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

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

Extravagant Line-up 2017-18 at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany

The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Matthias Goerne [Photo by Marco Borggreve]
26 Sep 2013

Schubert Songs with Harp: Matthias Goerne, Wigmore Hall

In the first of his two recitals at the Wigmore Hall this week, Matthias Goerne sang Schubert, but Schubert with a difference.

Franz Schubert Lieder : Matthias Goerne, Sarah Christ, Wigmore Hall, London 25th September 2013

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Matthias Goerne [Photo by Marco Borggreve]

 

Instead of the familiar songs for voice and piano, Goerne sang versions transcribed for harp, accompanied by Sarah Christ. Goerne knows the Wigmore Hall audience. True Lieder devotees were intrigued.

Throughout the Lieder repertoire, there are references to Ständchen, serenades where a man, usually alone, sings and plays a simple, portable plucked string instrument, much in the way that troubadours performed centuries before. Indeed, the idea of song with harp long predates Lieder itself. The harp is a much less sophisticated instrument than a modern piano. It's more in keeping with the Arcadian image of the harp, where a bard might play and sing in tune with nature. Wilhelm Meister, for example, creating his music as he wandered. Harps also evoke the sounds of lutes, zithers and even early guitars. There's an excellent transcription of Die schöne Müllerin for guitar, which brings out the miller's relationship with his lute, as well as with the brook. Goerne's concept of Lieder with harp has a long pedigree.

Dynamics shift when Schubert is heard with harp instead of piano. The sound is more fluid, more "innocent" and naturalistic. Perhaps sound is more difficult to control when it resonates over a long string. Sarah Christ made the harp sound playful, spontaneous, even slightly unpredictable. Goerne had to listen, even more carefully than usual, adapting his singing to a lighter, brighter voice than a piano. It was refreshing to hear familiar songs done in this new way. They felt even more personal, as if we were listening in natural surroundings rather than in the formal context oif a concert hall.

Songs like Im Frühling (D882. 1826) and Das Lied im Grünem (D917. 1827) adapted well to the more vernal approach. Goerne's timbre rose to a transparency one doesn't normally associate with a baritone with bass-like coloration. This suited Des Fischers Liebesglück (D913, 1827) where the fisherman's lines are short and simple, suggesting his unspoiled simplicity. It was interesting to hear how Goerne respected the slight pauses between each short phrase, while Christ's harp continued to resonate even after her hands had left the strings. Just as Schubert describes moonlight, stars and the stillness of night, Goerne and Christ create an atmosphere of watchfulness. In Der Winterabend (D938, 1828), the harp evokes the sound of muffled snowfall, from which the voice emerges with warmth.

"Und geb' ein Lied euch noch zur Zither, mit fliess gesungen un gespeilet" (Pilgerweise (D789, 1823), worked particularly well with the humble harp, as did Der Kreuzzug (D932, 1827). Christ's playing tolls, like a bell in an austere monastery. Goerne floats the extremely high lines in the first strophe so we can imagine what the monk might feel as he watches the Crusaders on their way to war. Then his force takes on the rich, dark assertiveness for which he has no peer. ""Ich bin, wie ihr, ein Pilger doch!" he sings with fervour. The monk is fighting inner battles every bit as difficult as those the Crusaders are heading for.

Although Wigmore Hall concerts are rarely disappointing, this season's concerts so far have been enjoyable more for the artistry of the performers than for the technical standards of performance. Goerne, however, restored the balance. His voice has blossomed since he was last heard in London, and is now truly revealing its riches.

His three Gesänge des Harfners were outstanding. Superlative singing, beautifully nuanced and shaped. The best singing so far this year and more to come on Friday 27th, no doubt. Wilhelm Meister, the harper, wanders through life, haunted by guilt. "Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß, ....Der kennt euch nicht, ihr himmlischen Mächt!". He who has never eaten his bread with tears....cannot know the power of Heaven". Goerne's voice resonates, expressing mysteries and pain words alone cannot articulate. Yet even in his anguish, the Harper finds validation.of some sort, through his art.

Exceptionally well-written programme notes by Richard Stokes, If the Wigmore Hall collects his work into a compendium, it will create a classic reference work. Programme notes, though, are written before a performance and don't directly relate to it. If the Wigmore Hall does another programme like this (lots of possibilities) it would be nice to read something on Schubert's interest in instruments other than piano. That would take the erudition of a Richard Stokes to be truly original.

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):