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

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

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’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

G. F. Handel
06 May 2008

The Collegiate Chorale: Jupiter in Argos

Over the years, one tried and true method of packing audiences in to the concerts of Robert Bass’s Collegiate Chorale has been to present concert opera with impressive soloists.

G. F. Handel: Jupiter in Argos

Callisto: Elizabeth Futral; Diana: Heidi Grant Murphy; Iside: Kristine Jepson; Jupiter: Rufus Müller; Osiris: Wayne Tigges; Lycaone: Valerian Ruminski. The Collegiate Chorale directed by Robert Bass. Avery Fisher Hall, performance of April 28.

 

I’ve delighted in their presentations of Weber’s Oberon (Lauren Flanigan as the Caliph’s daughter!), Dvorak’s Dmitry (Martina Arroyo as a Polish princess! — a line that brought down the house), Szymanowsky’s King Roger, and many of the Verdi works that give choral forces a workout. Handel might be a worthy choice for such a group — his dramatic oratorios are terrific music, terrific drama, largely unfamiliar to New York audiences, and give pride of place, not to say a spectacular starring role, to the chorus, though in my experience of Handel chorale, less is usually more, and a proficient choir of two dozen is more effective than a group of fifty or a hundred.

However, bypassing the superb dramatic oratorios heard far too infrequently (Saul, for instance, or Athaliah, or Susannah, or Belshazzar, or — when did anyone last perform Alexander Balas?), Bass chose this spring to give the American premiere of the recently unearthed Giove in Argos (Jupiter in Argos), a pasticcio — that is, a work cobbled together mostly from pre-existing music by contract to a company of musicians while Handel’s true creative attentions were elsewhere. For a group with the Collegiate Chorale’s credentials and Bass’s expertise — undoubtedly fine but with little experience in the once neglected, now tremendously popular area of baroque opera — it may not have been the wisest possible choice.

The choruses were pleasing, but they played a comparatively small part in the evening’s entertainment, while Bass made the drastic decision — defensible thirty years ago, but way out of line today — to snip nearly all the solo arias of their B sections or their da capo ornamented repeats. This may have pleased the unions, but far too often it left hearers unsatisfied by singers who were barely warming to their tasks of characterization and ornament when they were obliged to sit down. Our ears were left wobbling by holes that had been dug in the path and were never to be filled. It was tatterdemalion Handel, even allowing for the high quality of some singing and of many individual arias familiar from other works.

For the pasticcio plot, someone devised a properly pasticcio legend combining the Ovidian myths of two of Jupiter’s amours — Io (transformed into a cow, fled to Egypt, and identified by later Greeks with the cow-headed goddess Isis) and Callisto (transformed, with her son, into bears, and placed among the stars). Setting two myths at once allowed Jupiter (tenor Rufus Müller) to get himself caught by each lady wooing the other, with the usual sitcom shenanigans and a happy-ish end of his going home to his wife and leaving them both alone.

The delight of the evening was Kristine Jepson as Io/Isis; her cool, lovely, hall-filling mezzo was the reason I was glad to be at this concert and nowhere else in New York. She possesses both the crowd-thrilling agility of ornament for Handel’s fiery arias (jealous rage or cries of alarm), she can sing quietly of despair or yearning, the simple, pensive beauty of her perfect technique making time seem to stop. This is the quality all great Handel singers must possess — the ability to draw you within their hearts, to comprehend the emotions being expressed, and Jepson has it.

Elizabeth Futral was, as usual, the most elegantly dressed of the performers; she sang Callisto with her accustomed assurance, a pretty way with runs and ornaments, a light touch on the flowering vocal line. Heidi Grant Murphy’s voice always seems bland and ill-supported; her Diana lacked a goddess’s authority. Rufus Müller, as the hapless king of the gods, drew as much sympathy for his harassed facial expressions as for his facility with Handel’s tenor lines. Wayne Tigges sang a decent Osiris but Valerian Ruminski, whose rich bass rumble I have admired on bel canto occasions, seemed off his game or out of his proper repertory here.

John Yohalem

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):