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

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Miah Persson [Photo © Mina artistbilder]
09 Oct 2013

Robert Schumann: A Life in Song

Miah Persson and Florian Boesch sang Schumann with Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall for the latest of his Songlives series.

Robert Schumann Lieder, Miah Persson, Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau, Wigmiore Hall, London 5th October 2013

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Miah Persson [Photo © Mina artistbilder]

 

In this recital we traced the different stages of Schumann's development as song composer. There were thirty seven songs, some of the fairly long, plus two encores, but the performances were so good that the evening seemed to end all too soon.

Sensucht (WoO 121 1827), written when the composer was 17 is a deceptively simple song, for which Schumann wrote his own text. Heinrich Heine stimulated him to a more sophisticated work, the same year, Gesanges erwachen (1827). Persson's voice was lithe, suggesting youth..

Most of the Wigmore Hall audience know Schumann's songs of 1840, so Martineau and his singers presented a brief selection of Eichendorff, Kerner and other songs. The Liederkreis op 39 are familiar, but Boesch and Persson made them feel fresh and newly minted. Persson's Frühlingsnacht, her timbre so lustrous that you could almost see moonbeams. Yet even in the midst of beauty, Lieder reflect on deeper mysteries. In Schõne Fremde, the rustling myrtle leaves seem to whisper secrets. "Was sprichtest du wirr" Boesch sang in hushed tones, "wie in Träumen zu mir, phantjatstiche Nacht?" Boesch's flawless modulation expressed excitement, wonder and even a twinge of fear. In Waldesgespräch, a vision of beauty turns on the beholder. Boesch sang the maiden's song so it felt almost hypnotically plaintive. Thus he didn't have to exaggerate the word "nimmermehr" at the end. Its forceful impact had been building up quietly all along.

There are eight songs in the full Frauenliebe und -leben op 42. but the three chosen here were a succint summary. Persson's voice fluttered as she sang of the woman's first glimpse of the man she would marry. No coy giddiness here. Persson's singing is so assured that she can suggest that this woman is no mere object of a man's fantasy, as some critics of the cycle believe. Persson makes the woman feel mature and confident, making her own choices. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern came across as a warm-hearted hymn to sisterhood. Hearing the song of widowhood straight after this was extraordinarily poignant. Just as we've come to know the woman and her happiness, that happiness is snatched away.

Boesch sang three songs from Kerner Lieder op 35 and Persson sang two of of the Zwolf Gedichte aus 'Liebesfrühling op 37 to texts by Friedrich Rückert. Together they sang the duet Herbstlied op 43no 2,. It's a jolly song : winter poses no threat to those who believe that Spring will come again.Suddenly, the mood changed. Boesch sang Belshazar op 57. That was an inspired juxtaposition of two very different songs !

Bryn Terfel sang Belsazar at the beginning of the Wigmore Hall 2013/14 season. Boesch sang with equal dramatic intensity but brought out the psychological nuances far more effectively. "Der Mitternacht", he sang, immediately establishing a sense of dangerous portent. Schumann writes hustle and bustle into the music, to suggest the rowdy party. Boesch's phrasing shows how the King is getting drunk, reeling from side to side, rashly showing off before his vassals. "Ich bin der Kõnig von Babylon!", he sang, just slightly off kilter so you could imagine the King puffed up but wobbly. Martineau played the rumblings in the piano part : even before the hand of Jehovah appears, the Babylonians are on shaky ground. The text is Heine, so the song ends curtly, without melodrama. The last line is chillingly matter-of-fact. ""Belsazar ward aber in selbiger Nachrt" sang Boesch without sentimentality. "Von seinen Knechten umgebracht".

To illustrate Schumann's later years in Dresden (1845-50) and in Düseldorf (1850-54), Martineau picked songs that highlighted different aspects of Schumann's life. To show Schumann as Pater familias, songs from the Liedreralbum für die Jugend Op 79 : Boesch sang Schneeglõckchen and Persson sang the Mõrike song Er Ist's. These songs are charming and whimsical, in contrast to the Harper songs from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrejahre Op 98a , written within the same year.

Goethe's Wilhelm Meister songs have been heard at the Wigmore Hall in various incarnations several times this year, (Wolf and Schubert) so it was immensely satisfying to hear Schumann's versions. Boesch started with Wer nie sein Brit mit Tränen Aß, perhaps the bleakest,then sang Wer sich der Einsamkeit vergibt and An den Türen will ich schliechen. His firm, measured pace suggested that the Harper faces his destiny with dogged resolution, far more courageously than if he were to court self pity. Of the current crop of singers in this fach, only Goerne and Boesch create the insight these songs deserve.

Schumann's Goethe songs were interspersed with settings of Lenau and more minor poets, such as Wilfried von Neun (Es stürmet am Abendhimmel, Op 89/1, 1850), Friedrich Halm (Geisternähe) and Christian L'Egru (Aufträge), These reflect Schumann's extensive knowledge of contemporary literature.

The recital concluded with songs written towards the end of Schumann's productive life, Abschied von der Welt and Gebet from Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart Op 135, 1852). In the circumstances, lines like "Was nützt die mir noch zugemess'ne Zeit ?" (What use is the time still allotted me?) feel painfully poignant. We think of Schumann in the asylum, alone, the past behind him.

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):