Recently in Reviews
On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.
Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement,
but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment
“is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga
Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.
Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.
On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.
Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.
You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.
If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.
Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.
For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.
Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.
David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.
On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.
A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.
In 1964, 400 years after the birth of the Bard, the writer Anthony Burgess saw Cole Porter’s musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate, a romping variation on The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s comedy, Burgess said, had a ‘good playhouse reek about it’, adding ‘the Bard might be regarded as closer to Cole Porter and Broadway razzmatazz’ than to the scholars who were ‘picking him raw’.
Beat Furrer's FAMA came to London at last, with the London Sinfonietta. The piece was hailed as "a miracle" at its premiere at Donaueschingen in 2005 by Die Zeit: State of the Art New Music, recognized by mainstream media, which proves that there is a market for contemporary music lies with lively audiences
Franz Schreker Die Gezeichneten from the Opéra de Lyon last year, now on arte.tv and Opera Platform. The translation, "The stigmatized", doesn't convey the impact of the original title, which is closer to"The Cursed".
21 May 2009
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Lieder, Salzburg 1958-1984.
In its recent collection Mozart Lieder, Salzburg 1958-1984 in its series entitled “Festspiel Dokumente,” Orfeo pays homage to the tradition of Liederabend at the Salzburg Festival with selections from a quarter century of performances.
In a two-CD set, it is possible to gain a perspective on these periodic recitals. Starting with the 1958 Festspiel, the recording captures Irmgard Seefried accompanied by Erik Werba, with some of the composer’s representative Lieder. This follows with music from a decade later in 1968 with Ingeborg Hallstein, again with Werba. The other performances follow in quicker succession: 1975’s Liederabend with Peter Schreier accompanied by Jörg Demus and Helen Donath with her pianist husband Klaus; in 1983, Edith Mathis with Heinz Medjimorec, piano; 1984, Edita Gruberova, soprano, and Irwin Gage piano; and in addition, Walter Berry sang Mozart’s Kleine deutsche Kantate, KV 619, with Werba accompanying him. (Gruberova also performed this work in her 1984 Liederabend.) All in all, this set of documents some of the finest exponents of Lieder of the time in performances, as underscored by the rubric on the discs, “Grosse Mozartsänger” (“Great Mozart singers”).
Some of the music is familiar, as with “Das Veilchen,” KV 476, which was part of several recitals, and it is possible to compare the performances by sopranos Hallstein and Gruberova, and enjoy the piece from the tenor Schreier. All three singers offer fine readings of this piece, and it is fortunate to have both in a retrospective collection like this one. Other pieces are not as widely known, as with “Der Zauberer,” KV 472, which Donath and Mathis included in their recitals, or “An Chloe,” KV 524, as performed by Seefried and, later, by Schreier. While most of the songs are indeed Lieder, Schreier, Mathis and Gruberova include several of Mozart’s chansons, such as the Ariette KV 308 “Dans un bois solitaire” (which Schreier renders in German translation and Mathis sings in French) or the Italian canzone “Un moto di gioia,” KV 579, which was part of Seefried’s and Gruberova’s programs. All in all, the collection not only preserves the works of these fine singers, but also offers a fine introduction to the solo vocal music of Mozart.
The performances are generally fine, and it is useful to hear multiple performances of the same pieces to gain a sense of the range of interpretation possible within this part of Mozart’s repertoire. The vibrant approach of Peter Schreier conveys a wonderful engagement with the music as found in the nuances of dynamic within the phrases, as the tenor uses in his performance of “An Chloe.” His effortless approach to higher range matches the control apparent in Schreier’s lower pitches. When compared to other singers singing this literature, Matthis seems more passionate in her interpretations, which are solid and convincing. The performances by Gruberova also merit attention, and her interaction with Irwin Gage demonstrates the way in which these pieces demand the attention such a pianist brings to their execution.
The sound of some examples, as with those of Irmgard Seefried, resembles studio recordings, while others, like those of Ingeborg Hallstein include some audience sounds including, at times, applause. Throughout these recordings, the balance between voice and accompaniment is generally good, with some recitals betraying a more aggressive accompanist, others with the singers placed closer to the microphone, as with Schreier. While some details may be easier to hear in the later recordings, like those of Gruberova from 1984, the quality is uniformly high.
In terms of the set itself, it is useful to have the full text and translations keyed to the tracks. In fact, Orfeo was good to use a single text when pieces are repeated and to include the listing of the tracks in which they also occur. At times the German is rendered differently than found in the music or, in some cases, sung, and those seeking English translations of the song texts will not find them in this rather slim booklet. Nevertheless, the concept behind the recording and, more importantly, the legacy it represents, is honored well in the selection of the pieces by some of the finest exponents of Lieder from the latter part of the twentieth century.
James L. Zychowicz