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Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.
The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
05 Jun 2010
Lulu, New York
Alban Berg died in 1935, but his music was generations ahead of his time
– as one could not help but conclude during the recent revival of
Lulu at the Met whenever the vibraphone played “doorbell”
music, reminding us of the intrusion of cell phones into theaters.
home painfully five minutes before the performance ended, at the tense moment
when the humiliated Lulu entreats her latest client, a black-bag-toting
Englishman named Jack, into her bedroom. Somebody’s watch began to beep
and kept on beeping. Happily, the music at this point is pretty loud, depicting
what Jack is doing to Lulu just off stage, and Fabio Luisi let it out and
drowned the beeping.
Nothing given at the Met this not-very-triumphant year (with the possible
exceptions of The Nose, From the House of the Dead and
Ariadne auf Naxos) has been of the across-the-board excellence,
brilliantly sung, flawlessly acted, sublimely played, appropriately staged, of
this Lulu. This fact brings to mind questions: Why does Lulu
– seldom a crowd-pleaser (though the house was packed for the performance
I attended, all enthusiastic) – merit this level of care from the Met
while such more traditional fare as Aida or Turandot or
Der Fliegende Holländer or Tosca are allowed to sink or swim,
survive on lingering reputation, the staging haphazard, the singing mediocre?
Is it because Lulu, being notoriously difficult, gets extra attention?
Is it because the Met cannot find anyone capable of singing Aida or Radames or
Turandot, but can easily come up with Lulu and Dr. Schön? It’s difficult
to believe a Lulu of the caliber of Marlis Petersen is to be found on every
street corner of the opera world, and if she has been located and lured to the
Met, why has there been hardly a decent Aida in decades? The
production is there, and Great Isis knows the audience is there, eager to hear
Anne Sofie von Otter as Countess Geschwitz
Well, enough about Aida: this was a Lulu to remember. John
Dexter’s handsome thirty-year-old Jugendstil production, with its
Austro-Hungarian curlicues, its air of Klimt-Schiele decadence, is still
handsome enough to satisfy. The direction was largely appropriate, though
characters occasionally sing of going out of doors when in fact they are
climbing the staircase to an upper floor. Lulu behaved as if on a different
wavelength from that of the men – and women – obsessed with her,
and that is as it should be: she is their idol, their destroyer, their
plaything, their posession. No one ever sees her as human, including Lulu
herself, and when she does show signs of humanity, it’s far too late.
In a cast giving exceptional performances across the board, even in such
minuscule roles as the pimp who tries to blackmail Lulu into entering a brothel
in Cairo in Act III – Graham Clark, sinister and funny, as he was also as
Lulu’s butler in Act II – and the pageboy who obligingly changes
clothes with Lulu, allowing her to escape the pimp – Ginger
Costa-Jackson, who manages the trick of looking and moving like a boy
uncomfortably in drag – the star of the evening, besides Marlis
Petersen’s Lulu, was Fabio Luisi, recently announced as the Met’s
visiting music director, who once again demonstrated that his control, his
musicianship, his dramatic flair rank every him every way as worthy as James
Levine. This was a taut, elegant, alive performance. There was time to notice
such witty details as the concertato in the final scene of Act I – when
the various men in Lulu’s life savage each other vocally in an atonal
parody of a bel canto sextet, while Lulu, the only treble voice on stage, seems
to pay no attention to them.
Petersen, the vocal star of the Met’s Hamlet this spring,
wherein she sang the most old-fashioned of suicidal mad scenes in a luscious,
gratifying manner, might almost be another singer when she sings Lulu. Mind
you, the part could hardly be farther from bel canto Ophélie – it is all
Sprechstimme, high-flying taunting, snarling, giggling, dreaming phrases
pointed here and there on the scale, all of them produced with dramatic intent.
Lulu, the child of nature, is no sensualist like Carmen or Musetta: she likes
the physicality of sex. She does not develop a soul, a self, until she becomes
desperate in Act III, having lost her money, her husbands, her position, almost
her freedom. The transformation in Peteren’s vocal delivery in this act
was matched by her movements; her entire figure seemed that of another woman,
yearning no longer for sex but for death – the equal and opposite urge,
as Freud might have suggested to Berg, his contemporary.
A scene from Act I with James Courtney as the Theater Manager, James Morris as Dr. Schön, Marlis Petersen in the title role, Gary Lehman as Alwa, Graham Clark as the Prince, and Ginger Costa-Jackson as Wardrobe Mistress
James Morris seemed on the ropes when he sang Claudius in Hamlet, his voice
dry and tending towards wobble. As Dr. Schön, Lulu’s most possessive
possessor, he sang with authority and irony. Each syllable was acted, and each
sung note had a degree of menace and self-loathing. A very classy act.
Anne-Sofie von Otter, whom I have found dull in more conventional parts, sang a
most affecting Countess Geschwitz. Gary Lehman was stocky but sympathetic as
Alwa Schön. Bradley Garvin brought particular menace not only to his movements
but to each phrase of his vigorous baritone as the Acrobat. It was a cast
without a flaw, a Lulu to remember forever, the new standard.