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

MOZART 250: the year 1767

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’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[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.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

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.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

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.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

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.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

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 Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

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.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

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.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

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.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

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.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

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.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

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 performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

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.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

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.

An English Winter Journey

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.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

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.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

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’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

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.

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):