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

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Stockhausen was one of the most visionary of composers, and no more so than in his Licht operas, but what you see can often get in the way of what you hear. I’ve often found fully staged productions of his operas a distraction to the major revelation in them - notably the sonorities he explores, of the blossoming, almost magical acoustical chrysalis, between voices and instruments.

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

21 Sep 2016

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Piotr Beczala [Photo by Anja Frers/DG]

 

Their sold-out presentation was the first performance of this new Shiley Detour Series, which will continue in November with the David T. Little’s new opera Soldier Songs and will return in March with Peter Brook’s The Tragedy of Carmen.

Beczala sang a few songs along with numerous lyric and dramatic arias, pouring forth a feast in Italian, French, German, and Czech for the city’s vocal music connoisseurs. He began with Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s simple serenade, Mattinata, which opened the door to his smooth, lyrical rendition of “Dei miei bollenti spiriti,” from Verdi’s La traviata, and a more dramatic and exciting presentation of “Di’ tu sei fedele” from the same composer’s Un ballo in maschera.

Beczala and Katz followed the Italian selections with Antonin Dvořák’s bittersweet Gypsy Songs and the Prince’s Aria from the same composer’s Rusalka. Although the Czech song texts may not be easily deciphered, the tunes are as familiar as cookies from grandma. Both singing and accompaniment were insightful, sometimes joyous and at other times plaintive. In the Rusalka aria, the Prince has fallen in love with a spirit and even thought he knows his enchanting vision is not real, he begs it not to end. Beczala and Katz continued with a rousing version of Franz Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Das Land des Lachelns and a more introverted interpretation of Richard Strauss’s Cäcilie. I wondered why he did not end the first half of the program with the better-known operetta aria.

The Balboa Theater is not large and San Diego music lovers filled every conceivable seat. Perhaps next time the opera presents an equally important concert, it can be held in a larger hall. This recital was one of the best to be heard in many years. For the second half of the program, Beczala and Katz offered magnificent performances of three French arias: “Pourquoi me reveiller” from Jules Massenet’s Werther,“Ah leve-toi Soleil” from Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, and The Flower Song from Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Again, Beczala mixed lighter and heavier arias, showing that he could handle both with unusual ease. Few tenors can sing the Flower Song’s high note pianissimo but Beczala sang it the way Bizet wrote it. From this audience of long time operagoers, the applause was almost deafening.

The last group was again Italian, and included the artist’s enchanting delivery “Quando le sere al placido” from Verdi’s Luisa Miller and their captivating depiction of tenor Cavaradossi’s arias from Puccini’s Tosca. They exuded charm in the character’s joyous ode to feminine beauty, “Recondita Armonia” and underscored the tragedy of his realization that he will never again see the stars in the sky in “E lucevan le stelle.” Although some handkerchiefs were evident at the end of this concert, they were soon back in their pockets as the appreciative audience called the artist back and stood to show its admiration for the smiling artists.

Over the last few years, we have not heard Martin Katz in recital very often. He teaches, he conducts, and he edits, but he still has the agility and the artistry to make his mark as a top-level recital collaborator. Beczala and Katz continued with three encores: Italian-born American Salvatore Cardillo’s Core ‘ngrato (Ungrateful Heart), Polish composer Miczyslaw Karlowicz’s Pamietam ciche, jasne, zlote dine (I Remember Quiet, Clear Golden Days), and operetta composer Robert Stolz’s unforgettable “Ob blond ob braun, ich liebe alle Frau'n” from the movie of the same name. That last song with its powerful final high note sent every lady in the theater out with the thought that the tenor appreciated individual beauty. It was a wonderful way to end this exquisite recital. Hopefully Beczala will again appear in Southern California the next time he tours the United States.

Maria Nockin

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):