Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Barbara Hannigan
29 Aug 2016

40 minutes with Barbara Hannigan...in rehearsal

One of the initiatives for the community at the Lucerne Festival is the ‘40 min’ series. A free concert given before the evening’s main event that ranges from chamber music to orchestral rehearsals.

40 minutes with Barbara Hannigan...in rehearsal

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Barbara Hannigan

 

Without knowing what’s on the programme. For tonight’s edition with Berg and Gershwin, the queue outside went around the building. A huge interest! Inside, folks were arguing over seats. A disgruntled elderly couple planted themselves demonstratively on the reserved press seats next to me. They did not budge—I wouldn’t have either. That’s what you get when Barbara Hannigan performs!

The “Singing Conductor” shared her great musicianship with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in an insightful, albeit slightly haphazard, rehearsal for the concert the next day. The first part of that programme would also include Debussy’s Syrinx, singing Sibelius (Luonnotar), and a Haydn symphony. But tonight Hannigan performed the second half of that programme with a bit of Alban Berg’s Lulu Suite and most excitingly offered a sneak­peak of Bill Elliott’s adaptation of Gershwin’s Crazy Girl, specifically tailored for the Prima Donna. Elliott won a Tony for working on the orchestration for Christopher Wheeldon’s An American in Paris.

The rehearsal was a rehearsal, so I shouldn’t comment on the music...but it was great! What was more interesting was the insights into Hannigan’s collaborative spirit. She truly is rare jewel. The Lucerner Saal, a smaller venue within the marvelous structure of the Kultur­ und Kongresszentrum Luzern (KKL), made for an intimate experience that stimulated a dialogue between Hannigan’s wit and the audience’s laughter. Whispering kids full of curiosity added an additional giddy dimension.

160822_40min4_mco_hannigan_c_patrick_huerlimann_lucerne_festival_5.png

On bare feet and in jeans with a casual but focused air, the virtuosa opened with a segment from Berg’s Lulu Suite. Having sung this role often, she knows all the tone rows of Berg’s characters, thus prepared to conduct this piece with dramatic perspective, but She did not sing. Instead she demonstrated her conducting skills were not just a gimmick and revealed an authentic talent. As extended extremities, her sinewy, muscular yoga arms became her batons. She performed the part of the piece where Dr. Schön’s in-love son Alwa meets Lulu right after she is released out of prison. Highly dramatic and very engrossing. Berg’s feverish music fit the humid summer heat arising from the lake.

Around the same time Berg was writing Lulu, Gershwin composed Crazy Girl. Hannigan recounted how the American composer supposedly was too shy to perform his music in front of the Austrian composer at a Vienna party. To which Berg responded: “Music is music”. Bill Elliott’s orchestration of Gershwin’s songs strangely resonated Berg’s atonality. I would have never associated the two with each other, if I had not heard them in this context: Gershwin like never before. It was a pity I could not stay next evening’s official premiere of Elliott’s Berg-echoing orchestration of “I’ve Got Rhythm”, “Embraceable You”, and “But not for me”.

Hannigan has a slightly dansant conducting style­­, natural and in tune with the music. Nothing overtly theatrical. With her fabulous voice and ­North-American intonation she brought Gershwin’s character immediately to life. Her sighs gave the songs authenticity. “Mister, listen to the the rhythm of my heartbeat” she sang. How poetic as conductor!

During this rehearsal, Hannigan revealed her collaborative spirit. She frequently requested feedback from the MCO’s musicians and strategically asked the saxophonist for a crescendo so she could recognize her cue: “The problems is, I cannot look at the my score then”. Her insistence on feedback resulted in great synergy: “Can I just hear that one, but without me?”.

The big reveal in Elliot’s orchestration was the sudden choral singing of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra as back­-up to the Maestra. They really seemed to enjoy this part. Certainly an unforgettable rehearsal.

I highly recommend the intimate setting of the 40 min. series. A terrific place to bring small children.

David Pinedo

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):