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“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”
A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.
Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.
Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.
Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure,
this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish
hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably
Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left
much to be desired.
It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.
Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.
With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).
“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang
bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars
lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano
Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera
Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night
of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.
Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.
Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and
figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera
between August 19–26.
On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.
Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.
On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.
On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value
a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.
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