Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

The Italian Opera Connection at ‘The English Versailles’: The Duchess of Buccleuch and the Georgian Stage at Boughton House

As part of its annual programme of events, Boughton House in Northamptonshire hosts ‘A Passion for Opera’, a rare exhibition portraying the musical life of Lady Elizabeth Montagu (1743–1827) and the world of Georgian operatic culture.

An interview with composer Dani Howard

The young Hong Kong-born British composer Dani Howard is having quite a busy year.

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycle

Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced both schedules and cast-lists for is Spring 2020 performances of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Given the series of individual productions already staged by the company since Fall 2016, that pave the way for the complete cycle, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s complete production should affirm the artistic might of the great composer.

Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

London Bel Canto Festival 2019: an interview with Ken Querns-Langley

“Physiognomy, psychology and technique.” These are the three things that determine the way a singer’s sound is produced, so Ken Querns-Langley explains when we meet in the genteel surroundings of the National Liberal Club, where the training programmes, open masterclasses and performances which will form part the third London Bel Canto Festival will be held from 5th-24th August.

The Royal Opera Tours to Japan in September 2019

The Royal Opera is delighted to be returning to Japan in September 2019 as part of an exciting year of UK-Japan exchanges, titled UK in Japan 2019-20, following the Company’s hugely successful tour in autumn 2015.

Longborough Festival Opera announces collaboration with The Academy of Ancient Music in 2020

Longborough Festival Opera will collaborate with the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) for its production of Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses in 2020. Robert Howarth will conduct Monteverdi’s beautiful, compassionate drama, with Tom Randle in the title role.

Glyndebourne’s first production of Dialogues des Carmélites to open Glyndebourne Festival 2020

Glyndebourne’s first production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites will open Glyndebourne Festival 2020, it was announced today. The opera house unveiled its 2020 plans at an event in its recently built Production Hub, hosted by Glyndebourne’s new senior leadership team, Artistic Director Stephen Langridge and Managing Director Sarah Hopwood, who jointly replace the former position of General Director.

Garsington Opera Announces 2020 season and 2019 Paris Performance

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce the 2020 season that will open on 28 May, featuring three new productions - Verdi’s Un giorno di regno, Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, Dvořák’s Rusalka and a revival of John Cox’s legendary production of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park: in conversation with Alison Langer

“Sop. Page, attendant on the King.” So, reads a typical character description of the loyal page Oscar, whose actions, in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, unintentionally lead to his monarch’s death. He reveals the costume that King Gustavo is wearing at the masked ball, thus enabling the monarch’s secretary, Anckarstroem, to shoot him. The dying King falls into the faithful Oscar’s arms.

Martin Duncan directs the first UK staging of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

A mournful Princess forced by her father into an arranged marriage. A Prince who laments that no-one loves him for himself, and so exchanges places with his aide-de-camp. A melancholy dreamer who dons a deceased jester’s motley and finds himself imprisoned for impertinence.

Thomas Larcher's The Hunting Gun at the Aldeburgh Festival: in conversation with Peter Schöne

‘Aloneness’ does not immediately seem a likely or fruitful subject for an opera. But, loneliness and isolation - an individual’s inner sphere, which no other human can truly know or enter - are at the core of Yasushi Inoue’s creative expression.

The London Handel Festival and The Royal Opera announce a co-production of Handel’s Susanna starring members of The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme

The London Handel Festival and The Royal Opera today [14 May 2019] announced a co-production of Handel’s oratorio Susanna as part of the 2020 London Handel Festival. The new production, performed in English in the Linbury Theatre [5 - 14 March 2020], will star members and Link Artists from The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. Handel’s Susanna was written for Covent Garden and had its premiere on the site in 1749, but has not been performed at Covent Garden since.

Royal Opera House announces 17 new productions for its 2019/20 Season

The Royal Opera House today launches its 2019/20 Season, unveiling an exciting range of new commissions, world premieres and much-loved revivals, supported by a diverse range of ticketed and free daytime events, activities and festivals for people of all ages. In the first full Season since the completion of the Royal Opera House’s three-year Open Up renovation, The Royal Opera Company unveils a host of innovative new work, with 13 new productions, including two world premieres, in the Season ahead.

