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

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

21 Mar 2017

Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, Barbican London

Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.

Schubert:Symphony no 8 "The Unfinished", Brahms A German Requiem, Fabio Luisi, London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus, Simon Keenlyside, Julia Kleiter, Barbican Hall London, 19th March 2017

A review by Anne Ozorio

Johannes Brahms

 

The Barbican Centre is built over the remains of a much older London, which still exists in hidden corners. During the week, the metropolis is manic, but on a Sunday night, a quiet calm descends, and once more you can feel the presence of the past amid the high tech towers and traffic. Under the Barbican Hall itself was Three Herring Court, where my companion's ancestors lived in extreme poverty. An atmospheric way in which to experience Brahms German Requiem, which commemorates the endurance of the human spirit across boundaries of time and place. Not for nothing did Brahms blend together verses from the Old and New Testaments, evidence of an upbringing steeped in North German Lutheran tradition, even though he rejected conventional piety, and lived much of his life in staunchly Catholic Vienna. .

The voices of the London Symphony Chorus rose beautifully from the hushed opening chords. "Selig sind, die da Lied tragen", for those who go forth weeping bearing precious seed will return "Mit Freuden und bringen ihre Garben". Death is a not an end, but a process. With Sir Simon Rattle as Music Director of the LSO, Londoners get another advantage : Simon Halsey, Rattle's choral counterpart through the years at Birmingham and in Berlin. The LSO Chorus sounded luminous, voices carefully blended. If anything, the LSO Chorus sounded even richer in the second movement Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras though this brought the orchestra to the fore. The "march" theme was particularly well defined, with a good sense of surge underlying the solemn, deliberate pace, so when the lyrical motif appeared, it suggested light and hope. The fanfare at the end of the movement was understated but confident.

Simon Keenlyside sang the baritone part, which he has taken many times before. Experience showed. Brahms quotes Psalm 9 (verses 4 to 7), where a man contemplates his fate : humility is of the essence, surrounded as he is by the tumult in the orchestra. Yet the assured, unforced timbre of Keenlyside's singing highlighted the inner strength that comes from faith, whatever the source of that faith. When the chorus joined in, the protagonist was no longer alone, in every sense. Perhaps for this reason the song with soprano (Julia Kleiter) Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit was added, for it is a moment of illumination, before the mood turns sombre yet again. The solemn processional of the second movement echoes in the sixth. Forceful chords from the orchestra, and a blazing fanfare of brass, strings and percussion, and the chorus in full swell , for momentous changes are to come. The trumpets rang out, as in the Book of Revelation, a trumpet will herald the End of Time, when the dead of past ages will be raised to life again. Keenlyside's voice rang out "Wir werden verwandelt werden" and the chorus entered, forcefully "Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg!" A thunderous finale, after which it took some moments to recover.

Fabio Luisi and the London Symphony Orchestra were impressive, and their Schubert Symphony no 8 was excellent, well poised and stylish. But the full honours went to the London Symphony Chorus, for Brahms's German Requiem is one of the high points in the choral repertoire. "Selig sind die Toten.....daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit". Rich, fulsome playing from the LSO, luminous singing from the LSO Chorus. The German Requiem concluded in transcendance.

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):