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

Wagner Tannhäuser : Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO. True, Opera North will bring its concert Ring to the South Bank, but that is a somewhat different matter. Comparisons with serious houses, let alone serious cities, are not encouraging, especially if one widens the comparison to nineteenth-century Italian composers. Quite why is anyone’s guess; the composer is anything but unpopular. More to the point, Wagner and Mozart should stand at the heart of any opera house’s repertory. They can hardly do so if they are so rarely performed.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi.

The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal Opera

‘All men become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.’ ‘Is that clever?’ ‘It is perfectly phrased!’

Mahler’s Third, Concertgebouw

Evolving in Mahler’s Third: Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic’s impressive adaption to the Concertgebouw

La Juive in Lyon

Though all big opera is called grand opera, French grand opera itself is a very specific genre. It is an ephemeral style not at all easy to bring to life. For example . . .

Benjamin, Dernière Nuit in Lyon

That’s Walter Benjamin of the Frankfort School [philosophers in the interwar period (WW’s I and II) who were at home neither with capitalism, fascism or communism].

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):