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 Reviews

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

30 Sep 2014

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, soprano; Donald Sulzen, piano, Wigmore Hall London 24th September 2014

A review by Claire Seymour

 

Elegant and restrained, she did not need fancy costumes or extravagant gestures to convince of her star quality; instead, she drew us into the distinct world of each of the thoughtfully selected series of songs - by Respighi, Poulenc, Ravel and de Falla - by means of deeply expressive singing and detailed acting. Resting at times on the piano, she effectively embodied the songs’ personae and voices, and conveyed precise moods and sentiments.

Carl Orff is one of the classical music world’s ‘one-piece’ composers; how many could name any of his compositions other than Carmina Burana? And, those who are familiar with his intense, richly scored scenic cantata would probably find the suggestion that he had anything in common with the Renaissance sensitivities of Claudio Monteverdi an improbably proposition. However, Orff’s Lamento d’Arianna (after Monteverdi), composed in 1925 and subsequently revised in 1940, reveals more shared threads than one might imagine: Orff’s freedom of metre recalls the flexible declamatory style of the Renaissance madrigal and opera, and while their harmonic language may appear incongruous, the directness of the dramatic and rhetorical expression also unites the two composers. Such correspondences were movingly communicated in this rendering of Orff’s own piano reduction of his original orchestral score.The opening bars of Donald Sulzen’s piano introduction were, however, striking and attention-grabbing: grand and opulent statements, encompassing a wide tessitura, alternated with sparser more intimate gestures, creating a dynamic and moving rhetoric.

Indeed, Antonacci sensitively balanced tenderness and magnificence throughout the lament. Dynamics were finely graded and judged: in the first verse Arianna professes her desire to reject life, ‘In così gran martire’ (in such bitter suffering), a line which faded into a whisper, while her impassioned cry ‘O Madre, O Padre mio!’ glistened sonorously. Antonacci tamed her vibrato in the more introverted reflection but allowed the tone to bloom in anguished outbursts of accumulating intensity; Sulzen was an alert commentator, the jagged punctuation and huge spread chords of the final section effectively complementing Arianna’s grief-stricken apostrophising. After a powerful chordal piano postlude, the final, gently placed tierce de Picardie was a surprise: an unexpected note of consolation and peace.

When Orff presented arrangements of Lamento d’Arianna and another Monteverdi composition, Ballo dell’ingrate, the early music revival was just beginning in Europe, and interestingly at this time Ottorino Respighi made his own performing version of Monteverdi’s La Favola d’Orfeo. It was a fitting choice, therefore, to following the Orff with seven songs by Respighi, in which Antonacci frequently floated fine threads of soaring sound. Sulven was sensitive yet always unobtrusive; his precise, clear textures skilfully underscored textual details, as when evoking the translucent rippling waters of ‘O falce di luna’ (O crescent) or when - by means of nuanced harmonic inflections and suspensions, and an oscillating pattern in the middle voice - suggesting the dark hues of the abandoned garden in ‘Crepuscolo’ (Twilight).

Antonacci revealed not just her expansive tessitura but also her multi-coloured tonal variety: in ‘Acqua’ (Water) she modulated the weight and focus of her voice most expressively to convey the soft brushing of the whispering reeds wiggling along the bank (‘Acqua, e, lungh’essi I calami volubili/ Movendo in gioco le cerulee dita’) and a wonderful sense of lyrical freedom captured the fleeting motions of the water (‘Tu che con modi labii deduci’). In ‘Stornellatrice’ (Singer of Stornelli) alternate lines of burnished low mezzo and higher, lighter soprano effectively suggested the singer’s inner conflicts and questioning, before a self-possessed close: ‘Quando poi l’eco mi risponde: mai?’ (When the echo answers me: never?) A highlight of the sequence was ‘Sopra un’aria antica’ (On an old aria): again registral contrasts were employed to powerful effect and Antonacci delivered both the florid melodies and the detailed text emotively. Sulven’s delicate trills conjured a neoclassical air and served to meld old and new.

