Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Arabella in San Francisco

A great big guy in a great big fur coat falls in love with the photo of the worldly daughter of a compulsive gambler. A great big conductor promotes the maelstrom of great big music that shepherds all this to ecstatic conclusion.

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

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):