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The Importance of Being Earnest , Gerald Barry’s fifth opera, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Barbican, and was first performed in concert, Thomas Adès conducting the London premiere.
‘Beauty is the one form of spirituality that we experience through the senses.’ In Thomas Mann’s, Death in Venice, Plato’s axiom stirs the hopes of the aging, intellectually stale poet, Gustav von Aschenbach, that he may rekindle his creativity.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
There is a sense in which it all began in London, Puccini having been seized in 1900 with the idea of an opera on this subject after watching David Belasco’s play here.
The tenor that the audience most wanted to hear, Plácido Domingo, opened the vocal program with “Junto al puente de la peña” (Next to the rock bridge) from La Canción del Olvido (The song of Oblivion) by José Serrano. He sounded rested and his voice soared majestically over the orchestra.
Tucked away somewhere in the San Francisco Opera warehouse was an old John Cox production of Così fan tutte from Monte Carlo. Well, not that old by current standards at San Francisco Opera.
Rossini's Maometto Secondo is a major coup for Garsington Opera at Wormsley, confirming its status as the leading specialist Rossini house in Britain. Maometto Secondo is a masterpiece, yet rarely performed because it's formidably difficult to sing. It's a saga with some of the most intense music Rossini ever wrote, expressing a drama so powerful that one can understand why early audiences needed "happy endings" to water down its impact
I suppose it was inevitable that, in this Britten Centenary year, the 66th Aldeburgh Festival would open with Peter Grimes.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Garsington Opera at Wormsley isn’t Mozart as you’d expect but it’s true to the spirit of Mozart who loved witty, madcap japes.
What a pity! On a glorious — well, by recent English standards — summer’s day, there can be few more beautiful English countryside settings
than Glyndebourne, with the added bonus, as alas much of the audience appears
to understand it, of an opera house attached.
Described by one critic as “cosmically gifted”, during her tragically short career, American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson amazed and delighted audiences with the spellbinding beauty of her singing and the astonishing honesty of her performances.
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
“I wrote it almost without noticing.” So Verdi declared when reminded of his eighth — and perhaps least frequently performed, opera, Alzira. One might say that, since he composed the work, no-one else has much noticed either.
Just when you thought the protagonist was Hoffmann! Who, rather what stole the show?
When is verismo verily veristic? Or what is a virginal girl dressed in communion white doing in the two murderous acts of the Los Angeles Opera’s current production of Tosca? And why does she sing the shepherd's song?
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Wagner’s Lohengrin is not an unfamiliar visitor to the UK thanks,
in the main, to Elijah Moshinsky’s perennial production at Covent Garden.
Philip Glass's The Perfect American at the ENO in London is a visual treat, but the libretto is mind-numbingly anodyne.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and
Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.
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.