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

David McVicar's Rigoletto returns to the ROH

This was a rather disconcerting performance of David McVicar’s 2001 production of Rigoletto. Not only because of the portentous murkiness with which Paule Constable’s lighting shrouds designer Michael Vale’s ramshackle scaffolding; nor, the fact that stage and pit frequently seemed to be tugging in different directions. But also, because some of the cast seemed rather out of sorts.

Verdi Otello, Bergen - Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, Lester Lynch

Verdi Otello livestream from Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Garner with a superb cast, led by Stuart Skelton, Latonia Moore, and Lester Lynch and a good cast, with four choirs, the Bergen Philharmonic Chorus, the Edvard Grieg Kor, Collegiûm Mûsicûm Kor, the Bergen pikekor and Bergen guttekor (Children’s Choruses) with chorus master Håkon Matti Skrede. The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1765, just a few years after the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra : Scandinavian musical culture has very strong roots, and is thriving still. Tucked away in the far north, Bergen may be a hidden treasure, but, as this performance proved, it's world class.

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.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Photo by Peter Fischli/Lucerne Festival
12 Sep 2016

The Changing of the Guard

Last June, Riccardo Chailly led the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for his last concert as Principal Conductor.

The Changing of the Guard

A review by David Pinedo

Photo by Peter Fischli/Lucerne Festival

 

Now, he begins his new function as Lucerne Festival’s Music Director. Not only did the epic performance of Mahler’s Eighth initiate his new reign, Chailly also dedicated the performance to Claudio Abbado, the former director, who did not get to complete his Mahler Cycle with his Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

I attended the second of two concerts. With such a superlative performance, Mr. Chailly has raised the bar high for future editions. Besides the four choirs, the first class soloists including among others Samuel Youn, Andreas Schager, Mihoko Fujimura, and Juliane Banse filling in for Christine Goerke. Although Mahler never approved of its title, with tonight’s large scale ensemble, it really felt like a Symphony for a Thousand.

Abbado created the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, as an ‘orchestra of friends’, assembled from the finest players in the world, including members from the Mahller Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Teatro della Scala, Staatskapelle Berlin, and even the siblings from the Hagen Quartett. Founded in 2003, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra establishes a connection back to 1938 when Arturo Toscanini formed a similar elite orchestra for his ‘Concert de Gala’.

Mahler divided up his oratorio-opera-symphony into two parts: I. Teil. Hymnus Veni, creator Spiritus. (Allegro Impetuoso) and II. Teil. Schluss-Szene aus Goethes Faust II. As Franz Schaffner gloriously opened the first part on the organ, and the choirs belted out “Veni, Creator Spiritus”, Chailly hooked his audience into the symphony and continued with ceaseless momentum.

Howard Arman’s preparation of the Latvian Radio Choir, Bavarian Radio Choir, Orfeon Donostiarra, and the Tolz Boys Choir, impressed greatly. They added depth and emotional nuance. The night before, at the official opening, Barbara Hannigan delivered the opening address “Equilibrium”, aptly relevant, as Chailly conducted the piece with a fast-paced dynamic, deftly creating an equilibrium between all the musical forces.

Although the musicians of the LFO performed with extraordinary zeal, the one thing lacking was elucidating transparency. With Mahler's dense orchestration, it would have been more impressive with the fabulous acoustics of the KKL Lucerne, to hear more details. Still, the overall upbeat mood invigorated and exhilarated.

Of the soloists, Ricarda Merbeth (Magna Peccatrix), Peter Mattei (Pater ecstaticus), and Sara Mingardo (Mulier Samaritana) stood out the most. Merbeth offered a voluptuous vibrato that feverishly contrasted the choirs. Mattei established a grounded gravitas in his passages, while Mingardo offered a resounding depth with her distinct timbre. That’s not to say that Schager, an impressive Wagner tenor, and Youn, a grounding bass, weren’t impressive, the others just sounded more mellifluous within the musical fold. Schager even had some issues overcoming the intensity of the choir.

A stunning emotional catharsis took place at the end, when Anna Lucia Richter emerged as Mater Gloriosa above the choir next to the organ. Pure and transparent, almost angelic, in just those two lines, she created a deeply moving and gentle emotional release that sounded fabulous after all the Mahlerian fireworks.

The last words of Mahler´s Eighth stem from Goethe’s Faust lauding women: “Das Ewig-Weibliche/Zieht uns hinan” or “The Woman-soul leadeth us/Upward and on”. With all the preceding high-voltage testosterone overflowing, this closure seems a bit ironic. Yet, it also provides the perfect motif for this Prima Donna themed festival. With the focus on female musicians, including eleven conductors, this acknowledgement of women makes for the perfect start to this edition.

Next year, Chailly opens with Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex combined with Rossini´s rarely performed Edipo a Colono. As Principal Conductor of La Scala, does this mean that Lucerne will be including more concert performances of operas? I hope so.

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):