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

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.

‘Schiff’s Surprise’: Haydn

Many of the ingredients for a memorable concert were there, or so they initially seemed to be. Alas, ultimately what we learned more clearly than anything else was that the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s new Principal Artist, András Schiff, is no conductor.

Recital of French song from Véronique Gens and Susan Manoff

It came as quite a surprise throughout much of the first half of this recital of French song, that it was the piano-playing of Susan Manoff that made the greater impression upon me than the singing of Véronique Gens.

Pelléas et Mélisande: Glyndebourne Festival Opera

What might have been? Such was a thought that came to my mind more than once during this, the premiere of Glyndebourne’s new Pelléas et Mélisande. What might have been if Stefan Herheim had not changed his Konzept so late in the day? (I had actually forgotten about that until reminded during the interval, yet had already began to wonder whether the production had been, especially for him, unusually rushed.)

Mozart: Don Giovanni, Royal Opera House

There is something very Danish about this Don Giovanni. It isn’t just that the director, Kasper Holten is a Dane, it’s also that the existential, moral and psychological questions Holten asks point to Kierkegaard who wrote of the fusion of the erotic and demonic in this opera in his work Either/Or (1843). However, I’ve rarely, if ever, encountered a production of Don Giovanni - even Bieito’s notorious one for ENO - where Mozart comes off as second best.

Superb Schoenberg Gurrelieder - Salonen, Philharmonia, London

Schoenberg Gurrelieder at the Royal Festival Hall, with Esa-Pekka Salonen, demonstrating how well the Philharmonia Orchestra has absorbed Schoenberg's idiom. A blazing performance, formidably dramatic, executed with stunning assurance. Salonen has made his mark on the Philharmonia through in-depth explorations of the 20th century repertoire he loves so well.

An ambitious double-bill by the Royal College of Music

London may have been basking in the golden glow of summer sunshine this week, but things have been darkly gothic on the capital’s opera scene.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

03 Nov 2016

Christian Gerhaher sings Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in Berlin

As Bernard Haitink’s bout with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has finally been resolved, we in Amsterdam still have to wait for his return to his former homebase till this coming February. So I was thrilled to hear him in Berlin conduct Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Berliner Philharmoniker. It turned out to be historical evening. Not just because of attendance by the Swedish King and Queen, but also because baritone Christian Gerhaher performed the by Mahler preferred alto role, in an extraordinarily deep “Der Abschied”. Haitink did not disappoint in this spectacular affair.

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Bernard Haitink.

Photo credit: Monika Rittershaus.

 

The evening opened with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Although I had hoped to be swept off my feet by the flight in Schubert’s melodies, Haitink’s determined and deliberate style instead brought all the layers in the work constructing an extraordinary, sonorous depth. He produced such captivating intensity, the concertmaster and his Berliner musicians were riffing like rock stars.

Haitink is still one of the best out there, but his fragility has given his recent performances more transparency exposing precious new details, rather than producing a sweeping, cohesive momentum. Part of me misses his former command and energy.

I marvelled at the synergy. Several times, the seated Haitink’s mere presence with his most subtle of directions clearly inspired the Berliners. His deliberate, succinct conducting created a rich tapestry of Schubert’s wonderful melodies as the BPO performed with utmost dedication to their Maestro. While at first I thought it seemed a bit slow, in the end the simmering build up paid off with a sublime climax.

With the same attention to detail and deliberate tempi, Haitink led the BPO that performed Mahler with a zealous commitment. His age showing a bit as he conducted from a seated position. The orchestra, sharply in tune with his minimal conducting, thrilled in Mahler’s temperaments. The piccolo at the end of “Von der Jugend” or the triangle in “Von der Schönheit” popped with great effect. How impressive Haitink generated such superlative sound with such little direction.

I have to confess, I was not aware that Mahler had orchestrated his closest work to opera with the option of a baritone instead of alto. A very tricky endeavour especially during “Der Abschied”. There aren’t many men that can pull it off. Tonight Gerhaher certainly demonstrated the virtues of this format as he realised a profoundly human character. His gravitas and richly nuanced phrasing gave it a deep melancholy. Gerhaher generated a very dour ambience, missing the lighter nuances. This last movement felt earthly, anchored in human sorrow. For all of Gerhaher’s qualities, he inhibited the fragile ascension into Mahler’s elevating catharsis. I prefer the softness of a female voice in this particularly ameliorating role.

Christian Elsner filled the tenor role with a particular Bohemian charm. With closed eyes, visibly moved by the Berliner’s music and Gerhaher’s soulful tone, he would sway back and forth with closed eyes. The longer Elsner’s seeming theatricality continued, the more I realised he was being authentic. As the drunk in love in the “Der Trunkene im Frühling”, he particularly impressed. Gerhaher’s almost bleak concentration during Elsner’s singing formed a striking contrast to Elsner’s obvious appreciation.

When returning for the applause, instead of walking directly to the front Haitink walked up the stairs to the musicians (as he would at the Concertgebouw). He demonstratively tapped his forehead with the palm of his hand and redirected himself to the podium. Where he deservedly but with his usual timidity accepted the audience ovation. His fragility notwithstanding, this octogenarian certainly created a high point of the season.

David Pinedo

Christian Elsner (tenor) Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Bernard Haitink (conductor), Berliner Philharmoniker.

7th October 2016. Berlin Philharmonie.

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):