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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Exaudi [Photo courtesy of Exaudi]
01 Nov 2012

Exaudi, Wigmore Hall

An intriguing blend of old and new marked the tenth anniversary of the British vocal group, Exaudi, juxtaposing the adventurous intricacies and affectations of the late-sixteenth century with the virtuosic refinements of today’s avant garde.

Exaudi, Wigmore Hall

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Exaudi [Photo courtesy of Exaudi]

 

The concert included four new works, commissioned by the group as part of their enterprise to create a contemporary book of Italians madrigals in order, as Weeks declares in a programme note, to “discover what they idea of ‘the madrigal’ might offer the present day, either as a concrete historical phenomenon or as a set of more general principles: perhaps to do with the relationships between individual voices or the singers themselves, or to do with the idea of vocal expression, or simply to do with the humanist, secular impulses underlying the genre”.

The best of the modern were those compositions which drew direct inspiration from the past, spinning a thread to span the centuries and create a dialogue of continuing experimentation and creative expression. Michael Finnissy’s ‘Sesto Libro di Carlo Gesualdo I’ (AATTBB) exploited the sinuous false relations, suspensions and dissonances of the sixteenth-century idiom, dividing the singers into two trios and thereby explicitly intertwining elements of Gesualdo’s original with Finnissy’s own elaborations and developments. The resulting rhetorical gestures fused passionate intensity with tender melancholy, all the while retaining the sensuous undercurrents which typify the Renaissance masters.

Evan Johnson offered ‘Three in, ad abundantiam’, ‘three micro-madrigals’ for two sopranos and one alto, which the composer describes as “tentative supplements; insecure, mumbled marginalia … three denied attempts at entry”. Fragments from Petrarch’s ‘Solo e pensoso’ — articulating, with ironic paradox, the impossibility of communication — appear and dissolve, the sparse textures, frequent silences (here sadly shattered by an intruding mobile ’phone) and disrupted rhythms threatening the dissolution of form itself. The work relies on the technical skill, and courage, of the performers to establish coherence, however tentative, and here they exhibited a dazzling virtuosity.

Christian Wolff’s ‘Ashbery Madrigals’ present three enigmatic texts by poet John Ashbery — ‘Occurrence’, ‘A Penitence’ and ‘Perplexing Ways’; ‘gaps’ and disarming shifts in melody and harmony reflect the poetic ambiguity, the final madrigal diminishing from an energetic combination of eight voices to a plainsong-like unison. For the preceding ‘Sherpa Tensing stands up from the piano, says something quiet, and walks outside’ by Larry Goves, Weeks stepped aside and, as frequently in this recital, allowed the singers to establish their own intimate communication. While the combination of a complex blend of solo voices — the soprano in the stratosphere — and an occasional homophonic texture did recall the Renaissance idiom, the banal repetitions of Matthew Welton’s text seemed strangely at odds with the elevated expressive aspirations of the earliest madrigalists.

The piercing rhetoric of Morgan Hayes’ ‘E Vesuvio monte’ (2010) — with its dense, accumulating dissonances, representing Pliny the Younger’s account of the eruption of Vesuvius, contrasting with the delineated individual lines of the eight singers conveying the narrative — and Salvatore Sciarrino’s rarefied ‘Tre Madrigal’ (2008) completed the modern contributions to the programme. Sciarrino’s refined, exquisite settings of the Japanese poet, Bashō, conjured the mysterious glissandi, ululations and micro-tunings of an oriental flute, the singers creating a clear, pure tone which conveyed the poet’s passionate response to the natural world — the waves, the cicada, the red sun — culminating in the stirring ‘hum’ of the autumn wind.

Exaudi opened the concert with a mellifluous rendering of Andrea Gabrieli’s ‘Vieni, vieni Himeneo’ (‘Come, come Hymen’, à8), notable for its open, full tone and judicious use of vibrato, before exploring the bold, diverse experiments of Claudio Monteverdi and Carlo Gesualdo, beginning in the first half with three madrigals from Monteverdi’s early books.

Insouciant decorative motifs characterised ‘Sovra tenere erbette’ (‘On the soft grass’) from the Third Book of 1592, evoking the delicate charm of the pastoral setting; changes of tempi were well-managed, leading to the affecting, slow concluding line, laden with erotic resonance, “Che per desire sento morirmi anch’io” (“that I too am dying of desire”). ‘Vattene pur, crudel’ (‘Go, cruel, go!’) demonstrated the more theatrical mode of the stilo rappresentativo, the slightly dry, restrained timbre at the opening evolving to a more impassioned utterance as the independent voices became ever more florid, before diminishing to an ethereal pianissimo chromatic descent, depicting the lover “in a swoon on earth outstretch’d she lies,/ stiff were her frozen limbs,/ closed were her eyes”. Even within the quiet, delicate dynamic a rich counterpoint of vigour and elasticity conveyed the emotional energy of Tasso’s final verse.

Gesualdo’s ‘Mercè!, grido piangendo’ (‘Mercy! I cry weeping’) opened the second half of the concert, the five singers revealing a supreme confidence as they exploited the rhetorical idiosyncrasies of the idiom, declining to a startling pianissimo to whisper “Ma chi m’ascolta?” (“But who hears me?”). The low register and striking unprepared dissonances of the close revealed the profundity of the treasures of the poet’s heart which he longs to disclose before death. ‘Asciugate I begli occhi’ (‘Dry those lovely eyes’) was characterised by intelligent, delicate understatement, the homophonic texture, sensuous harmonies and slowly accumulating dissonances communicating the text’s poignant blend of grief and ecstasy.

‘Ardita zanzaretta’ (‘Presumptuous gnat’) contrasted a spirited, mocking liveliness with a more serious sobriety, twisting dissonant contortions depicting the gnat’s poison and cruel death, as well as the painful ache of the poet’s love. The singers showed their appreciation of Gesualdo’s expressive eloquence in ‘Languisce al fin’ (‘He who is parting’), coolly layering the voices and allowing the harmony to infer the bittersweet pain of the poet’s fate.

Monteverdi’s ‘Rimanti in pace’ (‘Stay here in peace’) brought the programme to a moving close, embracing both the pain of desire — as the sorrowful Phyllis “fixes her shining eyes” on her beloved Thyrsis and transfixes his heart — and the desolation of loss.

The juxtapositions of style did not always flow fluently; and, Weeks’ enthusiastic explanatory introductions were perhaps unnecessary, further impeding the progression between moods and idioms. However, the insight, sincerity and musical prowess of Exaudi was never in doubt, and the contrasting parts combined to form an impressive and touching whole.

Claire Seymour

Click here for information regarding the performers and programme.

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):