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Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
11 Dec 2009
Emma Matthews in Monte Carlo
Emma Matthews is an English born soprano currently resident in Australia where she has sung with the state based opera companies as well as the national company Opera Australia where she is currently a soloist.
Matthews is mostly known for her already formidable coloratura technique. In her work with Opera Australia Matthews projects a big, secure voice in lyric and coloratura roles but also in less likely assignments including the title role in one Opera Australia’s finest achievements, Alban Berg’s Lulu, using that light, lyrical voice to revelatory effect.
This co-production between ABC Classics and Deutsche Grammophon will also be released internationally and coincides with Matthews launches her international career. The project is a luxurious one, instead of an Australian orchestra the Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo is employed and even a second singer (mezzo Catherine Carby) has been brought over to sing the ‘pertichio’ role in the Lucia di Lammermoor scene.
The disc opens with a restrained account of “Glitter and Be Gay” from Bernstein’s operetta-inspired Candide. Eschewing the histrionics that often negate the song’s effects Matthew’s equates the coloratura passages to the type of musical laughter familiar from Manon Lescauts’ laughing song in Auber’s opera or the best known example, Adele’s laughing song in Die Fledermaus. The result is immensely satisfying and encourages multiple hearings.
The folksy “Last Rose of Summer” from Flotow’s Martha reveals Matthews’s beautiful legato but the bulk of the disc is a 60 minute ‘potted’ history of the Bel Canto era before ending with a return to simple serenity. Instead of the celebrated mad-scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor comes the equally dramatic fountain scene is chosen which introduces Lucia (and subtly indicates her mental breakdown is already beginning). The featured mad scene is Ophelia’s scene and ballade from Thomas’s Hamlet. Given in full it the best demonstration of Matthews’s impressive technique as she incorporates the higher and more florid passages introduced by the singer Marie Carvalho and incorporated into the original vocal scores. Matthews then gives an even more elaborate account of the ‘Doll Song” from Les Contes d’Hoffmann and then just enough of an arrangement (the entire thing overstays its welcome even for coloratura fanciers) by Richard Bonynge of Proch’s Theme and Variations (presumably with his wife Joan Sutherland in mind) and which Matthews sings with the same power and agility as Sutherland.
The recital closes with two Australian compositions, and orchestration of a song by Calvin Bowman that has a folksy simplicity and even a beguiling Scotch rhythm in places. The Nightingale’s song from Richard Mill’s opera The Love of The Nightingale is sadly too brief an excerpt from an opera Matthews is so closely associated with. Sounding like a classical vocalise and orchestrated in a lush Ravel-ian manner it brings some beautiful playing from the orchestra. The conductor, Brad Cohen, has a personal interest in this 19th French operatic repertoire and the orchestra, as expected, are a world class band who respond to the familiar items, bringing some very Gallic and incisive playing to the scene from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. The recording is demonstration class, Matthews’s voice given an immediate presence with the strings, in particular in the Bowman item, sounding luscious.
Leonard Bernstein: Candide — Glitter and Be Gay
Leo Delibes: Lakme — Ou va la jeune Indoue (Bell Song)
Friedrich von Flotow: Martha — The Last Rose of Summer
Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor — Ancor non giunse…Regnava nel silenzio…Quando rapito In estasi (with Catherine Carby mezzo-soprano)
Vincenzo Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi — Eccomi in lieta vesta…Oh! quante volte
Charles Gounod: Roméo et Juliette — Air de la coupe: Dieu quel frisson
Amour, ranime mon courage
Ambroise Thomas: Hamlet — A vos jeux, mes amis
Partagez-vous mes fleurs… (scène de la folie d’ Ophelie)
Jaques Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffmann — Les oiseaux dans la charmille
Heinrich Proch (arr. Richard Bonynge): Deh! Torna, mio bene, Theme and Variations
Calvin Bowman: Now Touch the Air Softly
Richard Mills: The Love of the Nightingale — The Nightingale’s Song