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

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage.

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

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):