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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.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..
08 Mar 2006
Mazeppa at the Met — Three Reviews
This season the Metropolitan Opera presents Tchaikovsky's infrequently performed opera, Mazeppa. Acording to the Met, "[a]lthough Tchaikovsky is best known for Eugene Onegin and several great ballet scores, he wrote many other wonderful operas including Mazeppa, which receives its premiere at The Met this season. Premiered in Moscow in 1884, it was first seen in St Petersburg just three days later, and has remained in the repertoire of The Mariinsky Theatre from that time. Based on a poem by Pushkin, it tells the story of a 17th century Ukrainian separatist, who falls in love with a friend’s daughter. The opera is full of tuneful episodes (similar to those in The Queen of Spades) and this is a very rare chance to see the opera in New York." Here are three reviews.
A Met Premiere With a Russian Twist
By FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 8 March 2006]
The last time anything called "Mazeppa" was performed at the Metropolitan Opera was in 1894, when listeners heard a Franz Liszt tone poem of the same name. As for the Tchaikovsky opera, it didn't receive its official Met debut until Monday evening, when it took the stage under the watchful ear of the Kirov's Valery Gergiev.
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From a Galaxy Far Far Away, Tchaikovsky's Ivan the Rebel
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI [NY Times, 8 March 2006]
Though Tchaikovsky's "Mazeppa" is a staple of the Kirov Opera at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, it has made it only to the periphery of opera companies outside Russia. When the Kirov came to the Metropolitan Opera House in the spring of 1998 to present four Russian operas, "Mazeppa," the least well known, proved a stunning revelation. Conducted by Valery Gergiev, Tchaikovsky's epic about the 17th-century Ukrainian separatist Ivan Mazeppa seemed an anguished, probing and noble work.
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Mazeppa, Metropolitan Opera, New York
By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times, 7 March 2006]
Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa abounds in glorious melodies, thoughtful characterisations, rousing set-pieces, wrenching choruses and wondrous orchestral interludes, both snazzy and sombre. The ending, a mad scene for the gentle heroine culminating in a haunting lullaby, must rank among the composer’s finest inspirations. Still, US performances have been exceedingly rare (the first occurred in 1925), audiences scant. What do we know, after all, about Ukrainian separatists fighting Cossack landowners in the realm of Peter the Great?
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