Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Angelika Kirschlager
04 Feb 2008

Awesome Angelika Again

While I eagerly seized upon an opportunity to hear Angelika Kirschlager live for the first time, having written in very recent weeks about not one but two of the star mezzo’s current CD releases, I ventured to Frankfurt’s Alte Oper feeling a little bit like her stalker.

Above: Angelika Kirschlager

 

Appearances be damned, I simply could not pass up the chance to experience first hand a glorious voice deployed by an impeccable artist. I was the richer for the journey.

For this was not just any-old-concert of crowd pleasing arias by a much-recorded and marketed glam diva with a competent orchestra being paced by a conductor-as-time-beater. No, the program featured no less than Berlioz’ wonderfully complex and seldom-heard “Les nuits d’ete” and the band was none other than the luminous Kammerorchester Basel, led with insight and conviction by Paul McCreesh. This highly skilled musical ensemble proved a real partner in the total success of the program.

That Ms. Kirschlager is a treasurable recording artist with a rich and gorgeous tone was well known to me. Already an admirer, I was still not fully prepared for the scope of dynamic variations, the detailed musical observations, and the utterly secure vocal technique at both extremes of her range that she effortlessly commands. These six songs are anything but an “easy sing.” From the sprightly tune of the “Villanelle” to the moodiness of “Le spectre de la rose” and the haunting despair that creeps into “Au cimitiere” and “L’ile inconnue,” there is virtuoso singing (and playing) required throughout.

For not only the vocal line, but also instrumental solo lines are often fragmented, halting, and rangy in tessitura and volumes. It is a supreme challenge to make phrases, songs, and the whole shebang hang together, much less make it musical and meaningful. It is to the great credit of the singer, conductor, and the entire ensemble that they took us on a most compelling journey through each of these six pieces, by turns joyous, grief-stricken, questioning, and uplifting. Quite a range of shifting moods, that.

Everything about Ms. Kirschlager (save her exceptional talent) strikes me as untemperamental, unfussy, and unaffected. She appeared looking lovely in a modest black gown with little adornment, very light make-up, and a simple coiffure. She seems content to let the music emanate from within and provide all the glamor needed, indeed to be the evening’s raison-d’etre.

If she seemed ever so slightly uncomfortable on the platform at first, perhaps she was indisposed. Although never noticeable in her music-making, she turned upstage and let forth with some good throat-clearing coughs after songs three, four and five. And there was no hint of an encore to be offered.

She did use the music, which kept her eyes diverted to the music stand a fair amount of the time. While this did somewhat limit her contact with the audience, it did not really diminish her very real achievement communicating these musical jewels. For she was always totally in command of the material, scoring every musical and emotional moment. Surely she is going to either record these songs, or perform them again, or both. Her stylish rendition would be a most welcome addition to anyone’s CD collection.

Singing in clear, idiomatic French, I did sometimes wonder if it was wise to let final (unvoiced in normal speech) syllables go off the voice. Or to use an injected breathiness fairly frequently on selected syllables as a device for dramatic effect. Or to use the occasional backward-placed French “r.” I was seated very close and lost nothing, but I wondered how that might be telegraphing to the further reaches of the house.

But these are very very minor points that are mere blips in a wholly successful performance by a very major artist. In the flesh, Angelika Kirschlager exceeded all the high expectations that I had been promised by that first recital CD gift a friend sent me some years ago. I will assuredly not wait so long before I seek her out again.

The program framed the Berlioz with two staples of orchestral literature. The opening overture from Weber’s “Oberon” was as heady and jauntily played as I have ever heard it, while the second half consisted of the evergreen selections from Mendelssohn’s incidental music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

I honestly thought about leaving at intermission, having been quite sated by the Berlioz, but damn if I’m not glad I stayed. These pieces are popular for a reason, and no recording could do justice to my first-ever live experience with them, in which I realized a whole palette of orchestral colors and minute detail I never noticed before.

The Kammerorchester Basel is a truly fine group of players, not only technically accomplished, but (are you seated?) they are a group of professional musicians who seem to radiate a joy of playing. They brought real freshness and delight to these oft-played warhorses, yes, even (maybe especially) the Wedding March, which was marked by expansive exuberance.

The audience responded in kind with a prolonged ovation that prompted an encore, the very short “Elf’s Dance” from the same composition. Maestro McCreesh was excellent throughout in coaxing results from his orchestra, but here he turned positively playful, and with the two “false endings” turned each time to the crowd with a look of “ya think it’s over?” and then quickly turning back to conduct again. In a final tweak, the violists sprung to their feet to saw away at their penultimate tremolo, and the whole evening concluded with panache.

On a side note: Even though it was a winter Monday, it was distressing to see the hall only half full at best. The large top ring was closed off entirely and unlit, but still this was a decidedly poor showing for artists of this caliber. Time was when this Pro Arte orchestra series was so heavily subscribed that it was hard to get in. Are times changing that much?

James Sohre

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):