Recently in Performances
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
20 Feb 2012
The Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition: Showcase Concert
Inaugurated in 1995, the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition is a triennial competition, held in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, which takes place over a week in January.
The next competition will occur in January 2013, and this varied recital featured the three main prize winners from 2010, demonstrating their talents in a range of contrasting idioms and genres.
Established by Dr Veronica Dunne, Ireland’s ‘Grande Dame’ of singing, the Competition is designed to give young Irish singers the opportunity to complete on an international platform; it is, however, open to other nationals who are studying in the UK, and in this recital the Irish tenor Dean Power (3rd prize in 2010) was partnered by two South African sopranos, Pumeza Matshikiza and Sarah-Jane Brandon (1st and 2nd prize respectively).
We began with lieder: five songs from Schumann’s Myrthen Op.25, which the composer presented to his wife, Clara, as a wedding present. There was certainly much passion in the opening ‘Widmung’ (‘Dedication’), performed by Pumeza Matshikiza with ardent intensity; hers is a distinctive timbre, slightly burnished of tone and richly textured. Matshikiza certainly made an immediate impact on the audience; but, I found her undoubtedly striking voice slightly insistent, even overwhelming, in the intimate venue, and would have welcomed a little more dynamic ‘light and shade’. ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’ (‘You are like a flower’) was more poised, but again sensuous passion threatened to outweigh the innocence of the image of the beloved, ‘like a flower/ So sweet and fair and pure’.
A more delicate charm was conjured by Sarah-Jane Brandon in ‘Der Nussbaum’ (‘The walnut tree’); a gentle pianissimo conveyed the whispering of the blossoms and a well-judged rubato suggested the tentative expectancy of the young maiden dreamily listening to rustling tree, yearning and hoping for love. Brandon sustained and projected the melody in ‘Lied der Suleika’ (‘Suleika’s song’), although both songs would have benefited from a few more consonants.
Although a little stiff of manner, Dean Power showed much sensitivity to the text in ‘Die Lotusblume’ (‘The lotus flower’), tenderly shaping the closing image as “sie freundlich/ Ihr frommes Blumengesicht” (“she gladly unveils/ Her innocent flower-like face”). And, there was thoughtful phrasing from both singers in Power’s duet with Matshikiza, ‘In der Nacht’ (‘In the night’).
An operatic sequence followed, beginning with a magisterial ‘Come Scoglio’ from Brandon, demonstrating even tone throughout her range, a particular animation in the upper register, and an ability to negotiate the awkward leaps with sureness. We stayed with Così for Power’s rendering of ‘Tradito, schernito’: the recitative was intelligently delivered and again Power revealed a good sense of melodic line, but his tone is rather unyielding, at times sounding somewhat strained and taut. This was more of a problem in ‘Ecco ridento in cielo’ (from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia) which lacked an Italianate gleam and was rather rushed. Matshikiza was an impassioned, rapt Mimi in ‘Si. Mi chiamano Mimi’, and although her intonation was not always secure, her rich forte clearly won the audience’s heart. Most impressive of the operatic selection was Brandon’s tightly controlled Willow Song, ‘Piangea cantando’ (from Verdi’s Otello), in which the soprano demonstrated evenness of tone and used a range of vocal colours to convey the drama and emotion of the scene.
With a change of pianist — Dearbhla Collins now taking over from the first-half accompanist, Mairéad Hurley — Brandon began the second half of the recital with Richard Strauss’s Four Songs Op.27. These offered her much opportunity to exploit her warm, full tone; the recurring refrain of ‘Ruhe, mein Seele!’ (‘Calm, My Heart!’) built to a satisfying climax, while ‘Morgen!’ (‘Morning!’) was more rapturously serene. Matshikiza followed with three songs by Debussy; her vibrant lyricism was perfectly suited to ‘Nuit d’étoiles’ (‘Starry night’), and in ‘Beau Soir’ (‘Beautiful evening’) the soprano’s intimate composure conveyed the mood of dreamy serenity.
Having been awarded the Dermot Troy prize for Best Irish Singer in 2010, it was left to Power introduce a distinctly Irish flavour into the proceedings, with performances of three twentieth-century songs, beginning with Bernadette Marmion’s ‘When you are old’. Power was more relaxed here, and in Philip Martin’s ‘Be still as you are beautiful’; his characterful performance of ‘The Fiddler of Dooney’ by Hamilton Harty revealed Power to be at ease with the simple folk style, and capable of communicating the energy and vitality of the idiom.
The romantic lyricism and easy melodic charm of three songs by Roger Quilter brought the evening to a satisfying close.
Click here for a photo gallery of the participants.