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 Performances

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

A beguiling Il barbiere di Siviglia from GTO

I had mixed feelings about Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia when it was first seen at Glyndebourne in 2016. Now reprised (revival director, Sinéad O’Neill) for the autumn 2017 tour, the designs remain a vibrant mosaic of rich hues and Moorish motifs, the supernumeraries - commedia stereotypes cum comic interlopers - infiltrate and interact even more piquantly, and the harpsichords are still flying in, unfathomably, from all angles. But, the drama is a little less hyperactive, the characterisation less larger-than-life. And, this Saturday evening performance went down a treat with the Canterbury crowd on the final night of GTO’s brief residency at the Marlowe Theatre.

Brett Dean's Hamlet: GTO in Canterbury

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet,’ says Matthew Jocelyn in an interview printed in the 2017 Glyndebourne programme book. The librettist of Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera based on the Bard’s most oft-performed tragedy, which was premiered to acclaim in June this year, was noting the variants between the extant sources for the play - the First, or ‘Bad’, Quarto of 1603, which contains just over half of the text of the Second Quarto which published the following year, and the First Folio of 1623 - no one of which can reliably be guaranteed superiority over the other.

WNO's Russian Revolution series: the grim repetitions of the house of the dead

‘We lived in a heap together in one barrack. The flooring was rotten and an inch deep in filth, so that we slipped and fell. When wood was put into the stove no heat came out, only a terrible smell that lasted through the winter.’ So wrote Dostoevsky, in a letter to his brother, about his experiences in the Siberian prison camp at Omsk where he was incarcerated between 1850-54, because of his association with a group of political dissidents who had tried to assassinate the Tsar. Dostoevsky’s ‘house of the dead’ is harrowingly reproduced by Maria Björsen’s set - a dark, Dantesque pit from which there is no possibility of escape - for David Pountney’s 1982 production of Janáček’s final opera, here revived as part of Welsh National Opera’s Russian Revolution series.

The 2017 Glyndebourne Tour arrives in Canterbury with a satisfying Così fan tutte

A Così fan tutte set in the 18th century, in Naples, beside the sea: what, no meddling with Mozart? Whatever next! First seen in 2006, and now on its final run before ‘retirement’, Nicholas Hytner’s straightforward account (revived by Bruno Ravella) of Mozart’s part-playful, part-piquant tale of amorous entanglements was a refreshing opener at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where Glyndebourne Festival Opera arrived this week for the first sojourn of the 2017 tour.

Richard Jones's Rodelinda returns to ENO

Shameless grabs for power; vicious, self-destructive dynastic in-fighting; a self-righteous and unwavering sense of entitlement; bruised egos and integrity jettisoned. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was the current Tory government that was being described. However, we are not in twenty-first-century Westminster, but rather in seventh-century Lombardy, the setting for Handel’s 1725 opera, Rodelinda, Richard Jones’s 2014 production of which is currently being revived at English National Opera.

Amusing Old Movie Becomes Engrossing New Opera

Director Mario Bava’s motion picture, Hercules in the Haunted World, was released in Italy in November 1961, and in the United States in April 1964. In 2010 composer Patrick Morganelli wrote a chamber opera entitled Hercules vs. Vampires for Opera Theater Oregon.

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If a credible portrayal of the title character in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is vital to any performance, the success of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current, exciting production hinges very much on the memorable court jester and father sung by baritone Quinn Kelsey.

Wexford Festival Opera 2017

‘What’s the delay? A little wind and rain are nothing to worry about!’ The villagers’ indifference to the inclement weather which occurs mid-way through Jacopo Foroni’s opera Margherita - as the townsfolk set off in pursuit of two mystery assailants seen attacking a man in the forest - acquired an unintentionally ironic slant in Wexford Opera House on the opening night of Michael Sturm’s production, raising a wry chuckle from the audience.

The Genius of Purcell: Carolyn Sampson and The King's Consort at the Wigmore Hall

This celebration of The Genius of Purcell by Carolyn Sampson and The King’s Consort at the Wigmore Hall was music-making of the most absorbing and invigorating kind: unmannered, direct and refreshing.

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Vladimir Jurowski [Dressed by Ermenegildo Zegna; Photo by Sheila Rock courtesy of IMG Artists]
06 Feb 2011

Jurowski, Das klagende Lied

Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic have repeated their success with Mahler’s Das klagende Lied at the Royal Festival Hall.

György Ligeti: Lontano; Béla Bartók: Concerto for Violin no. 1; Gustav Mahler: Das klagende Lied

Barnabás Kelemen (violin), Melanie Deiner( soprano), Christianne Stotijn (mezzo soprano), Michael König (baritone), Christopher Purves (tenor). Vladimir Jurowski (conductor), London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Chorus and memebers of the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus. Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London, 29th January 2011.

