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“Man is an abyss. It makes one dizzy to look into it.” So utters Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, repeating what was also a recurring motif in the playwright’s own letters.
National Opera Company of the Rhine has marked this year’s Benjamin Britten celebration with a remarkably compelling, often gripping new production of the seldom-seen Owen Wingrave.
Once upon a time, Frankfurt Opera had the baddest ass reputation in Germany as “the” cutting edge producer of must-see opera.
Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto can serve as a vehicle for individual singers to make a strong impression and become afterward associated with specific roles in the opera.
Just in case we were not aware that the evening’s programme was ‘themed’, the Britten Sinfonia designed a visual accompaniment to their musical exploration of night, sleep and dreams.
Poor Aida! She never seems to have anything go her way.
Is it possible to upstage Jonas Kaufmann? Kaufmann was brilliant in this Verdi Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House, London, but the rest of the cast was so good that he was but first among equals. Don Carlo is a vehicle for stars, but this time the stars were everyone on stage and in the pit. Even the solo arias, glorious as they are, grow organically out of perfect ensemble. This was a performance that brought out the true beauty of Verdi's music.
The big names were absent: Duparc, D’Indy, Debussy, Ravel
and while Fauré, Chausson, Roussel and several members of Les Six put in an appearance, in less than familiar guises, this survey of French song of the early 20th century and interwar years deliberately took us on a journey through infrequently travelled terrain.
Composed between 1718 and 1720, Handel’s Esther is sometimes described as the ‘first English Oratorio’, but is in fact a hybrid form, mixing elements of oratorio, masque, pastoral and opera.
Hector Berlioz's légende dramatique, La Damnation de Faust, exists somewhere between cantata and opera. Berlioz's flexible attitude to dramatic form made the piece unworkable on the stages of early 19th century Paris and his music is so vivid that you wonder whether the piece needs staging at all.
St. John’s Smith Square was the site of Elizabeth Connell’s final London concert, intended as a farewell to London on her moving to Australia. It was rendered ultimately final by her unexpected death.
With the building of the Suez Canal, Egypt became more interesting to Western Europeans. Khedive Ismail Pasha wanted a hymn by Verdi for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo, but the composer said he did not write occasional pieces.
Back for its fourth revival, David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte has much charm, beauty and artistry.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro has a libretto by Lorenzo daPonte based on the French play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799).
For its world class Easter Festival, Baden-Baden mounted a Die Zauberflöte that owed more to the grey penitential doldrums of Lent than to the unbridled jubilance of re-birth.
Once Berkeley Opera, renamed West Edge Opera, this enterprising company offers the Bay Area’s only serious alternative to corporate opera, to wit Bonjour M. Gauguin.
In the first of pianist Julius Drake’s three-part series,
‘Perspectives’, our gaze was directed at Gustav Mahler’s eclectic musical
responses to human experiences: from the trauma and distress of anguished love
to the sweet contentment of true friendship, from the agonised introspection of
the artist to the diverse dramas of human interaction.
The Los Angeles opera company marketed its spring production of Rossini's La Cenerentola as Cinderella though there is no opera by that name. The libretto of La Cenerentola is not the Cinderella story we know.
The Paris Opéra has not staged a full Ring Cycle since 1957, but its current season will conclude with a correction of this grand operatic gap.
07 Dec 2008
Glyndebourne on Tour — Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Glyndebourne Touring Opera has long been bringing its wares to the further reaches of the southern United Kingdom and its current package of Hansel und Gretel, Carmen and The Magic Flute has been drawing good crowds from Norwich in the east to Plymouth in the south-west.
GTO is all about looking to the future: many of the young singers in the
principal roles are getting their first chance to sing with a company of this
standard, knowing that from here they may, if good enough, progress to not
only the Glyndebourne Festival itself but also other major houses. Also, the
operas are supported by the excellent GT Chorus, and a quick look back
through their rosters over the years will reveal both in the Chorus and the
supporting singers some well known names — the likes of Felicity Lott,
Jill Gomez and Ryland Davies, to name just three who have gone on to
The other great thing about the Glyndebourne “brand” is their
reputation for musical quality and long hours of essential rehearsal time,
both assets that many similarly-sized outfits struggle to achieve in these
straightened times. Young singers need nurturing, and given time to develop
their technical and dramatic skills; I this regard I can think of few better
companies than GTO. What a touring company can also do is teach them the
other vital skill of the successful singer: working to the highest standard
in testing circumstances. Long miles on the road, strange theatres, sometimes
inadequate facilities, unknown audiences and, for many, the need to learn two
or more parts from scratch — and then there is the singing itself.
All these skills were on display recently at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth
where this writer caught both Flute and Carmen playing to
full enthusiastic houses at the end of GTO’s Autumn Tour. Each was
expertly directed, idiomatically conducted and played, and offered a high
standard of vocalism. If Mozart’s renowned pot pourri of fairy-tale,
panto, myth and Masonic ritual relied almost entirely on elegant 18th century
costumes and a clever lighting rig for its effects, GTO brought the versatile
set of guardroom/factory with them for Bizet’s Carmen, plus
the full chorus in traditional Spanish costume. Each worked well, and if the
Plymouth stage seemed a trifle cramped for the latter opera, it was perfect
for Magic Flute. As with many of England’s modern
“one-size-fits-all” theatres, the needs of versatility can
sometimes work against the opera ideal — the Theatre Royal is a good
medium-sized hall, comfortable and modern in its facilities both front and
back stage, but acoustically offers some challenges to unamplified voices.
This showed up most in the recitatives — in both operas — where
more projection was needed than was sometimes supplied. Interestingly, this
was not a problem once the singers actually sang with orchestra in their
With so many excellent young artists on show over the two nights, one
hesitates to mention particular names, as there were absolutely no
“duds” in either pack, but this writer was not alone in noticing
the fine, resonant, easy tone of the South Korean baritone Yonghoon Lee as
Don José in the Bizet. From a hesitant first scene his voice blossomed into
something quite special as he mixed bravura passages with finely-wrought
pianissimos — a name to watch.
Theatre Royal, Plymouth. [Photo courtesy of thisisplymouth.co.uk]
Douglas Boyd (Flute) and Jakub Hrusa (Carmen) directed
the excellent GT Orchestra who never seemed to put a foot wrong in either
ensemble or obbligatos; fine playing on each night.
Sue Loder © 2008