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

A sunny L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House

Theresa May could do with a Doctor Dulcamara in the Conservative Cabinet: his miracle pills for every illness from asthma to apoplexy would slash the NHS bill - and, if he really could rejuvenate the aged then he’d solve the looming social care funding crisis too.

Budapest Festival Orchestra: a scintillating Bluebeard

Ravi Shankar’s posthumous opera Sukanya drew a full house to the Royal Festival Hall last Friday but the arrival of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their founder Iván Fischer seemed to have less appeal to Londoners - which was disappointing as the absolute commitment of Fischer and his musicians to the Hungarian programme that they presented was equalled in intensity by the blazing richness of the BFO’s playing.

Sukanya: Ravi Shankar's posthumous opera

What links Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Brian Newbould and Anthony Payne? A hypothetical question for University Challenge contestants elicits the response that they all ‘completed’ composer’s last words: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (the Unfinished) and Edward Elgar’s Third Symphony, respectively.

Cavalli's Hipermestra at Glyndebourne

‘Make war not love’, might be a fitting subtitle for Francesco Cavalli’s opera Hipermestra in which the eponymous princess chooses matrimonial loyalty over filial duty and so triggers a war which brings about the destruction of Argos and the deaths of its inhabitants.

I Fagiolini's Orfeo: London Festival of Baroque Music

This year’s London Festival of Baroque Music is titled Baroque at the Edge and celebrates Monteverdi’s 450th birthday and the 250th anniversary of Telemann’s death. Monteverdi and Telemann do in some ways represent the ‘edges’ of the Baroque, their music signalling a transition from Renaissance to Baroque and from Baroque to Classical respectively, though as this performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo by I Fagiolini and The English Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble confirmed such boundaries are blurred and frequently broken.

The English Concert: a marvellous Ariodante at the Barbican Hall

I’ve been thinking about jealousy a lot of late, as I put the finishing touches to a programme article for Bampton Classical Opera’s summer production of Salieri’s La scuola de' gelosi. In placing the green-eyed monster centre-stage, Handel’s Ariodante surely rivals Shakespeare’s Othello in dramatic clarity and concision, as this terrifically animated and musically intense performance by The English Concert at the Barbican Hall confirmed.

Riel Deal in Toronto

With its new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, Canadian Opera Company has covered itself in resplendent glory.

Concert Introduces Fine Dramatic Tenor

On May 4, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a concert starring Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazev. Led by Italian conductor Jader Bignamini, members of the orchestra showed their abilities, too, with a variety of instrumental selections played between the singers’ arias and duets.

COC: Tosca’s Cautious Leap

Considering the high caliber of the amassed talent, Canadian Opera Company’s Tosca is a curiously muted affair.

Schubert's 'swan-song': Ian Bostridge at the Wigmore Hall

No song in this wonderful performance by Ian Bostridge and Lars Vogt at the Wigmore Hall epitomised more powerfully, and astonishingly, what a remarkable lieder singer Bostridge is, than Schubert’s Rellstab setting, ‘In der Ferne’ (In the distance).

Stunning power and presence from Lise Davidsen

For Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen this has been an exciting season, one which has seen her make several role and house debuts in Europe and beyond, including Agathe (Der Freischutz) at Opernhaus Zürich, Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) Norwegian National Opera and, just last month, Isabella (Liebesverbot) at Teatro Colón. This Rosenblatt Recital brought her to the Wigmore Hall for her UK recital debut and if the stunning power, shining colour and absolute ease that she demonstrated in a well-chosen programme of song and opera are anything to judge by, Glyndebourne audiences are in for a tremendous treat this summer, when Davidsen appears in the title role of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Three Rossini Operas Serias

Rossini’s serious operas once dominated opera houses across the Western world. In their librettos, the great French author Stendahl—then a diplomat in Italy and the composer’s first biographer—saw a post-Napoleonic “martial vigor” that could spark a liberal revolution. In their vocal and instrumental innovations, he discerned a similar revolution in music.

Tosca: Stark Drama at the Chandler Pavilion

On Thursday evening April 27, 2017, Los Angeles Opera presented a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2013, director John Caird had given Angelinos a production that made Tosca a full-blooded, intense drama as well as a most popular aria-studded opera. His Floria was a dove among hawks.

