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

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

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):