Recently in Performances
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.
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.
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’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.
Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.
On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.
19 Mar 2007
Angela Gheorghiu, Los Angeles
A near-capacity audience, expectant and enthusiastic, streamed into the Dorothy Chandler for an old-fashioned evening of operatic glamour, as Angela Gheorghiu, with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra in support, flew into town for a one night concert.
The soprano delivered on the
glamour big-time, with three gowns, glittering jewelry, and a happy, even flirty manner. She sang
beautifully too, if without the total captivation of her physical presence.
French music comprised the first half of the evening, with Eugene Kohn leading the orchestra in
a bumptious “Rakoczy March” from Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust. The musicians seemed to
need more warming up than the vocalist; the horns in particular struggled, possibly due to their
recent exertions with the LAO’s run of Tannhäuser.
Gheorghiu swept on in flaming red, and the ovation that greeted her spoke to the impression she
made with local audiences in her previous appearances with the company, as Nedda and Mimi.
She launched into the so-called “Jewel song” from Faust, a number that spotlights her easy,
bright top. Next was the program’s one rarity, “Pleurez, pleurez, mes Yeux,” from Massenet’s
El Cid. Though not the composer’s most memorable tune, the piece has enough dramatic
crescendos and darker passages to contrast well with the Gounod aria. After a gown change and
the orchestra’s tepid run-through of the Béatrice et Bénédict overture, Ms. Gheorghiu reappeared
and sang a tender “Adieu, notre petite table.” The first half ended with Ms. Gheoghiu’s
somewhat controversial essay into Carmen, but for a recital, her “Habañera” succeeded
wonderfully. She took a light-hearted approach, playful more than siren-ish, and the aria’s range
seemed to suit her well.
The second half went to Italian composers, with Kohn choosing the Mascagni overture to Le
Maschere, an unsubtle but fun piece. Gheorghiu’s Puccini Manon had a real poignance in “In
quelle trine morbide.” Then she offered one of her specialities, “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta,”
another opportunity to display her lovely top notes. She left for another gown change, and Kohn
led the orchestra, finally sounding like the excellent group that has played for James Conlon
recently, in Verdi’s overture to Les Vêpres Siciliennes. Now clad in glamorous black, with a sort
of spider web motif, Gheorghiu sang Forza’s “Pace, pace, mio dio” and closed the second half
with “Un bel di.”
These last two pointed up the relatively soft volume of Gheorghiu’s middle voice. She can be
heard, even in a larger hall such as the Chandler, but it is not until the vocal line takes her higher
that the voice has real force. Nevertheless, this listener would not trade the warm textures of her
middle voice for a pushed sound.
So a rapturous audience called Ms. Gheorghiu back for several encores. Ironically, it was in the
Lerner-Loewe “I Could have Danced All Night” that Ms Gheorghiu’s softer approach teased the
ears a bit too much, but her irresistible delight in performing the song could not be denied. She
treated the crowd as well to a Romanian song, to “Granada” and Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro,”
and finally to “Non ti scordar di me.” She then grasped the first violinist by the hand, and led the
musicians off the stage.
A delightful evening, but one that might have left some listeners eager for some heavier fare.
Perhaps on her next visit, Ms. Gheorghiu will offer a program of more challenge. And one gown
will do fine.