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

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.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

Falstaff in Genoa

A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.

Traviata in Seattle

One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement” for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the emotions and reason of the audience.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Christina Pluhar
12 Jul 2014

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Christina Pluhar

 

As the four-bar circular ground basses unfolded, theorbo-player and director Christina Pluhar and her musical partners produced an ever-changing kaleidoscope of harmonic, rhythmic and textural variations, blending the ‘authentic’ Baroque with the relaxed rhythms and evocative colours of jazz, folk and world music; the idioms segued seamlessly, underpinned by a firm structural core and articulated with astonishing skill and imagination.

Around countertenor Philippe Jaroussky’s effortlessly graceful melodies, the instrumentalists invented and improvised, intuitively conversing with the other voices in the musical exchange and demonstrating consummate understanding of the art of Baroque extemporisation and ornamentation combined with the flexible responsiveness of modern jazz.

Jaroussky sings with wonderful precision and control; his beautiful, clean sound strokes the long, phrases into being, with just a dash of flexibility to bring a modern touch to the classical melodies. In ‘An evening hymn’ and ‘O solitude, my sweetest choice’ the vocal line, at times pure, then more sensuous, seemed to float in and out of the instrumental solos; in the latter, Sarah Ridy’s harp commentary was especially affecting. ‘Strike the viol’ was more rhythmically free and like the bawdy ‘‘Twas within a furlong of Edinboro’ Town’ (from The Mock Marriage) had an infectious energy, driven by Boris Schmidt’s springy bass. Jaroussky displayed a judicious feeling for the comic in ‘Man is for the woman made’, performed as a wry encore; elsewhere he emphasised the ethereal beauty of Purcell’s sighing melodies, as in ‘One charming night’ from The Faerie Queen.

One could not pick out an individual instrumentalist for especial praise; this is truly a collective performance and they all impressed both in the Purcell inventions and in the intervening instrumental items such as Maurizio Cazzati’s Ciaccona Op.22 No.14 and Nicola Matteis’s La dia Spagnola, in which the centuries between the time of composition and the modern world seemed to disappear. Doron Sherwin’s cornetto was by turns expressive and seductive, enfolding the voice, and bright and jazzy, his extravagant flourishes thrilling as they chased the racing embellishments of Veronika Skuplik’s baroque violin. All the players moved between modes and moods with total naturalness; the merest changes of articulation effected imperceptible transitions, as when Schmidt’s tender pizzicato strokes took on a brighter, jazzier hue, lifting a melancholy, introspective ground bass into a spirited dance.

When I heard L’Arpeggiata in October last year, I noted that percussionist David Mayoral’s ‘astonishing percussion playing drew gasps … as he coaxed a magical array of tones and beats, sometimes simultaneously, from the simplest of musical means: a single drum skin emitted a panoply of strokes, taps and pitches.’ Mayoral cast his percussive spell once more in an extended improvisation in which he seemed almost entranced by his own rhythmic invocation, his hypnotic riff bringing a smile of pleasure and affection to the lips of his fellow musicians.

Pluhar’s wonderful invention and technical mastery was showcased in Giovanni Kapsberger’s Toccata arpeggiata; and, in the closing song, the plaint ‘O let me weep’ from The Faerie Queen,Skuplik and Jaroussky wove a wonderfully sensitive duet for baroque violin and voice, profound with melancholy.

L’Arpeggiata did not simply perform arrangements of Purcell; rather they created entirely new, highly original, works. Their musicianship, technical prowess and the joy that their shared musical dialogue so obviously inspired, both on the platform and among the audience of the Wigmore Hall, made this performance an absolute delight. It was standing-room only, and two encores — a wry touch of self-parody followed by a beautifully simple rendition of Dido’s lament, ‘When I am laid in earth’ — just didn’t seem enough. The final bass pizzicato whispered and faded into the still air; a magical, otherworldly moment to close an utterly bewitching performance.

Claire Seymour


Performers and programme:

Christina Pluhar — director, theorbo; Philippe Jaroussky — countertenor; Veronika Skuplik — baroque violin; Doron Sherwin — cornetto; Sarah Ridy — baroque harp; Eero Palviainen — lute; Boris Schmidt — double bass; David Mayoral — percussion; Francesco Turrisi —harpsichord, organ; Haru Kitamika — harpsichord, organ. Wigmore Hall, London, Thursday 10th July 2014.

Cazzati, Ciaccona; Purcell, ‘Music for a while’, ‘‘Twas within a furlong of Edinboro’ Town’; Matteis, La dia Spagnola; Purcell, ‘An evening hymn’, ‘Strike the viol’; Kapsberger, Toccata arpeggiata; Purcell, ‘O solitude, my sweetest choice’, ‘Two in One upon a Ground’, ‘A Prince of glorious race descended’, ‘One charming night’; Anonymous (instrumental); Purcell, ‘How the Deities approve’; Improvisation; Purcell, ‘Curtain tune’, ‘The plaint’.

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):