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

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.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Photo by Martha Benedict
29 Apr 2016

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

A review by Maria Nockin

Above photo by Martha Benedict

 

The contest was part of the celebration of the marriage of the emperor’s sister, Christine Marie, to the Governor General of the Netherlands. After dinner with incidental music by Salieri, singers and instrumental musicians performed operas by unnamed composers. After the first show, the audience turned their chairs around to watch the second performance at the opposite end of the hall.

On April 17, 2016, Pacific Opera Project (POP) created the same atmosphere for its performance of the same operas, Mozart’s The Impressario (Der Schauspieldirektor) and Salieri’s Prima la Musica e Poi le Parole (First the Music and Then the Words) at the recital-sized hall of the South Pasadena Library. Since The Impressario’s original text contained jokes that were popular in the 1780s, POP presented it in English with an updated topical libretto by Josh and Kelsey Shaw. POP presented the Salieri work in the original Italian text by Giovanni Casti along with projected supertitles. For both operas, Maestro Stephen Karr led the chamber orchestra in an expert accompaniment that gave the singers the leeway they needed to sing their music with elegant phrasing while creating believable characters on the stage.

Baritone Andy Papas was a feisty Impressario whose acting set a high standard for the rest of the cast. As The Poet, Alex Boyd created a convincing character and intoned his topical material with a memorable baritone sound. The tenor voice and comedic talent of Christopher Anderson West added to the setting of the stage for the appearances of competing sopranos. Called Mesdames Herz and Silberklang in 1786, famous sopranos Caterina Cavalieri and the composer’s sister-in-law, Aloysia Weber, sang those roles in the Mozart entry. POP called the sopranos Everly Squills and Meryll Shrills. Karen Hogle-Brown sang Squills with the creamy tones of her smooth lyric soprano voice while Brooke deRosa sang Shrills with exquisite coloratura technique.

After a short intermission, members of the audience drank refreshments and turned their chairs around to see the second opera staged at the other end of the auditorium. As with the first presentation, Maggie Green designed the attractive and sometimes amusing costumes.

In Prima la Musica, Count Opizio contracted the composer and poet to write a new opera. When the curtain opens it has to be finished in four days. The composer has already written the score, but the poet has not been able to produce a useable text. Andy Papas was a credible composer who could not get his poet to produce a libretto. As The Poet, Alex Boyd made us understand his frustration as he sang with stentorian tones. Francesco Benucci created the role of The Poet for Salieri and, a few months later, the title role in The Marriage of Figaro for Mozart. I’d like to hear Boyd as Figaro, too.

Nancy Storace, the first Eleonora, was also the first Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. In the POP performance, popular soprano Tracy Cox sang Eleonora, the prima donna hired by the Count. Cox is an artist who will probably be seen performing with larger companies in the near future and she was a perfect fit for this diva role. Her tones were full and round, her articulation clear and her technique unmarred by the slightest flaw. As Tonina, the comedic singer with whom The Poet had a relationship, Justine Aronson used a variety of expressive devices to create her character while singing with clarity of tone.

Pacific Opera Project always presents extraordinary new artists to savor and interesting musical works to contemplate. This was but one example of their presentation. After their summer hiatus, they will be doing Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. I, for one, don’t want to miss them.

Maria Nockin

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):