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

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Hugo Wolf
21 May 2009

Lieder and Opera meet in Hugo Wolf

Lieder and opera are different worlds. But understanding the differences helps us appreciate what makes each form distinct. Hugo Wolf’s songs come close to bridging the genres. They’ve been described as “miniature operas” where dramas are distilled into compact form.

Hugo Wolf : Italienisches Liederbuch — Wigmore Hall, London

Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Mojca Erdmann (soprano), Gerold Huber (piano)

 

The Wigmore Hall is hallowed ground for Lieder. Built in 1901 for Bechstein, it is one of the world’s great recital halls, where many great singers have appeared, even though it seats only 450. It’s the ambience that draws them. They’d make more money in a big arena, but the Wigmore Hall is a special experience. It’s small enough that interaction between performers and audience is direct and intimate. This is the ethos that makes Lieder so special. It’s intensely personal and nuanced : song through a microscope to speak, but imbued with warmth and feeling.

Christian Gerhaher is a favourite with the Wigmore Hall audience. On this evening Anna Netrebko and Dimitri Hvorotovsky were scheduled to sing elsewhere in town, impacting on sales, so the Wigmore Hall wasn’t sold out as usual. Gerhaher was singing Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch, with his regular pianist, Gerold Huber and a young soprano, Mojca Erdmann.

The 46 songs in the collection form a narrative, or even a cycle. Together, they form a kaleidoscope of “Italian” life, romanticized through Austro-German ears.. Hugo Wolf never fulfilled his dream of going to Italy, but each song is full of vividly imagined incident. Dissolute monks seduce girls whose mothers trust men in robes, a girl longs for “older men” – aged 14!. Each song is like a moment in a larger story. Der schöne Toni’s eating himself to death because Tonina has dumped him, and a man’s heart jumps clean out of his chest, running off to see his lover.

Plenty of drama, then, in these songs, which Wolf plays up exuberantly with witty piano commentary. They lend themselves to more dramatic treatment than do more introspective Lieder. Indeed, much of the impact would be lost if they were performed without a lively sense of fun.

Gerhaher was in good form. His voice is richly resonant, yet flexible enough that he takes Wolf’s tricky rhythms with ease. Yet these songs are still fundamentally, Lieder, where the action is inward. Gerhaher was most impressive in songs where the singer has to hint at deeper mysteries. For example, Schon streck’t ich aus im Bett, where the lover jumps out of bed to play his lute. Wolf sets the last stanzas with a strange, meandering lilt which evokes the strumming of the lute but also the text which pointedly mentions that the singers has walked away from many girls, his music “wafted away in the wind”. It’s no serenade.

Lieder is private, almost silent expression. There’s no orchestra, set or plot to compete with, so the dynamics are different. Mojca Erdmann is young, who’s still having to prove herself with her voice, so naturally she’s more inclined to a declamatory approach that highlights the technical side of her singing. Her flourishes in ‘Ich hab’ in Penna’ would sound impressive in the theatre, but overwhelm the balance in the song. True, the song’s about a girl bragging about her many admirers, but it’s more effective with a touch of subtlety.

As the first song in the set goes, ‘Auch kleine Dinge’, “even small things can delight”. “Think only of the rose”, it continues in delicate tones, “it’s small but smells sweet”.

Anne Ozorio

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):