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

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.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

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.

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!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Bernarda Fink [Photo © Julia Wesely]
05 Mar 2013

Bernarda Fink and the Italian Baroque

Argentinean mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink continued her series residency at the Wigmore Hall with an unusual programme of Italian baroque works, partnered by the Academy of Ancient Music, led by violinist Rodolfo Richter.

Bernarda Fink and the Italian Baroque

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Bernarda Fink [Photo © Julia Wesely]

 

From the very first tumbling triplet cascades of Veracini’s Overture No.6 in G Minor it was apparent that the AAM would present a performance notable for its remarkable instrumental ensemble, dazzling clarity of articulation and supple rhythmic agility. Richter’s stage manner may be characterised by modest diffidence, but there is a discreet and impressive assurance about his leadership, a barely discernible glance or subtle gesture sufficient to ensure ensemble entries are crisp and precise, and tempi are intuitively sensed by all.

Blending pleasingly into a cohesive, sweet tone, the string players, oboists and theorbo player found much diversity of colour in Veracini’s varied score, the aching harmonic piquancies of the Largo giving way to vigorous polyphonic dialogue in the subsequent Allegro. In the rumbustious bucolic Minuet which concludes the overture, the players found a surprising dynamism in the almost exclusively single-part texture, deftly shaping the robust, spritely melodic line.

Titled ‘Italian Passions’, this programme set out to explore “the extremes of human emotion and the open-hearted Italian spirit”. Bernarda Fink’s moving, almost operatic performance of Tarquinio Merula’s idiosyncratic lullaby-chaconne, ‘Hor ch’è tempo di dormire’, certainly presented a contrast to the bright buoyancy of Veracini. Above a sinister rocking ostinato, which perhaps intimated the disturbed cries of the restless child, Fink affectingly enacted Mary’s tender but urgent coaxing as she tries to lull the baby Jesus to sleep. She drew every expressive nuance from the melody; her deepest register was modulated with particular beauty and power to convey the mother’s anguished warnings of the sufferings to come — her distress deepened by the dry, insistent repetitions of Elizabeth Kenny’s theorbo. Fink’s instinctive engagement with the text, complemented by the range of colour and the flexibility of her voice enabled her to tell the tale with fluency and naturalness. In the final two verses, with their recitative-like melody, she found a stillness and repose as the mother vows to “watch o’er my love/ And remain with bowed head/ So long as my child sleeps”.

After Merula’s deeply emotionally lament, ‘Sovvente il sole’ from Vivaldi’s serenata Andromeda liberate depicted a melancholy lover’s out-pouring of unrequited passion. Vivaldi’s dissonant inflections were richly enjoyed by the strings above which Fink’s pure mezzo tone and Richter’s delicate solo violin traceries entwined in perfectly controlled long, flowing phrases.

The aria was enclosed between two fleet-footed violin concertos by Vivaldi, ‘L’amoroso’ and ‘L’inquietudine’. In the lilting first movement of the former, Richter’s bow caressed the strings with sensuous gentleness, and soloists and ensemble combined exuberance and refinement in the concluding Allegro. ‘L’inquietudine’ evinced some technically impressive passage work, Richter’s semiquavers ever swift and light, the running lines full of character and élan.

After the interval, the strings were re-joined by the two oboists, Frank de Bruine and Lars Henriksson, for a rendition of Albinioni’s Concerto in C major for two oboes Op.9 No.9 which celebrated the composer’s rich, joyful melodic vein.

The concluding work, Il Pianto di Maria by Giovanni Battisti Ferrandini, was long attributed to Handel; Fink and the AAM demonstrated what a formidable and compelling work this 8-movement cantata is, the sacred text — drawn from both the Stabat mater and scenes depicting the Crucifixion — delivered with a theatricality and direct impact more typical of opera seria than of devotional compositions.

This is another portrait of a mother’s love and suffering for her son, and again Fink’s expressive immediacy was striking. In the opening recitative, her pained cry — “ah ciel!” — as Mary watches the “hideous tragedy” of Calvary unfold, was redolent with distress and the “immense bitterness of her torment”. Fink convincingly negotiated the rapid changes of emotion, moving from sobriety to passion, from agony to defiance. The final da capo aria had a quiet beauty and sober power as the mother reflects, “For his death took away/ The awareness of his pain”.

The playing of the AAM strings was stylish: the arching melodic contours were elegantly shaped, and the passages of close counterpoint and dialogue full of grace. The players were alert to the emotive nuances of the frequent chains of dissonance, and to the pictorial effects achieved by Ferrandini in the accompanied recitatives — as, for example, in the third movements where sharp stabbing gestures suggest Christ’s agony, “Lashed by scourges,/ Pierced by thorns,/ Wounded by nails”; or when the turbulence of the “[t]here universals earthquakes” decreed by God to mark the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Last Judgement are portrayed by agitated string passages reminiscent of Monteverdi’s stile concitato idiom.

The final, brief, and inconclusive, recitative, with its moralising dictum, “Tremble, man, you too, who are earth!” was shocking and disturbing. It is hard to imagine a more intense, impassioned portrayal of a mother’s adoration and anguish.

Claire Seymour


Programme:

Veracini Overture in G minor; Merula Aria: Hor ch’è tempo di dormire; Vivaldi Concerto in E for violin RV271 ‘L’amoroso’, Aria: Sovvente il sole from Andromeda liberate, Concerto in D for violin RV234 ‘L’inquietudine’; Albinoni Concerto in C Op. 9 No. 9; Ferrandini Cantata: Il pianto di Maria. Academy of Ancient Music. Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano. Rodolfo Richter, director, violin. Wigmore Hall, London, Monday, 25th February 2013.

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):