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

Christian Gerhaher [Photo by Jim Rakete for SonyClassical]
21 Dec 2014

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.

Gustav Mahler Songs:Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber, Wigmore Hall, London 17th December 2014 London

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Christian Gerhaher [Photo by Jim Rakete for SonyClassical]

 

His "O du, mein holder Abendstern" was so sublimely beautiful that it seemed to come from beyond the realms of reality. Wolfram is not so much a character in an opera as an almost divine symbol of Knightly Virtue. But does the idealized perfection of Wartburg triumph over Venusberg? Tannhäuser didn't think so, and Elisabeth chooses Tannhäuser.

Pertinent thoughts with a significant bearing on Mahler performance practice. Gerhaher began with Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Far too much emphasis is placed on their autobiographical content. Like a Geselle, Mahler is learning his craft, through well-made "apprentice miniatures" that will form the basis of his symphonies from the first to the fourth, with echoes beyond He was experimenting with the aesthetic of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the collection of poems and ballads compiled from oral tradition by Achim von Armin and Clemens Brentano in 1805. The folk origins of this collection are significant, for they embodied early 19th century Romantic attitudes, not authentic "folk" tradition so much as reworkings by intellectuals for the fast-growing urban middle class. Mahler wasn't writing fake folk song but songs as themes that will later be developed in sophisticated abstract form.

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen isn't a song cycle so much as a series of stand-alone songs, each of which illustrates an emotional state, from the energetic "Ging heut' Morgen übers Feld " to the scherzo-like psychosis of "Ich hab'ein glühend Messer". A certain amount of detachment on the part of singer and pianist is reasonable, but Gerhaher and Huber didn't engage with the emotional changes. Gerhaher's pace was fractionally too slow, not perhaps enough for most to notice, but enough to keep voice and piano out of synch. Huber jumped in too forcefully.

A selection of songs based on Das Knaben Wunderhorn followed, including early songs from the Lieder und Gesänge,aus der Jugendzeit. Songs about children, but songs with a macabre twist, reflecting a very different attitude to youth than we hold today. After Bruno Bettelheim, we can't take fairy tales at surface value. Even the lyrical "Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz" describes a soldier who deserts his post and is executed. "Das irdische Leben" could deal with child abuse, or the fate of unrecognized talent, but by its very nature, it should express something Mahler returns to the theme in later works, so it must have had more meaning for him than Gerhaher and Huber brought to it on this occasion. Possibly Gerhaher wasn't well as he mopped his brow a lot, which is perfectly acceptable, especially at this time of the year. But no matter how beautiful a singer's instrument might be, artistry resides in the way it is played. To paraphrase Mahler himself, "the music lies not in the notes" but in the communication of ideas.

Kindertotenlieder marks a transition in Mahler's music leading away from the world of Wunderhorn towards more conceptual horizons. In many ways, this group of songs resembles a five-movement symphony, integrated by recurring motifs of dark and light, rising to a transcendent finale, where the storm is vanquished, and the children "vom Gottes Hand bedeckt". In its own way not so very different from the redemption and transfiguration that marks works like Das Lied von der Erde. To reach this resolution, however, the poet has had to undergo extreme desolation. Friedrich Rückert knew about death and anguish. In "Wenn dein Mütterlein" , he refers to gazing, not at the mother's face, but closer to the ground, where children should be. It's detail that could probably come only from lived experience. Dignity is in order, and restraint, but emotional truth is of the essence. As Tannhäuser might have said, good singing isn't everything.

For an encore, Gerhaer and Huber offered a piano version of Urlicht from Mahler's Symphony no 2. "Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!" .He is so rejected that even the angels want to turn him away. but that only strengthens his resolve. "Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!". At last, Gerhaher's voice took on more colour and more definition. An excellent encore. If only the rest of the recital had been as good.

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):