Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

06 May 2014

Stéphane Degout, Wigmore Hall, London

Excellent Wigmore Hall recital with Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper. Degout is one of the great names in French repertoire and in French baroque in particular.

Stéphane Degout, Simon Lepper recital, Wigmore Hall, London 2nd May, 2014

A review by Anne Ozorio

 

He sang Thésée in the Glyndebourne Hippolyte et Aricie and works with conductors like William Christie, Marc Minkowski, Emmanuelle Haïm and René Jacobs. He's also an outstanding Pelléas. Friends of mine admired his singing - and much more - as the "naked" Hamlet at La Monnaie. We were thrilled to hear him sing this wide-ranging programme.

Provocatively, Degout and Lepper began with Schubert Der Zwerg (D771, c 1822), usually the preserve of dark hued German baritones. Nearly sixty years ago, Gérard Souzay and Dalton Baldwin shook the Lieder world with their unidiomatic but brilliant Schubert. Now, Degout and Lepper show how French style can bring out great insight.. Degout's higher, sharper timbre captured the eeriness in Carl Loewe's Edward (Op 1/1 1818) sinisterly underlining the brutality in the poem.

The Wigmore Hall has been wise this year to feature the same group of songs in several different recitals, so we can hear how different artists approach them. In September Bryn Terfel sang Schumann Belsazar (Op 57, 1840), his huge voice emphasizing its vast panorama. Degout's Belsazar emphasized the personal horror that befalls the King at the very moment of his triumph. Luca Pisaroni and Angelika Kirchschlager Franz Liszt's Die drei Zigeuner (S320, 1860), each with their own style. Degout's interpretation highlighted the sardonic wit at the heart of Lenau's poem, somewhat obscured by Liszt's preference for pianistic display. Lepper created Liszt's sounds of the fiddle and cimbalom, but Degout reminded us that the gypsies don't care what the world thinks. "Wenn das Leben uns nachtet, wie man's verschläft, verraucht, vergeigt, und es dreimal verachtet"

Degout connected this Liszt song with Kurt Weill Die Ballade vom entrunkenen Mädchen (1928), employing logic lost on those who don't really know the songs. The drowned girl putrefies. Even God forgets her. The gypsies are poor but they make the most of what they have, while they can. For his encores, Degout chose Hugo Wolf Verborhgenheit and Francis Poulenc's Hôtel. When life is tough, some gloomily philosophize. "We French", said Degout with a sardonic grin, "We light a cigarette" "Le soleil passe son bras par la fenêtre. Mais moi qui veux fumer pour faire des mirages", wrote Apollinaire, distilling vast cultural concepts in a few ironic words.

Thus we were gently positioned to better appreciate the values of French song as an aesthetic subtly different from German Lieder. Degout sang Gabriel Fauré Automne (Op 18/5, 1870) , creating the melancholic mood so beautifully that the sudden crescendo on the last words "avaient oubliées!" intensified the sense of painful regret. When Degout sang Fauré's L'horizon chimérique (Op 118, 1921) , I could hardly breathe lest I miss a moment. This was exquisite singing,his each word elegantly shaped and coloured with intelligence, his precision underlining the emotional freedom the ocean represents. Lepper's playing evoked he rhythm of turbulent waves. so Degout's voice seemed to soar. Agile, athletic phrasing bristling with energy, so the serenity of the moon in Diane, Séléné felt all the more tantalizing. "Et mon coeur, toujours las et toujours agité, Aspire vers la paix de ta nocturne flamme". Degout made each nuance count. When he sang "j'ai de grands départs inassouvis en moi", the delicate balance between emotion and restraint felt almost too much to bear.

Degout followed Fauré with Liszt's Three Petrach Sonnets (S270/1 1842-6). Perhaps his grounding in baroque helps him sing Italian with a clarity one doesn't often here in these songs, but is in accord with the early music aesthetic of Petrarch's era. These songs can be done well in an Italianate fashion, but this showed how universal they can be. Lepper's playing was elegant, Degout's singing divine.

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):