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

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

Kindred Spirits: Cecilia Bartoli and Rolando Villazón at the Concertgebouw

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has been a regular favourite at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam since 1996. Her verastile concerts are always carefully constructed and delivered with irrepressible energy and artistic commitment.

Cav/Pag at Royal Opera

When Italian director Damiano Michieletto visited Covent Garden in June this year, he spiced Rossini’s Guillaume Tell with a graphic and, many felt, gratuitous rape scene that caused outrage and protest.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Mark Padmore [Photo by Marco Borggreve]
30 Nov 2009

Mark Padmore at Wigmore Hall

Mark Padmore and The English Concert took us on a journey from the dark depths of melancholy to the ethereal transcendence of joy, in a display of consummate artistry at the Wigmore Hall.

Mark Padmore at Wigmore Hall

Mark Padmore, tenor; Mark Bennett, trumpet. The English Concert. Nadia Zwiener, leader. Thursday 26th November, 2009. Wigmore Hall, London.

Above: Mark Padmore [Photo by Marco Borggreve]

 

We began with the court odes and theatre songs of Henry Purcell, interspersed with instrumental interludes from King Arthur, Abdelazar and The Fairy Queen. The torment and fear of ‘the black dismal dungeon of despair’ were powerfully evoked but gradually rejection and loss gave way to intimations of hope; that the pure sweetness of the ‘songsters of the sky’ and the refreshing beauty of ‘the blooming Spring’ might prove as lasting and transforming as love itself, until ‘Thus the Gloomy World at Last Began to Shine’.

Both Handel and Purcell employed an inventive palette of sound to affectingly paint the words, and Padmore effortlessly brought these exquisite colours to our attention — but he never once destroyed the legato line, or focused on an individual word at the expense of the story-telling. This was singing of an astonishing eloquence.

In ‘What Shall I Do?’ from Dioclesian, Padmore demonstrated an innate appreciation of how the da capo form perfectly captures the antithesis between resignation and determination, as the despairing lover converts lonely rejection to a glorious transfiguration in death. The poignant optimism of the repeated lines, ‘I will love more than man e’er lov’d before me;/ Gaze on her all the day, and melt all the night’, was underscored by a gentle frisson on ‘melt’, deftly conveying both the magnitude of emotion and erotic intensity. Ever aware of the theatrical origins of these songs, Padmore drew the audience into his emotional tussles, here lightening and brightening his voice for the final avowal to ‘preserve our delight’, ensuring that we shared his cares and convictions.

After the interval, we progressed from the anxious questioning of ‘Where are These Brethren … Remorse, Confusion, Horror, Fear’, from Handel’s Joseph and his Brethren, towards the consoling comforts of Elysian realms. Padmore coupled heartfelt imploring with blessed serenity in ‘Descend, Kind Pity’ (Theodora), leading us ultimately to the ‘azure plain’ in ‘Waft Her, Angels’ (Jephtha). This is repertoire in which he excels, but while his mastery and relaxation were ever evident, there was not a single moment when Padmore was not alert to the musical and dramatic nuances, seeking a true union between musical and verbal expression.

The English Consort, led by Nadia Zwiener, brought an additional layer of expressive depth to these interpretations, exploiting the contrasts between fast and slow, between duple and triple rhythms, and achieving convincing transitions between the diverse sections of Purcell’s instrumental overtures and symphonies; throughout there was a shared and sustained sense of ‘the whole’. This was understated but efficient leadership by Zwiener. She drew crisp, unfussy articulation from her players — particularly in Handel’s Italianate ‘Sharp Violins Proclaim’ from the Song for St Cecilia’s Day; but equally, the strings subtly pointed Purcell’s pungent dissonances, conveying at times urgency, then repose, and skilfully underpinning the ambiguous tension between cruelty and pleasure latent in the texts. And, there was some energetic, flamboyant playing from trumpeter Mark Bennett, particularly in the trumpet overture to Purcell’s The Indian Queen.

Throughout this outstanding performance, there was a genuine sense of partnership between soloist and instrumentalists, evidence of a shared vision and mutual delight.

Claire Seymour

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):