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

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

Manon in San Francisco

Nothing but a wall and a floor (and an enormous battery of unseen lighting instruments) and two perfectly matched artists, the Manon of soprano Ellie Dehn and the des Grieux of tenor Michael Fabiano, the centerpiece of Paris’ operatic Belle Époque found vibrant presence on the War Memorial stage.

A beguiling Il barbiere di Siviglia from GTO

I had mixed feelings about Annabel Arden’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia when it was first seen at Glyndebourne in 2016. Now reprised (revival director, Sinéad O’Neill) for the autumn 2017 tour, the designs remain a vibrant mosaic of rich hues and Moorish motifs, the supernumeraries - commedia stereotypes cum comic interlopers - infiltrate and interact even more piquantly, and the harpsichords are still flying in, unfathomably, from all angles. But, the drama is a little less hyperactive, the characterisation less larger-than-life. And, this Saturday evening performance went down a treat with the Canterbury crowd on the final night of GTO’s brief residency at the Marlowe Theatre.

Brett Dean's Hamlet: GTO in Canterbury

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet,’ says Matthew Jocelyn in an interview printed in the 2017 Glyndebourne programme book. The librettist of Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera based on the Bard’s most oft-performed tragedy, which was premiered to acclaim in June this year, was noting the variants between the extant sources for the play - the First, or ‘Bad’, Quarto of 1603, which contains just over half of the text of the Second Quarto which published the following year, and the First Folio of 1623 - no one of which can reliably be guaranteed superiority over the other.

WNO's Russian Revolution series: the grim repetitions of the house of the dead

‘We lived in a heap together in one barrack. The flooring was rotten and an inch deep in filth, so that we slipped and fell. When wood was put into the stove no heat came out, only a terrible smell that lasted through the winter.’ So wrote Dostoevsky, in a letter to his brother, about his experiences in the Siberian prison camp at Omsk where he was incarcerated between 1850-54, because of his association with a group of political dissidents who had tried to assassinate the Tsar. Dostoevsky’s ‘house of the dead’ is harrowingly reproduced by Maria Björsen’s set - a dark, Dantesque pit from which there is no possibility of escape - for David Pountney’s 1982 production of Janáček’s final opera, here revived as part of Welsh National Opera’s Russian Revolution series.

The 2017 Glyndebourne Tour arrives in Canterbury with a satisfying Così fan tutte

A Così fan tutte set in the 18th century, in Naples, beside the sea: what, no meddling with Mozart? Whatever next! First seen in 2006, and now on its final run before ‘retirement’, Nicholas Hytner’s straightforward account (revived by Bruno Ravella) of Mozart’s part-playful, part-piquant tale of amorous entanglements was a refreshing opener at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where Glyndebourne Festival Opera arrived this week for the first sojourn of the 2017 tour.

Richard Jones's Rodelinda returns to ENO

Shameless grabs for power; vicious, self-destructive dynastic in-fighting; a self-righteous and unwavering sense of entitlement; bruised egos and integrity jettisoned. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was the current Tory government that was being described. However, we are not in twenty-first-century Westminster, but rather in seventh-century Lombardy, the setting for Handel’s 1725 opera, Rodelinda, Richard Jones’s 2014 production of which is currently being revived at English National Opera.

Amusing Old Movie Becomes Engrossing New Opera

Director Mario Bava’s motion picture, Hercules in the Haunted World, was released in Italy in November 1961, and in the United States in April 1964. In 2010 composer Patrick Morganelli wrote a chamber opera entitled Hercules vs. Vampires for Opera Theater Oregon.

Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If a credible portrayal of the title character in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is vital to any performance, the success of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s current, exciting production hinges very much on the memorable court jester and father sung by baritone Quinn Kelsey.

Wexford Festival Opera 2017

‘What’s the delay? A little wind and rain are nothing to worry about!’ The villagers’ indifference to the inclement weather which occurs mid-way through Jacopo Foroni’s opera Margherita - as the townsfolk set off in pursuit of two mystery assailants seen attacking a man in the forest - acquired an unintentionally ironic slant in Wexford Opera House on the opening night of Michael Sturm’s production, raising a wry chuckle from the audience.

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):