Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Imogen Cooper [Photo by Sussie Ahlburg courtesy of Askonas Holt]
06 Oct 2009

Imogen Cooper's Birthday at the Wigmore Hall

This wasn't an ordinary concert but something very special. The Wigmore Hall was honouring Imogen Cooper on her 60th birthday. She is greatly loved here, both as soloist and as partner in song recitals. The atmosphere was electric. The house was packed, with many famous pianists and singers in the audience. It was a historic occasion, but it felt like a party among friends.

Imogen Cooper 60th Birthday Concert

Imogen Cooper (piano), Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone), Mark Padmore (tenor), Sophie Wieder-Atherton (cello), Paul Lewis (piano). Wigmore Hall, London 28th September 2009.

Above: Imogen Cooper [Photo by Sussie Ahlburg courtesy of Askonas Holt]

 

Imogen Cooper is a superlative artist, so it might seem unfair to comment on her appearance, but she looked truly radiant, her face lit up with heartfelt happiness. Few deserve a tribute like this more than she, for she’s formidably dedicated. She could easily have chosen a programme to showcase her skills as soloist, with a special gift for Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn. Instead, she chose to highlight others with whom she’s worked with. “I didn’t feel like working too hard”, she joked, in typical self effacing manner.

Imogen Cooper was a child prodigy sent to Germany, France and Austria, where she developed her formidable technique. Being isolated, she turned to Romantic poetry and song. Her affinity for Lieder was formed at an early age and is highly intuitive. Wolfgang Holzmair used to say he couldn’t imagine working with a pianist who didn’t instinctively live the texts as well as the music. Then he met Cooper and the rest is history. Theirs is one of the most enduring partnerships in the Lieder world.

It would be almost impossible to imagine an Imogen Cooper tribute without involving Holzmair in some way.Together, they’ve pioneered the songs of another great Lieder relationship, Robert and Clara Schumann and have mnade a notable recording. The two sets of songs by Robert Schumann chosen here date from 1840, the year Robert and Clara were finally able to marry, which inspired an explosion of song. Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch Im Divan I and II (op 26 nos 5 and 6) are droll songs about getting drunk and louche, performed with folksy humour. In Venezianisches Lied I and II *(op 25 nos. 17 and 18), Cooper’s playing evoked the gentle rocking of oars steadily pacing through lagoons, as Holzmair sings of gondoliers and serenades on moonlit balconies. Clara’s songs *O Lust, O Lust *op 23 no 6) and *Die stille Lotosblume (op 13 no 6) have less obvious character, surprisingly as Clara was the first great female pianist to have an international career. Nonetheless, Holzmair and Cooper presented her songs with conviction.

As a treat, suitable for the party atmosphere, Holzmair and Cooper did a playful encore - a song from an operetta of the 1930’s by Robert Stolz. It’s a joyful ditty about dancing and happiness. Stolz was a lavishly lucky man who made and lost and remade several fortunes. At the age of 60, bald, broke and exiled, he was arrested in Paris when the Germans occupied. A few weeks before, he’d met a beautiful 19 year old heiress, who promptly sprung him from prison and married him. She still lives in Vienna, keeping his flame. Another reason to celebrate !

imogen-cooper.gifImogen Cooper [Photo by Benjamin Ealovega courtesy Askonas Holt]

Cooper’s partnership with Mark Padmore is more recent. Holzmair and Padmore sang Mendelssohn duets for tenor and baritone (op 52, nos 1,2 amnd 3) followed by Wasserfärht (op 50 no 4), where the voices bob up and down, like waves on the open sea while the piano melody surges forth like the ship in the poem. Padmore followed the set with four songs from Schubert. I’m very fond of Padmore’s work in baroque repertoire, but in Lieder he’s rather understated, though on an evening as genial as this it didn’t matter. Cooper provided plenty of vigour and personality. In *Die Sterne *(D939) she played the twinkling “starlight” motifs vividly, and the song came to life.

Imogen Cooper and Sophie Wieder-Atherton played a group of Janáček and Schumann pieces for piano and cello. The combination brought out the folk tunes both used, but in very different ways. Most of these pieces favoured the cello, so Wieder-Atherton took the lead, Cooper provided sensitive support.

Getting together a group of musicans like this was a wonderful opportunity to present repertoire normally beyond the scope of a song or conventional piano recital. This was a rare chance to hear Schubert’s Auf dem Strom (D 943). Voice, piano and cello weave together in counterpoise. Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis then played the four hand Fantasy in F minor (D940). Both works arevery late Schubert, both performed in the composer’s presence. Schubertiades were intimate, friendly affairs, where people got together to enjoy good music in a convivila mood : perfect for a celebration like this.

Appropriately the encore brought everyone together. It was Brahm’s Liebesliederwalzer no 3,. “I wonder they we thought of that?”, quipped Cooper with a cheerful smile. Then Holzmair and Padmore began to sing. “O die Frauen ! O die frauen ! wie sie Wonne tauen. Wäre lang ein Mönch geworden, wäre nicht die Frauen !” (Women are bliss, if not for them, we’d be monks)

Anne Ozorio

Program:

Mendelssohn : Ich wollt’, meine Liebe ergösse sich, Abschiedslied der Zugvögel, Gruß, Wasserfärht
Schubert : An die Laute, Abendstern, Daß sie hier gewesen, Die Sterne
Clara Schumann : O Lust, O Lust, Die stille Lotosblume
Robert Schumann : Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan i and II, Venezianische Lieder I and II
Janáček : Pohádka no 1, 2 and 3
Robert Schumann : Stücke im Volkston 2 and 3
Schubert : Auf dem Strom, Fantasy in F minor for piano duet

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):