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 Reviews

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

31 Aug 2014

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Gustav Mahler : Sympohony no 2 in C, Daniel Harding, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London 29h August 2014. A review by Anne Ozorio

 

Pierre Boulez used to speak about the importance of trajectory, that is, the sense of direction that drives a symphony. Even the first bars zinged with purpose: Harding setting the trajectory in motion right from the start. When Bernard Haitink conducted this symphony at the Proms in 2006, he chose tempi so slow that it was hard for his orchestra to sustain the line, suggesting the approach of death. Harding's tempi are less extreme, but equally purposeful. He emphasized the inherent tension between forward-reaching lines and tight staccato, suggesting that a powerful transformation is underway even in the presence of annihilation. Harding showed how Mahler's themes of transcendance and renewal were in place even at this point in his career. The tension Harding creates suggests the power of what is to come, even when it's curtailed, temporarily, by death. If this is a funeral procession, it operates on many levels. The pastoral woodwinds might suggest happy memories of the past. Quiet, purposeful pizzicato, like footsteps, lead into savage brass climaxes, creating the sense of hard-won stages on a difficult ascent. Perhaps we can already hear the "mountains" in Mahler's Third Symphony, rising ever upwards.

Then the sudden, anguished descent into silence. The Luftpause which follows is very much part of meaning, "inaudible music" during which one might contemplate the finality of death. Harding sat on a chair, head bowed. Instead, the Royal Albert Hall ushers let in dozens of latecomers, totally destroying the moment of reverence. Someone needs to tell the staff that Luftpauses are not intervals.

The second movement began with gleeful energy, leading into lyrical Ländler themes, which will recur again through many symphonies to come. Although this movement is marked "Nicht eilen", it should be leisurely rather than slow, for something positive is stirring. Perhaps we begin to hear the Pan theme for Mahler's Third, as summer marches in. Harding took particular care to bring out the life force in the third movement, Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt, an illustration of which stands in Mahler's composer hut. Like Dionysius, St Anthony is drunk. Perhaps the song is used to indicate the futility of words, which is rather droll, since in this symphony Mahler begins to use voice as part of his orchestral toolbox. Harding might be more taken with the inherent energy in the leaping figures which suggest the movement of fish, leaping upwards, and swimming away. Exuberant playing here, the passages undertaken with great agility.

Perhaps it's included to illustrate the futility of words, but the liveliness of the writing suggests energy and escape from the sombre mood of the first movement. Harding led his orchestra into a glorious climax: summer is marching in, underlined yet again by the exuberant Fischpredigt allusion to leaping fish.

Excellent use of offstage trumpets and trombones, even if some sounds went slightly awry. These sections aren't merely for show, since they illustrate cosmological meaning. Harding's musicians may have to run up and down a lot, but by doing so they literally connect earthly reality with the promise of Heaven. This isn't the "Resurrection" symphony for nothing. Angels blow horns and trumpets, as do Alpine herdsmen and farmers. Mahler's making connections on all levels. Very possibly, we might think ahead to Mahler's Fourth with its cataclysmic burst of energy. What thrust Harding got from his players, trumpets leading! Processional footsteps yet again, this time confident and assured. Having shown us how near we are to the summit, Harding and his orchestra descended once more into quiet reverence. The trumpet solo, calling from the highest reaches oif the Royal Albert Hall, seemed to glow forever, like a sunset. The hushed voices of the Swedish Radio Choir and the Philharmonia Chorus were so well blended that their impact was enhanced: an image of vast panoramas and repose, from which Christianne Stotijn's voice rose with dignity.

"Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n wirst du, Mein Staub, nach kurzer Ruh!" Stotijn, Kate Royal, the choruses and orchestra united in a blaze of glorious sound. Crashing cymbals, the klang of metal on metal and a thunderous timpani roll cut short much too soon by an audience too excited to hold back any longer.

Anne Ozorio

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):