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

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera makes occasional excursions into the operatic big-time, such just now was Giordano’s blockbuster Andrea Chénier, last seen at the War Memorial 23 years ago (1992) and even then after a hiatus of 17 years (1975).

A rousing I due Foscari at the Concertgebouw

There is no reason why, given the right performers, second-tier Verdi can’t be a top-tier operatic experience, as was the case with this concert version of I Due Foscari.

A double dose of Don Quixote at the Wigmore Hall

Since their first appearance in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s literary master-piece, during the Spanish Golden Age, the ingenuous and imaginative knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his loyal subordinate and squire, Sancho Panza, have touched the creative imagination of composers from Salieri to Strauss, Boismortier to Rodrigo.

Bampton Classical Opera: A double bill of divine comedies

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2016 double-bill ‘touched down’ at St John’s Smith Square last night, following performances in The Deanery Garden at Bampton and The Orangery of Westonbirt School earlier this summer.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mad About San Jose’s Lucia

Opera San Jose opened a commendably impassioned Lucia di Lammermoor that sets the company’s bar very high indeed as it begins its new season.

ROH, Norma

The approach of the 2016-17 opera season has brought rising anticipation and expectation for the ROH’s new production - the first at Covent Garden for almost 30 years - of Bellini’s bel canto master-piece, Norma.

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

British Youth Opera: English Eccentrics

“Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.”

Prom 68: a wonderful Semiramide

When I look back on the 2016 Proms season, this Opera Rara performance of Semiramide - the last opera that Rossini wrote for Italy - will be, alongside Pekka Kuusisto’s thrillingly free and refreshing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto - one of the stand-out moments.

Double Bill by Oper am Rhein

Of all the places in Germany, Oper am Rhein at Theater Duisburg staged an intriguing American double bill of rarities. An experience that was well worth the trip to this desolate ghost town, remnant of industrial West Germany.

Prom 60: Bach and Bruckner

Bruckner, Bruckner, wherever one goes; From Salzburg to London, he is with us, he is with us indeed, and will be next week too. (I shall even be given the Third Symphony another try, on my birthday: the things I do for Daniel Barenboim…) Still, at least it seems to mean that fewer unnecessary Mahler-as-showpiece performances are being foisted upon us. Moreover, in this case, it was good, indeed great Bruckner, rather than one of the interminable number of ‘versions’ of interminable earlier works.

Prom 57: Semyon Bychkov conducts the BBCSO

Thomas Larcher’s Second Symphony (written 2015-16) here received its United Kingdom premiere, its first performance having been given by the Vienna Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov in June this year. A commission from the Austrian National Bank for its bicentenary, it is nevertheless not a celebratory work, instead commemorating those refugees who have met their deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘expressing grief over those who have died and outrage at the misanthropy at home in Austria and elsewhere’.

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):