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

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

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’.

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):