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 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.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

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):