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

Arabella in San Francisco

A great big guy in a great big fur coat falls in love with the photo of the worldly daughter of a compulsive gambler. A great big conductor promotes the maelstrom of great big music that shepherds all this to ecstatic conclusion.

Two falls out of three for Britten in Seattle Screw

The miasma of doom that pervades the air of the great house of Bly seems to seep slowly into the auditorium, dulling the senses, weighing down the mind. What evil lurks here? Can these people be saved? Do we care?

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ten years ago, I saw one of the first performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Now, Music Theatre Wales and National Dance Company Wales give the opera its first United Kingdom production - in an English translation by Amanda Holden from the original Italian: the first time, I believe, that a Dusapin opera has been performed in translation. (I shall admit to a slight disappointment that it was not in Welsh: maybe next time.)

Tosca in San Francisco

The story was bigger than its actors, the Tosca ritual was ignored. It wasn’t a Tosca for the ages though maybe it was (San Francisco’s previous Tosca production hung around for 95 years). P.S. It was an evening of powerful theater, and incidentally it was really good opera.

Fine performances in uneven War Requiem at the Concertgebouw

At the very least, that vehement, pacifist indictment against militarism, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, should leave the audience shaking a little. This performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra only partially succeeded in doing so. The cast credits raised the highest expectations, but Gianandrea Noseda, stepping in for an ailing Mariss Jansons and conducting the RCO for the first time, did not bring out the full potential at his disposal.

The Tallis Scholars at Cadogan Hall

In their typical non-emphatic way, the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips presented here a selection of English sacred music from the Eton Choirbook to Tallis. There was little to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, little in the way of overt ‘interpretation’ – certainly in a modern sense – but ample opportunity to appreciate the mastery on offer in this music, its remoteness from many of our present concerns, and some fine singing.

Dido and Aeneas: Academy of Ancient Music

“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.” Well, the spectral Queen of Carthage atop the poppy-strewn sarcophagus wasn’t quite yet “laid in earth”, but the act of remembering, and remembrance, duly began during the first part of this final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s Purcell trilogy at the Barbican Hall.

Poignantly human – Die Zauberflöte, La Monnaie

Mozart Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at La Monnaie /De Munt, Brussels, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, directed by Romeo Castellucci. Part allegory, part Singspeile, and very much a morality play, Die Zauberflöte is not conventional opera in the late 19th century style. Naturalist realism is not what it's meant to be. Cryptic is closer to what it might mean.

Covent Garden: Wagner’s Siegfried, magnificent but elusive

How do you begin to assess Covent Garden’s Siegfried? From a purely vocal point of view, this was a magnificent evening; it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this was as fine a cast as you are likely to hear anywhere today.

Powerful Monodramas: Zender, Manoury and Schoenberg

The concept of the monologue in opera has existed since the birth of opera itself, but when we come to monodramas - with the exception of Rousseau’s Pygmalion (1762) - we are looking at something that originated at the beginning of the twentieth century.

ENO's Salome both intrigues and bewilders

Femme fatale, femme nouvelle, she-devil: the personification of patriarchal castration-anxiety and misogynistic terror of female desire.

In the Company of Heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

Palestrina led from the front, literally and figuratively, in this performance at Wigmore Hall which placed devotion to the saints at its heart, with Saints Peter, Paul, Catherine of Alexandria, Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary all musically honoured by The Cardinall’s Musick and their director Andrew Carwood.

Roberto Devereux in San Francisco

Opera’s triple crown, Donizetti’s tragic queens — Anna Bolena who was beheaded by her husband Henry VIII, their daughter Elizabeth I who beheaded her rival Mary, Queen of Scots and who executed her lover Roberto Devereux.

O18: Queens Tries Royally Hard

Opera Philadelphia is lightening up the fare at its annual festival with a three evening cabaret series in the Theatre of Living Arts, Queens of the Night.

O18 Magical Mystery Tour: Glass Handel

How to begin to quantify the wonderment stirred in my soul by Opera Philadelphia’s sensational achievement that is Glass Handel?

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

A lunchtime feast of English song: Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

The September sunshine that warmed Wigmore Street during Monday’s lunch-hour created the perfect ambience for this thoughtfully compiled programme of seventeenth- and twentieth-century English song presented by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall.

O18: Mad About Lucia

Opera Philadelphia has mounted as gripping and musically ravishing an account of Lucia di Lammermoor as is imaginable.

O18 Poulenc Evening: Moins C’est Plus

In Opera Philadelphia’s re-imagined La voix humaine, diva Patricia Racette had a tough “act” to follow ...

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Götterdämmerung</em>, Opera North
04 Jul 2016

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

A review by Colin Clarke

Above: Andrew Foster-Williams as Gunther and Giselle Allen as Gutrune

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 

Peter Mumford, who tackles staging, design, concept, lighting and production, emerges triumphant. The three huge screens behind the orchestra are multi-function, translating the text, giving stage directions to help along the theatre of the imagination, and conjuring up a multitude of natural images, often of a primordial slant as befits atemporal myth, from forest scenes to well-timed ravens. Opera North’s Ring is also an immersive experience, with a plethora of satellite events. Particularly enjoyable amongst these for this final instalment was a talk on The top five things you need to know about tonight’s instalment in the Clore Ballroom which at one point had the audience, sitting in a pretend forest, hollering out the braying horns of the vassals.

