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 Performances

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.

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.

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.

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.’

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.’

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."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Elin Manahan Thomas
12 Jun 2015

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Elin Manahan Thomas

 

The venue describes itself as ‘Part creative community, part arts venue … a non-profit space for creativity and culture in the heart of East London’: ‘High above Great Eastern Street, atop the venue, four recycled Jubilee line train carriages and shipping containers make up the creative studios of Village Underground’ — but for this performance (part of the Spitalfields Festival) by the Armonico Consort and soloists, under the direction of conductor/harpsichordist Christopher Monks, we were located in the main auditorium, a ‘renovated turn-of-the-century warehouse primed for everything from concerts and club nights to exhibitions, theatre, live art and other performances’.

It’s not a very ‘opera-friendly’ auditorium: although one might expect the warehouse to offer helpful reverberation, the high roof sucks up the voices and the T-shaped configuration and absence of raked seating makes it a challenge for the singers to project and communicate. But without undue theatricals the cast, attired in modern evening dress, engaged our attention throughout, aided by energised and colourful instrumental support from the players of the Armonico Consort.

Christopher Monks — musical director and founder of the Armonico Consort — evidently had a clear conception of what he wanted, what was possible given the constraints, and of how to achieve his aims. He whipped the action along at a cracking pace — which did sustain dramatic interest but was not always in the best interests of his singers (the h’s in the ‘Ho, ho, ho’ chorus were entirely lost) — and moved easily between the various tempi and time signatures. Monks urged his players and singers to robust, carefree joy in the chorus, ‘Fear No Danger to Ensue’ — although I’d have liked more rhythmic bite and spring in the dotted rhythms of ‘To the hills and vales’ to complement the vivacious baroque guitar of Robin Jeffrey — and created a sense of spaciousness in ‘Thanks to these lonesome vales’ (for Belinda and Chorus). Monks sought to exaggerate instrumental colours but occasionally this was less successful, for example in scene II, ‘The Cave’, where the dark, resonant bass upset the balance which would allow the harmonic dissonances above to tell.

The cast — the two principal roles were supplemented by members of the chorus — were unfailingly committed and engaging, if varied in their levels of vocal accomplishment.

Elin Manahan Thomas, as Belinda, struggled to project: her soprano was worrying unsupported, the tone was often quite thin, ornaments approximate, and she sounded anxious (and not just because of her fears for her mistress). Perhaps this was why Eloise Irving, taking the roles of the Second Woman, the First Witch and the ‘Spirit’ was assigned some of Belinda’s lines? Irving has a vibrant tone and presence, but she did tire (the Spirit’s trills were rather lacklustre) and found it a challenge to find a distinct vocal colour for each of the three different roles. But, overall, her performance and sustained focus were admirable.

Countertenor William Towers was a Sorceress of the hooty kind and his diction was poor; perhaps he was over-compensating in order to project for in the final chorus, as he faced one section of the audience, I found his singing much more moving and expressive. Penelope Appleyard (singing from the score) rose from the chorus to join Irving in duets for the First and Second Witch; her stringent cackles and snarls may well have been dramatically apt but they gave little clue as to her vocal capacities.

Robert Davies Aeneas was pleasant of tone but made little vocal or dramatic impact (this is not entirely his fault given that the role is underdeveloped — a consequence, perhaps, of the context of the first performance in that the opera was presented by a girls’ school). But the somewhat woolly melodic runs, the approximations ‘covered’ by a wide vibrato, and the lack of yearning lyricism did inhibit the characterisation and the dramatic tension that might be established between Aeneas and Dido.

Lloyd.pngRachael Lloyd

As Dido, Rachael Lloyd was in a class of her own. In her first aria, ‘Ah, Belinda, I am press’d with torment’, Monk’s precipitous pace made it hard for Lloyd to convey the depth of Dido’s suffering (the plaintive lament of the ground bass felt rushed and the extraneous vocal ornamentations sounded frivolous and superfluous), but Lloyd’s dark, vibrant lower register was still expressively provocative and theorbo player, Jeffrey, offered a beguiling accompaniment. Subsequently, Lloyd coloured the arioso most intelligently and her diction was excellent. She rose to expressive heights in the opera’s closing stages — ‘But Death, alas, I cannot shun;/ Death must come when he is gone’ — and the revered lament was controlled and focused, even if the line and phrasing did not feel entirely settled and the repetitions of ‘Remember me’ did not quite conjure a penetrating insistence.

The Chorus, processed in and exited as a chain of ‘blind’ prisoners, each connected to his partner by a hand upon the shoulder. The choral tone was appealing and, singing one voice to a part, they made the movements of the inner lines clear. There were some surprises too: just as we expected tenor Matthew Sandy to launch into the First Sailor’s shanty, ‘Come away, fellow sailors, come away’, we found violinist Miles Golding in full voice, and following his vocal exhibition with a surprisingly vigorous string rendition with his baroque bow.

So, this wasn’t an ‘ideal’ Purcellian performance, but it was an honest and entertaining one. The Underground’s clientele were appreciative, Monks was eloquent in introducing his endeavour to the audience, and much pleasure was had by performers and listeners alike. Perhaps next time we’ll venture into one of those Jubilee Line carriages …

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Belinda: Elin Manahan Thomas, Dido: Rachael Lloyd, Aeneas: Robert Davies, First Witch/Second Woman/Spirit: Eloise Irving, Second Witch: Penelope Appleyard, Sorceress/Stage Director: William Towers; Christopher Monks: conductor, Armonico Consort (Matthew Golding and Ben Sansom: violins, Nichola Blakey: viola, Natasha Kraemer: cello, Andrew Durban: double bass, theorbo: Robin Jeffrey), Chorus (Penelope Appleyard, Eloise Irving, William Towers, Matthew Sandy, Robert Davies). Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 2015, Village Underground, Shoreditch, London, Tuesday 9th June.

SIGCD417w.png

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):