Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Robert Schumann, Wien 1839 [Source: Wikipedia]
18 Oct 2012

Schumann: Under the influence

The first of four concerts in Jonathan Biss’s ‘Schumann: Under the influence’ series at the Wigmore Hall was a focused, intelligent and, at times, sensuous and illuminating, evening of music-making.

Schumann: Under the influence

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Robert Schumann, Wien 1839 [Source: Wikipedia]

 

In an explicatory note, Biss declares his intention to move Schumann from the sidelines — admired, says Biss, only for a remarkably small number of his works — to the centre-stage, as a “vital, riveting creative force”. Each of Biss’s four programmes endeavours to show Schumann’s relationship to both past and present, pairing his works with those of an influential predecessor and a composer of the future whose music “without him would not have been possible”.

Poetic and musical links were forged in this recital, with Schubert’s settings of Heine, from the song cycle Schwanengesang, preceding a performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, the composer’s self-constructed sequence of poems by Heine written to honour and celebrate his love for his beloved Clara. Tenor Mark Padmore was a serious and moving interpreter, although his meticulous pronunciation did not quite embrace the sensuousness of Heine’s texts. The result was a reading which conveyed the extremes — desolate depths and ephemeral lightness — but did not always capture the ‘in-between’ realms of earthly passion and natural human feeling.

After a turbulent ‘Der Atlas’, where Biss’s tempestuous opening evoked the bitter fury of Atlas, who must bear the whole world’s sorrow, Schubert‘s Ihr bild’ (‘Her picture’) established an eerie pathos during the sparse opening, the singular line shaped with insight and effect, before blooming to simple joy: “A wonderful smile played/ about her lips”. The dark intensity of the concluding despairing cry, “I have lost you!”, was transmuted into a casual, balladeer-like air in ‘Das Fischermädschen’ (‘The fishermaiden’), Biss’s subtle rubatos urging the compound rhythms to a gentle pianissimo close. ‘Die Stadt’ was pure Gothic melodrama, Padmore final utterances laden with resentment and regret. The slow tempo of the final song, ‘Der Doppelgänger’ (‘The wraith’) enhanced the mood of fearful oppression and inner torment.

Padmore’s Dichterliebe was characterised by melodic eloquence and expressive earnestness. His affecting whisper, “Doch wenn du sprichst: Ich liebe dich”, in ‘Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’ (‘When I look into your eyes’) was disturbingly pathetic and wretched. In contrast, ‘Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome’ (‘In the Rhine, the holy river’) juxtaposed majesty with still quietude. The tenor’s deep register in ‘Ich grolle nicht’ (‘I bear no grudge’) was a little obscured by the piano accompaniment but Padmore made much of the text in the concluding verse, as the poet-narrator witnesses “the serpent gnawing your heart”, and the passionate intensity of the accelerating piano postlude, running headlong into the subsequent ‘Und wüßten’s die Blumen’ (‘If the little flowers knew’) was thrilling. Indeed, the links and juxtapositions in the narrative structure were effectively defined, as when the hard disillusionment at the close of ‘Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen’ (‘A boy loves a girl’) — which began with a poignant silence — hastened into the shifting colours of ‘Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen’ (‘One bright summer morning’).

Biss was an alert and energised accompanist, underpinning ‘Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube’ (‘Rose, lily, dove’) with an airy, springy buoyancy, while the trailing arpeggios of ‘Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen were clear and delicate, perfectly evoking the speaker’s dissolving tears in the piano postlude. In ‘Aus alten Märchen’ (‘A white hand beckons’) Biss’s staccato dotted rhythms conjured an elfin sprightliness; the performers used the slower tempo of the final two verses to convey the unattainability of the singer’s dream.

In the closing song, ‘Die alten, bösen Lieder’ (‘The bad old songs’), Padmore adopted a powerful and rhetorical theatricality, culminating in an anguished fall, coloured by diminished harmony: “Die sollen den Sarg fortragen,/ Und senken in’s Meer hinab;” They shall bear the coffin away,/ and sink it deep into the sea;”).

Preceding the Heine sequences, soprano Camilla Tilling gave an exciting performance of Alban Berg’s early songs, Sieben frühe Lieder. Tilling appreciated the luxuriousness and sensuality of these diverse songs, warming and brightening her tone at emotional highpoints — as in the opening ‘Nacht’ (‘Night’) which creeps in with gentle gracefulness and blossoms to convey the singer’s awe as “Weites Wundererland ist aufgetan” (“A vast wonderland opens up”). Similarly, in the Brahmsian ‘Die Nachtigall’ (‘The Nightingale’) the “sweet sound of her echoing song” resonated sonorously around the hall. Tilling’s tone acquired a glossy sheen in ‘Schilflied’ (‘Reed song’) to suggest the enlivening effect of the poet’s inner thoughts, while in ‘Liebesode’ (‘Ode to love’) she called on more burnished colours to complement the piano’s chromatic harmonies and portray the ecstatic dreams of the sleeping lovers.

Biss began the recital with a wonderfully imaginative performance of Schumann’s Gesänge der Frühe, responsive to the diverse moods of the individual movements — from the poetic simplicity of the exquisite voicing in ‘Im ruhigen tempo’ to the hymn-like tranquillity of ‘Im Anfange ruhiges’. Biss’s ability to use texture and timbre to communicate meaning was impressive: the rhythmic propulsion of ‘Belebt, nicht zu rasch, the minor key cascades and understated rubatos of ‘Bewegt’ and the final airy chord of ‘Lebhaft’ spoke directly, with immediacy and emotion.

Claire Seymour


Performers

Camilla Tilling, soprano; Mark Padmore, tenor; Jonathan Biss, piano. Wigmore Hall, London, Thursday 11 October 2012.

Programme

Schumann: Gesänge der Frühe Op.133
Berg: Sieben frühe Lieder
Schubert: Heine Lieder from Schwanengesang D957
Schumann: Dichterliebe Op.48

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):