Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner : Max Bruch opera Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

'Sound the trumpet': countertenor duets at Wigmore Hall

This programme of seventeenth-century duets, odes and instrumental works was meticulously and finely delivered by countertenors Iestyn Davies and James Hall, with The King’s Consort, but despite the beauty of the singing and the sensitivity of the playing, somehow it didn’t quite prove as affecting as I had anticipated.

Brenda Rae's superb debut at Wigmore Hall

My last visit of the year to Wigmore Hall also proved to be one of the best of 2018. American soprano Brenda Rae has been lauded for her superb performances in the lyric coloratura repertory, in the US and in Europe, and her interpretation of the title role in ENO’s 2016 production of Berg’s Lulu had the UK critics reaching for their superlatives.

POP Bohème: Melodic, Manic, Misbehaving Hipsters

Pacific Opera Project is in its fourth annual, sold out run of Puccini’s La bohème: AKA 'The Hipsters', and it may seem at first blush that nothing succeeds like success.

Edward Gardner conducts Berlioz's L’Enfance du Christ

L’Enfance du Christ is not an Advent work, but since most of this country’s musical institutions shut down over Christmas, Advent is probably the only chance we shall have to hear it - and even then, only on occasion. But then Messiah is a Lenten work, and yet …

Fantasia on Christmas Carols: Sonoro at Kings Place

The initial appeal of this festive programme by the chamber choir, Sonoro, was the array of unfamiliar names nestled alongside titles of familiar favourites from the carol repertoire.

Dickens in Deptford: Thea Musgrave's A Christmas Carol

Both Venus and the hearth-fire were blazing at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance during this staging of Thea Musgrave’s 1979 opera, A Christmas Carol, an adaptation by the composer of Charles Dickens’ novel of greed, love and redemption.

There is no rose: Gesualdo Six at St John's Smith Square

This concert of Christmas music at St John’s Smith Square confirmed that not only are the Gesualdo Six and their director Owain Park fine and thoughtful musicians, but that they can skilfully shape a musical narrative.

Temple Winter Festival: The Tallis Scholars

Hodie Christus natus est. Today, Christ is born! A miracle: and one which has inspired many a composer to produce their own musical ‘miracle’: choral exultation which seems, like Christ himself, to be a gift to mankind, straight from the divine.

A new Hänsel und Gretel at the Royal Opera House

Fairy-tales work on multiple levels, they tell delightful yet moral stories, but they also enable us to examine deeper issues. With its approachably singable melodies, Engelbert Humperdinck's Märchenoper Hänsel und Gretel functions in a similar way; you can take away the simple delight of the score, but Humperdinck's discreetly Wagnerian treatment of his musical material allows for a variety of more complex interpretations.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Katarina Karnéus [Photo by Mats Backer courtesy of Good Company]
14 Apr 2011

Katarina Karnéus, Wigmore Hall

In Britain, Katarina Karnéus is closely associated with Grieg and Sibelius. Indeed, her career has almost been defined by her recordings of their songs for Hyperion.

Katarina Karnéus, Wigmore Hall

Katarina Karnéus, mezzo-soprano; Julius Drake, piano. Wigmore Hall, London

Above: Katarina Karnéus [Photo by Mats Backer courtesy of Good Company]

 

She’s given them in recital many times, but they’re so beautiful that it was a pleasure to hear her sing them again at the Wigmore Hall in London.

Obviously, live performances and recordings are completely different experiences. Recordings rarely recreate the immediacy of live performance. The Wigmore Hall is one of the finest recital halls in the world. Because it’s relatively small, it automatically creates ideal conditions for song and chamber music. The acoustic is famously warm and intimate. Indeed, the Wigmore Hall issues its own recordings, which can capture the distinctive atmosphere. Even the quietest sotto voce come over well. Sometimes this can be a disadvantage as every minor fault can be heard. But I don’t go to recitals for technical perfection, but to hear performers who care about what they are doing.

On this occasion, Karnéus wasn’t quite her usual self, especially in the first half of the programme where she sang adequately though her voice was dry and strained. Singers are human, and are their own instrument, so any trace of tiredness or ill health is amplified. Edvard Grieg’s Six Poems by Henrik Ibsen op 25 are so lovely that it didn’t matter that Karnéus wasn’t at her best. Her voice elided nicely in “En svane” which was significant, as this song has much in common, musically with Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid), op 67, which was to crown the second half of the recital.

Pianists, unlike singers, are not their own instrument. Julius Drake rose to the occasion. He played with even more grace and limpidity than usual. Every performance is different, and each has its own unique qualities. Here, Drake’s playing was so exquisite that it marked this recital as one in which you could luxuriate in the beauty of the pianism.

Sibelius’s Five Songs op 37, Drake’s playing demonstrated how important sensitive accompaniment is to song performance. The final chords of “Den första kyssen” seemed to echoing into the silence at the end of the song. An angel speaks to a maiden anticipating her first kiss, but hints that death might intervene before love. Often this detail is missed altogether, because it’s so subtle.

Karnéus was more assertive in Ture Rangström’s songs to words by Bo Bergman. She was particularly charming in Flickan under nymånen, where the young girl playfully thinks about her beau. Lilting, flirtatious rhythms, reminiscent of songs like “Killingdans” in Haugtussa. Karneus finished the song with a curtsey and a smile.

Perhaps Karnéus was shepherding her resources for Grieg’s masterpiece Haugtussa , because her voice opened out warmly. She was right to concentrate on songs like “En svane”, with similar challenges. Her voice sounded rejuvenated, soaring well on the climax “Å hildrande du”. Karnéus even looks like Veslemøy, “slight and dark and lithe, with a brown clear complexion and deep-set grey eyes”.

In Grieg, especially, the piano part is almost more crucial than voice, as it evokes mysteries that cannot be expressed in words. The vocal part is energetic and agile, but fundamentally innocent, at least in the first songs. Only when Veslemøy’s heart is broken, do her darker moods emerge. She has second sight, and is more attuned to nature spirits than to humans. Karnéus singing was clear and pure, but Drake’s playing was so exquisitely mercurial that he made the invisible presence of the spirit world feel palpable. He uses plenty of pedal, and echo. He captures the strange tonality in the music which hovers between keys and elusively changes tempo, often stopping suspended in mid-flow. It’s as if Grieg wants us to think of listening to the unheard and unseen.

For there are two parallel worlds in this cycle. One features Veslemøy’s life in the mountains and her unrequited love. The other represents the supernatural which haunts physical reality in Veslemøy’s clairvoyant imagination. Her music could almost be folk music, though it’s much more refined. The piano part, on the other hand, speaks of darker, more troubling forces. Sliding modulations, images of water in triplets that sparkle with light and life, yet also imply hidden depths and strange distortions. While Karnéus was fine, Drake was exceptional, and this performance was made me appreciate all the more the magic in Grieg’s music.

Anne Ozorio

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):