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It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain. And, if the second half of the programme - 20th-century American classics with the odd folky diversion - did feel a little like a prolonged encore (which was followed by three further suavely delivered numbers complete with mischievous banter and musical high-jinks), this did not lessen the musical and theatrical accomplishment or the evident delight of the Wigmore Hall audience, although I confess to feeling a bit of a sugar-rush
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman
theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or
amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators
or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in
other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year 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.
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.
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
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!
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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.
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’.
Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?
Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).
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.
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.
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.
14 Jan 2009
Unjustly neglected, Dvorák’s Lieder are among his most engaging works, and this selection of some of his most important contributions to the genre demonstrate the range of emotions and the breadth of expression the composer used in these works.
Bernarda Fink, known for fine work in recordings of Händel’s operas conducted by René Jacobs, has also recorded some of Schubert’s Lieder with Gerold Huber, piano. Yet Fink’s recording of Lieder by Dvorák addresses a longstanding need in the Romantic repertoire in literature that seems suited well to her voice.
This recording spans Lieder from the entirety of Dvorák’s career, including the Pisně, Op. 2, Pisně z rukopisu Královédvorského, Op. 7, Cigánské melodie, Op. 55, V národnim tónu, Op. 73, Pisně, Op. 82, Pisně Milostné, Op. 83, and Pisně na slova Elišky Krásnohorské (without Opus number). This selection makes available approximately a third of the 93 Lieder that Dvorák composed, Of these works, the mature set of love songs, Pisně Milostné, Op. 83, offer a fine introduction to Dvorák’s Lieder. The third song, “Kol domu se ted’ potácim” (“I wander past the nearby house”) captures some of the lyricism associated with the composer and, at the same time, has an accompaniment that reflects the motion found in Dvorák’s popular Slavonic Dances and other popular works, and Fink delivers the vocal line sensitively, and Vignoles provides a solid accompaniment. Almost familiar sounding, this song is typical of Dvorák’s style and brings to mind the echoes of folksong that are part of some of Brahms’s contributions to the genre.
Such resemblances occur throughout Dvorák’s songs, which also reflect the modal inflections characteristic of his style. While not overtly imitating folksong, as occurs more often with Mahler, Dvorák makes use of such a stylistic element to underscore his text, which is presented here in Czech, with translations in German, French, and English in parallel columns in the neat booklet bound with the recording. In those works designated as related to folk music, such as V národnim tónu, Op. 73, Dvorák evokes the idiom subtly with conventional gestures like the triadic vocal line of the second song in the set “Žalo dievča” or the third with its inventive accompaniment. In his hands, though, such elements are not mere artifice, but woven into the structure of the music and not merely treated as an additive. Fink’s performance brings out the integrity implicit in this and other songs by Dvorák.
Such elements are more pronounced in his Cigánské melodie, Op. 55, which nominally evoke the Gypsy style. The first of the latter set (“Má piseň zas mi láskou zni,” a hymn of love, has all the intensity of an aria from one of Dvorák’s operas and demonstrate’s his fine sense of reinforcing the mood with the accompaniment. This set also includes familiar music by Dvorák, with the fourth piece being the well-known “Songs my mother taught me” (“Když mne stará marka zpivat učívala”), which Fink delivers earnestly. The other songs exhibit the exoticism of the Gypsy style through the rhythmically inventive accompaniments that suggest a dance-like response to the sung text.
In this recording Bernarda Fink makes an audible case for these excellent Lieder through her sensitive interpretation of them. The pieces she selected fit her voice well, and her sometimes understated performances allow Fink to turn phrases neatly. At the same time, her enunciation of Czech is clear and idiomatic, with accents fitting nicely into the music and phrases aptly stated. Beyond her technical finesse in these pieces, Fink’s intensity contributes to the overall quality of the recording, which deserves attention by anyone interested in Dvorák’s music.
Roger Vignoles brings to the recording his mastery of the accompaniments to create with Fink a seamless ensemble. Prominent when he needs to be and reticent where appropriate, Vignoles brings a consistent support to the musical content of the songs that transcends the technical divisions between voice and piano. Together, Fink and Vignoles achieve a balance to which some aspire and few achieve so well.
James L. Zychowicz