Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.



Michael Tippett: A Child of our Time
15 Mar 2009

Tippett: A Child of Our Time

Although an ineffable aura of the 1960s emanates from Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time, its composition came at the start of WWII in Europe.

Michael Tippett: A Child of our Time

Indra Thomas, Soprano; Mihoko Fujimura, Alto; Steve Davislim, Tenor; Matthew Rose, Bass. London Symphony Chorus. London Symphony Orchestra. Sir Colin Davis, conductor.

LSO Live LS00670 [SACD]

$19.99  Click to buy

The immediate inspiration was Kristallnacht, the violent Nazi outburst motivated by the assassination of a German official by a desperate Polish Jew. Tippett struggled with a text to encompass this terrible subject, and after T. S. Eliott declined the opportunity to create one, the composer followed the poet’s advice and devised his own, a blend of his own words and those of several spirituals, such as “Deep River.”

Although the composition’s title derives from a novel by a German author (Ein Kind unserer Zeit), Tippett avoids conventional narrative, referring only briefly to the relevant historical event: “He shoots the official - but he shoots only his dark brother.” Most of the text adopts a Kahlil Gibran-type profundity.

Healing springs from the womb of time
The simple-hearted shall exult in the end

In other words, time heals all wounds, and the meek shall inherit the earth. The clarity and direct expression of the words to the spirituals comes as a welcome contrast, even as sung out by the over-enunciated, rich voices of the four soloists and chorus.

What carries the work past any perceived limitations of its text is the power of its music. Tippett sets the spirituals with exquisite taste, and he never chooses the easy route of producing ugly sounds to suggest the pain and horror of the subject. The great model seems to have been Bach’s Matthew Passion, with its urgency and somber beauty.

This live recording from December 2007 at the Barbican in London captures Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra and chorus in crisp sound; the disc is a Hybrid-SACD. Davis conducts with precision, which is most welcome in the faster, fugal passages. However, he can’t find a way to bring the hour-long work to a more forceful conclusion; it’s one of those works that simply seems to stop. Soprano Indra Thomas tends to shrillness at the top; the body of her voice is attractive. Mohoko Fujimara’s alto sound works better for the spirituals. Tenor Steve Daislim and bass Matthew Rose blend well as they join the women in the final number, “Deep River.” Elsewhere they have no choice but to sound a bit fussy when vocalizing Tippett’s text.

Criticizing Tippett’s oratorio almost places one in the painfully uncomfortable position of defending the Nazis or denigrating the artistic value of spirituals when placed alongside art music. Perhaps thankfully, much of the time Tippett’s own awkward text is incomprehensible as sung, particularly by the chorus. LSO Live does provide the text in English, with brief but informative notes by Meiron Bowen and Paul Griffith. Opportunities to hear A Child of Our Time, especially in the U.S., probably will remain rare, which is reason enough to be glad for a recording of this quality.

Chris Mullins

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):