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

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit - Ensemble Correspondances

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit with Ensemble Correspondances led by Sébastien Daucé, the glorious culmination of the finest London Festival of the Baroque in years on the theme "Treasures of the Grand Siècle". Le Concert Royal de la Nuit was Louis XIV's announcement that he would be "Roi du Soleil", a ruler whose magnificence would transform France, and the world, in a new age of splendour.

Voices of Revolution – Prokofiev, Exile and Return

Seven, they are Seven , op.30; Violin Concerto no.1 in D minor, op.19; Cantata for the Twentieth Anniverary of the October Revolution, op.74. David Butt Philip (tenor), Pekka Kuusisto (violin), Aidan Oliver (voice of Lenin, chorus director), Philharmonia Voices, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (military band), Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, Sunday 20 May 2018.

Charpentier Histoires sacrées, staged - London Baroque Festival

Marc-Antoine Charpentier Histoires sacrées with Ensemble Correspondances, conducted by Sébastien Daucé, at St John's Smith Square, part of the London Festival of the Baroque 2018. This striking staging, by Vincent Huguet, brought out its austere glory: every bit a treasure of the Grand Siècle, though this grandeur was dedicated not to Sun God but to God.

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

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):