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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Gustav Mahler
14 Aug 2011

Prom 32: Brahms and Mahler

Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Mahler’s Das klagende Lied did not seem to be the most obvious bedfellows — there has been some rather peculiar programming at this year’s Proms — and even after further consideration, the only real connection I could muster was that they were written at the same time: the concerto in 1878, the cantata between 1878 and 1880.

Brahms — Violin Concerto in D major, op.77; Mahler — Das klagende Lied (original version)

Christian Tetzlaff (violin); Melanie Diener (soprano); Anna Larsson (mezzo-soprano); Stuart Skelton (tenor); Christopher Purves (baritone); Theodore Beeny, Augustus Bell, Timothy Fairbairn, Thomas Featherstonehaugh, Matthew Lloyd-Wilson, Oluwatimilehin Otudeko (trebles); BBC Singers (chorus master: Stephen Jackson); Edward Gardner (conductor). Royal Albert Hall, London, 7 August 2011.

Above: Gustav Mahler

 

At any rate, Christian Teztlaff gave a fine account of the former, though he was not always matched by Edward Gardner’s conducting, which was mostly unobjectionable — more than can be said for many examples — but not especially rich in insight. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was generally on good, if not infallible, form, its first movement contribution more lyrical than stentorian. (A mobile telephone provided unwanted interruption during the first exposition.) Teztlaff’s solo performance was intensely committed, fiercely dramatic, and unwavering in intonation, the cadenza (Joachim’s) providing both intimacy and direction. The opening of the ensuing coda proved splendidly autumnal, though its conclusion was arguably rushed by Gardner. Unwelcome applause intervened prior to a slow movement in which Tetzlaff generally acted as first among serenade-like equals, the spirit of Mozart undeniably present. Though the opening woodwind solos, especially Richard Simpson’s oboe, were well taken, there was a sense that they might have sung still more freely had Gardner moulded them less. That is a minor criticism, however, for Tetzlaff’s sweet-toned rendition ensured that the heart strings would be tugged where necessary, without the slightest hint of undue manipulation. Gardner, to his credit, held the audience at bay during the brief pause before the finale. Rhythms were well pointed here, though there were times when the orchestra felt a little driven. Tetzlaff’s musicianship and virtuosity were never in doubt; it would be good to hear him in this concerto with a more experienced Brahmsian, such as Bernard Haitink, Kurt Masur, or Sir Colin Davis. If anything even better was his poised, thoughtful, richly expressive encore account of the Gavotte en rondeau from Bach’s E major Partita. Not for the first time, the smallest of forces seemed to project better than a typical symphony orchestra in the problematic acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall.

Gardner fashioned a performance of Das klagende Lied that was more ‘operatic’ than benefits the music. Or, to put it another way, it concentrated on highlighting of certain textual ‘incident’ and artificially whipped-up excitement in a stop-and-start way that recalled Sir Georg Solti (though I am not sure whether Solti conducted this particular work). At least, though, we could hear vibrato-laden strings, a relief after the horror tales of Sir Roger Norrington’s recent Ninth Symphony. The orchestral introduction to ‘Waldmärchen’ was somewhat hesitant at first, and then, as if to compensate, was fiercely driven. It eventually settled, but the movement as a whole did not. The second stanza, though well presented vocally and orchestrally, simply dragged, Gardner seemingly finding it impossible to alight upon a just tempo. Uncertain brass slightly marred the brothers’ entry into the forest, though tenor Stuart Skelton gave a good sense of Mahler as balladeer. When, during the final two stanzas, Mahler’s Wagnerian inheritance — Gardner seemed previously to have done his utmost to make the composer sound closer to Verdi! — inevitably came to the fore, whether through harmony, instrumentation, and vocal line, it was almost a sense of too little, too late. Anna Larsson, a late substitution for Ekaterina Gubanova, nevertheless proved a wonderfully rich mezzo soloist.

Intimations of the First and Second Symphonies in the introduction to ‘Der Spielmann’ came across clearly — how could they not? — but, in Gardner’s hands, there was something unnecessarily four-square to the phrasing. Christopher Purves, however, proved plaintive indeed upon the words ‘Dort ist’s so lind und voll von Duft, als ging ein Weinen durch die Luft!’, even though the pacing now had become unduly distended. The first entry of the off-stage band sounded splendid in itself, but Gardner struggled — and failed — to keep it together with the ‘main’ orchestra. There were, happily, no such problems later on. Tempi here and in the concluding ‘Hochzeitsstück’ veered towards the comatose, however, interspersed with ‘compensating’ rushed passages. What should sound wide-eyed in its staggering youthful ambition and accomplishment tended merely to sprawl. (Applause again intervened between the second and third movements.) Choral diction was very good throughout, though it would have done no harm to have had a larger chorus. Treble voices touched in their fragility, helping to prove once again that it is this original version of Das klagende Lied that has the superior claim to performance. I cannot begin to understand David Matthews’s programme note claim that the revised two-part version is ‘incontrovertibly tighter and arguably more effective’. If the effect were somewhat sprawling, that was the fault of Gardner’s performance, not of the work itself, which is a much better piece than this evening’s audience may have been led to believe.

Mark Berry

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):