Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



Momenta Quartet [Photo by João Magalhães]
04 Oct 2016

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

A review by Rebecca Lentjes

Above: Momenta Quartet

Photos by João Magalhães


Notes and sounds by Prabowo, Matthew Greenbaum, Wang Lu, and Leoš Janáček had vibrated against our eardrums before dissolving into the air; our cups of beer (custom-brewed by Sam Burlingame to pair with the chamber opera) had been drained and now sat empty in our hands. These words, which Prabowo had set from a love poem by Goenawan Mohamad, seemed to encapsulate the theme of the evening: the intensity and inherent transience of passion, love, and friendship—stories that are written in fire, but inevitably forgotten or erased.

Prabowo’s chamber opera, for string quartet and two vocalists, was composed in 2005 specially for the Momenta Quartet, the ethnomusicologist and experimental vocalist Nyak Ina Raseuki (aka Ubiet), and a Western-style soprano (which part was sung by Arnold in this performance). Mohamed’s text was not carved out into set divisions but rather freely shared and vaulted between the two vocalists. Some phrases were sung while others were spoken in a low guttural chant. Both Ubiet and Arnold overwhelmed the intimate space and boxed-in acoustics of the Tenri Cultural Center with sounds that seemed to defy the limitations of the human body. The rate of their vocal exchanges accelerated until the final two stanzas, which they sang in a silken, glossy unison: a fitting (and exquisite) embodiment of the ephemerality of human connection. The Momenta Quartet wended their way through extensive string passagework during periodic interludes that were so whispery they hurt your ears, but in a good way.


Before the opera, the Quartet had performed three works selected by violist Stephanie Griffin. Each member of the quartet curated a night of the Festival, with Griffin’s “Written in Fire” the only of the four to feature a woman composer. The world première of Wang Lu’s Double Trance, commissioned for the Festival, was an exploration of a less straightforward, more fragmented kind of passion that felt real and honest. Its piece was inspired by the “desperation and resignation” Lu witnessed in a Piero della Francesca fresco on her recent travels through Rome. Its heterogenous texture comprised of crunchy groans, plucks, strained shrieks, tremolos, and stratospheric cello overtones. Prabowo’s imagery is full of movement (“Sometimes I want us to fall, like butterflies falling from a branch before the certainty of death”); Lu’s is an abstract assemblage of frozen moments, a scattering of puzzle pieces in which one can glimpse a beautiful whole.

More homogenous in texture was Matthew Greenbaum’s Castelnau, a 2002 quartet which was the first piece ever written for the Quartet. The piece felt like listening to a more distant kind of passion, or perhaps passion through the lens of nostalgia. Phrases echoed from instrument to instrument in overlapping shreds of sound like conversations relived obsessively in one’s head, before eventual unisons and the long draggy chords of forgiveness (or forgetfulness). Janáček’s Intimate Letters of 1927–1928 fit the theme most explicitly; the quartet was composed in the last years of the Czech composer’s life, offering a musicalized narration of the 600 love letters he had written to his married muse, Kamila. The quartet made me laugh on multiple occasion, from its tonal opening (always jarring at a new music concert) to the totally loony cascading delirium of the entire fourth movement. The soaring viola lines of the second movement—meant to portray Janáček’s beloved—were executed brilliantly by Griffin, who glowed all evening.

Rebecca Lentjes

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):