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

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

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):