Recently in Performances
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain. And, if the second half of the programme - 20th-century American classics with the odd folky diversion - did feel a little like a prolonged encore (which was followed by three further suavely delivered numbers complete with mischievous banter and musical high-jinks), this did not lessen the musical and theatrical accomplishment or the evident delight of the Wigmore Hall audience, although I confess to feeling a bit of a sugar-rush
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman
theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or
amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators
or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in
other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.
The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard
Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014
by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine
Goerke in the title role.
Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.
The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.
Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.
Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.
Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.
On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.
Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.
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.