Recently in Reviews
The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.
I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly
bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s
thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some
Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with
the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music.
His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in
C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the
Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.
Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.
‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.
This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?
A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert. Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.
On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.
On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.
When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.
It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.
Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.
This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at
’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.
With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.
When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.
Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe
Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.
Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.
Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.
A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.
The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.
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