Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

L’Arpeggiata [Photo by International Classical Artists]
13 Oct 2013

L’Arpeggiata: Mediterraneo

What do you get if you cross the sultry folk melodies of Greece, Spain and Italy with the formal repetitions of Baroque instrumental structures, and add a dash of the shady timbres and rhythmic litheness of jazz?

L’Arpeggiata: Mediterraneo

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: L’Arpeggiata [Photo by International Classical Artists]

 

One might think that this sort of acoustic recipe would produce a dog’s dinner of a musical fusion. But, at the Wigmore Hall L’Arpeggiata showed us that such a brew can result not in a confusing concoction but rather in a new idiom — a dialogue of diverse musical modes which share, and are underpinned by, hypnotically revolving bass lines and effortlessly spun silky melodies, delivered with improvisatory genius.

Founded by director and theorbo player, Christina Pluhar, L’Arpeggiata is a flexible group combining early-music specialists with vocalists from the ‘olive frontier’. The textural complexity of theorbo, chitarra battente, baroque harp, cornetto and psaltery is complemented by the intriguing harmonic nuances of traditional southern songs. Presenting Mediterraneo, the title of the group’s most recent CD recording, L’Arpeggiata created a ceaseless sequence of melodious narrative, propelled by the romance and mystery of the Mediterranean waters which lap the shores of Puglia, and by the venomous bite of the tarantula spider whose toxic threat, it is believed, can be cured by the wild energy of the tarantella dance.

The foundation block upon which the musical amalgam stands firm is the supreme technical mastery of each of the performers, and at the core of the recital were the instrumental tarantellas and improvisations that melded the songs together. Bassist Boris Schmidt provided a rock solid footing upon which the others could build, but one loosened with rhythmic restlessness and spontaneous flourishes, the tone ever rich and full. Schmidt sashayed effortlessly from backdrop to foreground. Taking his turn in a strikingly inventive stream of instrumental obbligati in Maurizio Cazzati’s Ciaccona Op.22 No.14, Schmidt astonished with his agility and dexterity, while in ‘Tarantella napolitana, Tono hypodorico’ he indulged his jazz groove. The relaxed, curling melodies which emanated from Doron Sherwin’s wooden cornetto were equally and compellingly seductive; in Henry de Bailly’s ‘Yo soy la locura’ (I am madness), the springy syncopations of the bass provided the perfect platform for Sherwin’s delicious between-verse dialogue with the snaps and clacks of David Mayoral’s dancing castanets.

Mayoral’s astonishing percussion playing drew gasps in ‘Tarantella Maria di Nardó’, as he coaxed a magical array of tones and beats, sometimes simultaneously, from the simplest of musical means: a single drum skin emitted a panoply of strokes, taps and pitches. Composed by L’Arpeggiata’s guitarist Marcello Vitale, the piece also showcased his own prowess, as he imbued the intricate baroque guitar accompaniment with thrilling vitality and dynamism.

Margit Übellacker’s psaltery added a coloristic excitement to the instrumental texture, her hammers caressing and pummelling the strings with a wonderful blend of precision and passion, and providing a sweetly consoling postlude to the lullaby, ‘Ninna nanna sopra la Romanesca’. Harpist Sarah Ridy, whose obvious joy at the communal creativity was a delight to witness, softly painted the sorrowful ebb and flow of waves and tears, as the poet-narrator was overcome by loneliness and wistful longing.

Leading us through the tales, with their twists of mood and outbursts of emotion, were soprano Raquel Andueza, and Vincenzo Capezzuto, a ‘male soprano’. Capezzuto is not a classically trained countertenor; his voice has the easeful inflection of the pop balladeer complemented by the nuanced inflection of the singer-actor, and such qualities absolutely enchanted in songs such as ‘Agapimu fidela protini’ (My true love; traditional Greek-Salentino) and the Italian folksong ‘Silenziu d’amuri’ (Silence of love). The concluding lines of the latter — ‘swallows, fly to my beloved/ and sing for her in life and death./ These rustic parts are like the whole world. / You are the queen and I am the king of Spain.’ — possessed a quiet dignity and repose. The dark resonances of Pulhar’s resounding theorbo accompanied ‘Stu’ criatu’ (What’s created/Tarantella del Gargano), as the singer took us to more sombre realms and deeper truths: ‘Children come from God/ and nothing that has been created/ should be destroyed.’ The rhythmic incisiveness of the vocal line in the traditional Greek-Salentino song, ‘Agapimu fidela protini’ (My true love) injected poignant feeling into the narrative: ‘When I waken, you are not there,/ and then I cry bitter tears.

