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

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

A Butterfly for the ages in a Butterfly marred by casting ineptness and lugubrious conducting.

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):