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 Reviews

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

Pietro Mascagni: Iris

There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the relaxed mood of the summer evening.

L’italiana in Algeri, Garsington Opera

George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely have delighted Liberace.

Carmen in San Francisco

Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.

Eugene Onegin, Garsington Opera

Distinguished theatre director Michael Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.

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):