San Jose’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.

Fine Traviata Completes SDO Season

On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.

The Exterminating Angel: compulsive repetitions and re-enactments

Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”

Dutch National Opera revives deliciously dark satire A Dog’s Heart

Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.

María José Moreno lights up the Israeli Opera with Lucia di Lammermoor

I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.

Cinderella Enchants Phoenix

At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Michel Lambert [Source: Wikipedia]
24 Dec 2013

Les Arts Florissants: Airs sérieux et à boire

In this unusual programme of late-seventeenth-century airs de cour, Les Arts Florissants presented a flowing sequence of songs for solo and ensemble voices with chamber accompaniment, the intimacy of the Wigmore Hall neatly mimicking the privacy of the royal chambers of Louis XIV in which the courtly compositions were originally performed.

Les Arts Florissants: Airs sérieux et à boire

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Michel Lambert [Source: Wikipedia]

 

The career of singer and theorbo player Michel Lambert may be a mere footnote to that of his more prominent son-in-law, Jean-Baptiste Lully, but it was Lambert who — having initially arrived at the court as a ballet dancer — served the King as Maitre de la Musique de la Chambre du Roi for 36 years until his death in 1696. Working in collaboration with Lully, the King’s perennial favourite, Lambert devised and produced lavish entertainments — the imposing dramatic works and church compositions that we most readily associate with the monarch’s reign. But, in addition, he also composed approximately 300 songs, numbers which are often self-consciously idealistic or sardonically witty — fodder to flatter the monarch and his fawning courtiers.

Adopting a quasi-operatic approach, Les Arts Florissants, almost imperceptibly directed from the harpsichord by William Christie, interspersed Lambert’s airs with songs by his contemporaries — Marc-Antoine Charpentier, François Couperin, Joseph Chabanceau de la Barre and Honoré d’Ambruys — weaving a seamless dramatic thread. They thus enacted an inventive, exuberant tale of love, lust and loyalty, in which the wedding plans of soprano Emmanuelle de Negri and baritone Marc Mauillon were interrupted by the amorous interventions of tenor Cyril Auvity and mezzo soprano Anna Reinhold, with bass Lisandro Abadie wryly commenting on the occasionally dissolute goings-on.

The air de cour was eventually subsumed by the rising tide of French opera; perhaps Les Art Florissants were arguing for the significance of Lambert’s dramatic airs in the development of the French opera tradition that would come to fruition at the hands of Lully and Rameau. Thus, the musical delights were served up as theatrical feast for our delectation, highlighting not the individual nature of each song, but linking the parts in a continuous progression. This ‘staging’ did have the advantage of introducing some variety — of pace, context and texture — into a series of songs which are broadly consistent in idiom and ambience, and also allowed for broader musical sweeps without the interruptions of audience applause.

Yet, often the playful antics — lovelorn swooning, secret embraces — seemed distracting and unnecessary. These courtly airs are intimate and subtle, rather than self-indulgently theatrical. Rick Jones’s programme notes suggest that in the satirical airs à boire the essence can be reduced to the mocking maxim, ‘Love is pain, therefore kill me’. But, it seems to me that there is a closer relationship between the poetry and its musical expression: that the sentiments of these melancholy, at times explicit, lyric poems — which admittedly do frequently express the anguish of the spurned or dejected lover, one who is almost without hope — are those of genuine loss and regret. Too much tom-foolery risks diminishing the unaffected emotional intensity conveyed by Lambert’s polished style in which, through scrupulous repetitions, elegant ornamentations and affecting chromaticism, text, voices and instruments fuse inseparably.