Above: Vladimir Jurowski [Dressed by Ermenegildo Zegna; Photo by Sheila Rock courtesy of IMG Artists]

 

In 1880, while still a student at the Vienna Conservatoire, Mahler wrote the libretto for his cantata Das klagende Lied, an early work that he would later describe as his Opus 1. Part 1 (Waldmarchen) tells of two brothers — young knights — the elder one murdering the younger in order to win the hand of a queen. Part 2 (Der Spielmann) tells how a wandering minstrel finds a bone from the dead knight’s body and carves a flute from it. When he plays the instrument the voice of the dead brother emerges, recounting how he had been murdered. In part 3 (Hochzeitstuck), the guilty brother’s crime is exposed to the whole court when he borrows the visiting minstrel’s flute and tries to play it during the wedding revelries. The shock causes the queen to faint, at which point the castle collapses. Based on a folk-tale retold by Ludwig Bechstein and the brothers Grimm, this brooding Romantic tale drew a suitably full-blooded score from Mahler, looking back to Wagner on the one hand, and forward to his own First Symphony on the other.

The composer completed the 3-movement score in 1880 but had no luck in getting it performed. Only in 1901, and after Mahler had twice revised the orchestration and abandoned Part 1 altogether, did a performance take place in Vienna under the composer’s direction. These days, performances are sometimes given of Part 1 coupled with Parts 2 and 3 in Mahler’s revision, but in this reading by the LPO under Jurowski we heard the whole cantata as first conceived by Mahler, and with his original orchestration. Back in 2007 it seemed as though Jurowski was still finding his way into the Mahler idiom. There were many vivid incidents, but rather less a sense of dramatic cohesion.

Three years on, it was striking how much Jurowski’s understanding of the piece had matured, as he expertly charted the drama’s progress, integrating the various episodes and vividly capturing every mood, whether of sylvan charm or of treacherous murder and its consequences. Amongst many instances one could cite, there was the intense energy of the opening pages of Part 2 and the Wedding Scene, the touching sense of repose as the younger brother lays down to rest; and the dark tones that accompanied the flute’s revelation of the murder.

In achieving this success, Jurowski was superbly abetted by the LPO (every department playing with total commitment) and the London Philharmonic Choir singing wonderfully. Members of Glyndebourne Chorus sang solo parts from within the chorus ranks, and centrally positioned at the front of the choir were the soloists: the well-focused and fine-toned Melanie Diener (soprano) and Christopher Purves (baritone); plus Christianne Stotijn (mezzo) and Michael Konig (tenor) singing confidently. The parts of the young knights were divided between a highly assured Jacob Thorn and the valiant Leopold Benedict.

The placing of these singers at centre-front of the choir, however good an idea it may have seemed in theory, was arguably an error of judgment, for none of the singers was able to make a proper impact, which they surely would have done had they been positioned at the front of the platform. Likewise, the off-stage band (here incorporating shrill E flat clarinets, military flugelhorns, and cornet, again in accordance with Mahler’s initial intentions) seemed more distant than was perhaps intended.

Such qualifications aside, there can be no gainsaying that, from first note to last, Jurowski and his assembled forces produced a most compelling and exhilarating performance, full of myriad theatrical touches. And while Mahler, during the 1890s, may have decided that Part 1 was superfluous, a performance as vivid and as integrated as this made a very strong case for his original vision.

The first half of the concert opened with Ligeti’s Lontano for large orchestra, which was used by Stanley Kubrick in his film The Shining. Jurowski balanced the strings, wind and brass for which Lontano is scored, with notable refinement, creating continuously fascinating textures. Overall, though, the result was less shadowy, less nebulous, than the piece ideally requires.

Lontano was followed by Bartok’s First Violin Concerto, in which the soloist was the Hungarian Barnabás Kelemen, who played a 1742 Guarneri (ex Denes Kovacs), an instrument blessed with a gratifyingly rich tone. This two-movement (as never completed) work, written in 1907-8 when Bartok was in love with his student Stefi Geyer, was given a performance fully attuned to the work’s folk roots and emotional impulses. Kelemen’s view of the piece happily wedded earthiness to lyricism and reached right into the heart of the piece. The success of this reading owed an equal debt to the alert and idiomatic accompaniment of Jurowski and the orchestra.

Clearly delighted to offer his audience further evidence of his remarkable talents, Kelemen gave two encores: the Presto from Bartok’s Sonata for Solo Violin and the Sarabande from JS Bach’s Sonata in D minor. All the qualities observable in the concerto, plus a heightened virtuosity, were evident in the Presto, whilst in the Partita there was a fusion of deep emotion and nobility, as well as a beauty of phrasing, which made a deep impression on a clearly much affected audience.

Richard Landau

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):