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

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit - Ensemble Correspondances

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit with Ensemble Correspondances led by Sébastien Daucé, the glorious culmination of the finest London Festival of the Baroque in years on the theme "Treasures of the Grand Siècle". Le Concert Royal de la Nuit was Louis XIV's announcement that he would be "Roi du Soleil", a ruler whose magnificence would transform France, and the world, in a new age of splendour.

Voices of Revolution – Prokofiev, Exile and Return

Seven, they are Seven , op.30; Violin Concerto no.1 in D minor, op.19; Cantata for the Twentieth Anniverary of the October Revolution, op.74. David Butt Philip (tenor), Pekka Kuusisto (violin), Aidan Oliver (voice of Lenin, chorus director), Philharmonia Voices, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (military band), Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, Sunday 20 May 2018.

Charpentier Histoires sacrées, staged - London Baroque Festival

Marc-Antoine Charpentier Histoires sacrées with Ensemble Correspondances, conducted by Sébastien Daucé, at St John's Smith Square, part of the London Festival of the Baroque 2018. This striking staging, by Vincent Huguet, brought out its austere glory: every bit a treasure of the Grand Siècle, though this grandeur was dedicated not to Sun God but to God.

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall.

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

Garsington's Douglas Boyd on Strauss and Skating Rinks

‘On August 3, 1941, the day that Capriccio was finished, 682 Jews were killed in Chernovtsy, Romania; 1,500 in Jelgava, Latvia; and several hundred in Stanisławów, Ukraine. On October 28, 1942, the day of the opera’s premiere in Munich, the first convoy of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 90 percent of them went to the gas chamber.’

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

The Mozart Album
09 Sep 2009

Danielle de Niese: The Mozart Album

After thoroughly enjoying Daneille de Niese’s recording Handel Arias, I jumped at the chance to review her new recording, The Mozart Album. Her Handel interpretation was full of coloratura, clarity and virtuosity, along with an organic fusion of music serving drama. So I was eager to hear her perform Mozart.

The Mozart Album

Danielle de Niese, soprano; Bryn Terfel, bass-baritone. Apollo Voices. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Sir Charles Mackerras, conducting.

478 1511 2

$13.99  Click to buy

The Mozart Album, however, is a cautionary tale of sorts that serves as a reminder that Mozart is not to be taken lightly. Ask any vocalist or instrumentalist, Mozart is the most difficult composer to perform. Why? Mozart demands technical perfection, a superior level of musicianship, subtle phrasing and a command of the musical drama. In short, he demands everything!

In The Mozart Album, de Niese runs the gamut of repertoire from sacred arias, to concert arias, to opera arias, and, finally, to a duet with baritone Bryn Terfel. She begins with Exsultate, jubilate (K165), a motet for soprano, organ, and orchestra in three movements. Throughout, de Niese displays incredibly accurate coloratura lines gleaming with color. Notably absent, however, are a consistent legato and warmth in the lines. At times there is a strange straight-tone quality within the phrases that make no stylistic sense and that tends to distract the listener. While the first two movements are lacking in drama, she performs “Alleluia, ” the third movement and certainly the crown jewel of the motet, with high-flying coloratura lines and finessed phrasing. These inconsistencies in performance quality, unfortunately, plague The Mozart Album.

In the concert aria “Bella mia fiamma, addio!,” Ms. de Niese’s performance is much more secure with support and warm returning to the voice, even in the legato lines. The opening recitative is infused with drama from the outset, the escalating phrases captivating the listener. Within the aria, there are brilliant, but fleeting, moments of clarity. Throughout the aria, the listener can hear air escaping during the execution of the tone, making the sound quite fuzzy. “Bella mia fiamma” requires strength in the tone because of its bold harmonic nature and expansive range, and without that, the intended effect of the piece is lost.

If the purpose of The Mozart Album is to “show her stuff,” de Niese’s selection of “Al desio di chi t’adora” is a puzzlement. One of many alternate arias to “Deh, vieni, non tardar, ” “Al desio” pales against “Deh, vieni,” the greatest test of the lyric soprano that demands excruciating long lines, incredible vocal support, delicate shaping within the vocal lines, and an ability to release the drama while maintaining control. Instead, “Al desio” gives us more of the same — short phrases and an abundance of coloratura — all with a lack of sensitivity.

The middle selections are the highpoint of this recording, which include “Una donna a quindici anni,” “Padre, germani, addio!”, and “Ah! fuggi il traditor.” Despina’s aria is full of fiery energy, the Italian facilitating her brilliant comic vocal lines. The aria from Idomeneo, the first of Mozart’s great operas, is quite similar to Handel’s writing style, although Mozart injects more drama within the music and utilizes more complicated forms and harmonic structures than Handel. Ms. de Niese seems to be at her most comfortable in this piece. The aria is full of moving lines and coloratura, the tessitura particularly highlighting the beautiful parts of her voice.

Donna Elvira’s aria “Ah! fuggi il traditor!” from Giovanni proves a pleasant surprise. De Neise comments, “Although I have not yet sung Elvira on the stage, this aria really represents the direction I’m heading in vocally, as my voice is growing a lot.” Her Elvira is bursting with anger, and she seems to grab hold of the extensive range and disjunct intervals with power and ease. This aria is a tour de force, but inasmuch as it is less than two minutes in duration, it is difficult to discern whether her voice is capable of singing the entire role. I am hopeful that she continues to move in this stronger, fuller lyric direction.

The penultimate selection is the duet “La chi darem la mano” from Don Giovanni, performed with Bryn Terfel. Ms. de Niese follows his lead regarding the musical phrases, and allows much more finesse to shape her vocal line. But, the final selection, “Laudate Dominum” (from Vesperae solennes de confessoreis (K339)), is another disappointment. This piece requires considerable vocal control and support to navigate the large leaps and long, soaring phrases. Yet, in endeavoring to maintain the solemn character of the piece, her performance lacks the energy that predominates in her highly dramatic selections. Also, the Apollo Voices are not polished in the choral comments. There is a lack of blend, with the phrasing being more disjointed than soaring and Mozartian.

This album says a great deal about Ms. de Niese’s vocal direction. Her voice continues to maneuver coloratura with great aplomb, yet the legato lines that are needed for her to move into fuller lyric coloratura repertoire are not yet worked out. In the liner notes, Brian Dickie reveals that many of the pieces on this album were first performed in the soprano’s high school years, and I suspect that her technical delivery of this music is influenced by her initial exposure to the repertoire. Perhaps another Mozart album will bring forth the fuller, dramatic repertoire that Ms. de Niese is growing into. And I suspect that as her voice grows into its own, her Mozart will become fuller, more grounded, and easily shaped to truly convey the composer’s musical and dramatic intentions.

Sarah Luebke

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):