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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

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):