In interview with Polly Graham, Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera

What links Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cavalli’s La Calisto? It sounds like the sort of question Paul Gambaccini might pose to contestants on BBC Radio 4’s music quiz, Counterpoint.

Carlo Diacono: L’Alpino

“Diacono himself does not know what musical talent he possesses” – Mascagni

Daniel Kramer to step down as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

Daniel Kramer is to step down as ENO’s Artistic Director at the end of July 2019 in order to focus on directing more opera and theatre full time.

Wexford Festival Opera's award-winning Il bravo to be streamed on ARTE.tv

From 7 pm (CEST), this Sunday 21 April, ARTE, the European public service broadcaster, will stream one of last year’s Wexford Festival Opera productions, Saverio Mercadante’s Il bravo, which was recently named ‘Best Opera Production’ at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards. Il bravo will be freely available worldwide on ARTE’s digital on-demand culture channel, Arte Concert, as part of ARTE’s 2019 Opera Season, a special online service for lovers of classical music. The opera will subtitled in English, German and French.

Bampton Classical Opera 2019: Stephen Storace - Bride & Gloom (Gli sposi malcontenti)

Newly-wed Casimiro and Eginia hardly seem to be enjoying a state of marital bliss. Why does Eginia sleep on her own, and why is her ex, Artidoro, still hanging around? He now seems to have an eye for the undoubted charms of Casimiro’s sister, Enrichetta - but she’s also attracted the lustful interest of dull and dusty Dr Valente, a man likely to turn nasty if thwarted …

Transylvanian-born mezzo-soprano Eszter Balogh wins the 2019 Handel Singing Competition

Following the final on Saturday 6 April, the Handel Singing Competition announced mezzo-soprano Eszter Balogh as the 2019 winner. Alongside Eszter, the finalists were Patrick Terry (countertenor), David de Winter (tenor) and William Thomas (bass) and the final took place at St George’s, Hanover Square in London in front of a live audience.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Chris Lowrey (Alessandro) and Susanna Hurrell (Rossane [Photo by Chris Christodoulou]
07 Apr 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful

London: Sue Loder reviews Alessandro and the Handel Singing Final

G. F. Handel: Alessandro (HWV 21)

Alessandro: Christopher Lowrey; Rossane: Susanna Hurrell; Lisaura: Sarah-Jane Brandon; Tassile: Ben Williamson; Clito: James Oldfield; Leonato: John McMunn; Cleone: Rosie Aldridge. Laurence Cummings, conductor. William Relton, director. Cordelia Chisholm, designer. London Handel Orchestra. Adrian Butterfield, leader

Above: Chris Lowrey (Alessandro) and Susanna Hurrell (Rossane [Photo by Chris Christodoulou]

 

President Obama and Prime Minister Brown have been smiling from the front pages of all the newspapers after the G20 London Summit, and London’s parks are looking their vernal best in warm April sunshine. Enough to put even the dourest music lover in a good mood? Perhaps, but not remotely necessary after two consecutive evenings of exhilarating vocal accomplishment in the capital, and both times with singers with their careers still in front of them.

The ever-stimulating London Handel Festival has always been a launch pad for young singers just starting out on that difficult phase of their careers between graduate studies and professional contracts, and their annual opera at the Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre this week, Handel’s Alessandro, this year came up trumps with no less than four very impressive young artists.

William Relton’s lively, almost cocky, production set in an Oxbridge in the mid 1930’s was full of sexual and political energy, not to mention tongue-in-cheek humour, and the young performers carried it all off with aplomb with some nicely detailed acting from both major and minor roles (the rugger scrums to freeze-frame strobes particularly effective). But with Handel it must always be the singing, the singing, and the singing that matters most and it was the high vocal standards that kept the very long first Act spinning along in a way that defied the clock.

At the bottom of the vocal scale was the warm, dark, yet agile bass baritone of James Oldfield, who brought both a calm dignity and emotional depth to his role as the loyal but morally-troubled captain, Clito. He was matched in vocal expression and stylish singing by the two rival princesses for Alessandro’s love, the sopranos Susanna Hurrell (Rosanne) and Sarah-Jane Brandon (Lisaure). Hurrell has a soubrettish clarity and pin-accurate style that revelled in the virtuosic coloratura, whilst Brandon displayed an impressively warm, creamy tone with power in reserve that will, with care, take her far.

