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A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
Gustav Mahler and fin-de-siècle Vienna will be the focus of the Oxford Lieder Festival (13-28 October 2017), exploring his influences, contemporaries and legacy. Mahler was a dominant musical personality: composer and preeminent conductor, steeped in tradition but a champion of the new. During this Festival, his complete songs with piano will be heard, inviting a fresh look at this ’symphonic’ composer and the enduring place of song in the musical landscape.
On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.
In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.
Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.
On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.
There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.
For the first time in its history, this summer Garsington Opera will present four productions as well as a large community opera. 2017 also sees the arrival of the Philharmonia Orchestra for one opera production each season for the next five years.
New work by the English artist Rachel Kneebone will be exhibited at Glyndebourne Festival 2017, which opens for public booking on 5 March.
The London-based artist has created three new sculptures inspired by two of the operas being staged at the Festival this summer - Cavalli’s Hipermestra and a new opera based on Hamlet by composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn.
With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia
Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory
mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola,
whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the
Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.
'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.
On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.
In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener
Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.
In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the
Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in
a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.
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.