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

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Elza van den Heever (soprano) [Photo © Rozarii Lynch]
19 Aug 2008

Singers from South Africa and Sweden win Seattle Wagner Competition

A soprano originally from South Africa and a tenor from Sweden sang their way to top honors in the 2008 International Wagner Competition staged by the Seattle Opera on August 16 in Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, the company's handsome home.

Seattle Opera’s International Wagner Competition
August 16, 2008, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

Above: Elza van den Heever (soprano)
All photos © Rozarii Lynch courtesy of Seattle Opera

 

At the finals Elza van den Heever, a former Adler fellow at the San Francisco Opera, sang "Dich, teure Halle" from Tannhäuser and "Einsam in trüben Tagen" from Lohengrin. Sweden's Michael Weinius, winner of Gösta Winbergh and Birgit Nilsson prizes in his homeland, sang Walther's "Preislied" from Die Meistersinger and "Amfortas! Die Wunde" from Wagner's final opera Parsifal.

Van den Heever, a woman of tall elegance, gained praise in 2007 when she replaced the scheduled Donna Anna in a San Francisco Don Giovanni. She sang her first aria with the requisite exuberance and underscored the poignant melancholy of Elsa's recollections.

Michael_Weinius.pngMichael Weinius (tenor)
Weinius brings the richness of the baritone that he once was to his work as a tenor and his choice of the Parsifal excerpt documented the intellect that goes into his work. Whether, however, his voice is large enough for American houses remains to be seen. In the 2900-seat McCaw he was at best adequate.

Van den Heever and Weinius each received an award of $15,000 — along with prestige that will greatly further their careers. At the finals Van den Heever was also voted Audience Favorite. The German mezzo, Nadine Weissmann, was chosen its favorite by the members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for the program.

Nadine_Weissmann.pngNadine Weissmann (mezzo-soprano)
At the finals Weissmann sang "Weiche, Wotan, Weiche" from Das Rheingold and Waltraute's narrative from Götterdämmerung. Weissman, who has sung several supporting roles in Wagner performances, is also highly regarded for her incarnation of Carmen. At the competition it was her command of the tragic undertones of Waltraute's account that was impressive.

Further finalists were American tenor Erin Caves, already a familiar figure in German opera houses, tenor Jason Collins, who has sung numerous supporting roles at Seattle Opera, Australian mezzo Deborah Humble, a member of the Hamburg Opera, British bass-baritone Darren Jeffery and Dresden bass Peter Lobert.

"The judges agreed that we had eight fine finalists," said OS general director Speight Jenkins in announcing the winners on the McCaw stage. " I feel that the level was even higher this year than in the first competition in 2006," said Jenkins." It was a hard-fought decision for the two winners, but a great one."

Israel's Ascher Fisch, SO principal guest conductor, was on the podium for the finals. He opened the program with an appropriately festive account of the Meistersinger Overture.

Jenkins and Fisch selected 30 semi-finalists from the 50 singers who had submitted audition recordings. They chose the eight finalists from this group at auditions in Munich and New York. The singers were between 25 and 39 years old and had not appeared in more than one major Wagner role in a major opera house. These competitiors arrived in Seattle a week before the finals for coaching with SO staff members David McDade and Philip Kelsey and also with Fisch.

Judges for the 2008 competition were Hans-Joachim Frey, general director of Theater Bremen, Wagner superstar Ben Heppner, tenor Peter Kazaras, now artistic director of SO's Young Artists Program, Pamela Rosenberg, former general director of San Francisco Opera and now managing director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Stephen Wadsworth, director of six SO Wagner stagings, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, great-granddaughter of the composer and Bayreuth artistic consultant.

Founded in 1963, the Seattle has gained a reputation as one of the world's leading Wagner companies. Three production of the entire Ring des Nibelungen have been performed by the SO in 35 cycles since 1975.

The competition was made possible by a grant Seattle's Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. The Simonyi grant also supports other education outreach at Seattle Opera.

Detailed information on the program can be found on the Seattle Opera website, http://www.seattleopera.org.


Adding to the artistic excitement of the competition was the August 14 recital by Ben Heppner that brought a crowd to McCaw Hall. Born and raised in neighboring British Columbia, Heppner sang his first Walther von Stolzing in a Seattle Opera Meistersinger in 1989. He has been closely associated with the company since then and made his role debut as Tristan there in 1998. Unfortunately, at the recital Heppner was suffering from the effects of an laryngitis attack two days earlier and was not in best voice.

In the German section that opened the program — Wagner's "Wesendonck" Lieder, plus songs by Schubert and List, his voice sounded strained and metallic and was capable of only limited dynamic coloring. Far better were the five songs by Henri Duparc that opened the second half of the program. Here Heppner again sang with radiant warmth.

Heppner then turned master entertainer in several English-language songs. He tore off his tie, opened his collar and engaged the audience — to its delight — in easy banter between such favorites as Earnest Charles' "Let My Song Fill Your Heart" and "The House on the Hill," along with Sigmund Romberg's "Serenade" and Oley Speaks' "Sylvia." And although he sang Nicholas Brodzky's "Be My Love" with dedication, his work with the song did not cause elders in the audience to forget the manner in which Mario Lanza had belted out this once-popular song.

In half a dozen encores Heppner included two of Wagner's "greatest hits:" Sigmund's "Winterstürme" from Walküre and Walther's "Preislied" from Meistersinger. Lehar's "Yours is My Heart Alone" was warmly welcomed by the audience.

Heppner_Seattle.pngBen Heppner and Asher Fisch in Recital

Yet one worries about the difficulties that frequent plague Heppner — such as the Tristan cancellations at the Metropolitan Opera last season. At only 52, he should still be free of such problems.

In the recital Heppner's impressive partner at the piano was SO principal conductor Asher Fisch, SO artist of the year in 2006/2007 and for over a decade music director of Tel Aviv's Israel Opera.

The two artists performed on a stage set for Verdi's Aïda, which removed them from the front of the McCaw stage.

Wes Blomster

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):