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

London Handel Festival: Handel's Faramondo at the RCM

Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Káťa Kabanová in its Seattle début

The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.

Festival Mémoires in Lyon

Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).

Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake at the Wigmore Hall

The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.

La Tragédie de Carmen at San Diego

On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).

Kasper Holten's farewell production at the ROH: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.

AZ Musicfest Presents Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci

The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.

Premiere: Riders of the Purple Sage

On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.

English Touring Opera Spring 2017: a disappointing Tosca

During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.

Matthias Goerne : Mahler Eisler Wigmore Hall

A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.

A Merry Falstaff in San Diego

On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.

New Production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.

A Salome to Remember

Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.

L’Elisir d’Amore Goes On Despite Storm

On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.

Boris Godunov in Marseille

There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Arnold Schönberg: Blaues Selbstportrait, 1910 [Source: Wikipedia]
10 Mar 2014

Schoenberg and company

With Schoenberg, I tend to take every opportunity I can — at least since my first visit to the Salzburg Festival, when understandably I chose to see Figaro over Boulez conducting Moses und Aron, though I have rued the loss ever since.

Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot lunaire, op.21, with works by Dallapiccola, Nono, and Gerhard

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Arnold Schönberg: Blaues Selbstportrait, 1910 [Source: Wikipedia]

 

Whether that be a matter of travelling to Leipzig to see the brilliant triple-bill of Schoenberg’s one-act operas, ‘Moderne Menschen’, or missing out on Leif Ove Andsnes playing Beethoven a couple of miles away at the Barbican, Schoenberg tends to exert a special call. Whether I should have been better off ignoring the call on this occasion remains unclear. Certainly if the standard of the first half of the concert had been repeated in the second, I should have been far better off staying at home. But then a good Pierrot lunaire more or less managed to save the day.

Jane Manning remains a force of nature, having given her first broadcast performance with Pierrot almost fifty years ago, in 1965. No one is ever likely to agree — even with his or her own thoughts, let alone anyone else’s — about how this work ‘should’ be performed. It is far better to allow that different performers bring different qualities to it on different occasions. If truth be told, Manning was probably wise to downplay the sung element in her recitation. The moments, relatively few, when she moved towards song suggested, not surprisingly, a voice that had known better days. And yet, her vast experience — not just of this, but of more than 350 (!) world premieres, a good number of which would have taken inspiration from Schoenberg in one way or another — shone through nevertheless. The words and their possibilities she clearly knew backwards. (Now there is an idea for another Pierrot-ensemble piece.) She knew, in a way composers such as Luigi Nono or Helmut Lachenmann would surely have appreciated, how to make the most of vowels, consonants, the journeys between them. Above all, she appreciated and communicated the strong element of cabaret. Manning’s was in every sense a performance, and all the better for it.

Not, of course, that the reciter is all there is to Pierrot, far from it. Giora Bernstein led a highly musical account from an excellent bunch of players. Perhaps balance was tilted a little too much away from the ensemble, but we have a host of other performances in which we can savour still more strongly what Stravinsky quite rightly considered an instrumental masterpiece. There were virtues aplenty, nevertheless. The passacaglia registered as such as strongly as I can recall, Night eventually obscuring in more than one sense. Dance rhythms made their Viennese impressions without exaggeration, the ‘Heimfahrt’ an especially fine example. Benjamin Baker’s violin and viola playing was perhaps particularly impressive, perfectly attuned to shifting mood and context, but the ensemble as a whole, including Julian Jacobson’s piano, such a relief after the first half, had no weak links.

As for that first half, well… Doubtless Alberto Portugheis’s heart was in the right place. The concert seems to have been his project; he was listed as ‘curator’. But sadly, it marked a triumph of ambition over even rudimentary technical ability; this was piano-playing that would have disgraced many an amateur performance, and may well have been the worst I have heard in a professional context. The opening Zemlinsky’s 1891 Three Pieces for cello and piano would most likely have done the composer no favours in a stronger account. Apparently rediscovered recently by Raphael Wallfisch — I am placing my trust in a programme note which, in many respects, proved otherwise highly fallible — they are at best apprentice works, straining towards, yet never coming remotely close to Brahms. Here, Portugheis and, much to my surprise, Rohan de Saram sounded as if they were sight-reading. There was little or no sense of musical collaboration; indeed, the players fell noticeably out of sync on more than one occasion. De Saram fared better in Dallapiccola’s Ciaccona, Intermezzo, and Adagio, though even when playing solo, it took him a while to get into his stride, the chaconne initially hesitant. At least, though, the performance offered some sense of the stature of the piece, its dodecaphonic lyricism and structural integrity a wonderful introduction to this appallingly neglected composer.

Nono’s ¿Donde estás, hermano? was provoked — the composer spoke of his need for such a ‘provocation’ to compose, to bear witness — by the ‘disappearances’ in Argentina. The music comes from Quando stanno morendo, Diario Polacco, no.2, but here without electronics. (Not that one would have known from the programme, which bathetically informed us that Nono had ‘strongly-held political views’.) The vocal quartet — Marie Jaermann, Seljan Nasibili, Katie Coventry, and Anna Migalios — seemed excellent. Alas, their performance was compromised by Portugheis’s insistence on conducting; they would surely have better off without. Plodding and without technique, Portugheis’s contribution was summed up by his score falling off the music stand towards the end. As for his solo rendition of Gerhard’s Don Quixote dances, the first opened quite strongly. At last, I thought, we might hear something from him equating to a real performance. I should not have tempted fate. Much of the rest sounded closer to a bumbling amateur’s initial read-through. From time to time, some sense of rhythm or pulse emerged, only roundly to be defeated.

Sadly, then, I was reminded of Boulez’s observation about the self-defeating nature of the occasional performances of music by the Second Viennese School in his youth. The technical standard had been so poor that they did more harm than good, an incitement to him to mount his own performances, leading to the foundation of the Domaine musical. If only, if only…

Mark Berry


Cast and production information:

Jane Manning (reciter); Marie Jaermann, Seljan Nasibili (sopranos); Katie Coventry (mezzo-soprano); Anna Migalios (contralto); Benjamin Baker (violin/viola); Rohan de Saram (cello); Susan Milan (flute/piccolo); David Campbell (clarinets); Julian Jacobson, Alberto Portugheis (piano); Giora Bernstein (conductor). Hall One, Kings Place, London, Tuesday 4 March 2014.

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):