Poulenc’s seven settings of Paul Éluard which form La fraîcheur et le feu (The coolness and the fire) concluded the first half; these miniatures capture a multitude of moods and the performers moved easily from the fiery drama of ‘Rayons des yeux et des soleils’ (Beams of eyes and suns) to the lyrical expanse of ‘Le matin les branches attisent’ (The branches fan each morning). In the latter Antonacci once more demonstrated her vocal control, steadily withdrawing to suggest the tranquillity of the evening trees, ‘Le soir les arbres sont tranquilles’. In contrast, her glossy soprano swooped luxuriantly in ‘Tout disparu même les même toits le ciel’ (All vanished even the roofs even the sky) to suggest the glistening stars which mimic the singer’s tears, ‘Soeurs miroitières de mes larmes’. Sulven’s jazzy harmonies and parallel chords created drama and depth in ‘Homme au sourire tendre’ (Man with the tender smile), complementing Antonacci’s tone of tendresse.

A languid, silky rendition of Henri Duparc’s La vie antérieure (A previous life) followed the interval; the crescendo and accelerando in the second stanza powerfully conveyed the singer’s growing excitement, as reflected in the swells of the sea which create a ‘mellow music’, portrayed by Sulven’s low, grand gestures. After an impassioned outburst as she recalled her life of ‘sensuous repose’, Antonacci retreated into recollections of ‘Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir’ (the secret grief which made me languish), her sadness sensitively evoked by Sulven’s long, poignantly unravelling postlude.

Ravel’s Cinq melodies popuiaires grecques were vibrant in their simplicity and directness. The ostinato patterns of ‘Le réveil de la mariée’ (The bride’s awakening) created an excited air of expectation, while the flattened seconds of the modal ‘Là bas, vers l’église’ (Down there by the church) were sensuously nuanced. Antonacci’s folky rhetoric in the unaccompanied ‘Quel galant m’est comparable?’ (What gallant can compare with me?) was delivered with confidence, an affirmation which found equal but contrasting voice in the free vocalise of ‘Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques’ (Song of the lentisk gatherers). The exuberant repetitions, ‘Tra-la-la!’, and Sulven’s revolving patterns propelled ‘Tout gai!’ (So merry!) to a jubilant conclusion. In ‘Kaddish’, one of Ravel’s Deux melodies hebraïques, Antonacci’s strong mezzo voice captured the rapturous spirituality of the devotional sentiments, culminating in a hypnotic, melismatic ‘Amen’, while 'Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera' showcased her vocal flexibility and virtuosity.

Finally, we turned from Italy and France to Spain, Manuel de Falla’s Siete canciones populares españolas concluding the recital. Antonacci’s dramatic temperament was to the fore in these seven songs: the accusative fury at the end of the ‘Seguidilla murciana’ (Seguidilla from Murcia) was thrilling, while the sentiments of the quiet lament, ‘Asturiana’, were conveyed by Antonacci’s serene presentation of the sorrowful, restrained melodic contours, long even rhythmic values and by the unpredictable dissonances in the accompaniment. The asymmetries of ‘Jota’ (a lively Spanish dance) were playful and the vigorous rhythms were nimbly executed, while in ‘Nana’ (Lullaby) the singer’s melismatic phrase-endings had a charming ‘oriental’ colour. The final song, ‘Polo’, was brisk and passionate, Sulven’s persistent repeating patterns evoking the rhythms of a flamenco guitar, and the final heated and heartfelt ‘Ay!’ serving as a reminder that Antonacci has proven herself an impressive Carmen!

Claire Seymour

Anna Caterina Antonacci, soprano; Donald Sulzen, piano
Orff: Klage der Ariadne (after Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna); Respighi, ‘O falce di luna’, ‘Van li effluvi de le rose’, ‘Sopra un' aria antica’, ‘Stornellatrice’, ‘Acqua’, ‘Crepuscolo’, ‘Pioggia’; Poulenc: La fraîcheur et le feu: Duparc: ‘La vie antérieure’; Ravel: Cinq mélodies populaires grecques, Deux mélodies hebraïques, Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera; Falla: Siete canciones populares españolas


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):