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

La traviata at the Palais Garnier

The clatter of information was overwhelmed by soaring bel canto, Verdi’s domestic tragedy destroyed by director Simon Stone, resurrected by conductor Michele Mariotti, a tour de force for South African soprano Pretty Yende.

San Jose Pops the Cork With Fledermaus

Opera San Jose vivaciously kicked off its 2019–2020 season with a heady version of Strauss’ immortal Die Fledermaus that had all the effervescence of vintage champagne.

Tempestuous Francesca da Rimini opens Concertgebouw Saturday matinee series

Two Russian love letters to the tragic thirteenth century noblewoman Francesca da Rimini inaugurated the Saturday matinee series at the Concertgebouw.

Immortal Beloved: Beethoven Festival at Wigmore Hall

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

Lyric Opera of Chicago presented this year’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park. The evening’s program featured a range of selections from works to be presented in the 2019–2020 season along with arias and scenes from other notable and representative operas.

Prom 74: Uplifting Beethoven from Andrew Manze and the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover

Ceremony, drama and passion: this Beethoven Night by the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover under their Chief Conductor Andrew Manze had all three and served them up with vigour and a compelling freshness, giving Prommers at this eve-of-Last-Night concert an exciting and uplifting evening.

Prom 69: Elena Stikhina’s auspicious UK debut in a dazzling Czech Philharmonic concert

Rarely can any singer have made such an unforgettable UK debut in just twelve minutes of music. That was unquestionably the case with the Russian soprano, Elena Stikhina, who in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, sang with such compelling stage magnetism and with a voice that has everything you could possibly want.

Prom 68: Wagner Abend - Christine Goerke overwhelms as Brünnhilde

Wagner Nights at the Proms were once enormously popular, especially on the programmes of Sir Henry Wood. They have become less so, perhaps because they are simply unfashionable today, but this one given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht steered clear of the ‘bleeding chunk’ format which was usually the norm. It was still chunky, but in an almost linear, logical way and benefited hugely from being operatic (when we got to the Wagner) rather than predominantly orchestral.

Prom 65: Danae Kontora excels in Mozart and Strauss

On the page this looked rather a ‘pick-and-mix’ sort of Prom from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis, who was making his Proms debut. In the event, it was not so much a Chinese take-away as a Michelin-starred feast for musical gourmands.

British Youth Opera: Rossini's La Cenerentola

Stendhal (as recorded in his Life of Rossini) was not a fan of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, complaining that after the first few bars of the Introduzione he was already suffering from a ‘faint feeling of nausea’, a condition which ‘never entirely dissipated, [recurring] periodically throughout the opera, and with increasing violence’.

La traviata at the Arena di Verona

There is esoteric opera — 16,500 spectators at this year’s Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, and there is pop opera — upwards of 500,000 spectators for the opera festival at the Arena di Verona, one quarter of them for an over-the-top new production of La traviata, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings Benvenuto Cellini to the Proms

Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini is quite rarity on UK stages. Covent Garden last performed it in 1976 and English National Opera performed it for the first time in 2014 (in Terry Gilliam's riotous production), and yet the opera never quite goes away either.

Prom 58: varied narratives from the BBCSSO and Ilan Volkov

There are many ways and means to tell a story: through prose, poetry, sounds, pictures, colours, movement.

Prom 53: Elgar’s emotionally charged Music Makers

British music with an English and strong European accent marked this Prom featuring three well-wrought works, stylistically worlds apart but each characterised by a highly individual musical personality.

Scoring a Century: British Youth Opera at the Peacock Theatre

‘It is well known that Eisler was a master of the art of self-contradiction, using non-sequitur, change of tack and playing devil’s advocate in a brilliantly ironic way in an attempt to look at a problem from every angle, to expose it fully to the gaze of his interlocutor. For an ordinary person to take part in this, let alone keep up with the pace and fully appreciate the wide range of references, which his enormous reading threw out, was wonderfully stimulating, and exhausting.’

Prom 55: Handel's Jephtha

‘For many it is the masterpiece among his oratorios.’

Opera della Luna's HMS Pinafore sails the seas at Wilton's Music Hall

The original production of HMS Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25th May 1878 and ran for an astonishing 571 performances. Opera della Luna’s HMS Pinafore, which has been cresting the operatic oceans for over twenty years now, has notched up almost as many performances.

Spectra Ensemble present Treemonisha at Grimeborn

‘We see him now as one of the most important creators of his generation, certainly comparable to Schoenberg.’ T.J. Anderson, who reconstructed the score of Scott Joplin’s only surviving opera, Treemonisha, for its first staged production in 1972, was probably rather over-enthusiastic in his assessment.

Fortieth Anniversary Gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

Earlier this month I reported from the Macerata Opera Festival – a largely Italian affair frequented by few foreigners. One week later I attended the 40th anniversary gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, about 100 km north in the same region of Le Marche and a prominent stop on the international circuit. One one hears much English, French, German and Japanese, and the printed program features a long list of non-Italian financial sponsors.

Bel Canto Beauty at St George's Hanover Square: Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda

A merciless and neurotic ruler, whose right to govern is ambiguous and disputed. A dignified Queen whose star is setting, as her husband’s heart burns with new love and her lady-in-waiting betrays her. A courtier whose devotion to the Queen, his first love, is undimmed and destined to push both towards a tragic end. No, not Donizetti’s Anna Bolena but Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, written three years later, in 1833, for Venice’s La Fenice.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

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.

JM9_0567-1.png

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):