No mean dancer himself, Capezzuto was drawn into the spider’s spins and springs in ‘Pizzica di San Vito’ (St. Vitus’s Dance/Tarantella), by dancer Anna Dego, whose flying leap into Capezzuto’s arms reinforced his own urgent wish that his lover should not forget him. Dego’s infectious energy and commitment brought great immediacy to some of the songs, no more so than in ‘Pizzicarella mia’ (My little scallyway) which found Capezzuto in more playful mode, his voice lightly caressing the text, the melody buoyant and blithe: ‘My little scallywag,/ the way you walk, la li la, the way you walk is dancing.’ The dancer’s ferocious, unpredictably physicality complemented the musical virtuosity in ‘La Carpinese’ (Tarantella), as her twists and leaps embodied the sultry warmth of the fire and sun which enflame the woman’s passion.

Capezzuto was joined by Andueza, their voices forming a harmonious blend in duets such as the traditional Greek-Salentino ‘Are mou rindineddha’ (Who knows, little swallows) which opened the performance, instantly establishing a mood of magic and mystery, inviting the audience to skim and soar with the elusive swallows. ‘Ninna nanna sopra la Romanesca’ possessed a gentle lyricism; ‘Oriamu Pisulina’ (My darling Pisulina) was fittingly reticent and restrained, expressing the timid innocence and mild irritation of the faithful lover who is teased and mocked by his thoughtless, indifferent beloved.

Andueza’s soprano guided the narrative lilt of the traditional Catalan song, ‘La dama d’Aragó’ (The lady of Aagon) with beautiful ease; and, the tender repetitions of the final lines of ‘De Santanyí vaig partir’ (I left Santanyí) expressed nostalgia and sorrow, enhanced by the theorbo’s unobtrusive but communicative support. Andueza voice may lack some of the diversity of colour of Capezzuto, but the higher register of ‘Son ruinato’ (I am ruined) brought a harder edge to her melodic lines, fitting for a protagonist whose is ‘ruined with passion’. This was rich characterisation: subsequently, the vocal line sank to burnished lower realms; the dejection of the text, ‘I am desperate/ I have been killed’, was enhanced by the sparse theorbo echoes.

Improvisation of immense inventiveness and immediacy underpinned all these numbers, which segued with scarcely a halt (in performing contexts other than the venerable Wigmore Hall, spontaneous applause and praise might have further smudged the ‘joins’). Particularly striking was ‘La Dia Spagnola’, a triple time chaconne which spanned an arresting range of moods from turbulence to serenity, elation to melancholy. In an evening of pure and joyful music making, L’Arpegiatta proved that when art meets folk meets jazz, the result is harmony: music connects not divides.

Claire Seymour


L'Arpeggiata perform twice more in the season at the Wigmore Hall: Friday 21st March 2014 — L’Amore Innamorato (Christina Pluhar director, theorbo; Nuria Rial soprano ), and Thursday 10th July 2014 — Music for a While ( L’Arpeggiata; Christina Pluhar director, theorbo; Philippe Jaroussky countertenor )

Performers and programme:

L’Arpeggiata: Christina Pluhar - director, theorbo; Raquel Andueza — soprano; Vincenzo Capezzuto —male soprano; Anna Dego — dancer; Doron Sherwin — cornetto; Margit Übellacker — psaltery; Sarah Ridy — baroque harp; Marcello Vitale — baroque guitar, chitarra battente; David Mayoral — percussion; Boris Schmidt — double bass.

Traditional (Greek-Salentino), Are mou Rindineddha; Anon. (17th century), Tres Sirenas;Cazzati, Ciaccona; Traditional (Italy), Stu' criatu (Tarantella del Gargano); Kircher, Tarantella napolitana, Tono hypodorico; Traditional (Italy), Pizzicarella mia (Pizzica); Le Bailly, Yo soy la locura; Improvisation, La Dia Spagnola; Traditional (Italy), La Carpinese (Tarantella del Carpino);Improvisation, Canario; Vitale, Tarantella Maria di Nardò;Traditional (Italy), Ninna, nanna sopra la Romanesca; Traditional (Catalan), De Santayi vaig partir;Traditional (Greek-Salentino), Agapimu fidela protini; Ferrari, Son ruinato, appassionato;Traditional (Greek-Salentino), Oriamu Pisulina; Traditional (Catalan), La Dama d'Arago;Traditional (Italy), Pizzica di San Vito (Tarantella);Pisador, Los delfines; Improvisation, Sfessania; Traditional (Italy), Silenziu d'amuri; Traditional (Italy), Lu Passariellu (Tarantella Pugliese)

Wigmore Hall, London, Thursday 10th October 2013.

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):