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 Performances

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Bernarda Fink [Photo by Klemen Breitfuss courtesy of machreich artists management gmbh]
16 Dec 2011

Bernarda Fink, Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Maurice Ravel with a series of concerts that run through to June 2012.

Bernarda Fink at Wigmore Hall

Bernarda Fink, Christopher Glynn, Adam Walker, Marie Bitlloch. Wigmore Hall, London, 14th December 2011.

Above: Bernarda Fink [Photo by Klemen Breitfuss courtesy of machreich artists management gmbh]

 

Mixing piano song with chamber music, Bernarda Fink’s recital titled “Une rare émotion”, placed Ravel’s vocal music in the context of his era. That “rare emotion” was a search for alternatives to mainstream culture, exemplified by exotic, alien places. While British colonialism belittled other cultures, the French saw in “orientalism” potential for creative growth. Ravel’s fascination with non-western concepts wasn’t effete, but an act of affirmative courage.

Bernarda Fink began her recital with Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grecques (1904-6). Their simplicity is deceptive for they represent a very different aesthetic to the often florid fin de siècle lushness popular at the time. Perhaps it’s significant that the poet who wrote the texts, Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, persuaded Ralph Vaughan Williams to study with Ravel instead of with Vincent d’Indy. Fink and Christopher Glynn, her pianist, are right not to overdo the folk origins of these songs, for they herald Ravel’s later work, like Rapsodie espagnol and even Boléro. Perceptively, Fink and Glynn juxtaposed these songs with Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, written only 5 years previously, preceding the languid sensuality of La Flûte de Pan with Camille Saint-Saëns Une flûte invisible (Flautist : Adam Walker)

Moire stellar, however, was Fink’s performance of Ravel’s very early Shéherézade (1903). “Asie, Asie, Asie”, she sang, her voice glowing with excitement, “Vieux pays merveilleux des contes de nourrice”. Then, she intoned the words “Je voudrais voir des assassins souriant”, almost parlando, hinting at menacing mysteries”. Emotional extremes and daring — Ravel was by no means as mannered as the dandy image he presented.

Jules Massenet’s Élégie (1872) was a reminder of the French Romantic tradition, here transcribed for cello (Marie Bitlloch) which nicely complimented Fink’s lower register. The highlight of the evening, nonetheless, was Fink’s performance of Ravel’s Chansons madécasses (1926). This is Ravel’s exoticism in full glory. Fink’s singing took on a shimmer that brought out the suppressed erotic tension. Her Aoua! was spectacular, vibrant with horror. “Méfiez-vous des blancs, habitants du rivage”, she sang. Beware of the whites, who make enticing promises, but bring carnage. The violence is even more terrifying when Ravel follows this outburst with Il est doux. A man is sitting under a palm tree, a woman is preparing his meal. The music lilts languidly. But who is the man, and who is the woman? After Aoua!, we should beware. Ravel is provocative. Exoticism isn’t safe.

Fink and Glynn sang Debussy’s Trois mélodies de Paul Verlaine (1891) and a selection of Fauré songs from his op 39 and 76, including the lovely Les roses d’Ispahan which often makes me swoon, but after that Aoua! anything but Ravel seemed tame. Glynn’s transcription of Poulenc’s Priez por paix, for voice, piano, flute and cello ended the evening on a more soothing note.

Anne Ozorio

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):