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

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Ailish Tynan [Photo courtesy of Intermusica]
11 Apr 2010

Ailish Tynan, Wigmore Hall

Thoughtfully devised by Iain Burnside, this recital juxtaposed ballad with art song, pastoral with love lyric, dark with light, mournful with carefree. An imaginative sequence of songs, woven together according to linking themes, confirmed that Ireland truly is a ‘land of song’.

Ailish Tynan, Wigmore Hall

Ailish Tynan, soprano; Iain Burnside, piano. Wigmore Hall, London. Friday 9th April 2010.

Programme: Celtic Woman:
Prologue: Tread Softly
Lovers, Mothers, Sisters
Joyce’s Women
With Your Guns and Drums
Journeys
Epilogue: The Blind Man he can See

 

A Prologue, ‘Tread Softly’, opened the door to the Irish imagination. Thomas Dunhill’s ‘The cloths of heaven’, a presentation of Yeats’ oft-set poem, skilfully captures the depth of the poet’s passion and the fragility of his dreams, in gently tolling chords and a delicately meandering vocal line. Immediately apparent was Burnside’s instinctive sensitivity to the rhythms and colours of Irish lyric poetry, quietly evoking both the shining ‘golden and silver light’ of heavens’ cloths and the ‘dim and [the] dark’ shadows of night.

Indeed, throughout the recital the piano played an integral part in the narrative: shaping and pacing the drama as in ‘The bard of Armagh (arranged Herbert Hughes); establishing the emotional ambience as in the cascading ripples and swirls which open Frank Bridge’s ‘Goldenhair’, with its delicate piano postlude, or the sweeping modal scales which convey the tempestuous deluge of Herbert Howell’s ‘The Flood’; drawing forth a particular poetic nuance, as at the close of Hughes’ ‘She weeps over Rahoon’, where the trickling piano descent perfectly evoked the ‘muttering rain’ which succumbed to raging flood in the subsequent song. Surprisingly, considering that she was on ‘home territory’, Ailish Tynan was initially less comfortable; her intonation was insecure in the opening song and took some time to settle, and she seemed ill at ease throughout the first half of the recital. Tynan’s voice is a powerful instrument and she worked hard to capture the pianissimo restraint of the tender lyrics, but her worthy concern to interpret and colour the text occasionally led her to over-emphasise a particular word or phrase producing an inelegant interruption to the melodic line, and at times threatening to enlarge textual nuances into disproportionate melodrama. Fortunately, Edmund Pendleton’s ‘Bid adieu’, which closed the first half, signalled a change in confidence and control: here Tynan relished the upward flourish of ‘Happy love is come to woo’ and evoked the warm, tender eroticism of ‘Begin thou softly to unzone/ Thy girlish bosom unto him’. She returned after the interval in a more relaxed mode, delighting in the characterisations and narratives, moving smoothly from energetic declaration to sweet yearning.

The first sequence of songs, ‘Lovers, Mother, Sisters’, opened with a slightly tentative rendering of one of Benjamin Britten’s most well-known and accomplished arrangements – his poignant setting of Yeats’ ‘The Salley Gardens’. Britten returned in the second half, ‘Avenging and bright’ and ‘The last rose of summer’ forming part of the ‘With your Guns and Drums’ selection. Both songs are characterised by the composer’s striking attention to detail, and in the former Burnside enjoyed the defiant flourishes, the running bass line and contrapuntal energy, which accompany the history of Conor, King of Ulster, whose treachery in putting to death the three sons of Usna is considered one of the greatest of tragic Irish tales. ‘The last rose of summer’, a setting of Thomas Moore, was one of the highlights of the evening: Britten’s ‘Screw-like’ harmonies evoke the unsettling loneliness of lover languishing after the death of her soldier-lover, and subtle changes of tempo and dynamic were expertly controlled by Burnside and Tynan.

