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

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Matthias Goerne [Photo by Marco Borggreve]
28 Sep 2013

Matthias Goerne: Hugo Wolf and Franz Liszt

Matthias Goerne and Andreas Haefliger’s recital at the Wigmore Hall was eagerly anticipated. Goerne and Haefliger are a Dream Team, who have worked together for over 15 years.

Hugo Wolf, Franz Liszt : Matthias Goerne, Andreas Haefliger, Wigmore Hall, London 27th September 2013

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Matthias Goerne [Photo by Marco Borggreve]

 

In the audience were many who had heard Goerne before he became famous, and some who knew Andreas Haefliger’s father, the tenor Ernst Haefliger. An audience like this doesn’t need popular tidbits. Goerne and Haefliger performed Wolf and Liszt with intense, passionate commitment. Even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall, this was an evening to remember.

Hugo Wolf’s Peregrina I and II (1888) set the mood. Peregrina was a real, if mysterious woman, a beautiful semi-vagrant, extremely well read and intellectual, though tinged with religious mania. Eduard Mörike, a nice Lutheran pastor, was intrigued because she represented a wild, exotic alternative to conventional mores. The piano part seems worshipful, but when Goerne sang the phrase “....Tod im Kelch der Sünden”, the poisonous danger in the reverie could not be mistaken. Wolf set only two of Mörike’s five Peregrina poems, but the ending of Peregrina II might suggest why. The poet is in the midst of a family celebration. But in the midst of the festivities, the ghost of Peregrina comes to him, and they walk out, hand in hand. Goerne expressed the horror, but also the excitement. After 150 years, Peregrina continues to taunt, tempt and tantalize.

In contrast, Wolf’s An der Geliebte, also to a poem by Mörike, seemed heartfelt relief. Goerne’s voice these days is freer and brighter at the top. In the two Wolf Reinick songs Liebesbotschaft and Nachtgruß (both 1883), he could bring out the images of light and transparency to great effect.

These very early songs thus served as a good prelude to Wolf at his craggiest, the Three Lieder to texts by Michelangelo (1897). These songs, originally written for bass, have long been Goerne specialities, for they fit his natural register so well. Haefliger delineated the firm opening chords, so when Goerne’s voice emerged, it seemed hewn from stone. In Wohl denk’ ich oft , the two strophes contrast past and present. Once, the poet thought “to live for song alone” though “im jeder Tag verloren für mich war”. Now he’s famous - and censured - “Und, dass ich da bin, wissen alle Leute!” Goerne brought out the bitter irony, his voice spitting the consonants in the last line, contrasting with the firm round vowels of “alle”. Two parallel realities embedded in the structure of the song.

Haefliger’s chords struck like purposeful hammerblows in Alles endet, was entstehet. Goerne sang with nobility, the smoothness of his legato giving the song an elegaic quality. Yet this was no marble monument. When Goerne sang “Alles, alles rings vergehet!”,, he expressed human, personal anguish. In the final song, Fühlt meine Seele, the poet wonders whether his art has been inspired by “Licht von Gott”. When Goerne sang “ich weiss es nicht”, he expressed something altogether more complex. The strength in his timbre suggested where Michelangelo’s deepest convictions lay.

Franz Liszt expressed himself ideally in his works for piano, and in some ways his songs work best as Lieder-in-reverse, where the piano sings and the voice accompanies. That in itself makes them an interesting part of the repertoire. Haefliger came to the fore. He played the introductions and postludes elegantly, but with the focus on meaning that differentiates piano song from piano solo. In Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam (S309/1 c 1855) the piano’s sparkling, twinkling chords describe snowfall and starlight. Heine’s poem is more ironic, for he imagines the spruce tree imagining itself a palm. For Liszt, though, the atmosphere is magic, and we marvel in its beauty.

More conventional poets seem to bring out the best in Liszt. In Laßt mich ruhen (S314 1858) to a poem by Hoffmann von Fallersleben , Liszt creates the “Mondes Silberhelle auf des Baches dunkler Welle” so vividly that the song is almost tone poem. Ich möchte hingehen (S296, 1845), Georg Herwegh the poet thinks how nice it must be to die. The piano part is almost jolly, as if Liszt is mocking the poet’s delusion. The new brightness in Goerne’s voice worked very well indeed. Only in the last verse does reality intrude. The lines go haywire. And Goerne sings sardonically. “Das arme Menschenherz muss stückweis brechen”.

Liszt responds to individual lines in poems, like “Noch leuchten ihre Purpurgluten um jene Höhen, kahl und fern” in Des Tages laute Stimmen schweiugen S337 (1880) to a poem by Ferdinand von Saar. Delicious round sounds for Goerne to circulate his voice around. Liszt is interesting as song composer, too, because his songs suggest how Lieder might have been experienced in the interregnum between Schubert, Schumann and Hugo Wolf. Liszt’s Über alles Gipfeln ist Ruh’ (S306/2, 1859) predicates on repeats of the words “Warte nur” and a nice final coda. Many composers set this poem by Goethe, not many to penetrating effect.

Earlier this week at the Wigmore Hall, Goerne sang Schubert Lieder accompanied by harp (full review here) with the three Gesänge des Harfners. Now he turned to Hugo Wolf’s settings of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister songs, Harfenspieler I, II and III (1888). Wolf’s approach is more extreme than Schubert’s, veering away from tonality towards psychic disintegration. The piano treads penitentially. “Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt”, sang Goerne, bringing out the desolation. “Still und sittsam, will ich stehn” sings the Harper in the second song. One of Goerne’s great strengths is his inwardness. Like the Harper, he doesn’t emote theatrically to entertain an audience, but draws in on himself, physically and emotionally, focusing expression outwards, entirely through his voice. In the third song “Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß” brought the loudest and most forceful singing of the evening, but, as always with Goerne, volume was natural and unforced, deployed intelligently, not simply for show. Magnificent singing, and done with integrity. No populist showmanship here.

Goerne and Haefliger concluded with three Wolf songs from 1896, Keine gleicht von allen Schönen and Sonne der Schlummerlosen, to texts by Byron and Morgenstimmung to a text by Reinick. A glorious ending to a thrilling concert. “Die Engel freundejauchzend fliegen”. Goerne’s enunciation was flawless. The encore was Wolf’s Anakreon’s Grab. Goethe describes the Greek poet’s grave festooned with flowers. “Frühling, Sommer, und Herbst genoß der glückliche Dichter; Vor dem Winter hat ihn endlich der Hügel geschützt. Der Hügel geschützt.” As I left the Wigmore Hall, the thought of that “mound” where art rests eternally cheered my heart.

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):