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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.
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