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

Peter Sellars' kinaesthetic vision of Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro

On 24th May I594 just a few weeks before his death on 14 June, the elderly Orlando di Lasso signed the dedication of his Lagrime di San Pietro - an expansive cycle of seven-voice penitential madrigale spirituali, setting vernacular poetry on the theme of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ - to Pope Clement VIII.

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Stockhausen was one of the most visionary of composers, and no more so than in his Licht operas, but what you see can often get in the way of what you hear. I’ve often found fully staged productions of his operas a distraction to the major revelation in them - notably the sonorities he explores, of the blossoming, almost magical acoustical chrysalis, between voices and instruments.

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Antonio Pappano [Photo by Sheila Rock courtesy of IMG Artists]
06 May 2015

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Antonio Pappano, Royal Opera House Orchestra, Ravel, Chausson, Bernstein and Skryabin, Royal Opera House, London 4th May 2015

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Antonio Pappano [Photo by Sheila Rock courtesy of IMG Artists]

 

Concert performances are nothing new at the Royal Opera House. Pappano’s been doing them for years. In his capacity as Music Director at the Accdemica Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, he conducts orchestral repertoire most of the time. So it makes total sense that the Royal Opera (and Royal Ballet) should inaugurate a new series of concert performances to showcase their orchestra.

Even more significantly, though, the experience of opera, or ballet, is much enhanced by an understanding of the musical background and context.

Orchestral concerts can be a richly rewarding extension of the opera and ballet experience. People go out for many different reasons, and combinations thereof. Some go for megastar singers, or dancers, or for colourful costumes (whatever the actual nature of the work being performed. Some may even go for the pleasure of being outraged Before this concert, Pappano specifically mentioned Karol Szymanowski Król Roger, the sensation of the season. The opera is so unusual that it’s more productive to approach it, not as a stand-alone opera, but through the perspective of the composer’s music as a whole. Its themes run throughout Szymanowski’s output. It’s very closely related to his “The Song of the Night”, Szymanowski’s Third Symphony in particular. No Szymanowski song symphonies or orchestral songs this time, though, but works by Ravel, Chausson and Skryabin, his contemporaries and influences.

Opera orchestras, unlike symphony orchestras, play the same piece repeatedly through a run, and don’t usually venture far from the basic canon, so it must be refreshing to tackle new repertoire. Yet their experience with drama and dance give them an edge. As soon as they launched into Maurice Ravel’s “Une barque sur l’océan”, from Miroirs, we could hear the surge of giant waves, as vividly played ass if the music were illustrating some grand piece of theatre. The piece was originally written for solo piano, but orchestrated by Ravel himself. One could almost see the ocean swell, and imagine the tidal surge animating the waters. In the imagination, one could envisage the barque sailing towards unknown adventures. Shéhérazade immediately came to mind, an “opera” without words or voices, telling a glorious, dramatic story. “Alborada del gracioso”, also based on Miroirs revealed another mood. A guitarist, possibly Spanish, is playing.. Exuberant pizzicato suggest the plucking of strings, and the fast moving feet of dancers. The ROH orchestra is, of course a “dance band” as Pappano has said. Instinctively, they understand the relationship between music and physical movement.

IMG_7414.pngAntonio Pappano [Photo by Musacchio & Ianniello courtesy of IMG Artists]

Anna Caterina Antonacci brought diva glamour to Ernest Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer. Yet again, the orchestra’s flair for dramatic colour revealed itself. Although Antonnaci is a star, and sang expressively, this time, I, at least, was paying attention to the interplay between instruments, the abstract “voices” over which the solo voice wafts. Again, we heard the surge of the seas, reflecting the passion of the love song, The orchestra describes meaning so vividly that the meaning oif the text is amplified without obscuring the main vocal line.

Perhaps Pappano wanted to inject a bit of comic relief between the florid intensity of Chausson and Skyriabin. Hence Leonard Bernstein’s Fancy Free. There’s a Royal Ballet connection, since the piece was conducted by Bernstein himself at Covent Garden in 1946. It’s a chance for the orchestra to demonstrate different styles , eg jazz, big band music and so on, with some lively parts for solo players to “dance”, as dancers might, in front of the ensemble. It’s clever and cheerful the occasion, but one wonders if West Side Story, which I love, might be the closest Bernstein got to the emotional depths of opera.

And thus to Alexander Skryabin’s Le Poème de l’extase, with which the concert reached its heady climax. Wave after wave of extravagant, impressionistic chromaticism : perhaps such ecstasy is too extreme to be confined within the parameters of text. In many ways, this, too is a song symphony though the singers are invisible, sublimated into instrumentation. Skryabin simply supplies titles : “His Soul, in an orgy of love” and “The realization of a fantastic dream”.. The listener interprets meaning through imagination. A hundred years after its premiere, Le Poème de l’extase, is still so shockingly avant garde that the concept of words abstracted into music still unsettles some.The Szymanowski connection is very strong indeed. King Roger dreams, tantalized by fantasies of sensual discovery. ends with a cataclysmic blast of aural light,. Has King Roger found apotheosis Has he, too, discovered that his god is as beautiful as himself ? Skryabin’s Le Poème de l’extase, also ends in a blaze of dazzling light, so powerful that I had to cover my ears so as not to be overwhelmed. The opera and tone poem are very different but very much connected. Skryabin’s title for his third movement is “The glory of his own art”, a Nietzschean triumph of will, perhaps, or a statement of faith in the transformative power of art. Entirely in tune with the values of Król Roger.

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):