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“Man is an abyss. It makes one dizzy to look into it.” So utters Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, repeating what was also a recurring motif in the playwright’s own letters.
National Opera Company of the Rhine has marked this year’s Benjamin Britten celebration with a remarkably compelling, often gripping new production of the seldom-seen Owen Wingrave.
Once upon a time, Frankfurt Opera had the baddest ass reputation in Germany as “the” cutting edge producer of must-see opera.
Productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto can serve as a vehicle for individual singers to make a strong impression and become afterward associated with specific roles in the opera.
Just in case we were not aware that the evening’s programme was ‘themed’, the Britten Sinfonia designed a visual accompaniment to their musical exploration of night, sleep and dreams.
Poor Aida! She never seems to have anything go her way.
Is it possible to upstage Jonas Kaufmann? Kaufmann was brilliant in this Verdi Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House, London, but the rest of the cast was so good that he was but first among equals. Don Carlo is a vehicle for stars, but this time the stars were everyone on stage and in the pit. Even the solo arias, glorious as they are, grow organically out of perfect ensemble. This was a performance that brought out the true beauty of Verdi's music.
The big names were absent: Duparc, D’Indy, Debussy, Ravel
and while Fauré, Chausson, Roussel and several members of Les Six put in an appearance, in less than familiar guises, this survey of French song of the early 20th century and interwar years deliberately took us on a journey through infrequently travelled terrain.
Composed between 1718 and 1720, Handel’s Esther is sometimes described as the ‘first English Oratorio’, but is in fact a hybrid form, mixing elements of oratorio, masque, pastoral and opera.
Hector Berlioz's légende dramatique, La Damnation de Faust, exists somewhere between cantata and opera. Berlioz's flexible attitude to dramatic form made the piece unworkable on the stages of early 19th century Paris and his music is so vivid that you wonder whether the piece needs staging at all.
St. John’s Smith Square was the site of Elizabeth Connell’s final London concert, intended as a farewell to London on her moving to Australia. It was rendered ultimately final by her unexpected death.
With the building of the Suez Canal, Egypt became more interesting to Western Europeans. Khedive Ismail Pasha wanted a hymn by Verdi for the opening of a new opera house in Cairo, but the composer said he did not write occasional pieces.
Back for its fourth revival, David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte has much charm, beauty and artistry.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro has a libretto by Lorenzo daPonte based on the French play La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro) by Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799).
For its world class Easter Festival, Baden-Baden mounted a Die Zauberflöte that owed more to the grey penitential doldrums of Lent than to the unbridled jubilance of re-birth.
Once Berkeley Opera, renamed West Edge Opera, this enterprising company offers the Bay Area’s only serious alternative to corporate opera, to wit Bonjour M. Gauguin.
In the first of pianist Julius Drake’s three-part series,
‘Perspectives’, our gaze was directed at Gustav Mahler’s eclectic musical
responses to human experiences: from the trauma and distress of anguished love
to the sweet contentment of true friendship, from the agonised introspection of
the artist to the diverse dramas of human interaction.
The Los Angeles opera company marketed its spring production of Rossini's La Cenerentola as Cinderella though there is no opera by that name. The libretto of La Cenerentola is not the Cinderella story we know.
The Paris Opéra has not staged a full Ring Cycle since 1957, but its current season will conclude with a correction of this grand operatic gap.
29 Oct 2010
Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder, Preludes and Overtures
A great vintage Mercury album of Antal Dorati conducting Wagner overtures and preludes featured as a cover a close-up of a medieval chalice, undoubtedly meant to reference the Parsifal excerpt on the enclosed disc.
Cover art design in those days was an integral part of excitement and appeal of purchasing classical music recordings. No more. Orchestras make exponentially fewer recordings than they once did, and when one is produced, the cover is likely to be similar to the one Deutsche Grammophon provides for a recent CD of Franz-Welser Möst conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in Wagner preludes and overtures, with Marsha Brueggersoman as soloist in the Wesendock-Lieder. The cover photograph has the boyish conductor holding aloft the smiling singer’s hand before standing members of the orchestra. This is also Deutsche Grammophon’s only clear cover notice that the performance was recorded live. Unfortunately, the perfunctory nature of the packaging is all too indicative of the musical performance within.
Welser-Möst’s conducting tends to veer from abrupt interventionism (highlighting an odd orchestral detail or opting for an unexpected tempo adjustment) to passages of skilled but staid professionalism. The disc opens with the Rienzi overture. The clear, crisp recorded sound allows the listener to share in Welser-Möst’s sudden interest in this wind figure here, or the string accompaniment there. Ultimately, the key to a great performance of this overture should be the ability for the nobility of the main tune to sweep away the listener into vaguely tragic-heroic reveries. That quality Welser-Möst cannot produce.
The Tristan und Isolde selections lack sensuality, and though the Lohengrin preludes are immaculately performed, they are cold in effect. Even the closing Ride of the Valkyries evokes technical admiration without getting the blood racing.
Vocal enthusiasts may opt for the disc solely for the roughly 20 minutes of Marsha Brueggergosman’s elegant performance of the Wesendonck-Lieder. Her tone is rich but never hooty, and she has complete security throughout her range.
An original and imaginative cover couldn’t make the overall impact of this CD any greater. Those with deep collections might break out their Wagner overture and prelude sets conducted by Dorati, or Tennstedt, or Klemperer, or...