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

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

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):