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

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

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.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

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.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

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.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

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.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

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.

Elektra at Prom 59

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Kathleen Ferrier
02 May 2012

The Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2012

This year’s Kathleen Ferrier Awards final was both a competition and a celebration, marking as it did the centenary anniversary of the great singer’s birth.

The Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2012

Wigmore Hall, London Friday 27 April 2012

Above: Kathleen Ferrier

 

First held in 1956, following Ferrier’s tragically early death on 22 April 1952, the competition has supported many young singers in their early years of training and, since 2009, has also offered additional support to its prize winners in the form of sponsoring a series of recitals around the UK, giving these singers public platforms to develop their recital skills. Recent prize recipients have included Emma Bell, Kate Royal, Elizabeth Watts, Martene Grimson, Andrew Kennedy and Robert Murray, and many others who have gone on to win considerable international acclaim.

The demands of the competition are rigorous: both first round and semi-final must include an operatic aria and art song, and singers must show appreciation of the musical and technical characteristics of different periods and styles. The final must contain at least one song in English and present a balance between opera and song.

Natalya-3.gifNatalya Romaniw [Photo by Patrick Allen, Opera Omnia, courtesy of Hazard Chase Limited]

This year’s winner, Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw, offered a daring programme which played to her strengths — a big, richly coloured tone and a confident, mature dramatic presence. Opening with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Atchevo eta pryezhdye nye znala’ from Iolanta she exhibited a beautiful vocal lustre and a natural instinct for phrase shape, carefully modulating the dynamic expression to communicate textual meaning. Strauss’s ‘Ständchen’ showed off the glistening, exhilarating sheen of her upper notes, and its power, while the same composer’s ‘Ruhe meine seele’ demonstrated that Romaniw can sustain a centred, pleasing line in the lower register too. Jonathan Dove’s ‘Between your sheets’ was imaginative and adventurous programming, and here Romaniw adopted a more intimate tone, sensitively conveying the words. But, it was back into extrovert mode for Britten’s ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’: fortunately, she did not indulge in cabaret hyperbole, but enjoyed sharing the wit and humour of the song with the audience, in an appealing, engaging rendition which deservedly garnered the song prize for Romaniw too.

Baritone Ben McAteer and soprano Ruth Jenkins shared second prize. I felt that McAteer’s communication of the text, as he effortlessly embodied a range of characters in different dramatic and emotional situations, put him in the running for first prize. Whether outpouring Romantic angst or relishing the ironic wit of Classicism, every word was crystal clear and every musical gesture perfectly matched to the sentiments of the text. The gradation of dramatic moods in Schumann’s ‘Belsazar’ was superb, the phrase endings beautifully crafted, while ‘Kogda bï zhizn domashnim krugom’ from Eugene Onegin demonstrated the relaxed flexibility of McAteer’s warm baritone. Hamilton Harty’s setting of the traditional Irish song, ‘My Lagan Love’, made a moving conclusion to his programme; the tempo was audaciously slow, McAteer’s dark pianissimo deeply expressive, and the rhetorical power of the song instinctively conveyed.

Ruth Jenkins demonstrated variety of tone and a broad tessitura in an interesting programme which embraced Schubert, Wolf, Handel, James Macmillan and the Icelandic composer, Sigfús Einarsson. Seeming a little nervous at the start, Jenkins struggled to control her vibrato in the long sustained notes that open Schubert’s ‘Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen’, but she did show that she knows how to build through individual phrases to shape coherent larger structures. Her intonation settled, however, and Einarsson’s ‘Draumalandio’ was notable for its wistful, gentle ambience. Gaining confidence, Jenkins brought a translucent quality to the tranquil rocking intervals of Macmillan’s ‘The Children’. She skilfully controlled the repetitive vocal line, which, like a child’s song, employs only a few basic intervals, tenderly conveying the innocence of the child in contrast to the more sophisticated gestures of the sparse piano accompaniment.

There were three other finalists. Soprano Eleanor Dennis demonstrated plenty of sparkle in ‘Come Scoglio’ and a burnished lower range in Britten’s ‘Nocturne’ from On This Island. She blended folky gestures with virtuosity in Eva Dell’Acqua’s ‘Villanelle’ but, while this was an accurately performed programme Dennis, in the difficult ‘opening slot’, did not always have the stage presence to fully engage the audience. Dennis’s accompanist, Craig White, was awarded the accompanist’s prize.

The same lack of stage impact also characterised soprano Robyn Allegra Parton’s performance. Although her rendering of Quilter’s ‘Love’s Philosophy’ was exuberant, and ‘My heart leaps up’ from Britten’s Albert Herring carefully shaped, Parton’s performance was accurate, poised and pleasing rather than exciting and impactful.

The limitations of the countertenor repertoire inevitably affected Russell Harcourt’s programming; but while he attempted to introduce variety, juxtaposing Handel with Heggie, Harcourt’s light graceful voice ultimately lacked diversity of colour. This proved problematic in Bach’s renowned ‘Erbarme dich’ from the St. Matthew Passion, where he was unable to impose his presence in the strophic repetitions, following the long piano ‘between-verse’ passages. A burgeoning theatricality was evident in Handel’s ‘Vivi tiranno’ from Rodelinda, however, as well as superb breath control and an effective rhetorical style.

I’m sure we will be hearing much more from all these accomplished singers in future. And, the centenary celebrations continue at the Wigmore Hall on 28 June, when six recent winners — singers Sarah-Jane Brandon, Anna Stéphany, Ben Johnson, Jonathan McGovern, and pianists James Baillieu and John Read — come together to perform a programme of songs, duets and ensembles from Kathleen Ferrier’s repertoire, devised by Graham Johnson.

Claire Seymour

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):