Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms 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. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms 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. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

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.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

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

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

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!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

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.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

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.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

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 Presents an Imaginative Carmen

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.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

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.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

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.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

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.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

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.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anne Sofie von Otter [Photo by Carl Bengtsson / DG]
08 Feb 2012

Weill: Die sieben Todsünden

I failed to discern any rationale behind programming the Brecht-Weill ballet chanté with various works by Debussy, one orchestrated by Robin Holloway.

Kurt Weill: Die sieben Todsünden; Claude Debussy: Danse sacrée et profane; En blanc et noir (orchestrated by Robin Holloway); La mer.

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Bryn Lewis (harp), Synergy Vocals (Paul Badley, Gerard O’Beirne (tenors), Michael Dore, Paul Charrier (basses)), London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor). Barbican Hall, London, Thursday 2 February 2012.

Above: Anne Sofie von Otter [Photo by Carl Bengtsson / DG]

 

The performances certainly extended beyond typical concert length, not helped by a ten-minute delay in beginning, and more to the point, the programme rather felt as if there were one too many piece. How, then, fared what for many was presumably the main attraction, Anne Sofie von Otter in The Seven Deadly Sins? Patchily, I am afraid. There were several problems, but most of all von Otter herself, whose performance seemed quite misconceived. From the opening of the Prologue, her reading lacked edge, seeming far too well-mannered. There is not a single way to perform this repertoire, and not everyone is Lotte Lenya – indeed, of course, no one else is – but, despite the microphone, von Otter sounded either ill at ease or merely pleasant (as in the second of the sins, ‘Stolz’). The performance seemed more an example of that most dubious of enterprises, ‘classical crossover’, than social critique. Oddly, on the occasional instances when she ditched her microphone, vocal production sounded more idiomatic. As for the would-be cool foot-tapping in ‘Zorn’, let us not dwell upon it. The gentlemen of Synergy Vocals were on far better form, though I am not sure that the nature of the amplification helped them. Theirs at least added an edge quite lacking elsewhere, rendering the Family’s hypocritical bourgeois morality all the more repellent. Perhaps surprisingly, Michael Tilson Thomas’s conducting of the London Symphony Orchestra was also rather tame, at least for a good two-thirds of the work. ‘Faulheit’ at least brought something of a wind band sonority, but for much of the performance, the pleasantness of Anna – whether I or II – had apparently proved contagious. In ‘Habsucht’ and ‘Neid’ there was at last some splendid orchestral playing, the LSO properly given its head, the results redolent of Mahagonny, even if Weill is here perhaps a little too obviously imitating his former self. The encore, ‘Speak low’ was preferable in every respect: everyone seemed more relaxed, and there was a far surer grasp of idiom.

At the beginning of the concert, Danse sacrée et profane had mysteriously replaced the advertised Last Pieces, Debussy as orchestrated by Oliver Knussen. LSO principal, Bryn Lewis, gave a good account of the harp part, though Tilson Thomas alternated between the deliberate and the subdued, especially in the first dance. The second showed its kinship to Ravel, but was perhaps overly moulded by the conductor. Holloway’s 2002 orchestration of En blanc et noir, by contrast, proved a revelation. The opening movement brings a glittering edge, at first not especially Debussyan – though it does not seem that Holloway is trying to be so – but perhaps more school of scintillating Dukas. As time went on, flashes and more than flashes, of Debussyan orchestral sonority manifest themselves: informing, but not controlling. This is certainly no attempt at pastiche. The second movement is, unsurprisingly, darker in hue, though not without metallic, militaristic glitter. A poignant trumpet solo lingers in the memory. Likewise the vivid realisation of the confrontation between Ein’ feste Burg and the Marseillaise: almost Ivesian, but better orchestrated. In the final movement, I fancied that I heard, albeit briefly, creepy shades of Bartók, supplanted by Ravel – and that is praise indeed for any orchestration.

La mer, which concluded the programme, opened promisingly, with a fine sense of ‘emerging’, all sections of the LSO on excellent form. ‘De l’aube à midi sur la mer’ flowed well, apparently on the swift side, but not to its detriment. However, by the time we reached the brass fanfares – included, doubtless to the chagrin of some, though I have no problem with them – doubts had begun to set in. So much was a little, and sometimes more than a little, too brash, and I do not think it was just a matter of the Barbican acoustic. Similarly, the glitter of ‘Jeux de vagues’, at first stimulating, soon seemed a little de trop. La mer was veering dangerously close to mere orchestral showpiece, as would be confirmed by the final movement, in which the conductor had it approximate to a decent film score. Direction was present, throughout, to be sure: there was no meandering. And there were some ravishing woodwind solos. But Debussy is so much more interesting, so much less straightforward, than he sounded here. Let us hope that Tilson Thomas does not resolve to tackle Pelléas.

Mark Berry

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):