Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

A Winterreise both familiar and revelatory: Ian Bostridge and Thomas Adès at Wigmore Hall

‘“Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?” the wanderer asks. If the answer were to be a “yes”, then the crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again. This could explore a notion of eternal recurrence: we are trapped in the endless repetition of this existential lament.’

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):