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

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

Richard Jones's Boris Godunov returns to Covent Garden

There are never any real surprises with a Richard Jones production and Covent Garden’s Boris Godunov, first seen in 2016, is typical of Jones’s approach: it’s boxy, it’s ascetic, it’s over-bright, with minimalism turned a touch psychedelic in the visuals.

An enchanting Hansel and Gretel at Regent's Park Theatre

If you go out in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And, it will be no picnic! For, deep in the broomstick forest that director Timothy Sheader and designer Peter McKintosh have planted on the revolving stage at Regent’s Park Theatre is a veritable Witches’ Training School.

First staged production of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

Offenbach's Fantasio is one of the works where, replacing the mad-cap satire of his earlier operettas with a more romantic melancholy, he paved the way for Les contes d'Hoffmann. Unpopular during his lifetime, Fantasio disappeared and only work by the musicologist Jean-Christophe Keck brought the score together again.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Rinat Shaham [Photo by Joan Marcus]
14 Jun 2015

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

A review by Alexis Rodda

Above: Rinat Shaham

Photos by Joan Marcus

 

Writer James Melo adapted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's novella into a series of monologues (engagingly performed with the perfect balance of youth and gravitas by actor Bobby Seggert) interspersed with songs from Schumann's Dichterliebe, sung by Sidney Outlaw, and then a mix of songs from the German Lieder repertoire, sung by mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham.

The evening was visually stunning, with a soft pink lighting that suggests the pastoral love that will eventually turn to tragedy. Additionally, the lighting team expertly executed each lighting cue. Three projections on each side of the audience offer translations of the texts on the backdrop of various bucolic images. While subtitles are not always an aspect to be remarked upon, these were so astutely designed and well-executed that it would be remiss not to mention them. The production team of The Sorrows of Young Werther managed to cultivate the idyllic backdrop of Goethe's tale using atmospheric lighting, projections, and minimal set pieces. The only main distractor was a large screen on the back of the stage on which gritty, modern scenes of various men and women were projected, which seemed to make very little sense in the overall ambience of the evening. At best, these projections were confusing; at worst, they were completely distracting from what were otherwise moments of real beauty in the show.

SidneyOutlaw_BobbySeggert_byJoanMarcus.pngSidney Outlaw and Bobby Seggert

The two-hour evening flowed comfortably between Werther's monologues and the chosen Lieder. Bobby Seggert fluctuated between casual emoting and full realization of his tragic situation, with a boyish charm that highlighted the naiveté that ultimately leads to Werther's downfall. James Melo's adaptation for the stage never felt tiresome, but instead engaged the audience between moments of tranquil calm and bitter angst. Indeed, the text adaptation held some of the strongest moments of the evening.

Baritone Sidney Outlaw is one of those consummate professionals who is an absolute pleasure to behold onstage. His rendition of Schumann's Dichterliebe, carefully disseminated throughout Melo's adaptation of Goethe's novella, was crisp, thoughtful, and intelligent. He employed a gentle, intimate style of singing, until the final song when he unleashed a rich baritone voice of impressive size and power.

Mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham had a rich, shimmering voice that filled the theater well. However, in contrast with Outlaw's easy confidence, Shaham spent the entire concert attached to a musical score on a stand or in her hands. In the context of a chamber music concert, it normally would not be remarkable, but some seeming insecurity with the music created moments of tension in Shaham's voice. She blossomed on songs with which she seemed to have more confidence, in particular on two Liszt songs.

SidneyOutlaw_3_byJoanMarcus.pngSidney Outlaw with Rinat Shaham in background

Pianists Eve Wolf and Max Barros gave beautiful performances on piano. Barros in particular made the piano drip with beauty and elegance, with an incomparable grace in his legato.

An evening such as this is something that needs to be done more often. The Ensemble for the Romantic Century manages to make a chamber music concert into so much more, adding drama, narrative, and production value that goes beyond the beauty of an art song concert. Using the inherent drama in German Lieder to create an evening of storytelling is a brilliant way in which to transform the landscape of average concert-going. The Ensemble for the Romantic Century not only does this creatively, but with nimble execution.

Alexis Rodda

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):