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

Véronique Gens [Photo © M. Ribes & A. Vo Van Tao Virgin Classics]
17 May 2012

Véronique Gens, Wigmore Hall, London

Véronique Gens’s recital at the Wigmore Hall, London, was an almost ideal distillation of the belle époque in song.

French Song: Fauré, Chausson, Duparc, Debussy, Hahn

Véronique Gens, soprano; Susan Manoff, piano. Wigmore Hall, London, 10th May 2012.

Above: Véronique Gens [Photo © M. Ribes & A. Vo Van Tao Virgin Classics]

 

Over the years we’ve heard many specialists in French song at the Wigmore Hall, but Gens perhaps outshines them all. With her background in baroque, lucid purity comes naturally, but she also sings with exceptional intelligence. It’s hard to explain why she’s so distinctive, but her final encore (of three) might suggest an answer. Roses, jasmine and orange blossom infuse Gabriel Fauré’s Les roses d’Ispahan. The vocal line moves gently like the breeze in the text. Yet the song is not about flowers but lost love. It’s all the more poignant because it’s so subtle. Gens doesn’t dramatize, but lets the perfumed elegance convey depth of emotion.

Last December, Gens created an esoteric selection of relatively little known songs by Massenet, Gounod and Reynaldo Hahn. Now she chose a more familiar programme: Fauré, Chausson, Debussy, Duparc and more Hahn. Fauré’s Au bord de L’eau (op 8/1 1875) and Après un rêve (op 7/1 1877) were poised, but Gens created even greater interest with Lydia (op 4/2 1870) to a poem by Leconte de Lisle. “Je t’aime et meurs, ô mes amours. Mon âme en baisers m’est ravie!” Love and death so intertwined that we can’t be sure that Lydia is alive at all.

Henri Duparc’s L’invitation du voyage (1870) is so famous that it’s true meaning can be missed. The poet is Baudelaire, after all. The piano part (Susan Manoff) is limpid and delicate. These rippling waters might suggest Schubert, but the idiom is entirely different. No “gothic” histrionics here. The passion is cool but sinister. Similarly, Duparc’s Romance de Mignon (1869) is decidedly un-German though it’s based on Goethe’s Mignon song Kennst du das Land? The drama’s more muted, though the feelings are just as deep. These days it’s fashionable to disregard idiom but for me that’s bad taste. What’s the point of performing different composers in the same way? Musically-informed is much more literate. Gens and Manoff show how Duparc’s Mignon springs from a different aesthetic. Gens followed with Debussy’s Fleur des Blés (1881) and Nuit d’etoiles (1880) which are almost her signature tunes. Her recording of Debussy, Fauré and Poulenc with Roger Vignoles (2000) is very good indeed.

Normally I don’t describe what a singer wears, but Gens returned after the interval in a remarkable dress slit up to her midriff, but discreetly held together with tulle. Strikingly elegant, it raised gasps of admiration from the audience. She seemed inspired, her performance in the second part of the programme quite divine. Like the hummingbird in Ernest Chausson’s Le colibri (op2/7 1882) Gens glistened “comme un frais rayon s’échappé dans l’air”. Her Les papillions (op 2/3 1880) hinted at erotic secrets in a refined manner. The sorrow in Les temps de lilas (op 19 1886) was expressed with elegant dignity.

Gens and her pianist Susan Manoff concluded with seven songs by Reynaldo Hahn. Hahn imbibes from exotic sources, so idiosyncratic and so over the top. In three songs from Études latines (1900) Lydé, Tyndaris, Pholoé), he gets carried away with Leconte de Lisle’s elaborate fantasies of fake Antiquity. Gens and Manoff catch Hahn’s effusive high spirits. These put the famous A Chloris (1916) into context. Hahn’s hamming up again, this time with Bach. Beautiful as the song is, it’s mischief in music. Appropriately, Gens and Manoff concluded this evening of songs ostensibly about flowers and birds with Hahn’s Le printemps (1899). Hahn’s ebullient, exuberant and exhilarating — banished are the “flowers of evil”. “Te voilà, rire du Printemps!”, sang Gens, with a glorious flourish.

Anne Ozorio

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):