However, this misgiving aside (and judging from the audience’s jubilant reception, I suspect my reservations were shared by few!), musical standards were unwaveringly superb, voices and instruments in perfect balance. In Lambert’s ‘Le repos, l’ombre, le silence’ (Stillness, gloom, silence) the simplicity of the airy texture, with treble and bass lines widely spaced, emphasised the confidential, complicit mood; while the intertwining voices in ‘Ah, qui voudra désormais s’engager’ (Ah, who now will ever wish to pledge his love?) and ‘Il faut mourir plutôt que de changer’ (’Tis better to die than e’er to change) created restless exigency. Auvity’s solo rendition of Lambert’s ‘Iris n’est plus’ revealed an expressive flexibility in tone, rhythm and response to the text that provided an engaging contrast to the more homogeneous approach of the other singers, who tended towards an open, full and even style of delivery — undoubtedly beautiful but rather more ‘operatic’, projecting outwards, than Auvity’s beguiling manner of drawing the audience in.

Reinhold and Mauillon gave a deeply moving performance of ‘Le doux silence de nos bois’ (The soft silence of the woods) by Honoré d’Ambruys. Above the repeating rising bass line, the mezzo soprano’s opulent legato radiantly embraced the ornate melodic line while the tenor provided sweet yet more grainy foundations, suggesting in the first stanza the happiness of youth, ‘the time for tender loves and pleasures’ and, in the second, the gentle melancholy of regret.

Compositions by Marc-Antoine Charpentier introduced a lighter, more ribald tone, most particularly in ‘Intermèdes nouveaux du Mariage forcé’, incidental music for Molière’s farcical drama Le Mariage force in which the elegant rhythms of the minuet and gavotte were overwhelmed by the grotesque antics of the three male singers as Charpentier parodies the theatrical style and excesses of his Italian rivals. Auvity, Mauillon and Abadie delighted in the parodic vein, their ‘belle symphonie’ a mocking medley of onomatopoeic whelps and woofs; joined by de Negri and Reinhold, they formed parodic homage to the Soul of Music and Genius of Harmony aloft in the Wigmore Hall cupola, an ironic visual accompaniment to Charpentier’s final line: ‘Oh! Le jolie concert et la belle harmonie!’

William Christie’s ever-urbane accompaniments — all stylish grace notes and refined countermelodies — were never intrusive. Theorbo player, Thomas Dunford displayed effortless virtuosity, and for once the instrument’s intricacies were clearly audible, a superb balance being maintained throughout. Complementing Dunford’s agile embellishments, the string lines of Myriam Rignol (viola da gamba) and violinists Florence Malgoire and Tami Troman entwined tastefully and lamentingly with the voices. The rhythmic suppleness of Rignol’s varying chaconne line in the two-part air, ‘Quand une âme est bien atteinte’ (Once a soul is captivated) wonderfully captured the changes of affekt.

The only air employing all five voices was the final song by Lambert, a setting of Jean de la Fontaine’s ‘Tout l’Univers obéit à ‘l’amour’ in which de Negri’s pure soprano soared above the other voices before all came to rest with the fittingly homophonous closing line, ‘Aimez, aimez le reste n’est rien’.

Claire Seymour


Performers and programme:

William Christie, director; Emmanuelle de Negri, soprano; Anna Reinhold, mezzo-soprano; Cyril Auvity, high tenor; Marc Mauillon, baritone; Lisandro Abadie, bass. Wigmore Hall, London, Thursday 19th December 2013.

Lambert, ‘D’un feu secret je me sens consommer’, ‘Le repos, l’ombre, le silence’, ‘Ah! qui voudra désormais s’engager?’, ‘Il faut mourir plustost que de changer’; Couperin, ‘Épitaphe d’un paresseux’, ‘Les Pellerines’; Lambert, ‘Iris n’est plus’, ‘Bien que l’amour’; Chabanceau de la Barre, ‘Quand une âme est bien atteinte’; Charpentier, ‘Intermède nouveau from Le Mariage forcé’; Lambert, ‘Chantez, chantez petits oiseaux’, ‘Pour vos beaux yeux, Iris’, ‘Que d’amans separez languissent nuit et jour; d’Ambruys, ‘Le doux silence de nos bois’; Charpentier, ‘Ayant bu du vin clairet’, ‘Auprès du feu l’on fait l’amour, ‘Vos petits yeux’; Lambert, ‘Jugez de ma douleur’, ‘Il est vrai, l’amour est charmant’, ‘Tout l’univers obéit à l’Amour’.

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):