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

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

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. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

Christine Goerke - Strauss Elektra BBC Proms London

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. Felicity Palmer was Clytemnestra, Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, Robert Kunzli was Aegisthus and Johan Reuter was Orestes. The concert staging was by Justin Way.

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.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

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):