewych", which he composed for BBC Wales when he was almost 70 years old. Meirion Williams' style is influenced by late romanticism. Developments like the twelve-tone technique have passed him by. This by no means diminishes the compositions: they are wonderful and passionate, and should be known outside Wales! Williams’ songs are about the love of country and landscape, and Welsh is a very singable language. The songs have wonderful melodies for the language and voice. The combination Bryn Terfel / Meirion Williams is ideal! Bryn Terfel's vigorous voice flows with infinite breath, and it is a joy to listen to him. This time the booklet is very detailed in Welsh and English, and one hopes that many listeners will get to know the songs of Meirion Williams.
Besides the CD's of Bryn Terfel, SAIN released the second solo album of the young Welsh tenor Rhys Meirion in 2004. Rhys Meirion was member of the Frankfurter Opera and this year sings "Rodolfo" in Sydney and "Roméo" in Melbourne. The label compares him with Bryn Terfel, with whom he has also sung duets. Rhys Meirion - a bright light tenor - has not made a good choice with the selection of all the songs for this CD. The lyric Welsh songs by Bilys Elwyn Edwards, R Lowry and Meirion Williams with piano accompaniment are beautiful and appropiate for his voice. Also very musical and beautiful are his version of "Caro Mio Ben" by Guiseppe Giordini. Unfortunately, for some songs and arias keyboard instead of orchestra accompaniment was chosen, and the keyboard playing falsifies the total sound of the compositions. In addition, Rhys Meirion has chosen 3 compositions by a friend of his, the composer Robat Arwyn, with keyboard and choir accompaniment, which are indescribable trivial. In the Italian arias "Torna a Surriento" by Curtis and "Core 'Ngrato" by Cadillo the keyboard sound seems inconvenient to the extent that it is difficult to listen to the singer`s voice. When one gets accustomed to Rhys Meirion`s bright voice he sings very musically, but one is relieved as a listener when he manages to reach the high notes. In "Ave Maria" by Schubert - again with keyboard accompaniment - one wonders painfully whether Meiron’s breath will be enough for the long phrases. The final piece, "Ombra Mai Fu" by Handel was - for whatever reasons - arranged by the pianist Annette Bryn Parri for keyboard, choir and tenor, which can seem banal. After listening to this CD I wish this young singer and the label more luck and a sensible ear in the compilation of the next program.