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

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Scene from Marian Vespers [Photo courtesy of Dutch National Opera]
10 Jun 2017

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Scene from Marian Vespers [Photo courtesy of Dutch National Opera]

 

Then, for close to two hours, a spellbinding ritual unfolds. This was not a wake for a Catholic notable, but Claudio Monteverdi’s 1610Vespro della Beata Vergine, conceived by director Pierre Audi as a mise-en-écoute. The premiere of this Dutch National Opera production, or rather art installation with live music, opened the 70 th edition of the Holland Festival. The corpse lying in state was Berlinde De Bruyckere’s Cripplewood (2012-2013), a huge, fractured tree trunk, made of wax and textile, the Belgian exhibit at the 2013 Art Biennale in Venice. Its raw and bandaged branches were inspired by the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, who was tied to a tree and pierced with a volley of arrows. Audi’s solemn and understated presentation was centered around this moving contemplation on suffering and mortality.

For the occasion the Gashouder in Amsterdam, a spacious circular building for gas storage from 1902, was transformed into a cavernous crypt. The music, by conductor Raphaël Pichon and his Pygmalion baroque ensemble, was the spectacle, underlined by subtle visuals. Seats were upholstered in neutrals and pale pastels matching the bandages and ligatures of Cripplewood. The singers moved deliberately, acting as both celebrants and congregation, in monochrome clothes, from contemporary smart casual to Victorianesque. Elusive video projections on the cloth-lined walls suggested light filtered through stained glass. Curling wisps on the cast-iron ceiling of the Gashouder called up pillowy clouds in church paintings. Felice Ross lit Cripplewood in a slow dance of light and shadow – exposing its jutting bones while clothing the rest in darkness, tinting it a restful bluish-gray, or intensifying its pink stains, the color of weak blood.

The musicians occupied a slice of the stands, with the audience seated on the rest of the circle. The singers reconfigured their positions for each excerpt, in front, behind and above the public. Pichon reproduced the early baroque cori spezzati (separated choruses) by scattering the chorus across the venue. He achieved the most effective result when the singers lined themselves up in the aisles among the public, wrapping the space in surround sound. Monteverdi probably composed the Marian Vespers, together with a mass for six voices, as a job application for a prestigious appointment in either Rome or Venice. Rome did not oblige, but in 1613 he was appointed maestro di cappella at St Mark's Basilica in Venice. As such, it is not so much a single whole as a collection of parts from which a vespers service can be assembled. Pichon chose to add Gregorian chant antiphons (call and response prayers) between Monteverdi’s alternating psalms and motets, adding about twenty-five minutes to customary performances of the work. The choir sang superbly, with just the right dose of vibrato, its fresh soprano section plating their sound with silver. The first Monteverdi versicle of Deus in adiutorium was calculatedly slow. Pichon then set his style of unhurried but varying tempi in the psalm Dixit Dominus. The musicians were not always as agile as the choir, but they provided rich continuo accompaniment and enchanting string solos featuring a lira da braccio.

All eight soloists, miked by necessity, were thoroughly accomplished. However, the two female soloists achieved a higher plane of tonal beauty, both individually and in their duets. Giuseppina Bridelli’s mezzo-soprano was the fertile earth above which Eva Zaïcik’s lighter-hued voice flowered gorgeously. Having the soloists answer and echo each other high above the public created sonic magic, especially in Duo Seraphim, where two male singers echo each other’s rippling melismas, then are joined by a third when they declaim the mystery of the holy trinity. Appropriately, at the end the Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of praise at the start of her pregnancy, superseded what went before. Pichon gave it a light brilliance while maintaining the greatness of its architecture. A pensive Renaissance Madonna appeared on the wall, eyes cast down at her infant. It was as if she was envisaging his suffering, all human suffering, as attested by the mass of tortured limbs on the ground. As the staging was not connected to the text, there were no surtitles to translate the Biblical and liturgical excerpts. Regardless of how familiar people were with the words, the sound and images invited personal associations. Beauty, suffering, mystery, heaven and earth – Monteverdi’s ravishing Marian Vespers embodies all of these, as did this production. After the Magnificat Pichon added another antiphon. He then repeated the Toccata from Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo quoted at the beginning of the Vespers, bringing this extraordinary performance full circle.

Jenny Camilleri


Credits:

Eva Zaïcik, mezzo-soprano; Giuseppina Bridelli, mezzo-soprano; Magnus Staveland, tenor; Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro; Olivier Coiffet, tenor; Virgile Ancely, bass; Renaud Bres, bass; Geoffroy Buffiere, bass; Pierre Audi, director; Berlinde De Bruyckere, sculpture and concept scenography; Roel van Berckelaer, costumes and set design; Felice Ross, lighting design; Mirjam Devriendt, video; Jan Panis, sound. Pygmalion Choir and Orchestra; Raphaël Pichon, conductor. Seen at the Gashouder, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, Saturday, 3rd June, 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):