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 Reviews

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Frederick Delius: Brigg Fair and other works
23 Sep 2011

Beecham conducts Delius

Frederick Delius counts among those many composers whose reputations rely on their orchestral efforts, but who dearly wanted to make a lasting contribution to the opera repertory.

Frederick Delius: Brigg Fair and other works

Mezzo-Soprano: Maureen Forrester, mezzo-soprano; John Cameron, baritone. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Thomas Beecham.

EMI Classics 0946532 [2CDs]

$10.94  Click to buy

Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet, however, rarely gets staged — while an excerpt, “The Walk to The Paradise Garden,” often appears on classical radio station playlists.

That particular piece does not appear on the two-disc set EMI Classics calls “Delius: Favourite Orchestral Works,” but the intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda and the Irmelin Prelude made it. Perhaps EMI doesn’t have a recording of Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the “Paradise Garden” piece, as another name for this set could have been “Beecham Conducts Delius.” And that title would have been appropriate, for Beecham conducting Delius makes for delightful listening, whereas some other conductors with less sympathy for Delius’s sound world might have served up two and a half hours of string-heavy goop.

These late 1950s recordings come from an era of analogue warmth. They sound fine today — detailed, and yet not clinically cold, as too many digital recordings can be. And Sir Thomas brings his inimitable touch to each performance, with perfect tempo choices that never drag, yet never push forward aggressively. Delius could certainly write a fine tune (the Florida Suite is full of them) but atmosphere is what he really creates — languid, sensual, nostalgic. Of course, two and a half hours of that atmosphere will be more than most people need to experience in one sitting, and disc two begins to feel repetitive — “Didn’t we hear this selection on disc one?” No, but we can be forgiven for thinking so.

The set closes with orchestral settings of poet Ernest Dowson’s Songs of Sunset, for baritone and mezzo-soprano. Dowson is most known today for some phrases that entered the 20th century consciousness, such as the line “the days of wine and roses” from the last selection, “They are not long, the weeping and the laughter.” The diction and imagery now feel dated and stilted, and there should really be some variety to the dominating mood of forlorn sentimentality. But the piece could not hope for a better performance. John Cameron and Maureen Forrester sing in the best British oratorio tradition — on the credit side, that means disciplined enunciation and plaintive tone. Others will perceive the debit side, with the readings coming off as fussy and the tone a touch too fruity.

Any music library without some Delius, however, will be lacking a choice slice of early twentieth century music-making — the polar opposite of the Second Viennese school, or at least equatorially distant, as there is no frigidity to Delius at all. Such music libraries should snap up this budget EMI set of Beecham conducting much of the composer’s best music.

Chris Mullins

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):