Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Ian Bostridge
17 Jun 2009

Ian Bostridge at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

In a recent Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert featuring twentieth-century instrumental and vocal compositions Ian Bostridge sang Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations under the direction of principal conductor Bernard Haitink.

Ian Bostridge at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

 

The concert opened with a contemporary arrangement of early music, Steven Stucky’s transcription of Henry Purcell’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary, this version receiving its first performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The second half of the program offered a masterful account of Dimitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15, the performance here yielding considerable opportunity for both soloists and orchestral ensemble.

The brief transcription of Funeral Music in four parts, beginning and ending with a march, honors the musical spirit of Purcell while offering a modern interpretation of the same. After an introduction emphasizing low notes for the flute, a steady piano accompaniment gives way to the drums signaling a dignified realization of death. Following this opening, the CSO brass played an appropriately somber dirge, indeed one associated with the elevated stance of passing royalty. An oboe solo, performed here with great effect by Eugene Izotov, was echoed by the brass, such types of musical dialogue informing much of the remainder of Stucky’s transcription of Purcell. Sustained notes held by the use of the vibraphone introduced a continuity leading to a final stately reprise, with the repetition of drums calling the funereal tone into an ultimate focus.

The significance of Purcell’s music for Benjamin Britten is certainly recognized from the latter’s instrumental compositions, and the pairing in this concert with Les Illuminations functioned as yet further homage to the earlier composer. Britten was first inspired by the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud in the late 1930s and finished in 1940 his cycle of songs, Les Illuminations for high voice and strings, based on Rimbaud’s texts of the same name. The singer’s approach to the poetic texts by Rimbaud and interaction with the string orchestra is key to a unified approach in a performance of this cycle. Bostridge has given ample consideration to a multi-faceted approach evident in this program. He injects a sense of drama without appearing overwrought in tone while, at the same time, maintaining sufficient ironic distance so that his performance serves as both song and commentary on the text and music being performed. In the introductory lines of “Fanfare” Bostridge declares with proud conviction “J’ai seul la clef de cette parade” [“I alone have the keys to this parade”]. When these words are repeated and varied ending piano on the phrase “cette parade sauvage” [“this savage parade”], the singer becomes a keeper of secrets, one who bears the mask of an omniscient observer. With this alternating perspective Bostridge guided the listeners through the following series of poems chosen and set by Britten. “Villes” [“Cities”] details the varied and stirring activity of the modern city, filled with moving individuals and their means of transportation. To illustrate the mix of ancient and modern — the seeming paradox of nature, myth, and metropolis — Bostridge intoned, in effective succession, a rising followed by a descending scale on the verbal forms in the phrase “la lune brûle et hurle.”[“the moon burns and howls”]. At the close of this song the paradox of frenetic movement and ancient model was capped softly by Bostridge as he asked “d’ou viennent mes sommeils…?” [“from where does my sleep come …?”] with tender inquisitiveness. In the following text of “Phrase” the lyrical I speaks, almost as one of the fates, stretching cords from one pinnacle or window to another. While describing movement here with the statement, “et je danse” [“and I dance”], the tenor emphasized the physical verb starting on a crystalline high note that progressed, glissando and gracefully all-encompassing, to a concluding low. In the following three pieces, before an orchestral interlude, the tone sways between the private and the open spheres. “Antique” is a direct address to the son of Pan, both description and attempt to communicate, during which Bostridge used his voice to suggest the musical instrument associated with the deity. The range of notes struck so effectively by the singer in the conclusion to this song evoked the female and male aspects of the “double sexe” as cited. In “Royauté” an unidentified couple indeed play at the roles of royalty for an extended day, their self-absorption brought out especially in the ironic detachment of this performance. The movements of the ocean and foam slapping against a boat in “Marine” were convincingly imitated by melismatic effects on “l’écume” [“foam”] and the final emphasis of “tourbillons de lumière” [“whirlpools of light”].

As the first in the second group of texts following the orchestral interlude, “Being Beauteous,” as titled by Rimbaud, is replete with contrasting images that call into question the concepts of actual and idealized appearance. Through notable shifts in tempo Bostridge underlined these contrasts while allowing the text to maintain its own organic flow. The tone of the song was aptly concluded with a low, almost heavy vocal projection on the words “de l’air leger” [“of the soft air”], suggesting by the performer antithesis in one’s perceptions of beauty. In the final two songs, “Parade” and “Départ,” the soloist released a crescendo of varied emotions as he observed and commented on the parade of humanity, a further and elongated assurance here given that the key to the parade rested with the perception of this voice. In “Départ” Bostridge looked truly weary as he sang “Assez vu” [“Enough seen”], the slow and quiet intonations now concluding a cycle of contradictions, as the final phrase, “l’affection et le bruit neufs” [“the new affection and noise”] trailed softly into memory.

In the Symphony No. 15 by Shostakovich, performed after the intermission, Haitink gave cohesive direction to a sprawling work that blends original motifs with ample quotation. In the first movement, marked Allegretto, an initial motif was introduced by the solo flute, played poignantly by Mathieu Dufour and leading into a series of other solo parts in succession. After the bassoon, oboe, and trombone contributed their parts, combinations of instruments — e.g. flute and brass, piccolo and strings — were punctuated by intermittent references to the William Tell overture by Rossini. In the second, Adagio movement a solo for cello was played exquisitely by John Sharp, who was subsequently joined by Dufour in a duet followed by the full complement of strings. The concluding movements of the Symphony, with various tempo markings including — again — Allegretto, contain yet further quotations from the composer’s own works as well. The integration of the past and transformation into a new composition remained the guiding force behind Haitink’s memorable interpretation.

Salvatore Calomino

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):