Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Pelleas and Melisande by Edmund Blair Leighton [Photo © Williamson Art Gallery & Museum courtesy of BBC]
17 Jul 2012

BBC Prom 3: Pelléas et Mélisande

21st-century opera played on period instruments; a ‘drama-less’ opera; a Dali-esque crimson chaise longue, stranded on the platform of the Royal Albert Hall.

Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

Pelléas: Phillip Addis; Mélisande: Karen Vourc’h; Golaud: Laurent Naouri; Arkel: Sir John Tomlinson; Geneviève: Elodie Méchain; Yniold: Dima Bawab; Shepherd/Doctor: Nahuel Di Pierro. Monteverdi Choir. Orchestra Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London. Prom 3, Sunday 15 July 2012.

Above: Pelleas and Melisande by Edmund Blair Leighton [Photo © Williamson Art Gallery & Museum courtesy of BBC]

 

Not, one might think, a recipe for success, but this stunning concert performance of Debussy’s enigmatic opera Pelléas et Mélisande under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner repeatedly trounced expectations and preconceptions.

‘Nothing happens’ is one charge sometimes levelled at Pelléas et Mélisande; but while it’s true that literal ‘action’ and physical movement are restrained, the opera matches The Turn of the Screw in its gradual but incessant escalation of emotional intensity to an almost unbearable concentration of passion. And, as in Britten’s opera, it is principally the orchestra which elucidates the affecting and disturbing upsurges of emotion, and their tragic, poignant consequences.

Eliot Gardiner demonstrated a masterly appreciation of the way the subdued sonorities and gentle articulation of period instruments could perfectly convey the shadowy elusiveness and obscurities of Debussy’s score. The instrumental fabric was beautifully blended: orchestral motifs — such as the oboe’s opening arabesques depicting Mélisande’s elusive diffidence — were gracefully etched; delicate, half-whispered gestures, bloomed into swelling torrents of sound. The combination of control and flexibility was impressive as the shifting tonal colours, floating modulations, rhythmic elasticity, half-cadences and flowing, interweaving inner parts conjured a darkly brooding restlessness. The short scenes never seemed fragmented; instead, an air of timelessness was created as we moved from dark forest to enchanted well to gloomy castle. The transition from the second to third scenes in Act 3, as we rose from the subterranean castle vaults to the glaring daylight of the castle terrace was exhilarating.

Initially, the soloists — dressed in standard, modern evening attire — seemed a little unsure whether this was to be a stationary concert performance or a more dynamic semi-staged presentation. Rarefied and enigmatic the opera may be, but detachment and aloofness can be taken too far: it makes little sense for two characters engaged in an intense but hushed exchange of allusive, suggestive remarks to be placed on opposite sides of the stage, or for one to speak to the back of the other. However, movement and gesture gradually became both more natural and more imaginative; this was in no small part due to the engaging physicality and sensuousness of Karen Vourc’h’s Mélisande. Her brief syllables of song as she combed her hair at the window in Act 3 throbbed with impulsive energy and joy. She also revealed here her reserves of vocal strength, which for much of the evening she kept under wrap, preferring to employ a more muted but excited breathless tone to convey Mélisande’s inscrutable vulnerability. In fact, occasionally she seemed a little underpowered in the vast arena, but as one would expect of a native speaker, Vourc’h’s diction was crystal clear and the text elegantly shaped, the deliberate ordinariness of Maeterlinck’s language deepening the obscurity of its meaning.

Canadian baritone, Phillip Addis, was equally at home with the French text; indeed, many of the exceptional cast were first assembled at the Opéra Comique in 2010, and there was a confidence and strong sense of familiarity about the whole performance. Addis was suitably fresh and lithe of voice as a youthful, athletic Pelléas: innocently fervent and bright of tone to begin with, he grew to a fiery outpouring of love in the Act 4 love duet, finding the ideal timbre to negotiate the high range.

Both vocally and physically Laurent Nouri had enormous presence; even when seated he projected consummate authority and self-assurance. His powerful bass-baritone was subtly graded and coloured in a reading that confirmed that it is Golaud as much as the lovers who are tortured by his cruelty.

Sir John Tomlinson’s Arkel was resonant but not without a fitting fragility. Elodie Méchain possesses a pure, ringing contralto, and her lyrical projection of Geneviève’s declamation was truly moving. A gamine, sweet-toned Dima Bawab was convincing as Yniold.

The will be plenty of hyperbole, bombast and bravado during this ‘Olympic’ Promenade season; but, on this evening Eliot Gardiner reminded us of the genuine potency of refined understatement.

Claire Seymour

Click here for streaming audio of this performance.

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):