Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Elora Summer Festival logo
28 Aug 2007

The Dream of Gerontius Opens Elora Summer Festival

Written in 1900, Elgar’s Gerontius expresses the universal and existentialist struggle of death and rebirth. The allegorical significance of the piece touches on a need for faith, self-discovery, and acceptance of the world around us.

Edward Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38
Elora Summer Festival, 13 July 2007

Kimberly Barber, mezzo-soprano, Michael Colvin, tenor, Tyler Duncan, bass-baritione, The Elora Festival Singers, The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, The Festival Orchestra, Noel Edison, conductor.

 

The Elora Festival, noted for the collaborative efforts of many great performers and organizations opened its 2007 festival with Elgar’s magnificent creation. Noel Edison masterfully directed the Elora Festival Singers, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and the Elora Festival Orchestra with brilliance, aesthetic dedication, and a tender yet strict hand. The sensitivity he allotted the soloists is to be commended and his understanding of the deeper meaning of this piece brilliantly shone in his exquisite control of the orchestral fabric. The overture began with warm and burnished hues, painfully weeping celli and well-balanced dark ombra. The Elgarian timbres were specifically expressed by each orchestral section, most specifically in the strings as they exemplified the ethereal and transcendent space Elgar demanded in order to create the vastness of his masterpiece. Edison paid intelligent heed to the dynamic inflection and allowed the orchestra to create layered effects leading to Gerontius’ beautiful entry cry of “Jesu, Maria—I am near to death.”

Noel-Edison.png
Noel Edison, Artistic Director of the Elora Festival

Gerontius, sung with elegance and the purity of lyricism by Irish-Canadian tenor, Michael Colvin, is a taxing role that requires an almost Verdian thrust but also the most expansive sense of lyrical control. Colvin’s diction was brilliant and his use of text was especially moving. A free and impressive upper register, the squillo of his tenore bruciato added to the dramatic presence of Gerontius. Although this is a concert work, Colvin was continually in character and indeed most musically presented.

Michael-Colvin.png
Tenor, Michael Colvin was a sensitive and believable Gerontius.

The combined choruses blended well, with precise diction. Each section represented an individual unit that contributed to the larger whole and there was never a sense of unbalance. Edison led them beautifully toward their inflection of “Of all that makes me man….and crueler still, a fierce and restless fright begins to fill the mansion of my soul,” where Elgar at once transforms the music by imbuing atonal suggestions, with turbulent and exciting orchestration leading into an ethereal moment of relaxation.

The entrance of the priest was significant and wonderfully approached by bass-baritone, Tyler Duncan. Perhaps the most impressive performer of the group, his voice spun almost impeccably and was never pushed but floated on the breath with precision and musical inflection. Impressive indeed for a lower voice type to exude this type of elegance, there was never any heaviness and if so it was created by timbre, not pushing or sometimes, what I call, “barking” baritones.

Tyler-Duncan.png
Tyler Duncan (bass-baritone) was the surprise of the evening.

A most memorable moment at the point where Gerontius’ words mimic those of Christ in his last moments, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, into Thy hands…” was so utterly moving that every hair on one’s head stood completely erect. Duncan’s expression of the Priests, “Go forth in the name…” was well-expressed as one of Elgar’s most majestic melodies.

kimberly-barber.png
Canadian mezzo, Kimberly Barber astonishingly represented God’s Angel.

Part II offered a most expressive response to Part I and much of that is owed to the performance of the Angel by mezzo-soprano, Kimberly Barber. Her presence on-stage was riveting and even though she was not in costume one saw her presence as the Angel, purely and physically. Her eyes never wavered in their expressive depth and she captivated. Her’s was the presence of calm and salvation. Her voice blended liquidly with the chorus of Angelicals her inflection and diction was precise. Her sound was never pushed and her rich and luscious mezzo was used in a dramatic way, never singing just to project but rather to express the meaning of the musical lines and the Angel’s important message. Her “Softly and Gently,” was truly one of the most compassionate and hair-raising moments of the entire performance. As she sang, “In my most loving arms I now enfold thee, and o’er the penal waters, as they roll, I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee,” she moved many in the audience to tears. Barber enfolded us with her eloquence and in the end one forgot that this was a singer performing a musical role, but really Elgar’s Angel.

Mary-Lou P. Vetere, 2007

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):