Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

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):