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

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Jonathan Harvey
02 Feb 2012

Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream

British composer Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream came to London four years after its premieres at the Holland Festival and in Luxembourg.

Jonathan Harvey: Wagner Dream

Claire Booth: Prakriti; Roderick Williams: Buddha; Hilary Summers: Mother; Simon Bailey: Vairochana; Andrew Staples: Ananda; Richard Angas: Old Brahmin; Actors: Nicholas Le Provost: Wagner; Ruth Lass: Cosima Wagner; Julia Innocento: Carrie Pringle; Richard Jackson: Dr Keppler; Sally Brooks: Betty/Vajrayogini. BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins. Director: Orpha Phelan. IRCAM Computer Music Designer: Gilbert Nuono. IRCAM Sound Engineer: Franck Rossi. Designer: Charlie Cridlan. Barbican Hall, London, 29th Jabuary 2012.

Above: Jonathan Harvey

 

How satisfying to see such a full Barbican Hall for the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s opera Wagner Dream. The premise of the opera is at once simple but devastatingly effective: a group of actors play Wagner and the people who surround him in his final hours, and they play out their parts on the uppermost level of the stage; as Wagner dies after a row between himself and Cosima about Carrie Pringle, an ex-Flower Maiden and ex-lover, he sees the events we see on the middle level, the opera Die Sieger (“The Victor”) that Wagner had planned. This is the Buddhist story of Prakriti, her love for the monk Ananda and the consequences of that thwarted love (Tristan, anyone?). The Buddha is able to explain Prakriti’s actions via references to her previous lives, but there is dissent when it is suggested that Prakriti join the previously male-only Buddhist order, mainly from the Old Brahmin. The Buddha accepts her; the action shifts back to Wagner’s time; the worlds collide though when it is Vairachana that guides him towards the next life (the dying Wagner himself had been seeing the characters throughout — none of the people around him, Cosima, the Doctor and so on, could).

Harvey’s grasp of drama is impeccable. The work lasts one and three quarter hours (there is no interval) and thanks to Harvey’s pacing, there is no sense of longeur. There is a sense, however, of underlying timelessness. Staging is sparse, but effective: the Wagners and their floral interloper have an austere table and chairs. The conception of austerity chimes perhaps with the overall feeling of ritual, underlined by pillars of smoke that emanated from both sides of the stage as the audience entered. The players of the BBCSO processed on stage as if about to begin a holy act (and perhaps they were). Surtitles were used, but only after the onset of the Buddhist story.

The vast stretch of Harvey’s available compositional resources was impeccably utilised. Tonal sections made great effect (a lullaby, for example) and yet did not jar in the slightest, instead appearing as just one element in the composer’s palette. The music shares with Wagner’s an ability to take the listener out of temporal time into the composer’s expanded time, and, as with Wagner, the time spent experiencing this piece seemed somehow telescoped, as one became intimately involved with the events and their musical realisation. One one level it felt as if we had been there years; on another, it was a mere moment.

Harvey’s use of electronics is by now ingrained into his mode of discourse, and the electronics emerged as the logical extension of the sound of the orchestra, taking their sounds and manipulating them not only timbrally, but in space as well. The inclusion of a choral concert the previous evening meant we were able to hear the ensemble passages linking back to that, a stylistic equivalence underlined by the programming of the weekend. Yet it was the moments of almost unbelievable beauty that Harvey was able to conjure up from his forces that will linger long in the memory, perhaps most notably his setting of Prakriti’s significant words “Love is strength, Love is beauty”.

While the acting was excellent, it was the singing that truly impressed. As the all-important Prakriti, the experienced Clare Booth excelled, her voice miraculously pure. As seductress, one has to ask if she is a Harvey equivalent to Kundry. Interactions with the creamy-voiced Hilary Summers (Mother) were a joy, and Harvey’s disjunct lines posed no problems to the vocalists. Only Andrew Staples’ tenor was, initially, disappointing — rather on the nasal side. Yet he seemed to relax into the role. Matching Booth for top accolades was Roderick Williams as the Buddha. Williams has a voice of gold. His declamation and presence were simply stunning.

Bass Richard Angas has lost none of his authority, and he projected the Old Brahmin, so stuck in the old ways’ rules, with real strength and conviction, while bass-baritone Simon Bailey made a fine fist of Vairochana. Martyn Brabbins’ conducting was beautifully confident, and the BBCSO responded by reminding us all why they are without parallel in demanding contemporary music. Alas, illness prevented the composer himself from attending. But there is no doubting that this weekend confirmed Harvey’s status at the head of British music, and similarly there is no doubting that this performance of Wagner Dream was the highlight of this mini-festival.

Colin Clarke

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):