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

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

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):