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

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Kathryn Rudge at the Wigmore Hall
13 Feb 2017

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

Kathryn Rudge at the Wigmore Hall

A review by Claire Seymour

Kathryn Rudge

Photo credit: Sussie Ahlberg

 

The dark clouds of WWI made their presence felt: this was a conflict that ended the expressive creativity of so many English poets and musicians, sending some to their deaths at Gallipoli (William Denis Browne) and others to the lingering ‘death’ of mental ill health (Ivor Gurney). It is no wonder that composers seemingly sought to ‘escape’ through art; nor that such expressive ‘retreats’ sometimes proved elusive, bitter, ironic or disenchanting.

Kathryn Rudge, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, demonstrated her ability to capture both the hope and the resignation that so many of these songs display. Always sincere and direct - although sometimes the text was less than clearly declaimed - Rudge exhibited a firm mezzo-soprano which is well-centred, secure and consistent across the register: rich at the bottom and glossy the top, but occasionally a little sturdy. James Baillieu showed why he is the heir apparent to such luminaries of the world of ‘accompanists’ (an unforgivably insufficient term!) as Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake … even with the piano lid fully raised Baillieu never once over-powered his soloist, yet there was not a gesture that was not defined with crystalline eloquence and when he took the opportunity to indulge in powerful expressive utterance, it was always with the utmost taste and composure.

Herbert Howells’ ‘Come Sing and Dance’ opened the programme, establishing a link to the past: the text comes from folk sources, an old carol, and Rudge displayed a sure sense of line which conveyed the confidence and assurance of times past. The mezzo’s vibrato was quite wide but also controlled, and she was alert to the nuanced harmonic twists and turns. Later, Howells’ Peacock Pie - settings of Walter de la Mare - took us to more ambiguous territory. The sparse irony of ‘Tired Tim’, the humorous bite of ‘Alas, alack!’ - Baillieu’s pinching accents embodied the spluttering fat of the ‘fish that talks in the frying pan’ - and the balladeer’s fluency of ‘Mrs MacQueen’ placed de la Mare’s apparent naïve simplicity under the spotlight of war’s acerbity.

‘The dunce’ lurched with delicious asymmetry; Baillieu maintained a teasing balance between regularity and stagger in the left hand, while the right hand picked out, with ironic snatches of brilliant precision, an acidic complement to the vocal line. The accompaniment of ‘Full moon’ sparkled with flashes of celestial gleam, a delightful complement to the drowsy loops of the voice.

Ivor Gurney’s ‘Sleep’ is probably the best-known of the five songs written to Elizabethan texts that the then undergraduate penned in 1914. I loved the hint of rubato in the piano introduction - as if the singer was rousing him/herself from torpor - and Rudge’s communicative colours made the sentiments tell, though I felt that she did not always craft the arching lines with absolute fluency, breathing where I would have wished for continuity. Gurney’s ‘Most Holy Night’, written when the composer was being treated in a mental asylum, was powerfully eloquent, though at times the words were lost. A slow tempo was adopted for ‘By a bierside’ but this gave the song a poignant gravitas. The concluding episode - an effulgent expansion and release for the piano, followed by major/minor nuances, and harmonic sequences leading to final plunging gestures - was unsettlingly stirring.

Three Roger Quilter’s songs permitted a gentle English whimsy to penetrate the Wigmore Hall. ‘Go, lovely rose’ confirmed Baillieu’s delicate vocalism - the ‘playout’ was seductively tender. ‘Now sleeps the crimson petal’ demonstrated Rudge’s consistency across registers: ‘The fire-fly wakens’ gleamed and glistened vibrantly; and the plea, ‘waken thou with me’, was penetrating and pointed.

In William Denis Browne’s ‘To Gratiana dancing and singing’, Rudge might have employed a more flamboyant, joyous rhetoric; but the final stanza was tellingly recounted, not least because Baillieu’s intently deliberated right hand, doubling the voice, was effectively deployed against deep bass chords and ripples.

The recital concluded with Frank Bridge’s ‘Three songs with viola’ of 1903-06. Guy Pomeroy has a beautifully relaxed and characterful tone, but he still could not always project through the busy accompaniment and well-defined vocal lines of ‘Far, far from each other’ (Matthew Arnold), although he did capture the roving, improvisatory air of the viola’s explorations, as the stringed instrument wrapped itself around the vocal line, slipped below and rose again with brightness.

In ‘Where is it that our soul doth go?’ Pomeroy offered both an embodiment of the voice’s anxiety and an, albeit ambiguous, response to its dilemmas. ‘Music, when soft voices die’ saw the viola, fittingly, take a more assertive role. The strumming assurance of the final tierce de Picardie was consoling.

Claire Seymour

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), James Baillieu (piano), Guy Pomeroy (viola)

Herbert Howells: ‘Come sing and dance’; Roger Quilter: ‘Go, lovely Rose’ Op.24 No.3 . ‘Now sleeps the crimson petal’ Op.3 No.2, ‘Music, when soft voices die’ Op.25 No.5; William Denis Browne - ‘To Gratiana dancing and singing’; Herbert Howells - Peacock Pie; Ivor Gurney - ‘Sleep’, ‘Most Holy Night’, ‘The fields are full’, ‘By a Bierside’; Frank Bridge - ‘Three songs for voice, viola and piano.

Wigmore Hall, London; 13th February 2017.

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):