Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Donnacha Dennehy: Grá agus Bás
30 Sep 2011

The music of Donnacha Dennehy

Love and Death is the name of one of Woody Allen’s earlier films, one built around parodies of Tolstoy and other Russian 19th century literary giants.

Donnacha Dennehy: Grá agus Bás

Click here for the list of musicians and production staff

Nonesuch 527063-2 [CD]

$14.99  Click to buy

In Celtic, those words serve as the title of a major piece by the relatively young Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy (b. 1970). And that piece — Grá agus Bás — gives its title to the CD containing it and a song cycle set to the poetry of William Butler Yeats, called That the Night Come. Bob Simpson’s booklet essay for the Nonesuch release attributes to the composer the claim that the title piece is “in no sense a Nationalistic statement.” Indeed, despite the Irish folk music that serves as the inspiration for Grá agus Bás and the poetry of one of Ireland’s greatest authors forming the basis of That the Night Come, the Nonesuch CD doesn’t feel like a 21st century Irish travelogue in contemporary music form. Dennehy manages the tricky and admirable feat of creating music that, while definitely showing its influences, presents a strong and interesting personal profile.

The title piece is a very bold statement. About 25 minutes in length, Grá agus Bás features the vocalism of Iarla Ó Lionáird, a man who specializes in sean-nós, “old tradition” singing. This is full-voiced singing, within a rather limited range, in which wavering of pitch colors the sound, offering tints of yearning and eeriness. Dennehy maintains interest over the work’s span by varying the textures in seamless segments. At root, the accompanying Crash Ensemble performs a sort of kaleidoscope of minimalist gestures, but more of John Adams's style than, say, that of Philip Glass. This is to say, there are acerbic statements at times, and more of a subtly shifting static fabric than the endlessly looping arpeggios of Glass.

Nonesuch provides an English translation of the texts for Grá agus Bás (as well as the Yeats’ poems), but perhaps the best way to experience Grá agus Bás is to let the sound wash over one, imaging the changing weather playing across the sort of bleak but beautiful landscape seen in the packaging art.

Dawn Upshaw takes the vocal line in That the Night Come, but Dennehy’s lines bring touches of the sean-nós tradition, and Upshaw manages them very well. As ever, her enunciation is crystal clear, and though her soprano has noticeably darkened, it is still a very attractive presence. The six selections range from just over 3 minutes to about 9, and the Crash Ensemble’s support sometimes features percussion and electronic effects that show Dennehy’s familiarity with the better representatives of pop-rock music of the last two decades. Still, this is unmistakably art music — not aggressively challenging, but evocative and complex.

Without resorting to excessive claims, this is one recording of contemporary music that leaves a listener interested in hearing more from a composer. Donnacha Dennehy may not have intended a “nationalistic statement,” but Ireland has itself a major voice.

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):