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

Temple Winter Festival: the Gesualdo Six

‘Gaudete, gaudete!’ - Rejoice, rejoice! - was certainly the underlying spirit of this lunchtime concert at Temple Church, part of the 5th Temple Winter Festival. Whether it was vigorous joy or peaceful contemplation, the Gesualdo Six communicate a reassuring and affirmative celebration of Christ’s birth in a concert which fused medieval and modern concerns, illuminating surprising affinities.

Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida at the Wigmore Hall

The journey is always the same, and never the same. As Ian Bostridge remarks, at the end of his prize-winning book Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, when the wanderer asks Der Leiermann, “Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?”, in the final song of Winterreise, the ‘crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again’.

Turandot in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera wrapped up its 95th fall opera season just now with a bang up Turandot. It has been a season of hopeful hints that this venerable company may regain some of its former luster.

Daniel Michieletto's Cav and Pag returns to Covent Garden

It felt rather decadent to be sitting in an opera house at 12pm. Even more so given the passion-fuelled excesses of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which might seem rather too sensual and savage for mid-day consumption.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake celebrate 25 years of music-making

In 1992, concert promoter Heinz Liebrecht introduced pianist Julius Drake to tenor Ian Bostridge and an acclaimed, inspiring musical partnership was born. On Wenlock Edge formed part of their first programme, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk; and, so, in this recital at Middle Temple Hall, celebrating their 25 years of music-making, the duo included Vaughan Williams’ Housman settings for tenor, piano and string quartet alongside works with a seventeenth-century origin or flavour.

Girls of the Golden West in San Francisco

Not many (maybe any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.

DiDonato is superb in Semiramide at Covent Garden

It’s taken a while for Rossini’s Semiramide to reach the Covent Garden stage. The last of the operas which Rossini composed for Italian theatres between 1810-1823, Semiramide has had only one outing at the Royal Opera House since 1887, and that was a concert version in 1986.

Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Artaserse at the Wigmore Hall

‘His master’s masterpiece, the work of heaven’: ‘a common fountain’ from which flow ‘pure silver drops’. At the risk of effulgent hyperbole, I’d suggest that Antonio’s image of the blessed governance and purifying power of the French court - in the opening scene of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi - is also a perfect metaphor for the voice of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, as it slips through Handel’s roulades like a silken ribbon.

La Rondine Takes Flight in San Jose

Kudos to San Jose Opera for offering up a wholly winning, consistently captivating new production of Puccini’s seldom performed La Rondine.

Clonter Opera Gala

Clonter’s Opera Gala in the breath-taking beautiful ball-room at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair was a glamorously glittering smattering of opera – which made me want to run out to every opera in town.  

A New Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the start of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s splendid, new production of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre conflict and resolution are portrayed throughout with moving intensity. The central character Brünnhilde is sung by Christine Goerke and her father Wotan by Eric Owens.

As One a Haunting Success in San Diego

San Diego Opera has mined solid gold with its mesmerizing and affecting production of As One, a part of their innovative ‘Detour Series.’

OLF: Songs by Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein, Rachmaninov and Georgy Sviridov

Compared to the oft-explored world of German lieder and French chansons, the songs of Russia are unfairly neglected in recordings and in the concert hall. The raw emotion and expansive lyricism present in much of this repertoire was clearly in evidence at the Holywell Music Room for the penultimate day of the celebrated Oxford Lieder Festival.

Stockhausen’s STIMMUNG and COSMIC PULSES at the Barbican.

This concert was an event on several levels - marking a decade since the death of Stockhausen, the fortieth anniversary (almost to the day) since Singcircle first performed STIMMUNG (at the Round House), and their final public performance of the piece. It was also a rare opportunity to hear (and see) Stockhausen’s last completed purely electronic work, COSMIC PULSES - an overwhelming visual and aural experience that anyone who was at this concert will long remember.

Nico Muhly's Marnie at ENO

Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie was bold for its time. Its themes of sexual repression, psychological suspense and criminality set within the dark social fabric of contemporary Britain are but outlier themes of the anti-heroine’s own narrative of deceit, guilt, multiple identities and blackmail.

TOSCA: A Dramatic Sing-Fest

On November 12, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s verismo opera, Tosca, in a dramatic production directed by Tara Faircloth. Her production utilized realistic scenery from Seattle Opera and detailed costumes from the New York City Opera. Gregory Allen Hirsch’s lighting made the set look like the church of St. Andrea as some of us may have remembered it from time gone by.

The Lighthouse: Shadwell Opera at Hackney Showroom

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … and horror … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars. Make him think the evil, make him think it for himself, and you are released from weak specifications.’

