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The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.
One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.
Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.
‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.
The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.
In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.
High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.
The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.
‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough
and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy
will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.
It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies,
that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon
which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting
and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can
charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to
convey emotion and embody character.
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.
It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).
Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.
Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.
Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..
25 Oct 2009
Ruxandra Donose stars in L'heure Espagnole at the Royal Opera House
Ruxandra Donose sings Concepción in Ravel's L'heure Espagnoie in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi at the Royal Opera House. Concepción is an unusual personality, so Miss Donose's characterization is interesting.
L’heure espagnole is a rapid-moving farce, and Concepción is the pivot around whom all the action revolves. It’s a demanding role for she’s on stage all the time, carrying the action. “It takes a high level of energy to keep going like this for nearly one hour”, says Miss Donose. “I think it’s wonderful how Ravel gets the orchestration to create vivid details like the cuckoos in the cuckoo clocks,it’s so funny. That’s why this opera is done so often in concert, it lives through the music”. She has sung the role in two separate concert performances, but this Royal Opera House production is fully staged, which emphasizes the movement and drama in the plot.
“Concepción has only one hour in the week when her husband is away, so she has to squeeze all her frustrations into that time”, says Miss Donose, “She’s doesn’t get any attention from her husband, but when she tries to relieve her frustrations, she gets all this unplanned attention from other men so she’s frustrated again”.
Everything spins around Concepción, rather like the clockwork mechanisms all round her. “Timing and blocking mean a lot in this production. On the very first day, I was told that this production, by Richard Jones, is very difficult, because there are lots of very precise details and they might take a lot of time to get right. Actually, that went smoothly, but it was interesting coming to the character from outside to inside. There are gestures that don’t come naturally to me, but are part of this Concepción, so I have to make them my own. It’s a process like putting on a costume, you put on those hundreds of small details so they come naturally to you.so you slip into the role.and become the character”.
Because Ravel’s music is so precise, “The ensemble is very important”, adds Miss Donose, “the other characters are much more than caricatures. The poet Gonzalve (Yann Beuron) can’t stop making poetry, and the banker Don Inigo Gomez (Andrew Shore) is solid, like he’s stuffed with money. And the muleteer Ramiro, played by Christopher Maltman, is a strong fellow, who doesn’t do small talk. The clocks aren’t as heavy as they look but they’re bulky and Maltmann has to carry them up and down when he’s singing! ”
“Torquemada (Bonaventura Bottone) lives only for his clocks, they are his only passion, but Concepción is passion, and so direct” ! Just as Torquemada prefers objects to people, Concepción uses people as objects to get what she needs. “Husband and wife are on completely different planets. Concepción is very terre à terre, as the French say, she’s very down to earth so she’s extremely direct. She’s unhappy but determined to get what she needs. In this production, she’s like child who wants a toy and stamps her feet if she can’t get it”. Concepción’s obsessiveness is not so different from Torquemada’s after all. “I’m not like that”, says Miss Donose, “so all the detailed gestures helped me understand what to do with this character.who is much more single-mined and direct than most women”.
Christopher Maltman as Ramiro and Ruxandra Donose as Concepcion
Ruxandra Donose’s starring role in L’heure Espagnole reflects her status as one of the more expressive personalities among the rising generation of mezzo-sopranos. She’s reached the stage where she’s so technically assured that she can focus on developing the characters she portrays. She’s sung Marguerite many times, including with Nagano and Dutoit, and has done many Carmens, Charlottes and even a few trouser roles. Among her favorites though are the Composer in Aridane auf Naxos and Cenerentola. In the near future, she’ll be singing a lot of Mozart, Singing these roles is enriching. “It’s a great experience to embody someone you are not yourself, but can create. For a few hours you have a chance to live another life”.