Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Vienna Philharmonic, Riccardo Muti conducting. [Photo © Silvia Lelli courtesy of the Salzburg Festival]
20 Aug 2012

Berlioz and Liszt at the Salzburg Festival

At the Salzburg Festival, Riccardo Muiti conducted Liszt’s Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe and Berlioz’s Messe solonnelle.

Franz Liszt: Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (S 107), Les Préludes (S 97); Hector Berlioz: Messe solennelle (H 20)

Julia Kleiter: soprano, Samir Pirgu: tenor, Ildar Abdrazakov (bass). Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus (chorus master: Ernst Raffelsberger). Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Riccardo Muti (conductor).

Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg, 17th August 2012

Above: Vienna Philharmonic, Riccardo Muti conducting.

Photos © Silvia Lelli courtesy of the Salzburg Festival

 

This, the third of the Vienna Philharmonic’s concerts, reunited the Salzburg Festival’s pit band with one of its favourite conductors, Riccardo Muti. Muti’s presence on the podium pretty much guarantees at the very least a high degree of execution, and there were no real problems in that respect here, though I have heard the VPO sound more faultless, not least with him. In the right repertoire, and the nature of that repertoire can readily surprise, Muti remains a great conductor. Berlioz proved on this occasion a better fit than Liszt, perhaps not surprisingly, given Muti’s track record: I recall a fine Salzburg performance of the Symphonie fantastique, followed by Lélio.

I have heard far worse in Liszt, a composer who suffers more than most not only from bad performances, but also from the deleterious consequences thereof. Bach’s towering greatness will somehow, quite miraculously, shine through even the worst the ‘authenticke’ brigade can throw at him; Liszt in the wrong hands can readily sound meretricious, and even we fervent advocates have to admit that his œuvre is mixed in quality. The late, indeed outlying, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (‘From the Cradle to the Grave’) (S 107) fared better of the two symphonic poems performed, birth and death in turn faring better than the ‘struggle for existence’ in the middle. The VPO contributed delicate, sensitive performances in those outer sections, violas’ cradle song and woodwind caresses especially ravishing.

Les Préludes, (S 07), on the other hand, suffered from some of the bombast that also infected the middle section of the first work. The most celebrated of Liszt’s symphonic poems — for reasons that remain obscure to me — is extremely difficult to bring off successfully. Muti’s reading did not exhibit the vulgarity of, say, Solti, yet nor did it entirely convincingly convey harmonic motion and richness of texture. There were times when, volume notwithstanding, the work sounded somewhat thin. The audience, however, acted as if it were English in Beecham’s understanding, not much liking the music of Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, reaction quite tepid indeed, but certainly liking the noise that Les Préludes made.

15Aug2012__Silvia_Lelli_8.gifJulia Kleiter, Ildar Abdrazakov, Riccardo Muti, Saimir Pirgu, Vienna Philharmonic

Berlioz’s Messe solennelle (H 20) was long thought lost, yet it resurfaced in 1991, granted its first modern performance in 1993. This was the first time I had heard this fascinating work in the flesh. Whilst it would be folly to proclaim it a masterpiece, or even something approaching that status, it has much to interest, not least in Berlioz’s recycling of some of the ideas in works that certainly are amongst his greatest. One might expect a degree of kinship between this mass and, say the Requiem — the latter’s celebrated brass interventions reusing material from the Resurrexit’s ‘Et iterum venturus’, but one can hardly fail to be brought up short by the appearance of music one knows so well from the ‘Scène aux champs’ in the Symphonie fantastique, employed both orchestrally and then chorally. Muti’s long experience in the sacred music of Cherubini served him well in this performance, which it is difficult to imagine being bettered.

Steely, post-Revolutionary grandeur he does extremely well, form delineated with great clarity, but tender moments were equally well served. Any fears of undue restraint were duly banished by a blazing conclusion to the Kyrie. Choral singing was excellent throughout, as, the occasional blemish aside, were the performances of a large, though not extravagant, VPO. Movements additional to the typical mass — at least, typical to us, if not necessarily to early-nineteenth-century France — provided especial interest: an O salutaris, following Cherubini’s practice, and a celebratory monarchical Domine salvum fac, the latter benefiting greatly from sweet-toned yet ardent tenor, Samir Pirgu, and the darkly Verdian Ildar Abdrazakov, whose contributions throughout were, following a slightly muddy start, characterful and at time ominous. Only soprano Julia Kleiter was somewhat disappointing, her intonation rendering Berlioz’s pastoral a little sea-sick, before descending into generalised blandness. This was Muti’s performance, though; he set his seal on the work with style and conviction.

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):