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 Reviews

Moshinsky's Simon Boccanegra returns to Covent Garden

Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.

Royal Academy's Semele offers 'endless pleasures'

Self-adoring ‘celebrities’ beware. That smart-phone which feeds your narcissism might just prove your nemesis.

The Eternal Flame: Debussy, Lindberg, Stravinsky and Janáček - London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski

Although this concert was ostensibly, and in some respects a little tenuously, linked to the centenary of the Armistice, it did create some challenging assumptions about the nature of war. It was certainly the case in Magnus Lindberg’s new work, Triumf att finnas till… (‘Triumph to Exist…’) that he felt able to dislocate from the horror of the trenches and slaughter by using a text by the wartime poet Edith Södergran which gravitates towards a more sympathetic, even revisionist, expectation of this period.

François-Xavier Roth conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Works by Ligeti, Bartók and Haydn

For the second of my armistice anniversary concerts, I moved across town from the Royal Festival Hall to the Barbican.

The Silver Tassie at the Barbican Hall

‘Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.’ The words of George Orwell, expressed in a Tribune article, ‘The Sporting Spirit’, published in 1945.

The Last Letter: the Britten Sinfonia at Milton Court

The Barbican Centre’s For the Fallen commemorations continued with this varied and thought-provoking programme, The Last Letter, which interweaved vocal and instrumental music with poems and prose, and focused on relationships - between husband and wife, fellow soldiers, young men and their homelands - disrupted by war.

Fiona Shaw's Cendrillon casts a spell: Glyndebourne Tour 2018

Fiona Shaw’s new production of Massenet’s Cendrillon (1899) for this year’s Glyndebourne Tour makes one feel that the annual Christmas treat at the ballet or the panto has come one month early.

The Rake’s Progress: Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress is not, in many ways, a progressive opera; it doesn’t seek to radicalise, or even transform, opera and yet it is indisputably one of the great twentieth-century operas.

Bampton Classical Opera to perform Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors

Gian Carlo Menotti’s much-loved Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors was commissioned in America by the National Broadcasting Company and was broadcast in 1951 - the first-ever opera composed specifically for television. Menotti said that it “is an opera for children because it tries to recapture my own childhood”.

A raucous Così fan tutte at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Precisely where and when Così fan tutte takes place should be a matter of sublime indifference - or at least of individual taste. It is ‘about’ many things, but eighteenth-century Naples - should that actually be the less exotic yet still ‘othered’ neāpolis of Wiener Neustadt? - is not among them.

For the Fallen: James Macmillan's All the Hills and Vales Along at Barbican Hall

‘He has clothed his attitude in fine words: but he has taken the sentimental attitude.’ So, wrote fellow war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley of the last sonnets of Rupert Brooke.

English Touring Opera: Troubled fidelities and faiths

‘Can engaging with contemporary social issues save the opera?’ asked M. Sophia Newman last week, on the website, News City, noting that many commentators believe that ‘public interest in stuffy, intimidating, expensive opera is inevitably dwindling’, and that ‘several recent opera productions suggest that interest in a new kind of urban, less formally-staged, socially-engaged opera is emerging and drawing in new audiences to the centuries-old art form’.

Himmelsmusik: L'Arpeggiata bring north and south together at Wigmore Hall

Johann Theile, Crato Bütner, Franz Tunder, Christian Ritter, Giovanni Felice Sances … such names do not loom large in the annals of musical historiography. But, these and other little-known seventeenth-century composers took their place alongside Bach and Biber, Schütz and Monteverdi during L’Arpeggiata’s most recent exploration of musical cross-influences and connections.

Complementary Josquin masses from The Tallis Scholars

This recording on the Gimell label, the seventh of nine in a series by the Tallis Scholars which will document Josquin des Prés’ settings of the Mass (several of these and other settings are of disputed authorship), might be titled ‘Sacred and Profane’, or ‘Heaven and Earth’.

Piotr Beczała – Polish and Italian art song, Wigmore Hall London

Can Piotr Beczała sing the pants off Jonas Kaufmann ? Beczała is a major celebrity who could fill a big house, like Kaufmann does, and at Kaufmann prices. Instead, Beczała and Helmut Deutsch reached out to that truly dedicated core audience that has made the reputation of the Wigmore Hall : an audience which takes music seriously enough to stretch themselves with an eclectic evening of Polish and Italian song.

Soloists excel in Chelsea Opera Group's Norma at Cadogan Hall

“Let us not be ashamed to be carried away by the simple nobility and beauty of a lucid melody of Bellini. Let us not be ashamed to shed a tear of emotion as we hear it!”

Handel's Serse: Il Pomo d'Oro at the Barbican Hall

Sadly, and worryingly, there are plenty of modern-day political leaders - both dictators and the democratically elected - whose petulance, stubbornness and egoism threaten the safety of their own subjects as well as the stability and security of other nations.

Dutch touring Tosca is an edge-of-your-seat thriller

Who needs another Tosca? Seasoned opera buffs can be blasé about repertoire mainstays. But the Nederlandse Reisopera’s production currently touring the Netherlands is worth seeing, whether it is your first or your hundred-and-first acquaintance with Puccini’s political drama. The staging is refreshing and pacey. Musically, it has the four crucial ingredients: three accomplished leads and a conductor who swashbuckles through the score in a blaze of color.

