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

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

La Fille du regiment, Royal Opera

Donizetti’s opera comique La Fille du regiment returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for its third revival.

Schoenberg and company

With Schoenberg, I tend to take every opportunity I can — at least since my first visit to the Salzburg Festival, when understandably I chose to see Figaro over Boulez conducting Moses und Aron, though I have rued the loss ever since.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Sergei Leiferkus [Photo: Askonas Holt]
18 Dec 2009

Sergei Leiferkus at Wigmore Hall

Exchanging the stage of The Royal Opera House — where he is currently performing the role of His Highness in Tchaikovsky’s fairy-tale opera, The Tsarina's Slippers

Schumann: Liederkreis (Op.39)
Musorgsky: The peep-show; Songs and Dances of Death; The Seminarist; Mefistopheles’ Song.

Sergei Leiferkus, baritone; Semyon Skigin, piano. Wigmore Hall, London. Tuesday 15 December 2009.

Above: Sergei Leiferkus [Photo: Askonas Holt]

 

for the more intimate setting of the Wigmore Hall, the veteran Russian baritone, Sergei Leiferkus, offered an intriguing programme of songs from his compatriot, Modest Musorgsky, coupled with Robert Schumann’s ecstatic, joyful cycle, Leiderkreis.

The programme booklet remarked the ‘considerable stylistic gulf’ between these two composers, and while it proposed a rationale behind this unusual pairing (that is, the influence on Russian composers of Musorgsky’s time of German lieder, in terms of how a vocal line and accompaniment ‘could be tailored to the expressive allusions of the text’), it was a gulf that Leiferkus was not entirely convincing in bridging.

Certainly, this was an imposing, confident performance from both baritone and pianist. Leiferkus’ voice is a powerful instrument and from the start it thundered to the far reaches of the hall. Yet, herein lay the problem: while an appropriate depth of passion and lyric ecstasy were evident in songs such as ‘In der Fremde’ and ‘Im Walde’, the performers did not grasp the opportunity to convey the contrasting moments of tenderness and yearning introspection which the texts surely offer.

That is not to suggest that there was no variety of colour or mood. Leiferkus’ diction was crisp and clear, and at times he showed sensitivity to textual details: the slow, reflective pace of ‘Mondnacht’ was further enhanced by the deep resonance of his profound bass in the opening lines, ‘It was as though Heaven/had softly kissed the Earth’; and the pointing of particular words — ‘Ein altes, schönes Lied […] Und zu dir eilig zieht’ - at the conclusion of ‘Intermezzo’ was touching and affective. Here, Skigin was a faultless partner, deftly complementing significant melodic gestures, flexible in rhythm, employing a wide range of dynamics, drawing out the contrasting resonances of major and minor keys. Skigin, Leiferkus’ frequent and long-term accompanist, shared the singer’s vision of these songs and matched his commanding presence, the accompaniment injecting much energy and turbulence, as in ‘Schöne Fremde’ where the ‘glittering stars gaze down on me,/fierily and full of love’.

However, the performers did not satisfactorily convey the moments of hushed awe and sublime stillness which complement the extravagant joy which blossoms through the sequence. There is a gradual movement from winter darkness to spring awakening, but there was little sense of nature’s delicate, inspiring presence. In particular, ‘Wehmut’, where ‘Nightingales, when spring/breezes play outside, sing/their song of longing …’, suffered from an overly assertive, full tone. Overall, Leiferkus’ rather stern sound seemed more suitable for the distinguished majesty of His Excellency over the road at Covent Garden than for the yearning romantic dreamer of Eichendorff’s tender verse. There were also some occasional tuning problems: chromatic indefinition marred the magical close of ‘Mondnacht’, while the octave unisons of ‘Auf einer Burg’ suffered from occasional lapses of intonation.

The second half of the concert was a wholly different musical and dramatic experience. Leiferkus found in Musorgsky’s songs a greater combination of musical colours, and here his voice, not ‘beautiful’ in a conventional sense, was truly expressive of the sentiments of the text, both tragic and comic. The latter vein was remarkably captured in ‘The peep-show’: Leiferkus articulated every syllable admirably, and the intensity of his dramatic characterization was enhanced by his ability to span a wide dynamic range in the space of a few bars. Here gestures which had seemed unsubtle and exaggerated in Schumann’s lieder became appropriately biting and incisive. The miniature dramas of ‘The Songs and Dances of Death’ were eloquent and deeply moving. The wonderfully dark tone of Leiferkus’ baritone conveyed a musical depth which perfectly matched a text which speaks of the figure of ‘light, merciful’ Death, who ‘sings his serenade’ to the mother cradling her sick child, to the drunken peasant stumbling in the snow-strewn field at night, to slaughtered troops who are commanded to parade before the triumphant ‘Field Marshal’. Skigin was again a responsive partner in these songs.

So, a rather mixed evening. I will certainly be exploring Leiderkus’ four-volume recording set of Musorgsky songs, but on the whole I prefer my Schumann a little less statuesque.

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):