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

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

20 Jul 2013

Stockhausen at the BBC Proms

The Royal Albert Hall was made for Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. BBC Prom 11 2013 featured Gesang der Jünglinge and Welt-Parliament from Mittwoch from Licht.

The Royal Albert Hall is an imposing building, designed on a grand scale. It is built in an unusual circular shape, which can cause acoustic problems. But it's ideal for Karllheinz Stockhausen's grand visions. The BBC Proms have done Gruppen four times, despite the logistics posed by the use of three orchestras. In 2008, there was an astounding Cosmic Pulses, the 13th Hour from Klang. Stockhausen sculpted sound. At the Royal Albert Hall, he had a huge canvas onto which he could project his experiments. The shape of the building means that sound waves have to travel longer distances than they might in a smaller auditorium. As they bounce off the walls and reverberate, the sound changes, becoming ever more subtle. Architecture becomes a component of performance.

In Gesang der Jünglinge (1955/6), the performers "are" the audience.The "music" happens when an audience processes the aural stimuli around them. The building goes dark. What's happening? Is the show over, one might ask? Slowly, out of the gloom emerge disembodied sounds, coming from many different, unexpected directions. The "performer" is a recording of a young boy, made many decades ago. He's an old man now, but on the tape he's immortal: another Stockhausen concept. The tape is spliced into myriad fragments and reconstituted into something completely different. Gesang der Jünglinge is the great great great grandfather of DJ mixes. Once Stockhausen himself adjusted the balances and frequencies at the mixing desk. Now his disciple Kathinka Pasveer does the sound projection. Stockhausen decreed that the stage should remain empty but for a few desks, to emphasize the idea that performance isn't something passive, but as blend of what's happening at the sound desk and what we hear, wherever we might be seated in the performance space.

Gesang der Jünglinge is based on a story in the biblical Book of Daniel, where three youths are condemned to die in a fiery furnace. But they're saved by their faith. In a heatwave, the Royal Albert Hall becomes a furnace. So the audience experiences the piece as all-round sensory endurance, in a way no-one could have imagined. The oscillating electronic sound waves quiver like flames. When disjointed words leap out “Sonne, Mond, Mund…..Frost und Eis, Frost und Eis”., we feel life-restoring deliverance just as the youths in the furnace might have felt. Karlheinz Stockhausen, wherever he is, must have been looking down with glee.

Last year, the Birmingham Opera Company produced the first complete UK performance of Mittwoch from Stockhausen's grand saga Licht. For this Prom 11 in 2013, the singers, Ex Cathedra, with Jeffrey Skidmore (director), recreated the first scene, Welt-Parliament. It was a good choice because the segment focuses on the variety of voices and vocal techniques. This is an extension of Stockhausen's concept of breaking sound into cells, reconstituting them into something new. Stockhausen is also deconstructing the idea of language.We hear words from recognizable languages, and randomly-generated noise. Just as in life, our task as listeners is to process for ourselves what we hear, not to take things as given. There are allusions to chorale, complete with liturgical bells, and red herrings, like when a man in a reflective jacket who materializes from the back of the Royal Albert Hall and calls out about a car with a number plate MITT2013WCH (!) Eventually, a consensus of sorts emerges. "Licht!" most of the singers conclude. The singers file out gravely. One remains "And now the next scene will follow" he says, but you have to decipher because he stutters to an extreme degree. Yet again, Stockhausen's breaking sound into minute fragments, so we have to really listen, not sit by passively and coast.

Although we're not likely to catch the complete 30 hour Licht anywhere soon, by studying fragments like this in detail, we can put together something of the whole, bit by bit. Indeed I wonder if Stockhausen meant for us to listen in this way, cell by cell, in random order. In conventional opera we follow a narrative where time and meaning are compressed. Stockhausen's approach replicates the way we experience real life. We put our own narratives together by listening and re-listening, backwards and forwards in time.

Anne Ozorio

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):