These two soprano roles were of course sung at the premiere in London in 1726 by the Royal Academy’s famous “rival queens”, Cuzzoni and Bordoni, but they didn’t have all the hype and publicity to themselves as the title role was sung by the equally celebrated alto castrato, Senesino. The role of Handel’s soldier-king Alessandro (Alexander the Great whose empire reached to India in the east) takes some singing, and at first sight the young (he looks about sixteen, but obviously isn’t) American countertenor Christopher Lowrey seemed mis-matched to the role. That is until he opened his mouth, and started to dominate the stage. This young singer has that rare quality in this voice-type: a properly produced, strong warm tone, with no hint of that archetypal “English” hooty and constrained sound that is still too frequently found. His top seems limited at this stage, but his mid-range is well-supported and capable of some beautiful sounds. Perhaps just as important for any future operatic career is his obvious delight in being on stage and his ability to hold the eye – not always obvious in other young singers at this level. A Handelian star in the making one hopes.

SarahJaneBrandon&Lowrey&Hur.gifSarah-Jane Brandon (Lisaura), Christopher Lowrey (Alessandro) and Susanna Hurrell (Rossane) with cast [Photo by Chris Christodoulou]

The supporting roles were all competently and affectingly sung by Ben Williamson, Rosie Aldridge (a notable “revenge” aria in Act Two) and John McMunn, and the Chorus made the most of their rugby-as-warfare opportunities. All were supported throughout by the resident London Handel Orchestra under Laurence Cummings, who played with verve and style, notwithstanding some dynamic imbalance in the wind section in Act Two.


London Handel Singing Competition

Turning to singing as a blood-sport, each year Handel’s own church of St. George’s, Hanover Square, fills with a crowd of dyed-in-the-wool Handelians anxious to assess this crop of Finalists, and even more determined to match their skills against those of the official Jury. As ever, this included the cream of English baroque specialists past and present – John Mark Ainsley, Christian Curnyn, Catherine Denley, Gillian Fisher, Michael George and, as Chairman, Ian Partridge.

Ruby%20Hughes%20web[1].gifRuby Hughes, winner of the London Handel Singing Competition [Photo courtesy of London Handel Festival]

In recent years, the standard of singing has risen consistently with some outstanding young artists emerging to confirm burgeoning careers: Andrew Kennedy, Iestyn Davies and Lucy Crowe to name just three. This time around there was a fascinating imbalance in the voice-types reaching the semi-finals which may indicate merely a quirk of fashion, or may be something to worry about: where are all the tenors and baritones? We know that Handelian tenor roles of note are less than numerous, but surely there are ample opportunities for a good low voice to enjoy? This year it seems, the sopranos and countertenors ruled the roost.

Semi finalists:

David Allsopp counter-tenor
Michal Czerniawski counter-tenor
Gary Crichlow counter-tenor
Ruby Hughes soprano
George Humphreys baritone/bass
Anna Huntley mezzo-soprano
Annabel Mountford soprano
Sarah Power soprano
Alexandra Rawohl mezzo-soprano
Elinor Rolfe Johnson soprano
Kirstin Sharpin soprano
Luanda Siqueira soprano
Belinda Williams mezzo-soprano
Owen Willetts counter-tenor
Lisa Wilson soprano

Finalists:

Gary Crichlow counter-tenor
Anna Huntley mezzo-soprano
Ruby Hughes soprano
Luanda Siqueira soprano
David Allsopp counter-tenor

As it happened, on the night, all five singers had to work under some difficulty as there was an unfortunate sudden collapse of an audience member which necessitated urgent medical attention and held up proceedings for over 35 minutes. The eventual winner of both the Adair (First) Prize and the Audience Prize (for once there was no difference of opinion) was clearly not a difficult choice for the jury: young Ruby Hughes, soprano, showed a professionalism and vocal finish in her programme which stood out head and shoulders above her rivals. Her larger instrument, with a warm, bright tone that was even through the range, enabled an expressive delivery that drew every bit of drama from her choices from Theodora, Giulio Cesare, Jephtha and Samson. Anna Huntley, mezzo-soprano, was the worthy second prize winner and lacked just a little in volume and projection compared to Hughes, despite some lovely detailed work and judicious use of vibrato.

Sue Loder © 2009.

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):