Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



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):