Held in the current atmosphere of political uncertainty, aspects of Wagner’s Ring become naturally highlighted (particularly the back-stabbing, literal in Siegfried’s case). Yet Wagner’s genius towers over and cuts through such local concerns, his over-reaching vision sucking us into this dark World inexorably. Richard Farnes guides us through Wagner’s huge score expertly. His conducting style is precise, never over-emotive; the smallest gesture seems to register on his players, and there is a true sense of flow to his conducting. While I enjoyed Das Rheingold (the only other of the four I was able to catch), it was eclipsed by some way here. Farnes is not one to dawdle, yet the result is forward movement rather than rushed; the bright orchestral sound for Siegfried’s Rhine Journey seemed exactly right, and while the final act Funeral March was fluent, it held great dramatic weight. Farnes encouraged the best from his brass players, too, the great, trill-encrusted crescendo preceding Siegfried’s second act entrance a case in point.

The Ring - Götterdämmerung 1.pngMati Turi as Siegfried. Photo Credit: Clive Barda.

Interesting to see that First Norn was Yvonne Howard, who had so successfully taken the role of Fricka in the Rheingold. Actually, all three Norns were cast from strength, their voices very different, three distinct characters weaving the rope of destiny, entering clad in black veils, re-veiling themselves once the singing was over. The orchestra’s radiant Dawn led naturally to Siegfried and Brünnhilde’s massive duet. The Siegfried here was Mati Turi (Lars Cleveman had taken the role for Siegfried itself), a singer with a strong low register, and a top that can stand its own against a Wagnerian orchestra. His retelling of the story in the final act was his high-point. Yet his delivery did seem to be all at around the same dynamic level, with occasional forays from the prevailing forte to a fortissimo. His Brünnhilde, Kelly Cae Hogan, was more than his equal, her “O heilige Götter!” splendidly done, sailing easily over the orchestra, her final high C of the Prologue truly spine-tingling. She was perfectly chosen: it is Brünnhilde who closes the entire cycle (bar a couple of words from Hagen, of course) and Hogan was fully in her element and in her voice. Right from the off, her voice was fully open and free. This was a major assumption of the role, culminating in a beautifully variegated “Immolation”. Her voice piercing through the orchestra like a crystal point, she found real beauty in those final stages, the lower part of her voice as she seems to imitate Erda (“Alles Weiss ich”) wonderful; and just as wonderful that she still had that openness of voice for “Fliegt Heim, ihr Raben”. Throughout this final twenty minutes or so, Hagen’s reactions as he hovered at the side of the stage were cherishable. The music-drama ended, as is appropriate, with the orchestra bathed in golden light.

The Ring - Götterdämmerung 2.pngMats Almgren as Hagen. Photo Credit: Clive Barda.

Interesting that the singer who was Gunther had taken the role of Donner on opening night, the latter a far smaller part. Here, Andrew Foster-Williams was finally able to showcase his large voice; perhaps his Gutrune, Giselle Allen, was a little weak vocally initially. Another familiar face from Rheingold was Jo Pohlheim’s Alberich, well characterised but perhaps not as black of timbre as one might hope for this role. Mats Almgren (Fafner on opening night) was a terrific Hagen: his Watch (“Hier sitzt ich zur Wacht”) was dramatic, although again one has heard darker voices here. Almgren’s power was never in doubt, though, and the Alberich/Hagen interactions in the second act carried great weight.

One of the finest assumptions of the afternoon/night was Heather Shipp’s Waltraute, her Narration (“Höre mit Sinn”) finding the bull’s eye of Wagnerian concentration; later in the act, she actually sounded believably furious. One must not forget (how could anyone?) the Chorus of Opera North, powerful beyond belief at times; and yet capable of infinite tenderness (“Heil dir Gunther”, in the second act). The Rhinemaidens, counterbalancing perhaps the Norns, made a beautiful appearance in the final act.

And so the great cycle came to a conclusion, the enthusiastic standing ovation completely justified. A magnificent achievement.

Colin Clarke

Wagner: Götterdämmerung (Concert Performance)

Brünnhilde - Kelly Cae Hogan; Siegfried - Mati Turi; Hagen - Mats Almgren; Giselle Allen Gutrune; Gunther - Andrew Foster-Williams; Waltraute - Heather Shipp; Alberich - Jo Pohlheim; 1st Norn - Fiona Kimm; 2nd Norn - Yvonne Howard; 3rd Norn - Lee Bisset; Woglinde - Jeni Bern; Wellgunde - Madeleine Shaw; Flosshilde; conductor - Richard Farnes, Orchestra of Opera North.

Royal Festival Hall, London, 3rd July 2016.

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):