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

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.

The Skating Rink: Garsington Opera premiere

Having premiered Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch in 2017 as part of its work with local community groups, Garsington Opera’s 2018 season included its first commission for the main opera season. David Sawer's The Skating Rink premiered at Garsington Opera this week; the opera is based on the novel by Chilean writer Roberto Bolano with a libretto by playwright Rory Mullarkey.

Madama Butterfly at the Princeton Festival

The Princeton Festival brings a run of three high-quality opera performances to town each summer, alternating between a modern opera and a traditional warhorse. John Adams’ Nixon in China has been announced for next summer. So this year Princeton got Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, for which the Festival assembled an impressive cast and delivered a polished performance.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Prom 74: Verdi’s Requiem, performed by the OAE and Proms Youth Choir, conducted by Marin Alsop
10 Sep 2016

Prom 74: Verdi's Requiem

For the penultimate BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 9 September 2016, Marin Alsop conducted the BBC Youth Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Verdi's Requiem with soloists Tamara Wilson, Alisa Kolosova, Dimitri Pittas, and Morris Robinson.

Prom 74: Verdi’s Requiem, performed by the OAE and Proms Youth Choir, conducted by Marin Alsop

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Tamara Wilson

Photo credit: BBC

 

Verdi himself conducted the UK premiere of the Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall in 1875 when the choir was huge (numbering as many as 1000 I have heard). On Friday we had nearly 300 young singers from Berkshire Youth Choir, Finchley Children's Music Group, Hampshire County Youth Choir, Hertfordshire County Youth Choir, CBSO Youth Chorus, National Youth Choir of Wales, University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, and University of Birmingham Voices.

The BBC Youth Choir was one of the highlights of the evening, the young singers opening the work with a wonderful hushed 'Requiem' sung from memory, all eyes on Marin Alsop. They sang with a finely clear, transparent tone, certainly bringing youthful verve to the performance but sophistication too. Whilst the tone was often soft-grained, they were finely ardent not to say powerful in the 'Dies Irae' which recurs throughout the work. The 'Sanctus' was rightly a choral showpiece, with crisp dancing rhythms and energising transparent textures, and their concluding 'Libera me' fugue was really vehement.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment filled the platform, fielding some 60 strings, yet the sound had a transparency and openness of texture with much less of the uniform string-dominated sound of a modern orchestra. This meant that there was greater space between the notes for the singers to take advantage of, but also gave a lovely feeling of multi-levelled detail in moments like the 'Sanctus', and the bleached string tone in the 'Offertorium' on soprano Tamara Wilson's entry was simply magical.

The soloists clearly took great advantage of the space given them, and this certainly was not a performance which was over sung. Each of the soloists brought a fine sense of control to their performance, and a well-modulated sense of phrasing.

Soprano Tamara Wilson brought a nice spinto heft to the part, but this was combined with a lovely ability to float the higher notes so that there were lots of moments when we were able to appreciate her high, gentle singing which culminated in the quiet 'Requiem aeternam' passage in the 'Libera me' with a lovely floated top note at the end, all beautifully supported by warm hushed tones in the choir. Elsewhere in the 'Libera me' Wilson showed quite how vehement and spinto-like she could be when necessary.

Alisa Kolosova had a richly focussed mezzo-soprano, with a nice evenness over the whole range, and I was repeatedly impressed with the fluid shapeliness of her phrasing.

There was a welcome hint of steel in Dimitri Pittas's tenor, and though he sometimes tightened somewhat in the very upper registers, he showed a fine willingness to sing quietly and phrase gently. His 'Hostias' was finely done, and though it perhaps lacked the ultimate sheen in the voice, it was a performance of great character.

Bass Morris Robinson was wonderfully trenchant on his first entry, using his glorious dark voice to great effect. But he could also sing quietly, and in moments like the 'Oro supplex et acclinis' in the 'Dies Irae' was more prayerful.

Whilst the soloists were nicely flexible individually, there was more of a hint of stiffness in the phrasing in the trios and quartets. But Wilson and Kolosova made a lovely duet pairing in the 'Recordare' and 'Agnus Dei', creating a unified blend and listening to each other to produce some finely balanced phrasing.

Marin Alsop drew a nicely fluid and flowing performance, never seeming rushed but never dallying overmuch. Whilst it did not stint on the noisy moments, there was little of the feeling of staring into the abyss. Similarly, the soloists brought balance and musicality, giving finely modulated performances which could perhaps have done with a bit more temperament. All in all this was a finely musical and well-modulated performance, which really showcased the talents of the BBC Youth Chorus.

Robert Hugill

Prom 74 - Verdi: Requiem

Tamara Wilson, soprano; Alisa Kolosova, mezzo-soprano; Dimitri Pittas, tenor; Morris Robinson, bass; Marin Alsop, conductor; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; BBC Youth Chorus.

BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London; 9 September 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):