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 Reviews

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

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’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

26 Jul 2014

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Leos Janáček : Glagolitic Mass, Brahms : Piano Concerto no 1, BBC Prom 9 Royal Albert Hall, London, 24th July 2014

A review by Claire Seymour

 

During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Were these changes a result of practical expediency? Too few rehearsals to work out solutions to performance problems; sopranos who could not sustain the high Bbs in the original ending to the Sanctus; instrumental players who found the unconventional, asymmetrical cross rhythms unfathomable in the Kyrie? Too few bars, perhaps, for the clarinettists to get off stage! Or, do they reflect Janáček’s revised, and final, musical judgement? For example, the composer added brass to the ending of the Sinfonietta for the reason that it was not possible to create the necessary climaxes without additional forces, and the same decision may have been taken in the case of the Mass.

Pre-occupied immediately afterwards with the composition of From the House of the Dead, Janáček reputedly declared that he was not inclined to concern himself with the score of the Glagolitic Mass. So, are the difficulties of the original performances still problems today? And, which version of the work best represents the composer’s intentions?

There are no unequivocal answers to these questions, but at the Royal Albert Hall we were offered the opportunity to hear the ‘raw’ Glagolitic Mass - startlingly imaginative, defiantly rhetorical, unquestionably ‘modern’ - when a reconstruction of the original 1926 score by Janáček scholar Paul Wingfield was performed by the London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev.

This was certainly a rousing rendition, as Gergiev drew energised, committed playing and singing from the forces massed before him, and created expectancy and excitement from the alternations of brass, chorus and vocal soloists. The fanfares of the Intrada were vibrant and invigorating, while in the instrumental Uvod Gergiev allowed air between the varied instrumental voices.

The entry of the chorus in the Kyrie (Gospodi pomiluj) had the quiet simplicity of an unaffected prayer and this mood of sincere devotion was given added fervour by the entry of soprano Mlada Khudoley whose breath-taking power and projection did not in any way diminish the sumptuous beauty of her soaring lines. In common with all the soloists, Khudoley genuinely and fully appreciated the composer’s unique ‘operatic’ idiom.

In the Gloria (Slava) the chorus reached ecstatic heights, while the long Credo (Věruju) allowed Gergiev to find a diversity of moods and colours: the vocal solos and choral interjections were impassioned - tenor Mikhail Vekua’s proclamations shook the RAH rafters - but there was also some consoling sweetness during the gentle orchestral interlude. The Agnus Dei (Agneče Božij) was dark of hue, a moment of deep reflection before Thomas Trotter’s invigorated organ solo in which flamboyant technical proficiency was blended with a sense of the composer’s vehemence and zeal.

Janáček wrote: ‘I hear in the tenor solo a kind of high priest, in the soprano solo a maiden angel, in the chorus our people. The candles are high fir trees in the wood, lit up by stars; and somewhere in the ritual see a vision of the princely St Wenceslas. And the language is that of the missionaries Cyril and Methodius.’ Gergiev and the LSO and Chorus were true to this pantheistic spirit.

Barry Douglas first came to prominence in 1986 when he won the Tchaikovsky Competition. Currently mid-way through a monumental project to record the complete works for solo piano of both Brahms and Schubert, in the first half of the programme Douglas performed Brahms’s First Piano Concerto - and there was something of the introspection of the solo piano music about Douglas’s first entry, which was resigned and consciously removed from the orchestral tumult. This deliberation, focus and intense concentration contrasted markedly with the forthright vigour and rhetoric that Gergiev encouraged from the LSO in the dramatic orchestral opening passage.

Perhaps it was just where I was seated, or maybe the RAH acoustic is not suited to the symphonic blend of soloist and orchestra which Brahms crafts, but I found the LSO’s playing disappointingly heavy, the rhythms lacking bite, the textures dense, especially in the third movement Rondo. Conducting without a baton, Gergiev fluttered his hands and fingers incessantly but there was little that flickered lightly in the orchestral sound that these twitchings brought forth.

That’s not to say that there was not some fine instrumental playing. In the second movement, the clarinets and oboes played with poetry and pathos, and the demanding writing for horns and timpani was executed with great accomplishment throughout. But, I found myself focusing on Douglas’s solo voice: the warmth of the hymn-like chordal second subject in the first movement was wonderfully soothing and throughout Douglas’s virtuosity was wonderfully integrated within the eloquent communication of the spirit of Brahms’ music.

Claire Seymour


All BBC Proms can be heard online, internationally for 30 days after broadcast

Cast and production information:

Barry Douglas, piano. Mlada Khudoley, soprano; Yulia Mattochkina, mezzo soprano; Mikhail Vekua, tenor; Yuri Vorobiev, bass; Thomas Trotter, organ; Valery Gergiev, conductor; London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus.

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):