Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

10 Sep 2013

Wigmore Hall Opening Gala, Terfel and Keenlyside

The Wigmore Hall 2013/14 season started in exuberant style. Simon Keenlyside, Bryn Terfel and Malcolm Martineau devised a programme that was festive and fun. And, this being the Wigmore Hall, the recital was as erudite as it was popular

Opening Gala Wigmore Hall 2013/14 season

A review by Anne Ozorio

 

The two singers were enjoying themselves, teasing and challenging each other. Seldom do concerts, especially Gala Recitals, feel as natural as private performance.

The programme was extremely well chosen, for it showcased narrative song, a sub-genre of Lieder. It was ideally suited to the occasion, and to Terfel and Keenlyside, whose opera backgrounds mean they can sing stories with vivid élan.

Keenlyside wasn't well, and needed copious liquid succour - he finished a jug of water - but being a true trouper, he turned his difficulty to advantage in his performance. "Durst,Wassersheu, ungleich Geblüt!", he growled in Hugo Wolf's Zur Warnung. So we laughed with him, not at him, as he depicted the poet's Muse's "schmöden Bafel", the lines lurching as though through a drunken haze. That's the sign of a real professional, whose artistry overcomes all.

Terfel sang Robert Schumann Belsazar op 57 (1840). More drunkenness! This time the mighty King of Babylon blasphemes and is brought down by Jehovah. Heine's version of Belshazzar's Feast is pithy, and the drama unfolds in the space of a few minutes. It's dramatic stuff. Terfel, being a natural stage animal, intones the text with slow deliberation, each syllable kept distinct. "Buchstaben von feuer, und Schreib, und schwand". You can almost see the mysterious hand writing slowly on the palace wall. He sings the lines about the soothsayers with casual tenderness, so when he sings of Belsazar's murder, the syllables sound even more ominous.

Terfel and Keenlyside foxed the audience, too, changing the programme and keeping us alert. Schumann's Die beiden Grenadier (op 49/1 1840) popped up unexpectedly, but it's a great song that fitted perfectly into this programme of Lieder as mini-drama. The ironic quote from the Marseillaise worked especially well after the Muse's wonky nightingale song in Zur Warnung. Die beiden Grenadier is witty but the humour is grim. Heine is satirizing fanatics who follow leaders unto death.

Also in place of the scheduled programme, Jacques Ibert's Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte (1932) substituted for Poulenc's Chansons villageoises (1942). An inspired choice, which showed the singer's grasp of repertoire. Ibert's four Don Quixote songs are even more colourful than Ravel's three songs Don Quichotte à Dulcinée which were sung by Feodor Chaliapin in the 1932 G W Pabst film Don Quixote. Ibert wrote the rest of the music for the film, so his songs area deliciously ironic. Terfel must have relished doing a riposte to Chaliapin. Ibert's songs veer (or should I say "tilt" wildly from mock heroic to mock sentimental to mock elegaic. Ideal opportunities for Terfel to camp up the humour and characterizations.

Both Terfel and Keenlyside live in Wales, though Terfel is of course a native. So Terfel sang Y Cymru (The Welshman) in what we must assume is perfect Welsh. The song, by Meirion Williams, sounds lovely in Welsh but it's just as well -- translated into English, the text is maudlin. But it's a good song and should be a star turn. Keenlyside decided that discretion was the better part of valour and declined to sing the third Williams song in Welsh.

Instead, Keenlyside sang Peter Warlock, an Englishman who lived in Wales and was rather fond of beer and song. Keenlyside's voice filled out beautifully in Cradle Song (1927). Warlock's My Own Country (1927), to a poem by Hilaire Belloc, is exquisite, one of his best and most mellifluous. Belloc was writing about an imaginary country, based vaguely on Sussex, but Keenlyside made it feel as if we all belonged there.

Since this concert celebrated the beginning of a new season at the Wigmore Hall, the holidy mood continued with a selection of show tunes. Here, Keenlyside was in his element. When he sang the Soliloquy ("My boy Bill") from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, he could sit on a bar stool clutching a glass (of water) and be in perfect character. Keenlyside does lounge lizard well, so I liked his Ain't misbehaving though he sounds nothing like Fats Waller. He also did a wry take on Fiddler on the Roof . His skills in the opera house stand him in good stead. Keenlyside and Terfel duetted in Cole Porter's Night and Day, coyly switching the words. They'd like to spend their days and nights "being friends".

Terfel resented more party tricks. He sang songs from the repertoire of John Charles Thomas (1891-1960), an American of Welsh descent who sang opera, operetta and popular tunes. "He sang with Chaliapin", said Terfel. Another hidden connection in this remarkably erudite programme. Terfel sang the comic The Green-Eyed Dragon (Wolseley Charles, published 1926 Boosey), first recorded in 1927 by an opera singer called Reinald Werrenrath. Crossover is nothing new.

Terfel also sang two rather better songs, Trees to the poem by Joyce Kilmer set by Oscar Rasbach in 1922, and Tally-ho !, a song about fox hunting where a foxy peasant out-foxes fox hunters and lets the fox escape. The peasant acts dumb when the fox hunters ask him where the fox has gone. The song was written by Franco Leoni (1864-1949) and was recorded by Arthur Reckless, an English baritone who later taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where Terfel learned his trade.

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):