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

Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy

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.

La voix humaine: Opera Holland Park at the Royal Albert Hall

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.

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

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.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

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.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

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 good way.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

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.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

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: surrealism and sensuality at English National Opera

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.

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

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.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

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).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

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.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

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.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a lesson in Patience

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.

Tara Erraught: mezzo and clarinet in partnership at the Wigmore Hall

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.

Opera Across the Waves

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.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

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.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

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.

A Winter's Tale: a world premiere at English National Opera

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.

Wexford Festival Opera announces details of 2017 Festival

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.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 1
09 Sep 2009

Mahler: Symphony no. 1

Among the important recent cycles of Mahler’s symphonies is the one underway by Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 1

London Symphony Orchestra. Valery Gergiev, conductor.

LSO 063 [SACD]

$18.98  Click to buy

Still in process, the recordings of Symphonies nos. 2, 3, 6, and 7 have been issued to date, with the release of Symphony no. 8 immanent. (Gergiev included the Adagio of the unfinished Tenth Symphony with the recording of Symphony no. 2). In addition, the recently issued CD of the First Symphony stems from live performances given in January 2008 at the Barbican, London. From the outset the sound is vivid, and it matches the somewhat vibrant approach Valery Gergiev has taken for the first movement. Yet the rather quick tempos do not always match the character of the music As ambiguous as the marking “Wie ein Naturlaut” (“like a sound in nature”) may be, the suggestion is usually taken to allow the opening to take shape slowly. Instead of the kind of atmospheric introduction which other conductors achieve, the pacing of the short ideas that follow moves to the main theme of the movement very quickly. As clear as the performance is, the quick tempos do not allow the cantabile nature of the first theme emerge, as it should with its evocation of the second song from the cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, “Ging heut’ morgen übers Feld.” While it has some very effective moments, the absence of such connections to the innate vocality of the first movement makes the piece seem disconnected from the style associated with Mahler’s music.

With the second movement, though, Gergiev maintains his crisp tempos, but here it fits better into the style of the piece. The lyrical theme of the second section is, on the other hand, played with such a decided slowness that the sense of tempo sometimes escapes. Nevertheless, the playing is precise and clean, but sometimes more percussive sounding than occurs in other performances. In this movement, though, the dynamic contrasts are pronounced nicely and support the musical structure well. Within the interplay of dynamics and articulation, the orchestral colors represent the score well, with the brass prominent without overbalancing the strings.

Such sensitivity to the timbre is crucial to the third movement, which begins almost imperceptibly. The canon on the tune “Bruder Martin” is paced nicely, with the wood line supporting the contrapuntal texture nicely. With the second section, the portion which Mahler once characterized as suggesting Bohemian town musicians, the popular, or folk-like idiom is apparent without being exaggerated. Gergiev is also good to shade the tempos nicely, and with them the solo instruments. The solo trumpet is notable for the shading that occurs here, and the overall effect is a fine representation of the score. In the middle section, the one in which Mahler develops melodic ideas from “Die zwei blauen Eigen,” the final song of his cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, offers a fine contrast to the other ideas in the movement. Yet the sound levels of the final portion of the movement fade too soon.

Such a dramatic change in dynamic level does offer a setup for the opening of the Finale, which begins with a fine sense of drama. While tempos are not problematic for this movement, the sound levels are sometimes overbalanced. The extremes of dynamic level sometimes result in a fast-and-loud or slow-and-quiet dialectic. What needs to emerge in this movement are more sustained textures in which tone colors, dynamic levels, and articulations combine to create the effects Mahler scored. As with the other movements, the playing is satisfying throughout, but the nuances betray over- and understatement. The kind of sustained effects which Gergiev brought to his recent recording of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, for example, would work well here. The concluding in which the scalar theme that evokes for some Handel’s chorus “And he shall reign forever and ever,” as Stephen Johnson mentions in his liner notes, should emerge from the other ideas in the movement. Here, though, is seems disconnected from the larger structure. As much as the pacing of the concluding section is dramatic, the final two notes seem, perhaps, not sufficiently assertive.

Part of Gergiev’s cycle of Mahler’s symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra, this recording has its merits, but it also raises questions about stylistic issues in performing this important early work by Mahler. The roles of tempo, thematic cohesion, and dynamic contrasts, and other elements are important to the effective execution of this work. As familiar as Mahler’s First Symphony may be to modern audiences, it remains a demanding score on the part of the interpreter. Again, as a live performance, this recording differs from some of the studio recordings, with exciting playing on the part of the London Symphony Orchestra.

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):