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

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?

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 ...

O18: Unsettling, Riveting Sky on Swings

Opera Philadelphia’s annual festival set the bar very high even by its own gold standard, with a troubling but mesmerizing world premiere, Sky on Wings.

Simon Rattle — Birtwistle, Holst, Turnage, and Britten

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra marked the opening of the 2018-2019 season with a blast. Literally, for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's new piece Donum Simoni MMXVIII was an explosion of brass — four trumpets, trombones, horns and tuba, bursting into the Barbican Hall. When Sir Harry makes a statement, he makes it big and bold !

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo by Marcus Lieberenz
12 Sep 2016

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

After its world premiere at Royal Opera House in London last year, the German première of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Morgen und Abend took place at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Morgen und Abend at Berlin

A review by David Pinedo

Photos by Marcus Lieberenz

 

A slow pace and static stage dynamics made in the beginning for a difficult sit during veteran German stage actor Klaus Maria Brandauer’s monologue: a highly challenging first half hour. However the second part offered very memorable musical scenes. Haas’s resonant soundscapes made the trip worth it in the end.

Norwegian author Jon Fosse wrote the libretto based on his novel. In the first part, his sporadic words sound more like exclamations within Haas’ score. The opera contrasts the mystery of arriving in life with the confrontation with death and the hereafter at the departure. “Morgen” (morning) revolves around the birth of fisherman Olai’s (Brandauer) son Johannes.

In the second part, “Abend” (evening), Johannes is old. His daughter Signe takes care of him. Then he wakes up and sees his deceased wife Erna and best friend Peter. After he calls out to his daughter, who can’t hear him, he realizes he has passed. The slender libretto gives the listener all the space to absorb Haas’ spectral cosmos.

MorgenAbend-0888_MarcusLieberenz_hf.png

Director Graham Vick seemed inspired by Samuel Beckett’s minimal setting, but without the absurd humor. His Endgame comes to mind during “Morgen” as Olai sits alone and speaks in fragments. Together with broken-white costumes, Richard Hudson’s abstract design includes a door frame, a bed, a fishing boat, and several other items scattered on the ashen colored set. Video by 59 projections (A creative direction collective) screened words on stage. Giuseppe di Iorio’s lighting gave the staging the necessary final flashy energetic surge at the end.

The Austrian composer’s soundscapes are rooted in French spectralism, a musical current from the Seventies that can be traced back to Messiaen and even farther to Debussy. Haas’ moods and microtonal effects remind of Ligeti, but his colours and texture recall Kaija Saariaho, though with less detail and instrumental contrast. What Haas lacks in variety, he makes up with raw intensity that slowly grows on you and eventually envelopes you as listener. Before you know it you are captivated by the drama of the second half.

With great focus, Michael Body led the enormous orchestra. He generated great resonating flow from the strings, creating a thick textures. Besides the musicians in the pit, a panoply of percussion stands on each side slightly elevated from the stage. From there, thrilling pounds (or should I say hits) open the work and jolt the audience. Then, though, the libretto’s infrequent rhythm in Brandauer’s monologue about his son’s birth undercuts the production’s momentum. Towards the end of “Morgen”, the pace picks up. With fluctuating intensity, Haas’ soundmass swells and contracts in volume and density, as if a giant musical organism whose breathing results in a mesmerising continuous flow.

MorgenAbend-9894_MarcusLieberenz_hf.png

During “Abend” Haas also includes vocal echoes of late-Romantic lyricism. It added a human dimension to Haas’s alien world during the interaction between Johannes and his daughter Signe. After, Johannes comes to terms with his passing. The opera ends in Haas’ soundscape of the hereafter.

The rest of the stellar cast impressed. Sarah Wegener as the midwife broke into Olai’s monologue announcing Johannes’s birth as if an invigorating breath of fresh towards the end of “Morgen”. Baritone Christoph Pohl made for an engaging Johannes. He infused the character with conflict and a sense of bewilderment after becoming aware of his death. Contralto Helena Rasker convinced as his wife Erna, while Will Hartmann demonstrated his technical skills in the vocally demanding part of Peter.

If you are interested in hearing exciting soundscapes of orchestral colours and textures, this opera comes highly recommended. With this minimal staging, you can close your eyes and listen to Haas and be transported to a musical world of contemplation about birth and death.

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):