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

Bampton Classical Opera: Bride & Gloom at St John's Smith Square

Last week the Office of National Statistics published figures showing that in the UK the number of women getting married has fallen below 50%.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Barbara Hannigan [Photo by Elmer R. de Haas]
03 Jan 2017

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Barbara Hannigan [Photo by Elmer R. de Haas]

 

With society bursting at its seams and our civilization at the edge of an abyss without a catcher in the rye, Grisey’s final work serves as a great foreshadowing composition at the end of the second millennium, but nobody seemed to be listening twenty years ago. It certainly resonates now!

Mr Rattle briefly introduced the piece, emphasizing the four different deaths. He also alluded to the current worldly chaos. He usually doesn’t speak about the music, but this clearly added to the performance's urgency. In retrospect, this unnerving, but sultry performance proved itself more an ominous premonition of future tidings. Especially after what happened a week later at the Christmas Market attack.

Gérard Grisey emerged from the spectralist school that produced some fascinating soundscapes. He carries on the lineage of Tristan Murail and Messiaen; though, Grisey distanced himself from such labels later in life. He completed this work just before his own passing in 1998.

Grisey’s masterpiece in four segments eerily depicts the deaths of an angel, civilization, voice, and mankind destroyed by nature. The “Death of an Angel” text was taken from Christian Guez-Ricord’s “The Hours of the Night”, heavy on Judeo-Christian images. “Death of Civilisation” Grisey based on Egyptian Sarcophagi, while 6th Century B.C., Greek poet Erinna originated the lyrics for “Death of Voices”. Finally, The Epic of Gilgamesh serves as the basis for the apocalyptical “Death of Mankind by Environment”.

Even though the concept seems terribly depressing, Grisey’s colourful and invigorating soundscapes full of saxophones and nonconventional uses of brass and strings really enlivened the auditorium. The depth dimensions in his composition really thrived in space. Without the theatrical vocal craft of Ms. Hannigan, this work might have a troublesome delivery.

The three percussive masters performing with an endless array of instruments must have had a field day with their exciting pulses and rhythms. They performed clearly inspired by Rattle, who of course, started out as a percussionist. Each movement was connected by the soothing scrubbing of what seemed like sandpaper on drum. These interludes created an otherworldly ambience, adding to eerie foreboding nature of this piece.

In a fabulous black spiderwebbed outfit, Hannigan shared the stage with Sir Simon revealing an intimate display of mutual respect. Spitting, regurgitating, and swallowing the syllables ever so elegantly through Grisey’s vocally acrobatic composition, Ms. Hannigan’s thrilling vocal expulsions, Mr Rattle dare not contain, but he must! They seemed superlatively in tune to each other with a symbiotic synergy one doesn’t often encounter.

Barbara Hannigan made her voice fluctuate and erupt with the languidness of boiling magma in a simmering volcano. Long vocal lines melted with the elongated curves of the trumpet’s calls, whose name I did not catch, but delivered the most memorable trumpet tones. His curves melted into Ms. Hannigan's voluptuous bends and turns.

In the end, the penetrant, disorienting sounds resulted in a lavish, arousing, but still fearful atmosphere. I hear you thinking ‘oh how dramatic’, but the sense of impending doom created by Hannigan and Rattle certainly fed into my political and environmental panic of what comes next?

The young audience yelled many bravi, while the applause continued for quite some time, but this was not a piece you could to which you could give an encore. I left the Philharmonie, thrilled, slightly unnerved by the sensual and exhilarating closure to this extravaganza... Berlin never ceases to disappoint.

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):