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The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[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.
19 Jun 2009
No Redemption for Munich’s Dutchman
Although there was considerable theatrical imagination on display, redemption was in critically short supply in Peter Konwitschny's production of The Flying Dutchman at Munich’s estimable Bavarian State Opera.
It all began very promisingly indeed with a realistic period setting,
gorgeously painted, and with luxurious Old Dutch Masters costumes, both designs
courtesy of Johannes Leiacker. I was not completely taken with the invention of
the mute character “An Angel” (Christina Polzin) who somewhat tailed the
leading man as a premonition of Senta, I guess, but never mind. Because, in a
stunning directorial stroke, Konwitschny set the second act ladies in a
gleaming white contemporary fitness center spinning class! No fooling, this
really worked. Mary was the attendant who circulated and dispensed water
bottles and towels.
Erik entered in a white bathrobe and slippers (apparently having taken a
sauna) and it is hard to explain the rather carnal element that that visual
introduced into a scene that we usually simply suffer through. And when the
Dutchman arrived, completely anachronistic in his period Flemish drag, wow! Did
it ever hammer home the time warp he was trapped in, and the irrational
inevitability of Senta’s obsession. This was truly powerful theatre, heightened
by the fine lighting design with its isolated areas by Michael Bauer.
And then…Peter lost his way. The final act took place in a harbor-side
warehouse with Fest tables/benches, the Dutchman crew visibly partied stage
left, and lots of metal drums filled with flammable materials crowded the
stage. The face-off between the locals and the spooks, shorn of its element of
surprise, looked like a lame “Dance at the Gym” confrontation from West
Side Story. And in a critical artistic mis-step, after Senta’s last
outburst she torched one of the storage drums, and a huge explosion blew
everyone away. Everyone.
Somewhere in the far distance, perhaps on a boom box in the ladies dressing
room, we faintly heard the final bars playing as the cast was revealed standing
down lit and ghostly behind a scrim. Dead as door nails. Or Dutchmen. In a box,
house left, a pained spectator yelled “For God’s sake, play the rest of the
music!” No one shushed him. He was articulating our collective grief.
It is inconceivable that the producers allowed Wagner’s opera to be shorn of
its soaring redemption at the expense of an ineffective and inappropriate
theatrical effect. Nor can I conceive that a Bernstein, or Karajan, or Maazel,
or Barenboim would have allowed this musical cut to happen.
Apparently, young (talented) conductor Cornelius Meister did not have such
leverage. Maestro Meister is the youngest General Music Director in Germany
(Heidelberg) and his star is justifiably rising. Much of his leadership was
richly incisive, with well-judged tempi and fine consideration of his singers.
But it has to be said that the tricky ensemble woodwind attacci were a might
ragged, and the brass were too many times perfunctory. The string section
however, had a fantastic night characterized by warm and accurate tutti
Even a willful re-writing of the story by a bad boy stage director, however,
could not steal the focus from the brilliance of Bryn Terfel’s assumption of
the title role. Surely this is one of the most glorious vocal instruments
currently to be heard in the lyric theatre. From his first intense sotto voce
utterance, Mr. Terfel served notice that his Dutchman was more resigned than
tortured, more refined than bombastic, more rounded and musical by miles than
most park-and-bark Wagnerian practitioners.
That rolling, richly burnished tone poured out with ease and power, and his
acting was subtle and noble. His great duet with Senta was as tender and
persuasive as I have yet experienced, and his stamina and sound technique found
him sounding as fresh at opera’s end as at the start. Richly colored, finely
detailed, superbly shaped phrases characterized Terfel’s tremendous
musicianship, and they were wedded to an easy, engaging stage presence. If we
are ever searching for members of A New Golden Age (and aren’t we always?), we
can start with Bryn Terfel.
He was not alone in his success. Anje Kampe served up a radiant and vocally
generous Senta, building on her already fine reputation as a Sieglinde of
choice. While ample in volume, and secure in all ranges and volumes, the voice
is just a bit drier than, say, Hildegard Behrens, a great Senta of the recent
past. Still, her restrained vibrato made Ms. Kampe’s impersonation more
youthful than womanly, and that certainly was a rewarding take. Her acting was
Nikolai Schukoff was a very fine Erik, with plenty of thrust to his
substantial, essentially lyric tenor, and a handsome and youthful stage
presence. There were plenty of sparks between him and our doomed heroine. I
first saw Matti Salminen’s seasoned Daland in Savonlinna some years ago and his
definitive performance has only deepened over time, with very little
perceptible loss in vocal allure or power. Julia Oesch contributed a handsome,
securely sung Mary. Kevin Conners seems to be a local favorite, but I found his
stentorian Steersman a bit longer on power than finesse. The hard-working
chorus performed well under the direction of Andrés Máspero.
Can this Dutchman yet be saved? Restoring the finale Wagner wrote
would be a good start. Seriously, a musically and dramatically honest re-look
of Act Three could transform this otherwise inventive and rewarding production
into a memorable one.