Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

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.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

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.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

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.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

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):