Recently in Performances
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 (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.
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