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

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Yuki Kasai
27 Jan 2012

Basel Chamber Orchestra, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1984, the Basel Chamber Orchestra has developed a penchant for programmes which combine the modern and unfamiliar with the traditional and renowned.

Basel Chamber Orchestra, Wigmore Hall

Basel Chamber Orchestra. Yuki Kasai, violin. Mark Padmore, tenor; Olivier Darbellay, horn. Wigmore Hall, London, Wednesday 18th January 2012.

Above: Yuki Kasai

 

Directed by their energetic leader, Yuki Kasai, and joined by tenor Mark Padmore and horn player Olivier Darbellay, they offered a thought-provoking performance at the Wigmore Hall which was musically and intellectually satisfying.

The contemporary Swiss composer Lukas Langlotz was born in Basel, and stStudierte an der dortigen Musikhochschule Klavier (bei Jean-Jacques Dünki), Dirigieren (bei Wilfried Boettcher und Manfred Honeck) und Komposition (bei Rudolf Keludied piano, conducting and composition at the Conservatory of his home town, before further studies in Paris and Lucerne. His arrangements of three well-known songs by Henry Purcell, which opened the concert, presented very interesting instrumental combinations and colours - the strings of the Basel Chamber Orchestra extending the original lute accompaniment into a shimmering array of tonal and textural blends - allied to tense, explosive rhythms. Textures were often lucid and light, as the orchestra proposed independent musical ideas beneath and between the vocal declamations.

But, while intriguing, these arrangements were over-complicated and at times intrusive, disturbing the measured declamation of the vocal line and unbalancing the relationship between voice and accompaniment. For example, the textural and rhythmic complexities of the accompanying ensemble rocked the structural foundations provided by the five-bar ground bass in the ‘Evening Hymn’, obscuring the subtlety of the flexible dialogue between the vocal line and the repeating ground the asymmetries of which contribute so much to the expressive freedom and power of the song. ‘Let the night perish’ is perhaps more suited to exaggeratedly dramatic presentation; here Padmore ranged affectingly from despair - “May the dark shades of an eternal night/ Exclude the least kind beam of dawning light” - to devotion, concluding with a poignant prayer that all, from the richest monarch to the poorest slave may “Rest undisturb’d and no distinction have/ Within the silent chambers of the grave”. Padmore’s strong tenor was employed flexibly and with thoughtfully applied dynamic range. Overall, though, the balance between voice and chamber orchestra was not always ideal; there was undeniably much intensity, but little poignancy, joy or peace.

Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn and strings is inevitably still haunted by the shadows of its first performers, Peter Pears and Dennis Brain, who premiered the work in this very Hall in 1943. Padmore and Darbellay gave a reading that was personal and individual, while remaining in tune with Britten’s vocal aesthetic which promotes the centrality of the text above mere ‘beautiful singing’. Indeed, Padmore’s own website avowals that “One of the great things I enjoy about singing is exploring texts”. That’s not to suggest that his singing is not beautiful … if occasionally a few of his textual emphases were a little mannered, Padmore’s tenor was always richly expressive, his diction clear without being overly emphatic or distracting. He dispatched the virtuosic demands of Britten’s vocal writing with ease, creating an array of wonderful vocal vistas to depict the changing poetic worlds. The sincerity and poise of the opening ‘Pastoral’, with the horn sensitively echoing and interweaving with the voice, evolved to a heightened dramatic tension in Tennyson’s ‘The splendour falls on castle walls’, and was transformed into an eerie darkness in Blake’s ‘O Rose, thou are sick!’, Darbellay perfectly matching the modulations of vocal tone. Daring and vibrant pizzicati enhanced the mood of apprehension and strain in the Dirge; indeed, throughout the evening the violins’ intonation was superb, and the players introduced much freshness to these familiar songs, if at times their timbre was somewhat austere, even abrasive. The final song, a sensuous setting of Keats’ sonnet to that ‘soft embalmer of the still midnight’, concluded the cycle in rapt intensity.

It’s only a small quibble - and one which may seem uncharitable given the technical finesse of Darbellay’s natural harmonics - but perhaps Darbellay was a fraction too authoritative in the horn introduction, which should surely sound mysterious and nocturnal, shrouded with a touch of vulnerability? The concluding off-stage reprise was, however, deeply moving: tender and poignant.

Darbellay returned after the interval to perform Mozart's Second Horn Concerto, once again producing a rich array of colours, most notably in the redolent lyricism of the opening movement where the soloist was accompanied by rhythmically buoyant, carefully phrased and feisty playing by the BCO. The final work of the evening, Haydn’s rarely performed Symphony No.52, was a little more untidy, although similarly charged with energy and exuberance. The Andante offered respite and relaxation after the stylish exuberance of the Sturm und Drang first movement, the players appreciating the density of the organically unfolding material and Haydn’s harmonic complexities. This was impressively committed playing.

Claire Seymour

Programme:

Purcell, arr. Lukas Langlotz; Thou wakeful shepherd (A Morning Hymn); Now that the sun hath veiled its light (An Evening Hymn); Let the night perish (Job’s Curse).

Britten: Serenade Op.31 for tenor, horn and strings.

Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 2 in Eb K.417.

Haydn: Symphony No.52 in C minor.

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):