Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

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):