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

Saint Louis Butterfly Soars

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis knew to trust the surefire potential of Madame Butterfly, and pretty much stayed out of its way.

Saint Louis: Gordon’s Revised Grapes

If opera is to remain a viable, accessible 21st century art form, it will be largely owing to the commitment of visionary companies like Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Titus Lightens Up in Saint Louis

Mozart’s opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito, performed in English at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis did something I did not think possible.

Il turco in Italia: Garsington Opera

Martin Duncan's production of Rossini's Il turco in Italia debuted in 2011, only the second production to be performed in Garsington Opera's then new home at Wormsley. Revived for the first time on 25 June 2017, David Parry was again conducting with Quirijn de Lang as Selim, Geoffrey Dolton as Don Geronio and Mark Stone as Prosdocimo returning to their roles, plus Sarah Tynan as Fiorilla, Katie Bray as Zaide, Luciano Botelho as Narciso and Jack Swanson as Albazar. Designs were by Francis O'Connor, with lighting by Mark Jonathan and movement by Nick Winston.

Glyndebourne's wartime Ariadne auf Naxos

It’s country-house opera season, and Glyndebourne have decided it’s time for a return of Katharina Thoma’s country-house-set Ariadne auf Naxos, first seen in 2013. Thoma locates Strauss’s opera-about-opera in a 1940s manor house which has been sequestered as a military hospital, neatly alluding to Glyndebourne’s own history when it transformed itself into a centre for evacuees from east London and the Christie children’s nursery became a sick bay.

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

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):