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

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit - Ensemble Correspondances

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit with Ensemble Correspondances led by Sébastien Daucé, the glorious culmination of the finest London Festival of the Baroque in years on the theme "Treasures of the Grand Siècle". Le Concert Royal de la Nuit was Louis XIV's announcement that he would be "Roi du Soleil", a ruler whose magnificence would transform France, and the world, in a new age of splendour.

Voices of Revolution – Prokofiev, Exile and Return

Seven, they are Seven , op.30; Violin Concerto no.1 in D minor, op.19; Cantata for the Twentieth Anniverary of the October Revolution, op.74. David Butt Philip (tenor), Pekka Kuusisto (violin), Aidan Oliver (voice of Lenin, chorus director), Philharmonia Voices, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (military band), Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, Sunday 20 May 2018.

Charpentier Histoires sacrées, staged - London Baroque Festival

Marc-Antoine Charpentier Histoires sacrées with Ensemble Correspondances, conducted by Sébastien Daucé, at St John's Smith Square, part of the London Festival of the Baroque 2018. This striking staging, by Vincent Huguet, brought out its austere glory: every bit a treasure of the Grand Siècle, though this grandeur was dedicated not to Sun God but to God.

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]
05 Oct 2012

Mozart’s Ghost finds its Way through Das Labyrinth

W.A. Mozart, despite a historically antagonistic relationship with his city of birth, retains an omnipresence in Salzburg that emerges in full force with each iteration of the illustrious summer festival.

Peter von Winter: Das Labyrinth

A review by Rebecca Schmid

Above: Klaus Kuttler as Monostatos and Julia Novikova as The Queen of Night [Photo © Hans Jörg Michel courtesy of Salzburger Festival]

 

The indulgence reached its pinnacle in 2006—fifty years prior to his tercentenary—with the staging of all 22 of his operas, including early works which scholars have discovered to have been co-authored by his father, Leopold. This season, the new Intendant Alexander Pereira has brushed the dust off another 18th-century obscurity, written not by W.A. himself but in posthumous tribute to his last opera, Die Zauberflöte. The librettist and impresario Emmanuel Schickaneder, eager to ride the success of the Singspiel, set to work writing a sequel, Das Labyrinth, and found a willing partner in the composer Peter von Winter. The work was premiered at the Theater an der Wien in 1798, seven years after Mozart’s death and the premiere of Die Zauberflöte.

To Schickaneder ‘s credit, the ambiguous nature of good and evil in the original libretto continues to provide scholars with endless fodder. When Goethe heard of the Das Labyrinth’s success in 1803, he began penning his own sequel which was left incomplete after the fruitless search for a composer. While Goethe develops the story in a more Romantic direction, endowing Tamino and Pamina with a son, the Genius, and augmenting the magical powers of both the Queen of the Night and Sarastro, the trajectory of Schickaneder’s sequel does not depart much from Die Zauberflöte despite the introduction of several new characters and a labyrinth which represents the final trial for Tamino and Pamina (never mind that Sarastro already initiated them into his sun circle). Meanwhile, the Queen is scheming not only with the moor Monostatos but Tipheus, King of Paphos, who vies for Pamina’s hand. They manage to briefly abduct the princess, but the Queen must ultimately cede to Sarastro’s powers when Tamino defeats Tipheus in a duel. Papageno and Papagena, who have discovered a large extended family, also help suppress evil by capturing Monostatos.

Winter’s score faithfully adopts strains of the original opera with a range of success. The first duet of Papageno and Papagena, “Lalaera! Lara! Lara!,” is a pleasant spinoff of “Pa, pa, pa…” without directly rehashing Mozart’s melodies. The chorus of priests that ends the eleventh scene of Act One is skilfully crafted, a ghost of Mozart’s incomparable harmonies, yet it would have been better placed at the very end of the act. The Queen’s opening aria “Ha! Wohl mir! Höre es, Natur” reveals that Winter studied his late Mozart operas carefully, with strong hints of his proto-Romanticism, yet it is melodically not very inventive, and the firework coloratura that characterizes the role is reduced to a passage of uninspired runs toward the end. The sequel’s Pamina is assigned more virtuosity than her original counterpart, but sadly, the spin-off to the aria “Ach, ich fühl’s”—“ Ach! Ich muss alleine tragen”—gives no musical indication of her longing to die and instead culminates in meaningless coloratura. The Three Women, here named Venus, Amor and Page, get some nice numbers, revealing Winter’s talent for colourful, pseudo-Mozartean scoring, and yet the effort could have been more self-conscious. The five-note motive representing the magic flute does not emerge once, not even when Sarastro hands it to Tamino for protection before he enters the labyrinth.

Despite the worn-out qualities of the piece, it has its genuinely charming moments, particularly with Papageno and his clan. In the Salzburg production, seen August 26, the young Austrian baritone Thomas Tatzl stole the show as the feathered bird catcher, joking to the audience with tireless charisma and a naturally warm, well-projected voice. Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann was also delightful as Papagena. The celebrated tenor Michael Schade was the stand-out of the evening from a purely vocal perspective in the role of Tamino, while Malin Hartelius was more uneven as Pamina, struggling to overcome the unfavourable acoustics of the Residenzhof, a covered courtyard where audience members sat with blankets on their laps to ward of the chill of the Salzburger Schnürrregen (sudden rainfall). The bass of Christoff Fischesser similarly risked being swallowed in the role of Sarastro. As the Queen of the Night, Julia Novikova was strongest in pure lyric moments. The baritone Klaus Kuttler was a frustrated Monostatos, and Anton Scharinger amusing as the Older Papageno.

The Three Women (Nina Bernsteiner, Christina Daletska, and Monia Bohinec) brought fine singing to the stage, as did members of the Festival Children’s Choir who appeared to Tamino as the “Three Genies” after Monostatos’ attempt to abduct Papagena. The Salzburger Bachchor, prepared by Alois Glassner, did full justice to Winter’s choral numbers, and Ivor Bolton led the Orchestra of the Mozarteum in a characteristically crisp, authentic reading of the score, even if it occasionally lacked elegance. Sets by Raimund Orfeo Voigt started out inauspiciously with a mini-proscenium of a theatre that looked straight out of a high-school production but improved with towering black panels punctured with light to represent Sarastro’s circle. Costumes by Elisabeth Binder-Neururer were designed in the local tradition of semi-rococo but reached their apex in the colourful Lederhosen- and Tracht-inspired garb of the Papageno family. The dancing, feathered children of the finale reaffirmed Salzburg as an anachronism Mozart might never have imagined could exist over three centuries after his death.

Rebecca Schmid

Click here for cast and production information.

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):