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

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.

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.

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.

Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane and Alexandre bis

Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Lohengrin, Dresden

The eyes of the opera world turned recently to Dresden—the city where Wagner premiered his Rienzi, Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser—for an important performance of Lohengrin. For once in Germany it was not about the staging.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne

Having been privileged already to see in little over two months two great productions of Die Meistersinger, one in Paris (Stefan Herheim) and one in Munich (David Bösch), I was unable to resist the prospect of a third staging, at Glyndebourne.

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):