Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Otfrid von Weissenburg: Liber Evangeliorum: Verse and Music From the Age of Charlemagne
08 Feb 2009

Liber Evangeliorum: Verse and Music From the Age of Charlemagne

The emergence of a standardized western liturgy with a uniform chant repertory, while to a significant degree realized, neither completely silenced regional liturgies nor extinguished the additions to liturgical practice that comprise much medieval creativity.

Otfrid von Weissenburg: Liber Evangeliorum — Verse and Music From the Age of Charlemagne

Ensemble Officium; Wilfried Rombach, Director

Christophorus CHR 77279 [CD]

$20.99  Click to buy

The Liber Evangeliorum by the ninth-century monk of Wessenburg Abbey, Otfrid, is a rich example of the creative spirit seeking an outlet. Otfrid’s work provides in vernacular Old High German a poetic text of Gospel narratives, “harmonized” from the different Gospel accounts. Significantly, this text survives in a source that gives St. Gall neumes with some of the verses, confirming that, at least at one time, the text was sung, and in a liturgical context. And it is the challenge of this possibility that the splendid Ensemble Officium embraces.

Ensemble Officium’s recording reconstructs possible musical versions of some of Otfrid’s verses and interweaves them with Gregorian responsories and hymns for Advent and Christmas, and in so doing creates something of the idea of an embellished Vigils liturgy as might have been experienced in the St. Gall orbit. The liturgical reconstruction is “loose” — the chants are drawn from diverse days, for instance — but the interplay of vernacular lessons (Otfrid’s texts) and canonical liturgical material is engaging and resembles the dynamic of lection and lyrical response at the core of the night office.

The recreations of Otfrid’s verses favor variety. In some instances the texts are spoken, in others they are sung to recitational chant. In still others, the verses are spoken to the improvised accompaniment of fiddles, occasionally (and richly) in counterpoint with polyphonic choral lines. The renditions of the liturgical chants are also interestingly conceived, often with instrumental drones and counterpoints, as well as polyphonic vocal layering.

The ensemble is a mixed personnel with both men and women singers. And while the execution is uniformly impressive, the sound of the women is particularly stunning, with pure, bright, highly focused tone. Some of the chants are lengthy — the invitatory “Praeoccupemus” approaches ten minutes, for instance — but the tone and approach are entrancing and hypnotic, with little temptation to check the clock.

Liber Evangelorium is imaginatively conceived and engagingly rendered. Given the amount of interpretation and reconstruction required—the musical notation is imprecise, the performance practice flexible, the liturgical context uncertain — there are ample opportunities for missteps. The historical record offers little room for certainties here, but the aesthetic results of the program and its performance are most assuredly gratifying.

One drawback to the CD, however, is the relative lack of translations. All of the texts have a modern German translation printed; Otfrid’s texts have thumbnail sketches in English and French, as well; the liturgical texts are translated in German without the summaries. Given the care that has been taken in creating the liturgical dynamic, broader access to the text would seem a fitting improvement.

Steven Plank

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):