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

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Bampton Classical Opera’s third Young Singers’ Competition takes place this autumn, culminating in a public final at Holywell Music Room, Oxford on November 19. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Peter Kellner announced as winner of 2018 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship

Independent Opera (IO) was very present at the Wigmore Hall last week. On Thursday 5 October, IO announced 26 year old Slovakian bass Peter Kellner as the winner of the 2018 Wigmore Hall/IO Voice Fellowship, a two-year award of £10,000 plus professional mentoring from IO and the Wigmore Hall. A graduate of the Konzervatórium Košice Timonova and the Mozarteum University Salzburg, Peter is currently a member of Oper Graz in Austria where later this season he will sing the title role of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Georg Philipp Telemann: Brockes-Passion
19 Mar 2009

TELEMANN: Brockes-Passion

Heinrich Brockes’s famous poetic setting of the Passion, Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (1712), was one of the most significant devotional texts of its day in Germany.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Brockes-Passion

Birgitte Christensen, Lydia Teuscher, sopranos; Marie-Claude Chappuis, mezzosoprano; Donát Havár, Daniel Behle, tenors; Johannes Weisser, baritone; RIAS Kammerchor; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin; René Jacobs, director.

Harmonia Mundi HMC 902013.14

$34.99  Click to buy

A so-called “passion oratorio,” Brockes’s text is a fully versified account of the Passion of Jesus, harmonized from the various Gospel accounts. The perhaps more familiar model from Bach’s two passions is that of the “oratorio passion,” where a single Biblical account is preserved verbatim, with modern poetry and chorales interposed in the form of arias and choral or congregational song. If less familiar in our day, nevertheless Brockes’s text in its own time achieved great visibility through its frequent publication as a devotional text and in musical settings by Keiser (1712), Telemann (1716), Handel (1716), Mattheson (1718), Stölzel (1725), and Fasch (1723). Portions of the poem also appear in Bach’s St. John Passion.

Brockes was a native of Hamburg and from 1720 an active member of the government. Telemann also had a long association with Hamburg as Kantor and Music Director, appointments that began in 1721 and likely reveal the influence of the poet. Several years ealier (1716), Telemann had given performances of his setting of the Brockes Passion in Frankfort, where he was then municipal music director and chapel master at the Barfüsserkirche; these performances were repeated in Hamburg from 1718-1720. Thus, in at least a professional capacity, Telemann and Brockes would have been well known to each other. In Hamburg the requirements for new Passion settings would see Telemann compose over forty liturgical passions, a prolific response to a common Kantorial need. But the setting of the Brockes Passion has gained a significance and prominence beyond its sibling works. Consequently, this excellent new recording by René Jacobs and his forces is an especially welcome one.

Jacobs has shaped his reading of Telemann’s colorful score with a compelling dramatic sense. Somewhat surprisingly, the absence of prose in the libretto does not impede the dynamism and forward motion of the narrative, and the arias themselves are frequently short and rarely da capo. Occasionally units cohere to create something akin to a “cantata-as-scene.” For instance, early in the oratorio, Jesus pleads for mercy in a lyric aria (“Mein Vater! Schau, wie ich mich quäle”), followed by his recounting of the torments he bears in an accompanied recitative; this is then followed by a return of the aria music to a second stanza of text, reminiscent of structural patterns found in cantatas. We may tarry a bit in the “cantata,” but more typical is a sense of dramatic impulsion, animated by strong, vivid, and quick contrasts. For instance, following Peter’s denial, the penitent disciple sings of his regret in lamentative tones, which turn menacing with the text’s turn to Satan’s laugh. Similarly strong contrasts are found throughout the oratorio, including in the unusual attention given to Judas’s tortured resolution to hang himself, immediately followed by the Daughter of Zion’s pastoral reflection on God’s grace.

Brockes’s text imagery is drawn with a bold pen. Here, in an aria sung by a Faithful Soul, you get both an example of the vivid nature of the language and the characteristic dynamic of contrast:

His [Jesus’s] bloodstained back resembles Heaven
Adorned with countless rainbows,
Like signs of pure grace,
Which, where the guilty flood of our sins runs dry,
Shows us the radiant sun of his dear love
In the streams of his blood.

The vividness of Brockes’s language is well served by Telemann’s colorful approach to the score. Obbligato instrumental lines for oboe, flutes, recorders, and various strings are frequent, often dramatically symbolic, and challenging. Moreover, the orchestra is also given special effects, such as the haunting piercing of Jesus’s flesh in the sound of ponticello string bowing. Certainly one of the more impressive aspects of the recording is the brilliant playing of the orchestral players of Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, with oboist Xenia Löffler offering particularly expressive performances. For their part, the solo singers uniformly embrace dramatic flexibility and fluency of idiom, and do so with compelling expertise—qualities that remind, as well, of the distinctive singing career of Jacobs himself.

Our deep attachment to Bach’s Passions may blind us to the broader contexts in which these beloved works arose. Telemann’s setting of the Brockes Passion is a masterful example of the riches that await our moving beyond the seasonally familiar; Jacobs’s performance is a most gratifying way to begin that journey.

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):