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

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Frank Bridge
05 Oct 2012

Frank Bridge Song Focus

Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was a professional violinist and violist, a talented conductor, a versatile composer and skilled teacher; yet he remains something of an enigma and his music relatively unknown.

Frank Bridge Song Focus

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Frank Bridge

 

Bridge’s compositional career divided into two distinct parts: initially influenced by the expressive romanticism of Fauré and Brahms, in the mid-1920s he embraced the radicalism of the Second Viennese School - evidence of both his openness to new European musical developments and possibly of a loss of faith in the lyrical idiom of the past following the First World War.

Bridge songs, of which there are more than fifty, belong to the earlier period, two thirds being written before 1907; as evidenced in this charming and thoughtfully planned programme - the first of two recitals forming a ‘Frank Bridge Song Focus’ at the Wigmore Hall - the songs are affecting, memorable and varied in form and scope, revealing a sensitive if not overly demonstrative or dramatic approach to world-setting.

Pianist Iain Burnside, the curator of the two concerts, devised a wonderful programme, assembling Bridge’s songs into poetic groupings and interposing songs by other, predominantly British composers. The sequences unfolded organically, with seldom a break between songs, soprano Ailish Tynan and tenor Robert Murray moving in understated fashion, to the centre of the platform in turn - or even performing, seated, from the side. The effect was to create a coherent, natural progression, foregrounding the songs and their sentiments, revealing links, developing evolving narratives.

We began with poetry of the ‘English Romantics’, the rapid cascading accompaniment of ‘Go not, happy day’ (Tennyson) launching the poet-speaker’s mood of relaxed, joyful ebullience as he rejoices in his love, which suffuses the whole world with a rosy radiance. Robert Murray pinpointed the simple sentiment with clarity and immediacy; similarly, ‘The Devon maid’ (Keats), delivered from the side of the platform, possessed a gentle wit, a slight rallentando, “And we will sign in the daisy’s eye/ And kiss on the grass green pillow”, suggesting the singer’s bliss! Here, and throughout the evening, Murray’s diction was superb.

Ailish Tynan found a radiant tone for the poet-speaker’s declaration of love at the close of “Adoration” (Keats), in which Burnside’s subtly emphasised appoggiaturas delicately punctuated the still, quiet ambience. In Charles Parry’s ‘Bright Star’ and ‘La Belle dame sans merci’, Tynan painted the text beautifully, finding rhetorical force, “her eyes were wild”, and pathos in recalling the haggard knight-at-arms, “so woe-begone”. From the unison, folk-like beginning of the latter, the urgency of the narrative grew with the increasing tempo and complexity of texture, the piano both anticipating and echoing voice with haunting melancholy.

Murray opened the Heine sequence with ‘E’en as a lovely flower’, floating the opening line and finding a stirring change of colour to match the surprising harmonic shift as “sadness/ Comes stealing over my heart”, before closing in ethereal vein, with a vision of the loved one, “So lovely, pure and fair”. In contrast, ‘Whenever I hear the strain’ by Maude Valérie White, whirled with a wild energy, Murray injecting a disturbing, hostile resentment into the final lines, “Love tortures my heart and brain/ With many a bitter pang”. In the oft-set ‘Ich grolle nicht’, Murray drew on weighty, darker hues, while in the final short lyric, ‘All things that we clasp’, Tynan perfectly captured the ambiguity of the text.

Three Bridge settings of the little known Mary Coleridge formed ‘The Female Muse’. Burnside summoned an insouciant rhythmic lilt in ‘Thy hand in mine’, in which Tynan and Murray shared the stanzas, enhancing the symmetry of the lines, “They hand in mine … Thy heart in mine”. ‘Where she lies asleep’ is beautifully crafted and compelling, and Murray’s sweet pianissimo lured the listener into the intimate portrait of one who “sleeps so lightly”, before Burnside’s extrovert, declamatory accompaniment and the theatrical interchange between the singers in the subsequent ‘Love went a-riding’ brought the first half of the recital to a dramatic close.

We travelled to Ireland after the interval, and Tynan relished the rich resonances of ‘Goldenhair’ and the folky rubato of ‘So early in the morning’, the latter building through each verse to an exclamation of bright joy, before cadencing insouciantly. Murray used his head voice effective in ‘Mantle of blue’, the sparse texture and delicately sustained vocal line conjuring a lullaby-like luminosity.

The final sequence, ‘The Last Invocation’, rose to fresh expressive heights - perhaps ironically, for here the folksong settings of Benjamin Britten threatened to outshine the songs of his revered teacher, Bridge. Tynan was absolutely at home in the role of balladeer in ‘The trees they grow so high’, seated beside Burnside and spinning an effortless melody, poignantly telling of love and life and death. The complexity of Britten’s ‘The last rose of summer’ - a shimmering accompaniment ripple transforming into an alert, off-beat triplet, as the high melodic melisma gains rhythmic urgency and direction - reveals an imaginative, idiosyncratic approach to text setting which is absent from the more conventional Bridge settings. But, Murray and Burnside brought vigour and realism to Bridge’s ‘’Tis but a week’, with its trampling horses and gay blackbirds, tinged with the sadness of loss and times past. Similarly, the word-painting and imitative motifs of ‘Blow out, you bugles’ intensify the more abstract emotions of the latter part of Rupert Brooke’s sonnet, where Murray conveyed reverence, anguish and finally passionate sincerity.

Tynan’s tender rendition of the final song, Bridge’s ‘The last invocation’, indubitably confirmed the composer’s haunting imagination.

Claire Seymour


Programme:

English Romantics

Bridge: Go not happy day; Adoration
Parry: Bright Star
Bridge: The Devon Maid
Stanford: La Belle Dame sans merci

Heine

Bridge: E’en as a lovely flower
Ives: Ich grolle nicht
Bridge: The Violets Blue
White: Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen
Bridge: All things that we clasp

The Female Muse

Mary Coleridge: Thy hand in mine; Where she lies asleep; Love went a-riding

The Orange And The Green

Bridge: Golden Hair; Mantle of blue; So early in the morning; When you are old

The Last Invocation

Britten: The trees they grow so high
Bridge: What shall I your true love tell?; ’Tis but a week
Britten: The last rose of summer
Bridge: Into her keeping; Blow out you bugles; The last invocation

Ailish Tynan, soprano; Robert Murray, tenor; Iain Burnside, piano. Wigmore Hall, London, Wednesday, 26th September 2012.

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):