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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

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.



Matthias Goerne [Photo by Marco Borggreve for harmonia mundi]
24 Sep 2009

Incomparable Schubert — Goerne at the Wigmore Hall Part 2

This programme of mostly solemn, elevated music based around songs on such themes as Evening, Death and Immutability was part of Matthias Goerne’s ‘Journey with Schubert’ during which he is recording the songs on eleven CDs and presenting the series in recitals all over the world. If the singing on this occasion is anything to go by, these recordings are set to become the standard to which other singers should aspire.

Matthias Goerne at Wigmore Hall, Part 2

Matthias Goerne (baritone), Alexander Schmalcz (piano)

Nacht und Träume; Der blinde Knabe; Hoffnung; Die Sterne; Vor meiner Wiege; Totengräbers Weise; Greisengesang; Tiefes Leid; Totengräbers Heimweh; An den Mond; Die Mainacht; An Silvia; Ständchen; Der Schäfer und der Reiter; Die Sommernacht; Erntelied; Herbstlied; Jägers Abendlied; Der liebliche Stern; An die Geliebte


Goerne’s unwavering legato, at once intimate and yet redolent of grandeur, is, frankly, matchless - no other singer, recorded or currently active, can sustain the long, flowing lines of songs such as ‘Nacht und Träume’ and ‘Im Abendrot’ with his ease, intensity and phenomenal breath control: this recital displayed that unique ability to tremendous effect. He began with the former song - daring as an introduction, but a wonderful way to establish the atmosphere of this sombre, deeply philosophical evening. Of course he respects the marking of langsam as few other singers can, yet he still sustains the inner rhythm of the lines: it was a pity that Alexander Schmalcz’ playing was a little on the heavy side.

I must have heard ‘Im Abendrot’ at least a hundred times in recital, but never like this - sehr langsam is the instruction, and Goerne intones the spacious, expansive melody with such quiet fervour that you find yourself holding your breath: the silence in the hall after ‘In mein stilles fenster sinkt’ was like the lull before a huge storm, far away yet imminently expected. Superb.

Graham Johnson wrote of ‘Die Sterne’ (Schlegel) that the singer with the breath control needed to execute its phrases ‘seems synonymous with someone who has ‘seen the light’ and this most unusual of Schubert’s ‘star’ songs indeed presents lofty challenges, to each of which Goerne rises with great skill, his shimmering high notes displayed to as much advantage as his warm, bass-baritone depths.

‘Der liebliche Stern’ has been described as a ‘humdrum’ song, but not here - Goerne’s tender, earnest phrasing and Schmalcz’ wistful playing of the ostinato accompaniment made for an intense experience, ‘Es zittert von Frühlingswinden’ living up to Gerald Moore’s requirement for the singer to ‘love each phrase’ and to sing with ‘the smoothest calmest line.’

‘Totengräbers Heimweh’ is the song of which it was once said that Goerne’s interpretation of it was ‘incomparable - his singing comes from inside’ and this was amply illustrated by this evening’s performance of it. From the fervid questioning of the start - ‘Wohin? o wohin?’ through the anguished depths of ‘Ich stehe allein! - so ganz allein!’ to the spellbinding mezza-voce of ‘O Heimat des Friedens, Der Seligen Land!’ in which the long phrases were given in one seemingly effortless arch of sound, this truly was singing with which it is very difficult to find anything to compare. The single encore, ‘An den Mond’ (‘Fullest wieder Busch und Tal’) was a fitting conclusion to this evening of peerless singing.

Melanie Eskenazi

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