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

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.

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’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

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):