It was the less familiar voices, however, who offered the real treasures in this programme. Herbert Hughes was a founder member of the Irish Folk Song Society of London in 1903, and he was represented here by both boisterous and tender settings of traditional Irish melodies. Unfortunately, although she conveyed the animation of the unruly sailor in Hughes’ lively arrangement of the ‘Marry me now’, Tynan forgot the words in the final verse, omitting four lines and thereby causing the lusty sailor to sound even more desperate in his final pleas for wedlock! Hughes’ setting of ‘The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby’ is a sad, sombre night-song, and here Tynan employed a warm lower register, conveying the darkness of the solemn evening and creating an effective contrast with the piano’s otherworldly evocation of the ghostly ‘rings of fog’ which wreath ‘the Green Man’s thorn’.

Hughes was also liberally represented in the second half of the programme, where a more relaxed Tynan powerfully captured both the bitterness of the drama of ‘Johnny I hardly knew ye!’ and the quiet despair of ‘Johnny Doyle’, the latter conveyed by secure and controlled octave unisons with the piano at the close: ‘You’ll send for Johnny Doyle, mother, but I fear it is too late,/ For death it is coming and sad is my fate.’ Three further Hughes’ arrangements ended the recital: ‘When through life unblessed we rove’, ‘I know where I’m goin’’, whose open-ended harmonic sequences suggest the certitude of the singer’s journey to her loved one, and the light-hearted ‘Tigaree torum orum’.

The Anglo-Irish composer, writer, collector and arranger, E.J. Moeran, spent the spring of 1948 living with a group of tinkers in south-west Ireland, assembling his collection Songs from County Kerry. The haunting harmonies and melancholy lyricism of ‘The lost lover’ are typical of his touching idiom, and in ‘The Roving Dingle boy, Tynan achieved a flowing naturalism.

Alongside these ‘conventional’ arrangements and song, Burnside had some surprises in store. The programme notes reminded us that Samuel Barber had a lifelong interest in Irish poetry, including the work of Joyce and Yeats; his Ten Hermit Songs set words translated from anonymous Irish texts from the early Middle Ages – thoughts, observations and poem which were jotted down on the margins of manuscripts by scholars and monks. The enlarged, ‘operatic’ scope of the third of these songs, ‘St Ita’s Vision’, appealed to Tynan’s sense of drama, and she effectively conveyed the forceful passion of St Ita, Bride of Munster, in her quasi-recitative declaration that she will accept nothing less than a baby to nurse. Both singer and pianist captured both the passion of St Ita’s commitment and the transcendence of the vision, Tynan’s sweetness – ‘Infant Jesus, at my breast,/ By my heart every night,’ – complemented by Burnside’s concluding suggestion of an ethereal choir of heavenly lyres. Similarly, the last song in the cycle, ‘The desire for hermitage’, offers an expansive emotional canvas, one which the performers exploited effectively. Even more unusual, and thought-provoking, was Burnside’s inclusion of John Cage’s setting of lines adapted from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, ‘The wonderful widow of eighteen springs’, which, characteristically, involved some rearranging and preparation of the piano. The spare, still melody, enlivened by occasional leaps of a fifth, was accompanied by rhythmic tapping on different parts of the closed piano, producing a haunting ambience which successfully suggested the fragmentary reminiscences of the text.

Where does arrangement end and composition begin? This is a question Burnside asks in the programme notes, prompted by the inclusion of Hughes’ original composition, ‘She weeps over Rahoon’ – an intense setting of Joyce’s spare and stark evocation of the bleak rain plaintively falling on Ireland’s western coast. Composers may, like Hughes, seek to render these melodies faithfully as they have been heard for hundreds of years; or they may, like Britten for example, establish their own stamp on a familiar melody. For the performer, surely the same questions arise: how to engage with, and respect, a tradition, while offering something personal and new. Though a little unsure of her path at the start of the evening, Tynan had, by the end, found her way home, and her encore, a simple but fresh rendering of the traditional melody, ‘Marble Halls’, sent us all home happy.

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):