David Alden's fine Lucia returns to ENO

The burden of the past, and the duty to ensure its survival in the present and future, exercise a violent grip on the male protagonists in David Alden’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor for English National Opera, with dangerous and disturbing consequences.

Verdi's Requiem at the ROH

The full title of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem per l’anniversario della morte di Manzoni 22 maggio 1874 attests to its origins, but it was the death of Giacomo Rossini on 13th November 1868 that was the initial impetus for Verdi’s desire to compose a Requiem Mass which would honour Rossini, one of the figureheads of Italian cultural magnificence, in a national ceremony which - following the example of Cherubini’s C minor Requiem and Berlioz’s Grande messe des morts - was to be as much a public and political occasion as a religious one.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Thomas Linley the Younger
17 Nov 2016

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Georg Anton Benda Romeo and Juliet, Thomas Linley A Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare Bampton Classical Opera, conductor Gilly French, John's Smith Square, 11 November 2016

A review by Anne Ozorio

 

Fairies, nature spirits and the supernatural inspired the transition between the orderliness of the Enlightenment and the wild, revolutionary spirit of the Romantic Age. This delightful yet thoughtful concert from Bampton Classical Opera contrasted two pieces, both from 1776: Thomas Linley's Ode on the Spirits of Shakespeare and Georg Anton Benda's Romeo and Juliet, showing how two very different composers responded to Shakespeare in their own, original ways.

Georg Anton Benda (1722-1795) was a member of a family well-connected to the German musical establishment. His Romeo und Julie was a three-act "ernsthafte Oper" a Singspiele with prose text by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, who also adapted The Tempest. Benda and Gotter subscribed to the principles of classical antiquity as perceived in their time, dramatic values that predicated on the unity of time, action and place. Thus Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was pared down, Benda's Romeo und Juliet focusing on the key characters. Bampton Classical Opera presented a half-hour version of Benda's original, revolving around Juliet (Clare Lloyd-Griffiths) and Romeo (Thomas Herford). Laura (Caroline Kennedy) duets with Juliet, and a single Capulet (Richard Latham) stands in for the feuding families. The choruses (as in Greek drama), sung by Cantandum, thus provide backdrop and commentary. Lloyd-Griffiths, substituting at short notice for Rosalind Coad, was very well cast. She has an attractive, bright timbre that captures Juliet's youth and purity. In the recit and aria, Juliet is already contemplating death "I am trembling with such joy and with such fear....See, the moon turns pale...."

Thomas Linley (1756-1778) was part of the English theatrical and artistic establishment. His father was a famous actor; his sister, also an actress, was a muse of Thomas Gainsborough and married Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Unfortunately Linley died so young that part of his mystique rests on what he might have been had he matured. Linley's A Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare adapts a text by his teenage schoolmate, who also died young. Its hyberbolic exaggeration thus represent the enthusiasm of youth. The Spirit of Avon (Clare Lloyd-Griffiths) and Fancy (Caroline Kennedy) are memes in an allegory, not fleshed out-personalities as in Shakespeare or, indeed, most opera.

Linley's Ode began with an overture, very much in a formal style, but more salon piece than Handelian public opera. Gilly French conducted the Bampton Classical Players, on period instruments including harpsichord, with antique horns and trumpets, positioned at each side of the stage. The Englishness of the aesthetic came over well. "O guardian of that sacred land, where Avon's wood-crowned waters stray" sang the chorus. Though the Avon in question would be Stratford-on-Avon, as there are references too to Arden, it may or may not be significant that the Linleys had connections with the Avon of Bath and Bristol. Thus the Spirit of Avon (Lloyd-Griffiths) addresses Greek deities advising them that "Shakespeare now demands your lays" As the Spirit of Avon, Lloyd-Griffiths had more with which to demonstrate her range. Lloyd-Griffiths is also interesting because she's very English, (though she may be Welsh) and The Spirit of Avon is a kind of Britannia. English sopranos are a distinct Fach, an aesthetic that's much under-appreciated. Lloyd-Griffiths reminds me of Lucy Crowe. Caroline Kennedy, as Fancy, also has a bigger part, and used it well. Although the mood in the First Part of Linley's Ode glorifies Shakespeare's birth like a divine act (witnessed by Jove himself), darker mysteries creep in. What to make of the "sordid wishes of the grov'ling crowd that chain the free-born mind"?

In Part II of Linley's Ode, the Fearful Observer (Richard Latham) sings of the id-like world of the night where "with feeble cries the gliding spectres throng". Linley responds to these sinister images with vividly dramatic figures, even spookier because they're conjured up with small ensemble and the timbre of period instrumentation. French and her orchestra rose to the occasion, playing with animated vigour. But dawn breaks, and spells are broken. The Spirit of Avon announces peace, since these horrors were created by Shakespeare's art. "For who can wield like Shakespeare's skilful hand, that magic wand, whose potent sway the elves of earth,of air, of sea obey?" Yet Linley's not just looking back. He sets the final lines with mischevious glee: "Oh, give another Shakespeare to our Isle".

Anne Ozorio

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):