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‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
03 May 2009
The End of Bewilderment — The New Florence-Valencia Production of “Gőtterdämmerung”
April 29th is Zubin Mehta’s birthday. As a gift to its most beloved musical director, Florence unveiled a new production of Götterdämmerung, a joint Ring Cycle venture with the Valencia Opera started two years ago.
After a performance lasting six hours (including two intermissions), Zubin and the full cast had a 15 minutes standing ovation by an audience packing every one of the 2.500 seats of the huge Teatro Comunale. Then, 250 lucky guests moved to a Gala Birthday Dinner in Palazzo Tornabuoni; we returned to our hotel at around 3 a.m. After a run in Florence until May 9th, the production will be seen in Valencia in June at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, where in July a full fledge Ring Cycle is scheduled. According to present plans, the full Cycle will be back in Florence in 2013, the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth, for the inauguration of the new Park of the Music now being built near the main Railway Station.
The Florence- Valencia Götterdämmerung and the other parts of the Cycle (shown in June 2007 and in October 2008) have been greeted by the Italian press as “the very best Ring” of the first part of the XXI century. Before expressing such a strong opinion, I would want to see, at least, the two new productions of Götterdämmerung completing the Ring Cycles of Cologne-Venice (next June) and Aix-en-Provence - Salzburg (next July). No doubt, the Florence-Valencia Ring is a landmark not only for the interpretation of Wagner masterpiece but for the musical theatre as a whole. It is the end of bewilderment in a live musical theatre performance.
Three years ago when the project was presented, the whole idea seemed daring and a bit foolish: to entrust the production of the Ring to the Catalan avant-garde group La Fura dels Baus ; in its previous operating experience (e.g. Debussy’s Le Marthyre de Saint Sebastien ) La Fura has drastically cut the score and introduced fully naked mimes and rather explicit stage movements. It appears (but is could be a hearsay) that at the initial contact, La Fura expressed the intention to compact in two-three hour the nearly 15 hour score, horrifying Maestro Mehta who just in Florence had conducted in 1979-81 a memorable Ring. Gradually Carlus Pedrissa (the stage director) and La Fura developed an entirely new approach to the Cycle. This approach is in full bloom in Götterdämmerung. There are not any socio-political undertones, but a delicate balance between science fiction and poetry. Science fiction is modern XXI century way to represent the myth: all possible special effects are employed (3D movie projections on ten screens , elaborate stage machinery, flying objects, suspended swimming pools for the Rhinemaiden, complex lightings, the audience participation in Siegfried’s funeral march). And the myth? It does not revolve around the end of capitalistic industrial world and the promise of a better new age, but it is based upon the final verses of “Siegfried’sTod”, the initial text of what three decades later, became the Ring. These verses were never put to music in Götterdämmerung (indeed deleted from the final text - in nearly 30 year the young red hot revolutionary Richard Wagner had became a bourgeois himself); in short, they state that after the fall of the Gods, in a world without Lord, there will be only Love”. A lay pantheistic simple philosophy.
If the set and direction are the end of bewilderment, the reviewer is bewildered by the harmony between the stage, the pit and the voices. La Fura has been an earnest and successful effort to follow each and every note of the score.
As the triumph of love is the main theme of this Götterdämmerung, love itself is being rhapsodized in all possible combinations: conjugal love in the “day break”, wild sex (nearly a rape with coitus interruptus) in Siegfried’s approach to a sensual , and sex starving Gutrune, a full orgy in Brünnhilde’s rock, teasing petting in the scene of Siegfried with the Rhinemaden , lust for unsatisfied love by Günther, Hagen and Alberich . Again as love is at the center of Götterdämmerung as well as of the Ring , Mehta has a lyric approach to the score , quite different from that (very dramatic) of the Florence 1979-81 Ring. The Maggio Musicale Orchestra and Chorus responded in an excellent manner.
Also, both Mehta and La Fura have, at their disposal, a better cast of singers and actors than that of the 1979-81 when Jean Cox as Siegfried was already way over bend. Lance Ryan is well known to the American and German audience, but he has seldom sung in Italy. Notably, he has never shown his athletic qualities. In this Götterdämmerung, as soon as he is welcome to dinner in the Gibichung royal hall, the Canadian tenor, as any good red blooded but well mannered North American, takes off his dirty forest wilderness clothes to shower and put on a proper attire: his high “Cs” and legatos are beautiful under the shower and when , due to Hagen’s potion, tries to do it with Gutrune on the dinner table and in front of his hosts. He can even sing hanging by his feet in the confrontation with in Brünnhilde in the second act. And he can shoot an acute after another. Not a full heldentenor, but a very good tenor with a crystal clear timbre.
Brünnhilde is another North American , Jennifer Wilson, recently applauded as Isolde in Los Angeles. She is as overweight as expected by a Walkyrie and, albeit very good with the high tonalities, she has some difficulties in descending to low pitched tones. She masters the role technically by molding the use of her voice to fully explode in the final holocaust scene.
The Ghichung Kingdom is a modern Metropolis for rather vulgar nouveaux riches. In the smoke stocks of a declining industrial society, a ticker - similar to those of Cnbc or any other all news TV financial channels - reports the stock exchange news. Gutrune is a sexy lyric soprano (Bernardette Flaitz), Günther a well round baritone (Stefan Stoll), Hagen a deep basso (Hans Peter Köning), Alberich a less deep basso bordering on a baritone voice (Franz-Joseph Kapellman). Of all the other singers, a special mention is needed for Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Waltraute), the only semi-Divinity in this very human Gesmtkunswerk (total theater) centered on love.