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Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on
Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so
given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to
see three different productions within little more than a couple of
Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.
Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.
George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.
Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.
‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’
Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is
wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.
This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.
As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.
From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the
Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the
appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic
dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today,
‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in
genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.
On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.
A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.
Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.
Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.
What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.
I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s
Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The
Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and
further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic
term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.
Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical
Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the
previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final
at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the
young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.
On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.
Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.
London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.
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