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 Performances

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

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):