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

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

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.

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):