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 Reviews

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.

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

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.

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

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.  

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

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.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 - Winner Announced

Bampton Classical Opera is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2017 Young Singers’ Competition is mezzo-soprano Emma Stannard and the runner-up is tenor Wagner Moreira. The winner of the accompanists’ prize, a new category this year, is Keval Shah.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Prom 60, Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra conducted by Philippe Jordan
31 Aug 2016

Prom 60: Bach and Bruckner

Bruckner, Bruckner, wherever one goes; From Salzburg to London, he is with us, he is with us indeed, and will be next week too. (I shall even be given the Third Symphony another try, on my birthday: the things I do for Daniel Barenboim…) Still, at least it seems to mean that fewer unnecessary Mahler-as-showpiece performances are being foisted upon us. Moreover, in this case, it was good, indeed great Bruckner, rather than one of the interminable number of ‘versions’ of interminable earlier works.

Prom 60, Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra conducted by Philippe Jordan

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Philippe Jordan conducting the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Bruckner's Ninth Symphony

Photo credit: Mark Allan/BBC.

 

Keen though I was to hear the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, for he principal attraction for me, and for a good part of the audience, was in any case the extremely rare opportunity to hear a Bach cantata played by mainstream performers - especially, so it seemed, when the soloist was Christian Gerhaher. According to the programme, there had only been two previous such opportunities to hear Ich habe genug at the Proms: in 1956 and in 1962, with Heinz Rehfuss and Hermann Prey as soloists, both enticing prospects indeed. Ian Bostridge performed the version for high voice (with flute obbligato, rather than oboe, and period instruments) in 2000.

As it was, Philippe Jordan, heedless of the size of the hall, opted for a very small orchestra (oboe, strings 6.4.3.2.1, chamber organ) and, perhaps more to the point, insisted throughout that the strings play in very subdued fashion. An advantage of smaller forces can often be a greater willingness to play out, but not here. It is a reflective work, of course, and does not need to sound like Mahler (or Bruckner), but the approach nevertheless seemed perverse; I can imagine it might have worked better on the radio. The opening aria was taken at a ‘flowing’ tempo, which is to say considerably faster than would ‘traditionally’ have been the case. On its own terms, it worked well enough, but memories of, say, John Shirley-Quirk with Neville Marriner, or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (with various conductors) were anything but effaced. Gerhaher’s use of head-voice, moreover, left this listener at least longing for something deeper, darker. There was certainly greater resolution, though, upon the da capo. His diction, whether in arias or recitatives, was impeccable. Bernhard Heinrichs’s oboe playing was unfailingly musical, very much a second ‘voice’. ‘Schlummert ein’ was again relatively swift, although I felt Gerhaher might have done more with the words without coming anywhere near over-emphasis. And Jordan’s pauses seemed excessive: disruptive more than anything else. The following recitative offered much more in the way of verbal emphasis, as did, to a lesser extent, the final aria, ‘Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod’. Here I was rather taken with the swift tempo, which engendered something of a spirit of defiance.

Jordan seemed very much to have rethought ‘traditional’ approaches to Bruckner, but to rather more successful effect. Once past a rocky opening - devoid of mystery, and of much else too, not helped by an onslaught of coughing - we heard some fine playing indeed from the young players of the GMYO: first strings, then the oboe soloist, and so on. The first movement was taken pretty fast, but not unrelievedly so. Intriguingly pointillistic woodwind matched well string pizzicato playing, and added to a sense of provisionality; this was no ‘cathedral in sound’ of cliché. There was, moreover, a strong sense of development: necessary here to avoid a sense of mere repetition. And there was a sense of intimacy too: not the constraint of the Bach performance, but something penetrating deeper, to the very essence of the musical lines. The moment of return was duly awe-inspiring: what a wonderful orchestra this is! Was the approach too fragmentary, though? Perhaps, perhaps not. It was certainly interesting. There was no wanting of power in the coda.

The scherzo opened with a lightness that was far from non-committal, more Mendelssohnian perhaps. Response thereto was anything but light, although one could certainly hear Bruckner as an heir to Schubert (his Ninth Symphony in particular). Perhaps it was a little too driven, but it was certainly not dull. There was occasional insecurity concerning pulse, though. The trio was full of incident, proving both urgent and, occasionally, a little languorous. I liked its range. The finale developed the sense of late Romantic hypertension. There was nothing comfortable to this view of Bruckner, which was all to the good. Both the virtues and the drawbacks of the previous movements endured. Jordan proved, however, especially able in highlighting the contrasting nature in the musical material. Moments of crisis registered; much, it seemed, was at stake. The close was blissful, Schubertian.

Mark Berry

Prom 60: Bach and Bruckner

Bach: Cantata: ‘Ich habe genug’, BWV 82; Bruckner: Symphony No.9 in D minor. Christian Gerhaher (baritone); Bernhard Heinrichs (oboe); Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra; Philippe Jordan (conductor). Royal Albert Hall, London, Tuesday 30 August 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):