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The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..
13 Feb 2009
Fritz Wunderlich — The Legend
Some opera aficionados who take a look at the contents of this two-CD Fritz Wunderlich collection from Profil might shake their heads in bemused wonder: the German lyric tenor as Turridu, let alone Pinkerton and Rodolfo?
And if those fans don’t care for operetta, the second disc won’t persuade them to take a chance.
But they should. Profil provides scanty documentation, but the performances apparently derive from 1954-56. Wunderlich, in other words, sings in the freshest voice possible, but with the taste and elegance of his prime. And why not a tasteful, elegant Turridu sung in German (as are the Puccini selections)? Wunderlich traces a beautiful melodic line in the opening serenade, and when it comes to Turridu’s ode to wine (here called a “trinklied”), the tenor pours out that joyful richness heard in his famous versions of “Granada.” Unfortunately, that already brief number suffers a brutal cut, as does Turridu’s farewell to his mother. The duet with Santuzza whips and stings, but as Turridu’s mama has some lines, Profil should have identified the roles taken by the credited Marlies Siemeling and Ingeborg Wenglor. Theo Zilken takes Sharpless to Wunderlich’s Pinkerton, a portrayal that even en Deutsch rivals Pavarotti’s for tonal beauty with the appropriate hint of Yankee arrogance. It’s less of a surprise that Boheme’s Rodolfo fits Wunderlich like a glove, and again he has a good partner in the Marcello of Herbert Brauer, although Trude Eipperle’s Mimi can sound strained. Disc one ends with four selections from Mozart’s early Zaide, two with Maria Stader, and here Wunderlich reaffirms that he is without peer as a Mozart tenor.
Amusingly, Profil identifies the first two tracks of the 17 on disc two as being more Mascagni from Cavalleria Rusticana. “Komm in die Gondel” and “Treu sein, das liegt mir nicht” actually come from Johann Strauss II’s Eine Nacht in Venedig. The conventions of German operetta mean that for some ears, such as your reviewer’s, almost an hour of tenor numbers risks boredom, but such is Wunderlich’s grace and control that tedium never manifests itself. Surely Die Fledermaus has never heard a more attractively sung Alfred.
As mentioned above, Profil does itself and consumers no favors with the packaging. The only track listing, in painfully small font, appears on the back of the jewel box. The slim booklet merely provides only a generic biography, in German and English (of a sort).
Snap this up, Wunderlich fans who do not have the selections, and any other lovers of truly great tenor singing.