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

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.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Carlos Kalmar
13 Jul 2008

Grant Park Music Festival: “20th-Century Masters.”

The concert “20th-Century Masters,” presented by the Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago on 27 and 28 June 2008 featured several pieces performed for the first time under the auspices of the Festival.

Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago
Performance of 28 June 2008

Above: Carlos Kalmar, Principal Conductor

 

The first half of the program was devoted to those very works new to this venue: The Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for Strings by Ralph Vaughan Williams was followed by Les Illuminations by Benjamin Britten, here sung by Karina Gauvin with accompanying string orchestra. Both works were given thoughtful and well-focused performances under the direction of Carlos Kalmar, Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival. After intermission Béla Bártok’s Concerto for Orchestra added yet another dimension to the variety encompassed in this program of innovative works composed during the first five decades of the past century.

The soft beginning of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia indicated, from the start, a controlled and sensitive performance by the string sections under Kalmar’s leadership. The clarity of playing by individualized segments emphasized the effect of groups within a larger composition. In the first part of the piece the alternations between smaller string groups and full orchestra were seamless. As an ensemble, the players succeeded in emphasizing the harmonic complexity of Vaughan Williams’s own variations balanced against the theme derived from Tallis. During the middle section of the Fantasia the solo playing, especially by the lead violist and principal violinist, achieved a thematic counterpoint and repetition as echoed by other players with successive support from the whole orchestra. Just as individual lines were varied leading into the final segment, one could sense Kalmar’s shaping of the gradual descent into a distended conclusion. A final flourish of melodic repeat by soloists as well as the full orchestra moved with great effect toward the inexorable and fittingly delicate ending.

The following work in the program, Britten’s Les Illuminations, was noteworthy for its committed performances by both vocal soloist and accompanying players. From the first declaration of the repeated verse “J’ai seul la clef de cette parade” (“I alone have the key to this parade”) Karina Gauvin established a tone of authority and privileged vision of the world about which she sang. Set to a selection of texts derived from two poetic cycles by Arthur Rimbaud, Britten chose poems which move in tone from that of an ecstatic visionary to a mood of dejected resignation. Gauvin used her secure vocal range to stunning effect in order both to comment with the ironic distance of an observer’s voice and to fill out individual roles or types portrayed in the vision she narrated. After the introductory “Fanfare,” distinguished by Gauvin’s memorable phrasing and the violin’s solo, the extended section “Villes” (“Towns”) depicted humanity caught up in both progress and decay as a symbol of the contemporary city. As she intoned here the litany of contrasts between the ancient and the modern, Gauvin accelerated in tempo to catch the near breathless depiction of lyrical complexity. While hovering above society in the poem “Phrase” (“Strophe”), the soprano’s quiet introductory tones were capped by the impeccable high notes of the concluding “et je danse” (“and now I dance”). Gauvin adapts her voice to the spirit of each piece, so that she gave an, at times, bell-like rendition to the poem “Antique” (“Antiquity”), whereas softer, more lyrical phrasing was evident in “Royauté” (“Royalty”). The movements of a boat’s prow rising and falling in “Marine” (“Seascape”) were effectively matched by Gauvin’s effortless scales and runs, the piece ending with a single, emphatic note on the last vowel of “tourbillons de lumière” (“whirlpools of light”). The struggles between elemental nature and human efforts, foolish and tawdry, come to a resolution in the final two poems, “Parade” and “Départ” (“Departure”). In the first of these pieces Gauvin’s communication of emotion through song was illustrated repeatedly. Her skill at acting was also clear in a phrase such as “la grimace enragée” (“the furious grimace”), in which rage seemed to suffuse her glance. The song ended with Kalmar’s especially sensitive direction of the strings supporting Gauvin in the last repetition of the “key to this parade.” The concluding poem “Départ” gave the singer yet further opportunity to display lyrical differentiation as tempos slowed gradually toward a resigned statement of weariness in the phrase “Assez connu” (“Enough known”). It should be noted here that Gauvin sang the text of the entire work from memory.

The final piece of the evening, Bártok’s Concerto for Orchestra, was given a masterful interpretation under Kalmar’s direction. After a subdued start in the opening Andante, individual sections of the orchestra blended effectively without sounding overly controlled. The string section was brought to a shimmer before the dramatic ending of the first movement. In the second movement, Allegretto scherzando, the paired instruments played in skillful duets, the bassoons standing out here especially. The final three movements, each shaped in keeping with Bártoks’s markings, showcased individual groups of instruments as punctuated by sweeping phrases from contrasting sections of the orchestra. The intensification of the final movement was not only credible, it also brought the individual sections back to a unified orchestral force. The performance was a fitting conclusion to the evening as titled.

Salvatore Calomino

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):