Recently in Performances
Baritone Gareth John is rapidly accumulating a war-chest of honours. Winner of the 2013 Kathleen Ferrier Award, he recently won the Royal Academy of Music Patrons’ Award and was presented the Silver Medal by the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
This second revival of Jonathan Miller’s La bohème was the first time I had caught the production.
It’s Verdi’s bicentenary year and Rolando Villazón has two new CDs to plug — titled somewhat confusingly, ‘Villazón: Verdi’ and ‘Villazón’s Verdi’, the latter a ‘personal selection’ of favourite numbers performed by stars of the past and present.
Nicola Luisotti and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra climbed out of the War Memorial pit, braved the wind whipped bay and held spellbound an audience at Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Auditorium at UC Berkeley.
Utterly mad but absolutely right — Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos started the Glyndebourne 2013 season with an explosion. Strauss could hardly have made his intentions more clear. Ariadne auf Naxos is not “about” Greek myth so much as a satire on art and the way art is made.
“Man is an abyss. It makes one dizzy to look into it.” So utters Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, repeating what was also a recurring motif in the playwright’s own letters.
National Opera Company of the Rhine has marked this year’s Benjamin Britten celebration with a remarkably compelling, often gripping new production of the seldom-seen Owen Wingrave.
Once upon a time, Frankfurt Opera had the baddest ass reputation in Germany as “the” cutting edge producer of must-see opera.
Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto can serve as a vehicle for individual singers to make a strong impression and become afterward associated with specific roles in the opera.
Just in case we were not aware that the evening’s programme was ‘themed’, the Britten Sinfonia designed a visual accompaniment to their musical exploration of night, sleep and dreams.
Poor Aida! She never seems to have anything go her way.
Is it possible to upstage Jonas Kaufmann? Kaufmann was brilliant in this Verdi Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House, London, but the rest of the cast was so good that he was but first among equals. Don Carlo is a vehicle for stars, but this time the stars were everyone on stage and in the pit. Even the solo arias, glorious as they are, grow organically out of perfect ensemble. This was a performance that brought out the true beauty of Verdi's music.
The big names were absent: Duparc, D’Indy, Debussy, Ravel
and while Fauré, Chausson, Roussel and several members of Les Six put in an appearance, in less than familiar guises, this survey of French song of the early 20th century and interwar years deliberately took us on a journey through infrequently travelled terrain.
Composed between 1718 and 1720, Handel’s Esther is sometimes described as the ‘first English Oratorio’, but is in fact a hybrid form, mixing elements of oratorio, masque, pastoral and opera.
Hector Berlioz's légende dramatique, La Damnation de Faust, exists somewhere between cantata and opera. Berlioz's flexible attitude to dramatic form made the piece unworkable on the stages of early 19th century Paris and his music is so vivid that you wonder whether the piece needs staging at all.
St. John’s Smith Square was the site of Elizabeth Connell’s final London concert, intended as a farewell to London on her moving to Australia. It was rendered ultimately final by her unexpected death.
With the building of the Suez Canal, Egypt became more interesting to Western Europeans. Khedive Ismail Pasha wanted a hymn by Verdi for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo, but the composer said he did not write occasional pieces.
Back for its fourth revival, David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte has much charm, beauty and artistry.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro has a libretto by Lorenzo daPonte based on the French play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799).
For its world class Easter Festival, Baden-Baden mounted a Die Zauberflöte that owed more to the grey penitential doldrums of Lent than to the unbridled jubilance of re-birth.
28 Feb 2007
Nicole Cabell, St John’s Smith Square, London
The Rosenblatt Recital Series, which presents concerts around London from artists ranging from the well-known to the brand-new, last week showcased Nicole Cabell, the glamorous 29-year-old winner of the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
Accompanied by pianist Simon Lepper, the American soprano tackled an impressive variety of
repertoire. Her greatest strengths, it seems, lie in poetry and contemplative song. Three Liszt
songs – ‘Es muss ein Wunderbares sein’, ‘Die Lorelei’ and ‘Enfant, si j’étais roi’ – held the
audience spellbound as the voice seemed to become one with the accompaniment and indeed the
piece. Later in the concert, Ben Moore’s Keats setting ‘Darkling I listen’ created a similar magic.
Yet in two Puccini favourites – ‘Quando me’n vo’’ (one of Cabell’s calling cards) and ‘Chi il bel
sogno di Doretta’ — her tone was monochrome and there was little sense of character portrayal.
‘Padre, germani, addio’ from Idomeneo was imbued with urgency, while Bolcom’s ‘Amor’, was
delivered with mischievous sparkle and wit. However in Gounod’s ‘Je veux vivre’ and (as an
encore) Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’, Cabell failed to set the hall alight, despite an unfailing
sense of style and poise; her elegant, sophisticated presence just did not sit well with teenaged
heroines, nor with the child subject of three songs from Bernstein’s ‘I hate music’.
In other offerings from American music theatre, Cabell proved herself as an entertainer; she
struck just the right balance between schmaltz and musicality, a rare gift when presenting a
mixed recital programme to a largely classical audience.
This was by no means a flawless recital, and perhaps the variety of repertoire was simply too
great. Cabell’s Liszt interpretations alone proved her to be a young artist of exceptional promise;
perhaps next time she should focus on such a strength and present it to the best of her ability.