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

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson
09 Jun 2013

Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers

Described by one critic as “cosmically gifted”, during her tragically short career, American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson amazed and delighted audiences with the spellbinding beauty of her singing and the astonishing honesty of her performances.

Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers: A Tribute to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson

 

It must be both a privilege and a daunting prospect to be asked to participate in a tribute concert to the singer, who died from breast cancer in 2006; here three mezzo-sopranos stepped up to the honour and the challenge, joining the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - with whom Hunt Lieberson collaborated closely at Glyndebourne and on CD - celebrating three contrasting, full-blooded female roles from Handel’s operas.

Karine Deshayes (a late replacement for the indisposed Stéphanie D’Oustrac) began and ended the evening with Sesto’s arias, ‘L’angue offeso mai riposa’ (The offended serpent will not rest) and ‘Svegliatevi nel core’ from Giulio Cesare respectively. Deshayes has a vibrant voice, particularly at the top, and she nimbly negotiated the passage work. But, while there was undoubted rage and impassioned purpose, she didn’t quite capture the emotional depth and range of these arias, as Sesto vows vengeance against Ptolemy for the assassination of his father.

Thus in Sesto’s first number in the opera, there was much bite in the repetitions of ‘Svegliatevi’ (awaken) as Sesto determines to muster the fury in his soul. Yet, in the central section of the da capo form, as Sesto’s thoughts turn to the father he has lost only moments before, the heaviness in his heart outweighs his impotent anger; there is vengeance but also grief. William Christie drew a fittingly spare timbre from the accompanying OAE, but Deshayes did not quite match the players’ melancholy, sombre weight. ‘Figlio’ (son) needs rather more plangent emphasis, as Sesto both implores his father and imagines his paternal words of counsel and support.

In Glyndebourne’s 2006 production of Theodora, Hunt Lieberson took the part of Irene, the protagonist’s devoted supporter. Irene’s arias are intense, heartfelt statements of faith as her beloved friend, Theodora, an early Christian, is persecuted and condemned by the Romans. Reviewing the live recording of Peter Sellars’ acclaimed production, Rupert Christiansen commented, ‘it is impossible to conceive of this character’s arias being sung with more grave beauty or emotional commitment than [Hunt Lieberson] brings to them’.

Quite a tall order, then, for Anna Stéphany, performing ‘Ah! Whither should we fly’ and ‘Lord to Thee each night and day’. Stéphany combined vocal beauty with convincing characterisation, Christie shaping the contrasting tempos and textures with style but without undue mannerism. A gentle firmness characterised the voice in ‘As with rosy steps’; Stéphany’s lower register was rich and sonorous, and she dared to adopt a whispering pianissimo to moving effect. In ‘Lord to thee’ Stéphany introduced a startling change of character in the second part of the aria, ‘Though convulsive rocks the ground’, which served to make the profound devotion of the da capo repeat yet more affecting.

‘Where Shall I Fly?’ from Hercules is a tour de force of theatrical and histrionic drama and Renata Pokupić was almost equal to its vocal demands. As Hercules’ jealous, fiery wife, she delivered Dejanira’s desperate self-reproaches with an impressive combination of spontaneity and control, but her lower range sometimes lacked power and penetration, and she didn’t quite pierce the depths of Dejanira’s subconscious mind. Pokupić encompassed the extensive melodic range of the virtuosic ‘Dopo Notte’ (After night), from Ariodante with skill, the registers more even here, although the syncopated rhythms which drive the music forward sometimes lacked precision. It was, however, a fine showcase for her communicative panache; Ariodante’s exuberant joy at being reunited with his beloved Ginevra was compellingly and upliftingly conveyed.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment provided an animated, responsive accompaniment to all three soloists, William Christie finding a perfect balance of grace and power. The emphatic playing by the celli and double basses in the overture to Giulio Cesare - perhaps encouraged by the explosive stamp with which Christie commenced some of the instrumental numbers! - was complemented by more reflective bass meanderings in the overture to Theodora. In the two concerti grossi there was considerable variety of both texture and mood, and the playing of the three soloists was crisp and rhythmically exciting. The relationship between soloists and ripieno was one based upon sharing and exchange, the flow seamless, the tempi invigorating. As a closing tribute to Hunt Lieberson, Christie announced an encore; the diverse sentiments of the ‘Musette’ from Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.6 were a perfect homage to the singer’s artistry and integrity.

Claire Seymour


Programme:

Giulio Cesare - Overture; ‘L’angue offeso mai riposa’; Theodora - ‘Ah! Whither should we fly… As with rosy steps the morn’; Concerto Grosso in B minor, Op.6 No.12; Hercules - ‘Whither shall I fly?’; Theodora - Overture; Lord, to ‘Thee each night and day’; Ariodante - ‘Dopo notte’; Concerto Grosso in B flat, Op.3 No.2; Giulio Cesare - Svegliatevi nel core. Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, Monday 3rd June 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):