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

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Andreas Scholl
09 Jun 2011

Andreas Scholl, Wigmore Hall

A capacity crowd at the Wigmore Hall eagerly awaited the arrival of Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halperin on the platform on Tuesday evening.

Andreas Scholl, Wigmore Hall

Andreas Scholl, countertenor; Tamar Halperin, harpsichord/piano. Wigmore

 

A capacity crowd at the Wigmore Hall eagerly awaited the arrival of Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halperin on the platform on Tuesday evening. Given the famed serene beauty of Scholl’s countertenor, the programme of mostly slow, contemplative songs from sixteenth- and seventeenth- century England, followed by simple canzonettas by Haydn and folksong arrangements by Brahms, promised great delights

However, Scholl took some time to settle down. Purcell has formed a staple element of his concert programmes and recordings of recent years, and he is renowned for the quiet, controlled restraint which so much of this repertoire demands; yet, the opening two songs suffered from a rather constricted, thin tone and a few problems with intonation. ‘Music for a while’ epitomises the composer’s deep, reflective style, characterised by a controlled simplicity which calls for clarity of line and carefully, flowing phrases. One would expect Scholl to effortlessly deliver the goods, but in contrast to the dark, expressive elaborations of Israeli harpsichord Tamar Halperin’s introductory harpsichord realisation, the vocal line rather lacked shape and focus, the phrases disrupted by exaggerated by over-emphasis on textual repetitions.

Scholl’s diction was also quite poor with consonants and vowels all sounding rather similar. Although it did improve as the evening progressed, he did not ever quite capture the subtleties of the texts, the rich suggestions latent in its metaphors and understatements — as in, for example, Johnson’s ‘Have you seen the bright lily grow/ Before rude hands have touched it?’ The exclamatory flourishes of ‘Sweeter than roses’ did, however, demonstrate his theatricality as the striking textual images triggered rapidly changing vocal moods, complemented by varied accompanying textures.

The first instrumental item completed this Purcellian group. Halperin’s rendering of ‘Round O’ was delicate and restrained; thoughtful ritenuti in the variations made the restatements of the theme seem relaxed and inevitable. Later, the slow movement of Handel’s F Major suite was similarly affective; the repeated middle-register chords above which the ornate stream of melody unfolds were evenly and carefully placed, a ceaseless, sustained bed of sound for the decorative figurations above. One longed for several more movements from this work.

Scholl continued with repertory by lutenists associated with the Elizabethan and Stuart courts — John Dowland, Robert Johnson and Thomas Campion. Here there was more attention to the small details in the texts: in ‘Sorrow, stay’, Scholl’s gentle tone brought out the quiet despair of phrases such as ‘Mark me not to endless pain’, and some simple word-painting was made more pungent by oppositions of major and minor tonalities. The energy and optimism of ‘Say, Love, if ever thou didst find’ introduced a welcome contrast to the melancholy mood. Campion’s ‘I care not for these ladies’ was the most bright and fresh of these songs, as Scholl really engaged with the narrative, subtly changing tempo, pausing or altering emphases to convey the wit and humour of the text. The cry — ‘forsooth: let go!’ — of the girl who is courted and kissed by the poet-speaker, was at first one of denial, then lacked conviction, and finally seemed decidedly inviting!

A return to Purcell brought the first half to a close, and the sensuous sentiments of ‘O solitude’ brought forth a greater range of colour from Scholl, as he shaped the wide ranging phrases effectively, making expressive use of his dark-hued lower register.

After the interval, Scholl seemed more relaxed and the songs by Haydn and Brahms were eloquently delivered. The simplicity of Haydn’s three canzonettas was enlivened by the light, playful accompanying gestures which Halperin, now seated at the piano, introduced, and she demonstrated a similar understated restraint and firm appreciation of classical balance and form in the composer’s Sonata in A, the movements propelling ceaselessly forward into one coherent whole. In the ornate triplets of the Andante, Halperin sustained the evenness of the continuous flowing line while shaping individual motifs with grace. Subtle manipulation of the tempo deepened the expressive power of the minor key Trio in the Minuet, before a rapid alleviating of mood in the jovial Finale.

Scholl seemed most at home in four folksongs selected from Brahms’ Deutsche Volkslieder. In ‘Guten Abend’ he effectively conveyed the tension between the two voices, ‘Er’ and ‘Sie’, engaged in an awkward discussion about love. A similar opposition in ‘Es ging ein Maidlein zarte’ (A tender maid went out’) was further enhanced by the contrasting accompanying textures, rich chords conveying the natural world in which the ‘cheerful healthy maiden’ delighted, being juxtaposed with low halting, hollow octaves. Halperin brought much insight to these rich accompaniments, and also showed great invention in the improvisatory accompaniments to the three English folk-songs which concluded the recital. Now fully at ease, Scholl’s warmer and more relaxed tone led to increased textual clarity, which in turn helped him develop a closer relationship with the audience.

Indeed, throughout the performance Scholl sought to engage directly with his listeners, frequently prefacing the songs with explanations and introductions. Occasionally this destroyed the continuity of mood that the music itself established, however; and, similarly, there was rather too much to-ing and fro-ing between items, as the performers left and re-entered the stage when they were not themselves performing.

There was even some audience participation — not a regular occurrence at the Wigmore Hall! — when, before the interval, Scholl invited us to join in with the refrain of Purcell's ‘Man is for the Woman Made’, in which he himself deployed his conventional tenor register. According to his preamble, Purcell intended the song to provide some light relief for the original theatre audiences. A little surprised, but delighted by the invitation, the Hall proved in fine voice. Indeed, the recital had begun rather unconventionally when one rather exuberant member of the audience greeted the appearance of their ‘idol’ with football-crowd style whooping — possibly the first time such ‘unmusical’ sounds had been heard inside the hallowed walls of the Hall? The more familiar appreciative cries of ‘Bravo’ brought the evening to a warm conclusion.

Claire Seymour

Programme:

Purcell: Music for a while; Sweeter than roses; Round O
Dowland: Sorrow, stay, lend true repentant tears; I saw my lady weep; Say, Love, if ever thou didst find
Handel: Two movements from Suite No.2 in F
Johnson: Have you seen the bright lily grow?
Campion: I care not for these ladies
Purcell: O solitude, my sweetest choice; Man is for the woman made
Haydn: Two English Canzonettas; Sonata in A HXVI:12
Brahms: Four folksongs arranged from the Deutsche Volkslieder
Three Traditional Folksongs: I will give my love an apple; O waly waly; My love is like a red, red rose

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):