Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Leoš Janáček
03 Sep 2008

JANÁČEK: Osud

Janáček’s music has already been well served in this year’s Proms in a memorable evening conducted by Boulez (reviewed on this site by Anne Ozorio).

Leoš Janáček: Osud [Fate]

Štefan Margita (Živný), Amanda Roocroft (Mila Válková), Rosalind Plowright (Mila’s Mother), Aleš Briscein (Dr Suda), Aleš Jenis (Lhotský/Verva), Owen Gilhooly (Konečný), Ailish Tynan (Miss Stuhlá), Martina Bauerová (Miss Pacovská/Součková); George Longworth (Doubek as a boy); BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlavek (conductor).
Royal Albert Hall, London, 21 August 2008

 

On the present occasion, it was the phenomenal virtuoso composition that is Osud that was delivered with panache and confidence by Bělohlavek and his forces. Bělohlavek had clearly lavished much attention on the score, for passages that could so easily have become jumbled, such as the complex choral opening of the final act, were models of lucidity.

Sir Charles Mackerras brought Osud to the attention of non-Czech audiences with his 1989 ground-breaking English-language Chandos recording (CHAN3029). The story is a fascinating one, featuring three main protagonists. The composer Živný has a complex relationship, and a child, with Míla. At the opening of Act One, they are estranged, and Živný has begun to compose an opera in which he therapeutically attempts to write out his jealousies and frustrations; by the end of Act One, they have effected a reconciliation. The third major character is Míla’s mother, who descends into insanity in Act Two, an act that ends in a double tragedy. The third act centres on Živný’s attempts to finish his opera (due for imminent performance). Tragedy again strikes.

Janáček’s music includes the polar extremes of unbearably poignancy and the bright-sunshine, carefree life of the opening scene (the latter set on the promenade of a spa resort). The composer’s ability to effect quicksilver emotional changes in a fraction of the blink of an eye needs equivalent quicksilver responses from the orchestra, and Bělohlavek indeed ensured that his was the case. The opera lasts around the 80-minute mark, and yet is still split into three acts (called, ‘novelesque scenes’ — the breaks between these were minimal).

The soprano Amanda Roocroft, who took the essential role of Míla, was simply stunning, both visually and aurally. Her voice tone can be meltingly gorgeous, while always suggesting the youth and emotional impetuosity of her character. The (relatively) long eleventh scene of Act One is a duet between Mila and Živný, and despite Štefan Margita’s clear affinity with his role (he has actually recorded it), it was Roocroft who was the clear star. Still, Margita found a real vein of lyricism in the first scene of Act 2, coupling this with expert pitching and remarkably clean slurs.

Talking of stars, the name of Rosalind Plowright seems like a stellar blast from the past. Plowright has lost none of her hypnotic stage presence. Her voice could be huge, with a wobble that was more impressive than off-putting, a cutting edge that was never unpleasant and a delivery of the key word ‘Fatum’ that was positively spine-tingling.

There were other stars of the evening, too. Verva (baritone Aleš Jenis) gave a memorable imitation of a child’s voice, his inverted commas as he did so never in doubt, while Ailish Tynan as Miss Stuhlá confirmed the positive impressions she left after Gergiev’s Mahler Eighth Symphony at St Paul’s Cathedral recently. Aleš Briscein was a confident Dr Suda.

The chorus (BBC Singers) was impeccably drilled, as were the many soloists culled therefrom (eleven named parts, plus sundry schoolgirls and teachers).

The first part of the concert consisted of the complete set of Op. 46 Slavonic Dances by Dvořák. Infectious music, to be sure, but a sequence of eight dances in a row seemed a tad too much of a good thing, too many bon-bons in one sitting to be good for the digestion.

Colin Clarke

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):