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

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

From Where the Wild Things Are [Photo by Mark Allan / Barbican]
10 Nov 2012

Oliver Knussen: Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!

Marking Oliver Knussen’s sixtieth birthday came a BBC Total Immersion weekend at the Barbican: a double-bill of Knussen’s two operas written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are and Higgledy Piggledy Pop! on Saturday, followed by a day of two chamber concerts, a film, and an orchestral concert conducted by the composer himself on Sunday.

Oliver Knussen: Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!

A review by Mark Berry

Above: From Where the Wild Things Are

Photos by Mark

 

This co-production of the two operas with the Aldeburgh Festival and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association was a delight. Netia Jones employs a cunning, loving mix of animation and live action to retain as much as humanly possible of Sendak’s celebrated drawings. Sometimes we see more of one than the other, though the principal characters — the boy Max in Where the Wild Things Are and Jennie the Sealyham Terrier in Higglety Pigglety Pop! — are ‘real’ throughout. How much lies their — or our? — imagination? What is real anyway? The use of animation for the monsters save at the beginning and end of the first opera — we see the singers go behind a screen and emerge at the end, and of course we hear the, throughout — heightens our questioning. The screen in neatly reversed in Higglety Pigglety Pop! so that we see the secondary characters both on stage and on film. Again, what is real? Are not both varieties of apparition and/or depiction? In the land of the Mother Goose World Theatre, all the world’s a stage — a tribute, surely, as much to Stravinsky and his Rake’s Progress tribute to Mozart, the latter parodied in Knussen’s final scene, as to Ravel. (Both Higglety and Don Giovanni end 'outside' their dramas, in bright if tarnished D major.) The repetitions of that gala performance, the time-honoured tradition of a play within a play, unsettle as they should. What do they mean? When will they stop? Again, what, and who, is ‘real’? That is very much the stuff of imaginary worlds, strongest for some in childhood, but for many of us just as powerful in subsequent stages of our lives.

Crucially, the sense of fantasy in libretto and production is at the very least equally present in Knussen’s scores, kinship with Ravel especially apparent in Where the Wild Things Are. And we all know who composed the most perfect operatic depiction of childhood. Stravinsky sometimes seems close too, for instance in the fiercer rhythmically driven music of the second scene (Mama and her hoover), the Symphony in Three Movements coming to my mind. And the musical material itself of course delightfully pays tribute both to Debussy’s La boîte à joujoux and most memorably to Boris Godunov, direct quotation reminiscing of the Tsar’s ill-fated coronation when Max is crowned King of all Wild Things.

WTWTA_03.gifA scene from Higglety Pigglety Pop!

Ryan Wigglesworth’s direction was palpably alive to this sense of orchestral wonder and fantasy, his programme notes an exemplary tribute from one composer-conductor to another from whom he has learned a great deal. The tone of performance darkened in tandem with that of the score for Higglety Pigglety Pop! Detail was meaningful without exaggeration, for instance in the subtle pointing up of certain intervals associated with different characters. Those with ears to hear would do so, consciously or otherwise. Moreover, the orchestra’s response was as assured, as disciplined, as generous as the conductor’s direction. The Britten Sinfonia was throughout on outstanding form, thoroughly inside Knussen’s idiom, unfailingly precise without sacrifice to warmth of tone. Despite relatively chamber-like forces, at least in the string section (6.6.4.4.4), one often felt that was hearing a larger orchestra, for this was anything but a small-scale performance. Indeed, accustomed as I am to hearing the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, there were many times when I should not have been surprised to discover that I had in fact been hearing the LSO.

Claire Booth headed a fine cast for Where the Wild Things Are, her Max as quicksilver on stage as vocally. Lucy Schaufer proved every inch her equal as Jennie in Higglety Pigglety Pop! Very much the singing actress, her deeper mezzo tones were perfectly suited to the darkened tones of the score. There is something a little dangerous about Jennie and the acting world of ‘experience’ for which she forsakes her comfortable home — yet in a sense all children must at some point act similarly. All members of the two casts, however, were richly deserving of praise, a particular favourite of mine Graeme Danby’s surreal, apparently innocent Pig-in-Sandwich-Boards. These performances came across as true company efforts, a state of affairs doubtless deepened by ‘experience’ in Aldeburgh and Los Angeles.

Mark Berry


Where the Wild Things Are

Max: Claire Booth; Mama/Voice of Tzippy: Susan Bickley; Moishe: Christopher Lemmings; Emil: Graeme Broadbent; Aaron: Jonathan Gunthorpe; Bernard: Graeme Danby; Tzippy: Charlotte McDougall

Higglety Pigglety Pop!

Jane: Lucy Schaufer; The Potted Plant/Baby: Susanna Andersson; Rhoda/Voice of Baby’s Mother: Claire Booth; Cat-Milkman/High Voice of Ash Tree: Christopher Lemmings; Pig-in-Sandwich-Boards: Graeme Danby; Lion/Low Voice of Ash Tree: Graeme Broadbent

Netia Jones (director, designs); Britten Sinfonia/Ryan Wigglesworth (conductor). Barbican Hall, Saturday 3 November 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):