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

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Renata Pokupić [Photo by Chris Gloag courtesy of Intermusica]
23 Oct 2011

Renata Pokupić, Wigmore Hall

In this appealing lunchtime recital programme, Croatian soprano Renata Pokupić demonstrated a rich, varied tonal palette and strong communicative skills as she spanned one hundred years of European song.

Renata Pokupić, Wigmore Hall

Mezzo-soprano: Renata Pokupić; Piano: Roger Vignoles. Wigmore Hall, London, Monday 17th October 2011.

Above: Renata Pokupić [Photo by Chris Gloag courtesy of Intermusica]

 

Ranging far from the coloratura repertoire with which she has primarily made her name in the opera house, Pokupić was perhaps more comfortable with the impassioned folk sentiments of Dvořák’s Cigánské melodie (Gypsy Songs) and the flamboyance of Weill’s songs from Marie Galante than with the poised control of Schubert’s late lieder or the expressive nuances of Enescu’s settings of Clément Marot; but, supported by the typically accomplished accompaniments of Roger Vignoles, she presented an engaging sequence of song to a receptive audience.

The opening four Schubert songs, all composed during the last two or three years of the composer’s death in 1828, reveal the extraordinary diversity that Schubert achieved within the small form. Drawn and translated by Edward von Bauemfeld from Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, ‘An Silvia’ is a sweet serenade to the eponymous protagonist. Adopting a tender, reflective tone Popukić revealed flashes of glimmering brightness, as the narrator remarked nature’s adoration of Silvia’s powers – “the wide fields praise her” and “Her gentle child-like charm refreshes”. Unfortunately, ‘Im Abendrot’ (‘Sunset glow’) and ‘Die Junge Nonne’ (‘The young nun’) were marred by some insecure intonation and melodic uncertainty; Popukić particularly struggled to control sustained pitches and confined melodic contours. Moreover, though the larger dramatic canvas of the final song suited the mezzo soprano’s temperament, a fittingly vigorous outburst as the nun rejoices in her transfiguring love for her God – “The loving bride awaits the bridegroom,/purified by testing fire -/ wedded to eternal love” – revealed plenty of power and fire, but also some unpleasant pushing of the voice at the expressive climax.

Roger Vignoles is a master of the judicious accompaniment, creating consistent, understated textures from which significant bass figures, telling melodic motifs and pointed expressive gestures sleekly arise to effortlessly assert themselves and then surreptitiously fade, always in expressive service of the text or diplomatically responding to the singer’s needs. This was most powerfully evident in the Schubert songs. Thus, the gentle ‘strumming’ of ‘An Silvia’ was momentarily enlivened by melodic echoes of, and dialogue with, the voice, all the while underpinned by the springing dotted rhythms of the leaping bass. And, appreciative of the way these ‘miniature’ forms can contain significant emotional depths and range, and alert to the overall structure and drama, he expertly controlled the rubato and brief but affective alternation of major and minor tonalities in the penultimate stanza of ‘Im Frühling’, restoring the settled ambience at the close. Sweeping, arpeggiated chords radiated the warm, golden gleam of the glowing sun in ‘Im Abendrot’, then gave way to the ‘raging storm’ – conveyed by an energised, oscillating bass, trembling beneath clanging treble cloister bells – in ‘Die junge Nonne’.

A more centred vocal line, amid adventurous harmonic progressions, was achieved in the ardent ‘Estrene à Anne’ (‘A gift for Anne’), which began the sequence of five songs from the Romanian George Enescu’s Sept Chanson de Clément Marot. Popukić effectively negotiated the rather archaic French texts and demonstrated much feeling for textual meaning and nuance, particularly in ‘Languir me fais’ (‘You make me pine’), where Vignoles’ elegant piano introduction adeptly established the reflective mood. She enjoyed the wit of ‘Aux damoyselles paresseuses d’escrit à leurs amys’ (‘To young ladies too lazy to write to their friends’), pianist and singer crafting an adroitly calculated, insouciant reading. Popukić’s delightfully rich lower register was much in evidence in ‘Changeons propos, c’est trop chanté d’amours’ (‘Let’s change the subject, enough of lauding love’), an unsentimental drinking song which galloped and then collapsed in a inebriated conclusion in praise of liquor and its celebrants, Bacchus and Silenus, who: “drank standing bolt upright;/ then he would dance,/ and bruise himself/ his nose was as red as a cherry;/ Many are those descended from his race.”

The second half of the recital found Popukić in her more natural element, whether embodying the bohemian personae of Dvořák’s folk songs, which tell of the joys and hardships of gypsy life, or enjoying the cabaret lilt of Weill’s songs for Jacques Déval’s play, Marie Galante. Popukić proved herself capable of shaping and controlling wide-ranging melodic arcs and leaping between registers, and of communicating extremes and contrasts of emotion, in the Cigánské melodie. An intense gravity characterised ‘My song resounds with love to me again’, as the narrator experiences both joy and loss, “when I am glad that, freed from misery/ my brother dies”; and deep melancholy underpinned ‘And the wood’s silent all around’, despite the warm major harmonies. Similarly, the arching melodic phrases of ‘Songs my mother taught me’, beautifully fashioned by Popukić with lustrous tone and enriched by the piano’s decorative ornamental motifs and propelling syncopations, presented a poignant blend of contradictory sentiments. A wilder more festive mood was created in the following two dances, ‘The strings are tuned, my lad’, and ‘Wide sleeves and loose trousers’, as Popukić at last fully relaxed, relishing the nonchalant fluctuations of pace and the unrestrained celebrations of freedom and music.

In Weill’s tango-inspired ‘Youkali’, Popukić unleashed a sultry low register and suave lyricism, saving a dulcet floating colour for the closing phrase as the narrator reflects that, whatever tedium we must endure in life, the human soul seeks escape, “oblivion everywhere”: “to find the mystery,/ where our dreams are buried/ in some Youkali.” The melodramatic grotesquery of ‘Le grand Lustucru’ (‘The Great Bogeyman’) and the extravagant dramatic sentiments of ‘J’attends un navire’ (‘I wait for a ship’) allowed Popukić to indulge her theatrical instincts, bringing the recital to an energetic and highly entertaining conclusion.

Claire Seymour

Programme:

Franz Schubert: ‘An Silvia’ D891; ‘Im Frühling’ D882; ‘Im Abendrot’ D799; ‘Die junge Nonne’ D828.

George Enescu: Songs from Sept chanson de Clément Marot Op.15

Antonín Dvořák: Cigánské melodie (Gypsy Songs) Op.55

Kurt Weill: Songs from Marie Galante

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):