Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

J. S. Bach.  Mass in B Minor
24 Oct 2008

BACH: Mass in B minor

Bach’s monumental Mass in b minor exists in an abundant quantity of period performances to the point where one might ponder the wisdom of adding yet another to the shelf.

J. S. Bach: Mass in B Minor

The Netherlands Bach Society; Jos van Veldhoven, Director

Channel Classics CCS SA 25007 [2 SACDs]

$49.99  Click to buy

Jos van Veldhoven’s stunning performance with the Netherlands Bach Society will quickly convince, however, that there is room for one more. Van Veldhoven’s reading is unusually invigorating, often with significantly quick tempos: the “Cum sancto” dazzles and the “Et resurrexit” sizzles, while the “Pleni sunt coeli” is buoyantly Terpsichorean. Even the “Sanctus” elegantly unfolds with a fluidity that underscores its “dance.” Fast tempos elsewhere also help to make the decorative layers feel ornamental, as in the florid violin obbligato to the “Laudamus,” brilliantly played by Johannes Leertouwer. Speed for its own sake, of course, offers little reward, and there is never a trace of that here. An unusually accomplished ensemble of concertists—Johanette Zomer, Dorothee Mields, Matthew White, Charles Daniels, and Peter Harvey—never let the speed sound anything less than naturally fluent. The result is again an invigorating reading that underpins its brio with a strong sense of dance and decorative texture.

The texture of the ensemble is compellingly deployed, as well. Van Veldhoven adopts a concertists-ripieno approach that features the interplay of one-to-a-part singing and a fifteen-voice ensemble, creating color shifts and climactic shapes along the way. The interpretative reading is thoughtful, as well. For example, in the “Qui tollis” from the Gloria, the continuo bass line is inflected with a novel degree of sharp articulation. A bit jarring at the first listen, it seems to paint the “taking away the sins of the world” with a degree of sting. Tellingly, then, in the later “Crucifixus,” there is also a degree of similar bite that might underscore the intrinsic connection between the two texts.

The expressive range of the Mass is a challenge to all who take it on, but here the contemplative movements are as compelling as the animated sections. Charles Daniels’s sensitive “Benedictus” and Matthew White’s elegiac “Agnus Dei,” for instance, affectively explore the shadow side of much of the work’s exuberance with deeply moving grace.

This recording was produced with a lavish companion book containing, of course, some of the expected essays, but in large part devoted to beautiful photographs of liturgical art in the collection of the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. They and a number of images showing both Reform and Roman Catholic liturgies offer a rich visual context for a hearing of Bach’s monumental work—a stunning, collaborative counterpoint. (This same collaboration also appears in the Netherlands Bach Society’s recordings of the Christmas Oratorio and St. John Passion, both from Channel Classics, as well.) In every way, this is a recording to savor.

Steven Plank

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):