Elisabeth Kulman sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder with Sir Mark Elder and the Britten Sinfonia

Austrian singer Elisabeth Kulman has had an interesting career trajectory. She began her singing life as a soprano but later shifted to mezzo-soprano/contralto territory. Esteemed on the operatic stage, she relinquished the theatre for the concert platform in 2015, following an accident while rehearsing Tristan.

Tremendous revival of Katie Mitchell's Lucia at the ROH

The morning sickness, miscarriage and maundering wraiths are still present, but Katie Mitchell’s Lucia di Lammermoor, receiving its first revival at the ROH, seems less ‘hysterical’ this time round - and all the more harrowing for it.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Janine Jansen [Photo courtesy of Oslo Camerata]
08 Feb 2017

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Janine Jansen [Photo courtesy of Oslo Camerata]

 

Never has it touched me so deeply nor have I heard it resonate so fiercely in the Great Hall. Following the performance of the Berliner the night before, the luxurious transparency of the RCO made for a stunning contrast to the BPO’s thickened sound in Verdi’s Requiem.

Ahead of the tour to Shanghai, Beijing, and for the first time, Singapore, Gatti led in the programmes at home in Amsterdam. The first included the crowd pleasers Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and La Mer followed by Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. Gatti combined the three works together for the first time in RCO’s history. I did not attend this performance, but instead opted for the second. These classical blockbusters the RCO might as well play in the dark, and are practically impossible for the orchestra to perform disappointingly.

In a change of seating, I situated myself on the fourth row a few seats inward so I had a close up vision of Mr. Gatti and Ms. Jansen elevated on stage. It was a fascinating position, albeit problematic to observe the entire orchestra, but that was not my purpose tonight. First Berg, then Bruckner, but let me start with the Bruckner’s Romantic.

Gatti hummed along as the horns awakened the morning in Bruckner Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major. Balding his fist, Mr Gatti turned out the celli, revving like a luxurious engine. Wind instruments resonated in lighthearted bird calls. He held his hand in front of his chest, as the violas tugged on your heartstrings. Gatti already had a go around with Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony earlier this season on tour, so perhaps it was the long interval between performance that made tonight’s performance feel fragmented.

The momentum that surged through the early Berg tapered off somewhere in the third movement of Bruckner, which then simmered without a forward propulsion. As a result the last movement lacked its burning potential. I had hoped for a more thunderous climax. A coughing spree took over the audience, which marked a break in the musical tension that lingered inspired by the synergy in Berg. Next season he will see his debut with Bruckner’s Ninth.

So his collaboration with Janine Jansen before the intermission made for the unforgettable experience. Berg’s work, To the memory of an Angel, is dedicated to Manon, Alma Mahler’s daughter with Walter Gropius. A muse for Berg, she died from Polio at eighteen. Like Wozzeck, the work thrives in live performance as space elucidates the layers and transparency. Berg’s work also grows on you the more you listen to it. Brilliant colours and mysterious sadness seduce deeply.

Gatti masterfully brought out sparkling details, while Jansen impelled Berg’s meandering twelve tone passages without ever losing intensity: poignant and shrill, but full of warmth. I have heard her Tchaikovsky, Bruch, and Mendelssohn, but in Berg tonight a new mature confidence emanated from her. Don’t get me wrong, she still has her youthful playfulness, but her commitment (from up close) radiated with an aged wisdom in her intent…a calibrated force of nature.

Almost a member of the orchestra, she has performed over forty times with them. Each concert is basically a sell-out. A powerful inspirator, the RCO flourishes when she solos. And it was interesting to observe how she consistently looked around and made eye contact with the concertmaster.

On the other hand, a strange dynamic unfolded as she sought contact with Gatti. They never seemed to have eye contact, it was felt in the music though. As she looked at him, he was busy bringing about Berg’s colour and life in the orchestra, but when he looked at her, well, he just glanced at her, knowing she was the star. As a supportive uncle, who doesn’t doubt nor dare interfere with niece’s talent.

His lack of flashy showmanship here made way made for significant more orchestral intensity, though never overshadowing her. Gatti created a rich tapestry, and kept the pianissimo moments ever so delicate and suspenseful. Those ruffling timpani! He had dazzled my ears before with Berg’s concerto with Leonidas Kavakos's refined approach, but with Janine’s intense ferocity and romantic subtlety, this rendition became the most memorable I have heard.

Gatti is a different from Haitink, Chailly, and Jansons.His theatricality stems from his inner child’s giddiness as he conducts with authentic curiosity and enthusiasm. He just started, but he is as was evident in Berg (and Mahler’s Second earlier this season), Gatti is already capable of rousing the RCO’s spirit like his forefathers did. Sometimes he almost stares incredulously in response at the orchestra’s beauty. In time he will realise, he’s the one pulling the strings!

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):