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

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.

Pietro Mascagni: Iris

There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the relaxed mood of the summer evening.

L’italiana in Algeri, Garsington Opera

George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely have delighted Liberace.

Carmen in San Francisco

Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.

Eugene Onegin, Garsington Opera

Distinguished theatre director Michael Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.

Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane and Alexandre bis

Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Lohengrin, Dresden

The eyes of the opera world turned recently to Dresden—the city where Wagner premiered his Rienzi, Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser—for an important performance of Lohengrin. For once in Germany it was not about the staging.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne

Having been privileged already to see in little over two months two great productions of Die Meistersinger, one in Paris (Stefan Herheim) and one in Munich (David Bösch), I was unable to resist the prospect of a third staging, at Glyndebourne.

The Threepenny Opera, London

‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny Opera at the Olivier Theatre.

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):