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Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
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.
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
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.