Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Aureliano in Palmira in Pesaro

Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Pesaro

Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?

Armida in Pesaro

Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

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):