Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

Opera Holland Park: Un ballo in maschera streaming postponed until Wednesday 3 June, 7.30pm

Opera Holland Park is aware of the #BlackOutTuesday movement among parts of the music industry that began to gather pace yesterday. For several weeks, we have planned to mark what would have been the opening night of the 2020 season with a streaming of our production from 2019 of Un ballo in maschera on our website and YouTube channel.

A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season

Opera Holland Park’s 2021 season with resident orchestra City of London Sinfonia will open on 1 June with new productions of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen and Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, and a revival of the company’s celebrated 2018 staging of Verdi’s La Traviata. On what would have been the opening night of the 2020 season OHP is pleased to look to the future.

Grange Park Opera launches summer season of free-to-view brand-new work featuring stars such as Sir Bryn Terfel & Tamara Rojo

When the Government announced the national lockdown, Grange Park Opera, Surrey - like all cultural venues across the world - was forced to close its doors and fall silent. That was until its indefatigable founder Wasfi Kani refused to accept defeat, and created The Found Season.

Tête à Tête Launches a Manifesto for A Real Opera Festival In An Imaginary World

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2020 will, without a shadow of a doubt, take place in the realm of the imagination, and might even welcome audiences to performances in the real world as well.

Opera Holland Park: Un ballo in maschera - a new film with City of London Sinfonia

Opera Holland Park’s acclaimed 2019 production of Un ballo in maschera will be streamed via OHP’s YouTube channel and website from 7.30pm on 2 June 2020, to mark what would have been the opening of the 2020 Season and raise a toast to better times and a return to Holland Park.

The Mozartists launch ‘RE-LIVE’ with Download of Ann Hallenberg Concert

Classical Opera and The Mozartists are delighted to announce the launch of ‘RE-LIVE’, a new initiative undertaken in collaboration with the recently established music platform Exit Live. Each month between now and the end of the year they will...

Beethoven Matters: Garsington Opera at Home

250 years since his birth, 2020 should have been resounding with Beethoven. But what precisely has made his music endure all these years and how can we celebrate his legacy from lockdown?

Baritone Roderick Williams performs a Saturday night concert live on Facebook

Baritone Roderick Williams performs a Saturday night concert live on Facebook, produced by the London Mozart Players for At Home with LMP.

Live Music Returns to Wigmore Hall in New Broadcast Series

Wigmore Hall has announced that it will be broadcasting a new series of live lunchtime concerts every weekday in June, in collaboration with BBC Radio 3. Listeners can enjoy the performances on radio, or watch a live stream from the empty auditorium on Wigmore Hall’s website.

General Director Robert K. Meya Announces the Cancellation of the Santa Fe Opera's 2020 Season Due to Covid-19

It is with profound sadness that I announce today that the Santa Fe Opera has been forced to cancel its 2020 Season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This difficult but necessary decision was made with the health and safety of our staff, artists, patrons and the entire Santa Fe community at the forefront of our thoughts.

Glyndebourne: full closure of the 2020 Festival and the opening of Glyndebourne Open House

Glyndebourne have, with ‘a very heavy heart’, taken the decision to cancel all remaining Festival 2020 performances. It had been hoped that it would to be possible to open on 14 July, but the persistence of the COVID-19 global pandemic has made it impossible to guarantee the safety of Company members and audiences.

Garsington Opera: Music for the Eyes

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce the launch of Music for the Eyes - a weekly online documentary featuring music from Garsington Opera and images from the National Gallery of London.

Schubert 200 : in conversation with Tom Guthrie

‘There could be no happier existence. Each morning he composed something beautiful and each evening he found the most enthusiastic admirers. We gathered in his room - he played and sang to us - we were enthusiastic and afterwards we went to the tavern. We hadn’t a penny but were blissfully happy.’

Wexford Festival Opera on RTÉ Player: Stanford's The Veiled Prophet available to view online

At a time when more people than ever are turning online to enjoy their favourite opera productions, the first-ever professional performance in English of The Veiled Prophet by Dublin-born composer, Charles Villiers Stanford, is now available to view on the RTÉ Player.

The Met announces plans to live-stream an all-star At-Home Gala

The Met announces plans to live-stream an all-star At-Home Gala on Saturday, April 25, at 1pm EDT/6pm BST. This free concert will feature performances by more than 40 of the company’s most prominent artists, live from their own quarantines around the world.

English Touring Opera to broadcast St John Passion on Easter Sunday

English Touring Opera is preparing to broadcast a performance of Bach’s St John Passion which premiered in London on 5 March 2020 and was due to tour nationally.

