Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

And If The Song Be Worth A Smile — Songs by American Composers
17 Aug 2009

And If The Song Be Worth A Smile — Songs by American Composers

The word "living" would be a fitting addition to the subtitle of this collection of "Songs by American Composers."

And If The Song Be Worth A Smile — Songs by American Composers

Lisa Delan with Kristin Pankonin (piano), Susanne Mentzer and Matt Haimovitz (cello)

Pentatone Classics PTC 5186 099 [CD]

$19.99  Click to buy

Three of the six composers represented were born in the 1930s and continue to pursue their craft, while the other three are much younger (although how many knew that in just a couple years, Jake Heggie will be 50?!).

Soprano Lisa Delan delivers these songs in a bright, crisp voice, not unlike an excellent if somewhat anonymous Broadway singer (think Florence Henderson). Kritin Pankonin accompanies on piano, dealing as well with the sophisticated honky-tonk of William Bolcom’s Four Cabaret Songs as the fussy prettiness of Heggie’s Four Songs. Ms. Delan’s husband cellist Matt Haimovitz joins her in the songs of David Garner, Luna Pearl Woolf, and one of the Heggie numbers, his strong, centered tone making handsome contributions. A guest appearance by Susanne Mentzer brightens another of the Jake Heggie songs.

The songs themselves? Bolcom’s Cabaret songs find him in “popular” mode. Your reviewer would imagine that Harold Arlen’s classic work serves as the ideal here. Bolcom has the right ideas, but the texts by Arnold Weinstein are nowhere near Johnny Mercer or E. Y. Harburg in natural idiom or inventiveness. Gordon Getty composed the texts for his Poor Peter, three songs in faux-19th century folk mode, with touches of chromatic modernity in the accompaniments, more ostentation than inspiration. Delan’s top range gets stretched a bit here, not attractively.

Heggie’s Four Songs may only have a superficial beauty, but that is appealing after the Getty pieces. When Mentzer joins Delan, however, the words of Sir Philip Sydney get lost in “My true love hath my heart.” The three “American folk song” settings that follow combine preciousness with refinement. Not exactly “folky.”

An unfamilair name, David Garner, supplies three intriguing pieces set to the German poetry of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. Garner composes for piano and cello, and his settings, in an idiom usually disparaged as “conservative,” manage to have freshness and beauty. Again here, however, Delan must reach into regions of her voice less secure.

The two pieces by John Corigliano, to ostensibly sardonic texts by Mark Adamo, mean to be witty and parodic. “Dodecaphonia” is a tiresome ballad about “Twelve-tone Rose,” in mock Raymond Chandler mode. Four and a half minutes crawl by. The ode to the I-Pod, “Marvelous Invention” goes on for 5 minutes, to no greater effect. In performance these two pieces doubtlessly prompt the sort of mirthless chuckle classical audiences emit when they realize something “humorous” is afoot.

The torpor of those pieces has nothing on the final track, composed by Luna Pearl Woolf to a Pablo Neruda poem. The “Odas de Todo el Mundo” requires over ten minutes of time, and repays the listener with several seconds of passable musical interest.

A hit-and-miss collection, then, but surely rewarding for lovers of “Songs by American Composers.”

Chris Mullins

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):