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

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4
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.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4 (Edition Staatskapelle Dresden Vol. 21)

Juliane Banse, soprano, Staatskapelle Dresden, Giuseppe Sinopoli, conductor.

Hänssler PH0747 [CD]

$17.98  Click to buy

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

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):