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

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

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.

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.

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):