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

Cooperstown and the Hood

Glimmerglass Festival continues its string of world premiere youth operas with a wholly enchanting production of Ben Moore and Kelly Rourke’s Robin Hood.

Glimmerglass Oklahoma: Yeow!

Director Molly Smith knew just how to best succeed at staging the evergreen classic Oklahoma! for Glimmerglass Festival.

La pietra del paragone in Pesaro

Impeccable casting — see photos. Three new generation Italian buffos brought startling new life to Pier Luigi Pizzi’s 2002 production of Rossini’s first major comedy (La Scala, 1812).

An Invitation to Travel: Christiane Karg and Malcolm Martineau at the Proms

German soprano Christiane Karg invited us to accompany her on a journey during this lunchtime chamber music Prom at Cadogan Hall as she followed the voyages of French composers in Europe and beyond, and their return home.

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder at the Proms - Sir Simon Rattle

Prom 46: Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, Simon O'Neill, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Karen Cargill, Peter Hoare, Christopher Purves and Thomas Quasthoff. And three wonderful choirs - the CBSO Chorus, the London Symphony Chorus and Orfeó Català from Barcelona, with Chorus Master Simon Halsey, Rattle's close associate for 35 years.

Le Siège de Corinthe in Pesaro

That of Rossini (in French) and that of Lord Byron (in English, Russian, Italian and Spanish), the battles of both Negroponte (1470) and of Missolonghi (1826) re-enacted amidst massive piles of plastic water bottles (thousands of them) that collapsed onto the heroine at Mahomet II's destruction of Corinth.

Dunedin Consort perform Bach's St John Passion at the Proms

John Butt and the Dunedin Consort's 2012 recording of Bach's St John Passion was ground-breaking for it putting the passion into the context of a reconstruction of the original Lutheran Vespers service.

Collision: Spectra Ensemble at the Arcola Theatre

‘Asteroid flyby in October: A drill for the end of the world?’ So shouted a headline in USA Today earlier this month, as journalist Doyle Rice asked, ‘Are we ready for an asteroid impact?’ in his report that in October NASA will conduct a drill to see how well its planetary defence system would work if an actual asteroid were heading straight for Earth.

Joshua Bell offers Hispanic headiness at the Proms

At the start of the 20th century, French composers seemed to be conducting a cultural love affair with Spain, an affair initiated by the Universal Exposition of 1889 where the twenty-five-year old Debussy and the fourteen-year-old Ravel had the opportunity to hear new sounds from East Asia, such as the Javanese gamelan, alongside gypsy flamenco from Granada.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

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):