Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

Handel's first 'Israelite oratorio': Esther at the London Handel Festival

It’s sometimes suggested that it was the simultaneous decline of the popularity of Italian opera seria among Georgian audiences and, in consequence, of the fortunes of Handel’s Royal Academy King’s Theatre, that led the composer to turn his hand to oratorio in English, the genre which would endear him to the hearts of the nation.

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):