Participants announced for the first ever Wexford Factory

Twelve singers, in a two-week academy, with guest tutors including world-renowned tenor Juan Diego-Flórez as part of Wexford Festival Opera 2020.

New Mascarade Opera Studio announces first participants

Mascarade Opera Studio has announced its first ten Studio Artists following applications from ambitious opera talent from all over the world. From September 2020, the new opera studio launching in Florence will offer its nine-month training programme for eight exceptional young singers and two répétiteurs.

Accentus stream full-length operas on Opernhaus Zürich website

Accentus is delighted to announce that a selection of outstanding full-length operas that the production company and label has produced will be streamed on the Opernhaus Zürich website.

Royal Academy of Music appoints Brenda Hurley as Head of Opera

The Royal Academy of Music today announced Brenda Hurley as its new Head of Opera, effective July 2020.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Ian Bostridge
01 Sep 2006

The Bostridge Phenomenon

The curious phenomenon of British tenor manqué, Ian Bostridge, continues to astound, as his concert and even operatic dates, primarily in Europe, mount; his recordings increase, and his appeal to a certain section of the classical audience (they would likely call themselves, “cognoscenti”) endures. I have to wonder why?

All this came sharply to mind as I finally got round to listening to a CD issued several seasons back, EMI’s “The Noël Coward Songbook,” with Bostridge assisted by modest soprano Sophie Daneman and sparkling Jeffrey Tate at the piano (EMI 57374). The musicians offer 19 selections from the 1920s and 1930s, covering just a bit over one hour of playing time. It seemed a generous serving.

Let me explain. First of all, one is accustomed to faux voices singing Coward. The enchanting Gertrude Lawrence went from little voice, to less voice, to, alas, no voice at all during her stage and recordings career, during which she nevertheless gave much pleasure. The master himself, Sir Noël, was the most wispy of popular vocalists – a pale tenor of little quality that could not carry without amplification. Coward never made any bones about it, and I always assumed his enormous verbal wit and cunning emphasis on words and their projection were to a degree in compensation for his lack of vocal quality. In any case, it worked. If Bostridge comes from the same school, as one might argue, there is just one hitch – he has not got the genuine style, not the way with words, in the Coward sense, and seemingly has little or no ability to create sentimental effect. Such is very hard to do, when one is as self-conscious as Bostridge. Oddly enough, and contrary to expectations, he has plenty of voice for this repertory. Though an undistinguished, rather monochromatic tenor, it’s an honest one, with adequate support and projection.

So what’s the rub? Let’s take our cue from Bostridge’s own short introductory paragraph written for this collection: “My first concern while contemplating a disc of Noël Coward songs was finding a voice for them.” The voice he seems to have found is not Coward’s and surely it would always have been a search in vain – there is a Coward voice, so why look further than the master himself?

Affected, manipulated vowels (perhaps intended to sound upper-class or maybe just campy, or who knows what?); patter-song rapidity; little dynamic swells or sighs or diminuendos; self-conscious ‘phrasing,’ the god-awful need to do something with what is already well-wrought, – these do not constitute ‘style’ or the Coward ‘voice.’ I’ll be terribly blunt – they don’t amount to anything but blathering affectation, a song that is always for the singer, or to use an old-fashioned term, “fruity.” One quickly tires of Bostridge singing Bostridge in the guise of Noel Coward.

Consider the introduction to a duet scene from Bitter Sweet,

“Though there may be beauty in this land of yours,
Skies are very often dull and grey,
If I could but take that little hand of yours,
Just to lead you secretly away....” etc.
The mood set by Bostridge is strictly solipsistic: it does not project beyond the end of his nose. Yet, he is singing to his young lady and soon will move with her into the celebrated duet “I’ll See You Again,” in an arch, over arranged version that does not convince – in part because the tenor does not seem to be singing to her. Can one run off to Vienna with oneself? Ummm....interesting thought!

A little later in Bitter Sweet, the lead-in for “Ziguener,” that starts, “Many years ago,” becomes, “Many years aguh....” illustrating one of the singer’s most consistent annoyances – manipulating the natural ‘o/oh’ vowel into something oddly akin to, “aguh.” Coward’s most popular song (Winston Churchill listened to it frequently, demanded it at parties), “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” in a cutesy- kitschy, re-harmonized arrangement with sound-effects (don’t ask), is a travesty in these meddling hands. If nothing else, maestro Jeffrey Tate should have known better than to soil his reputation participating in these pathetic maneuverings. If there is one lesson to be learnt here it is this: Coward’s songs are all about words, largely in natural conversational style; if you treat them otherwise, they don’t work. Make his music honestly, for it is that to begin with!

J. A. Van Sant
Santa Fe

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):