Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Johannes der Evangelist auf Patmos by Hieronymus Bosch
27 Aug 2011

Franz Schmidt’s The Book with Seven Seals at Grant Park

In keeping with the festival nature of the piece, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, along with guest soloists and a guest chorus director, gave two performances of Franz Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln on recent weekend evenings.

Franz Schmidt: The Book with Seven Seals

Edith Lienbacher, Soprano; Christa Ratzenböck, Mezzo-Soprano; Robert Künzli, Tenor; Alexander Kaimbacher, Tenor; Albert Pesendorfer, Bass. Grant Park Orchestra. Grant Park Chorus. William Spaulding, Guest Chorus Director. Carlos Kalmar, Conductor.

Above: Johannes der Evangelist auf Patmos by Hieronymus Bosch

 

Carlos Kalmar conducted his forces with the intensity needed to retain the devotional focus and tension throughout the lengthy work. In the extended and demanding role of Saint John the tenor Robert Künzli gave a riveting performance of vocal and dramatic strengths. Participating in various solo and ensemble parts the well chosen cast was made up of soprano Edith Lienbacher, mezzo soprano Christa Ratzenböck, tenor Alexander Kaimbacher, and bass Albert Pesendorfer.

The orchestral prelude to Schmidt’s composition returns, as appropriate, at the close in one of several musical gestures underlining the cyclical nature of the work. In much the same way, the vocal declamations and variations on these are performed in complementary passages near the start and at the end of the work. In the role of both introducing and concluding the piece Künzli’s unflagging Saint John called upon his listeners to recall the sacrifice of Christ. Further, he announced that revelations concerning the end of the world would truly come to pass. Künzli’s approach was at times dramatic and ringing in delivery, whereas at others he used a lighter tone on softer intonation (e.g., the word “gewaschen” [“washed”] in “Der uns geliebet hat und gewaschen von den Sünden” [“He who loved us and washed us from our sins”]). In the role of the Lord’s voice Pesendorfer gave a consistently strong impression in vocal flexibility. His extended mid-range notes on “Ich bin das A und das O” were followed by exhortations to approach the heavenly throne with well projected articulation on low bass notes. After this declaration from above Saint John described the heavenly throne with Künzli achieving specific emphasis on the dramatic “Donner und Stimmen” (“thunder and voices”). As he concluded this description with rapid tempos on “einem fliegenden Adler” (“a flying eagle”), the remaining “Wesen” or “beasts” were enumerated in their positions surrounding the heavenly throne. At this point the additional soloists are first heard as part of a quartet in the parts of the beasts. The soprano, mezzo-soprano, and tenor were joined by Pesendorfer in the quartet as Kaimbacher’s emotive tenor called memorably the holiness of the Lord. For the remaining portions of the prologue the Chorus and Saint John, alternating with the other soloists, introduced the substance of the Book with its seals, the concept of sacrifice, and the preparations to open the Book and announce its revealed wisdom.

Just as the first mention of the Book in the Prologue was heralded by the accompaniment of the organ, Part I and Part II of Schmidt’s work are both introduced by extended organ solos. As each of the first six seals of the Book is opened in Part I, a symbolic figure occurs together with descriptive events on the earth. The Grant Park Chorus, first as a whole and then divided into groups, communicated in their well-rehearsed performance the fate of individuals as the firs two seals released the white and red horses of the apocalypse. Male and female groups of the Chorus conveyed the violent ravages and the intense suffering as a result of war and its devastations. Künzli’s moving summary that “Hölle folgte ihm nach” (“Hell followed after him”) brought a transition to the third seal or the black horseman of hunger. Pesendorfer’s solo in this role introduced a duet for mother and daughter. Ms. Lienbacher and Ms. Ratzenböck sang here with especially effective, merging vocal lines, so that the pain and desperation of human needs were touchingly communicated. After Saint John declared the fourth seal opened, and the pale horse of death was announced, the two male survivors sang that in death they are brothers. Kaimbacher and Pesendorfer performed with fervor their individual parts of the complementary duet which coalesced in a Biblical quote that found both voices perfectly matched. For the earthquake associated with opening the sixth seal toward the close of Part I both Chorus and orchestra swelled into a crescendo ending on “O wer kann da bestehen?” (“O who will be able to stand?”).

The organ solo at the start of Part II has a more ominous tone than in Part I with, as played here, somewhat more pointed individual notes. In the introduction to Saint John’s announcement of the seventh and final seal being opened Künzli lavished emotional effects on his long monologue detailing the original battle between angels and dragon. Orchestral effects were carefully matched to vocal lines so that trumpet and percussion led to a message of judgment. The solo quartet “Wehe euch! Das vierte Wehe” (“Woe! The fourth sorrow”), as introduced by the bass and integrating the other voices skillfully, warns of the celestial lights being extinguished in preparation for the time of judgment. From here to the conclusion of Schmidt’s work the Chorus shares the sung pronouncements with Saint John and with the voice of the Lord. Saint John declares now that a second Book was brought forth, the “Buch des Lebens” or Book of Life, in which are listed those who will be saved. As Künzli reiterated this line with emotional emphasis on “Leben,” the series of repetitions commences which echo the start of the work. His further, emphatic treatment of the prophecy of “Worte” (“words”), as here most appropriate, led to a resolution with the Chorus on the word “Amen!” Chicagoans are fortunate to have heard performances of such commitment of Schmidt’s Book with Seven Seals. These concerts by distinguished soloists and the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus under Kalmar will surely rank among the finest presentations of this masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino

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):