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 Reviews

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

17 Dec 2012

Courageous Winterreise : Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall, London

Wintery weather in London for Florian Boesch's Schubert Winterreise at the Wigmore Hall. But what bliss to hear an austere interpretation that challenged assumptions !

Franz Schubert : Winterreise

Floran Boesch, Roger Vignoles

Wigmore Hall, London, 12th December 2012

 

This wasn't "easy listening", for Boesch doesn't do superficial charm. But true Lieder devotees know their Schubert so well that they can appreciate new perspectives. Boesch and Roger Vignoles took an original, courageous approach which proved just how much there is yet to find in this well known cycle.

Boesch made his point from the very first word, "Fremd", projecting it forcefully so there was no mistaking that what was to come would be comfortable. Schubert sets the word twice for emphasis. Boesch and Vignoles separate it from the rest of the phrase with the tiniest pause, so subtle you might miss it, but the chill lingers through the following images of May, love and flowers. "Nun", Boesch continues. But is this just a journey through landscape ? "Nicht wählen mit der Zeit, Muß selbst den Weg mir weisen In dieser Dunkelheit". By emphasizing key words, like "Fremd" and "Was", Boesch establishes a thrust that intensifies the chilling, cutting edge in the music, often muffled by the impressionistic "snow" imagery in the piano part.

Later on the journey, the protagonist addresses crows, trees and metereological phenomena. In some interpretations, this is a sign of madness. Perhaps even the old beggar is a hallucination. Boesch, however, is more humanistic, drawing his ideas from psychological theory. Wilhelm Müller, the poet, saw battle in the wars against Napoleon. He'd also overcome an unhappy love affair. A sensitive reading of his texts shows how purposeful this journey might be. "Die Liebe liebt das Wandern, Gott hat sie so gemacht". It's not an aberration, but natural development. Boesch's almost conversational style is understated and direct. Lieder singing turns the listener inward, identifying with the performer rather than observing from outside. For Boesch, there are no histrionics, no exaggerated operatic mad scenes. If the protagonist is indeed insane, then so are we.

Boesch's direct, conversational style suggests a rational, though very intense, man who is working things out from different angles. When Boesch sings of the girl he's leaving, the tenderness in his voice suggests that she was a real person with whom he's had a genuine relationship. His anger is quite appropriate. In "Estarrung", the numbness the poet feeels is suggested by the quiet desparation in Boesch's voice. He listens to Vignoles play the prelude to "Der Lindenbaum", and the mood changes. In this performance, Boesch took longer pauses than he does in his recording of Winterreise last year with Malcolm Martineau. This creates a more contemplative effect, as if the protagonist is actively assessing the world around him and considering his options. Although the music flows between songs, Schubert purposefully changes the mood in each song. The poet cannot wallow but must keep moving forwards, pulled ahead by the piano. ""Es war zu kalt zum Stehen".

In true Romantic fashion, Boesch's protagonist responds to Nature. "Irrlicht" was taken with such a sense of wonder that you could imagine the unearthly halo that illuminates the marsh spirits. The "Blumen in Winter" shone with deftly defined lyricism. Because Boesch listens carefully and enunciates his words with deliberation, we too listen to how the images in this text recur, in different guises as the journet progress. The friendly will o' the wisp reveals itself as delusion, Village dogs bark no less than three times in this text, but eventually the Leiermann shows that they can be ignored.

Often it's assumed that Winterreise ends in death. But is death the only alternative to the values of the village ? The Romantic spirit focussed on the individual, and on persoal enlightenment. The protagonist in Winterreise is setting out on a road "die noch Keiner ging zurück" but that could mean that he's not the man he was before he set forth. In "Das Wirthaus" the piano part suggests a tolling death knell, but the wreaths here are for other travellers. This protagonist cannot rest. Boesch sings "Mut" defiantly. Already we hear Vignoles's playing evoke the folksy sound of a hurdy-gurdy, as the poet resolves to mock the wind and weather. The phrase "Will kein Gott auf Erden sein, sind wir selber Götter", was enunciated with deliberation.

The whole winter's journey has been leading to the final song, "Der Leiermann". How carefully Boesch describes the old man, barefoot in the snow, "mit starren Fingern dreht er was er kann". Perhaps the Leiermann is an apparition, since few people might survive is such conditions. But the very fact that the Leiermann continues playing against all odds is what makes him a "Wunderlicher Alte". Boesch intones the words as if they were strange prophecy. In summer the Leiermann might play at village dances, but in winter he somehow continues to play, as if driven. The instrument itself is simple, droning as its handle is moved in a circular motion. It's music in a very basic form, but music nonetheless.

The protagonist wonders if he should follow. "Willst du meinen Liederen deine Leier drehn?". Boesch articulates so you clearly hear the connection between "Lieder" and "Leier". Perhaps in some circles, outsiders like the Leiermann might seem "mad" because they don't conform to convention. Romantic period sensibilities would, however, have identified the Leiermann with the image of an artist who persists with what he believes in, however isolated he is from society. Boesch and Vignoles gave us at the Wigmore Hall much to contemplate. We cannot dismiss this Leiermann as mad or irrelevant any more than we can dismiss the role of Art itself.

Please also see this interview, where Boesch speaks about his unorthodox approach to Die Schöne Müllerin. Read what he says carefully, because he's extremely perceptive. His performance at the Oxford Lieder Festival was a great artistic experience. Boesch's ideas apply even more to Winterreise,and were, at the Wigmore Hall, expressed with great emotional conviction.

Anne Ozorio

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):