Recently in Reviews
Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful
producers of opera.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.
Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
15 Sep 2009
Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4 in G major
The legacy of the late conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli includes a number of fine recordings of Mahler’s music, and among them is his Deutsche Grammophon recording of the composer’s Fourth Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the soprano Edita Gruberova.
While that recording dates from the early 1990s, Sinopoli performed the work later in his career with different forces, and that resulted in an impressive reading of the Fourth Symphony with the Staatskapelle Dresden. The performance of the Fourth Symphony was part of the 1999 Dresden Music Festival, specifically a concert given on 29 May 1999. With this recent issue by Hänssler in its Profil series in the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden, a fine recording of that performance is now available.
This later recording is notable in several way, since it is an impressive performance of the work and involves a fine interpretation of the Song-Finale “Das himmlische Leben” by the soprano Juliane Banse. In addition, the recording also preserves a seventeen-minute talk by Sinopoli, which serves as an introduction to the work. (The talk is given in German, with a transcription by Eberhard Steindorf included in the program notes.)
As a respected interpreter of Mahler’s music, Sinopoli brings a fine sense of style to his conception of this work. The first movement is conceived well, with a deft sensitivity to the form of the movement and its scoring. From the opening moments of the movement, Sinopoli conveys a dynamism, which allows the work to move forward. His tempo for the opening gesture, the so-called *Schellenkappe *- the jangling bells of the fool’s cap - are perfunctory, so that Sinopoli can give a more nuanced shape to the main theme. This kind of fluidity is characteristic of the entire movement is carefully structured, without seeming calculated. Such attention to details is consistent throughout, and includes a well-conceived tempo for the coda, which has the appropriate sense of underscoring the music that came before it.
With the Scherzo, Sinopli offers a similarly structured approach to the work, so that the passages for the *scordatura *solo violin emerged easily. A similar expansiveness occurs later, when other solo instruments are part of the structure, and the latitude Sinopoli gave those entrances fits well into the overall . His sense of drama at eh climax of the movement stands out from other performances, because of the breadth Sinopoli adds to the music at this point. The cadence into the section suggests, momentarily a sense of rubato, which the strings take up in an exemplary rendering of the portamento Mahler indicated in the score.
The third movement contains an emotional pitch which needs the expression Sinopoli used in this performance. From the opening measures, which evoke the ensemble “Mir ist so wunderbar” in the quartet from the first act of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, Sinopoli offers a clear vision of this tightly structured movement. A set of double variations, the performance also has a sense of spontaneity which comes from the intense playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden. The sustained pitches of the violins never flag, while the wind sonorities intersect without becoming overbearing. Without seeing the performance, it is possible to perceive an intensity in the interactions of the members of the orchestra in this recording. In some of the passages of the slow movement, the players seems attuned to the score, such that the give-and-take which necessarily occurs in professional ensembles like this one is even more acute. Midway through the movement, in the passage for solo oboe, the slightly slower tempo that Sinopoli used, allows details to emerge, like the written-out ornaments and the horn figures which response to each other distinctively. While it is nowhere rushed, the movement contains a well-considered intensity that solidly sets up the coda, the famous fanfare, which anticipates the concluding movement found in the song “Das himmlische Leben.” As elsewhere in this performance, no details have escaped Sinopoli, and his attention to the final measures of the coda demonstrate his knowledge of Mahler’s works in the way he brought out the motivic relationship to the song “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”in the thematic content, while simultaneously rendered the texture so that it has a timbral affinity to the scoring, which anticipates the *Adagietto *of the Fifth Symphony.
In the concluding movement, Juliane Banse offers a sensitive reading of the Song-Finale, with exemplary diction and expression. Her phrasing makes sense of both the poetry and its musical setting, a combination which is lauded, but rarely executed. That stated, Banse offers here a moving and insightful reading of the song. The balance between the lower and upper registers of her voice is nicely even, and complemented by a fine tone in the sustained pitches, which Banse takes to the full values of the notation. It is difficult to point to any single passage without slighting others, but the phrase “Sanct Ursula dazu lacht” evinces the dynamic tension and insightful musicality of Banse’s performance, with the portamento reinforcing the cadence and the change of mood in the song. This is but one passage in a performance which is consistently satisfying on various levels. Moreover, in conceiving the Song-Finale, Sinopoli has taken the movement a little more slowly than some other conductors, and this brings out certain elements, which connect the song to the movements which precede it. It is, ultimately, a convincing performance because of the intensity, which emerges in the various details that come together brilliantly.
This performance is a fine addition to the discography of the composer, and especially that of the Fourth Symphony. While a number of fine recordings of this work exist, the execution of the score in this particular performance offer perspectives which demonstrate the perennial appeal of this work. Without displacing the other fine recording of the Fourth Symphony which Sinopoli released, those who appreciate his intelligent and exciting art will not be disappointed in this extraordinary performance from the latter part of his career. Moreover, Sinopoli’s introduction to the work, the last band of the CD, affords the opportunity of hearing the late conductor talk about this music in person, and this is a welcome bonus on this outstanding recording.
James L. Zychowicz