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Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
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 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 [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)
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