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 Performances

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

Death in Venice at Deutsche Oper Berlin

This death in Venice is not the end, but the beginning.

Saint Cecilia: The Sixteen at Kings Place

There were eighteen rather than sixteen singers. And, though the concert was entitled Saint Cecilia the repertoire paid homage more emphatically to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and to the spirit of Christmas.

Insights on Mahler Lieder, Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen

At the Wigmore Hall, Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide in a recital of Schubert and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Rückert-Lieder. Schuen has most definitely arrived, at least among the long-term cognoscenti at the Wigmore Hall who appreciate the intelligence and sensitivity that marks true Lieder interpretation.

Ermelinda by San Francisco's Ars Minerva

It’s an opera by Vicentino composer Domenico Freschi that premiered in 1681 at the country home of the son of the doge of Venice. Villa Contarini is a couple of hours on horseback from Vicenza, and a few hours by gondola from Venice).

Wozzeck in Munich

It would be an extraordinary, even an unimaginable Wozzeck that failed to move, to chill one to the bone. This was certainly no such Wozzeck; Marie’s reading from the Bible, Wozzeck’s demise, the final scene with their son and the other children: all brought that particular Wozzeck combination of tears and horror.

Korngold's Die tote Stadt in Munich

I approached this evening as something of a sceptic regarding work and director. My sole prior encounter with Simon Stone’s work had not been, to put it mildly, a happy one. Nor do I count myself a subscriber or even affiliate to the Korngold fan club, considerable in number and still more considerable in fervency.

Exceptional song recital from Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

Thanks to the enterprise and vision of Lynton Atkinson - Artistic Director of Dorset-based Hurn Court Opera - two promising young singers on the threshold of glittering careers gave an outstanding recital at Salisbury’s prestigious Art Centre.

Lohengrin in Munich

An exceptional Lohengrin, this. I had better explain. Yes, it was exceptional in the quality of much of the singing, especially the two principal female roles, yet also in luxury casting such as Martin Gantner as the King’s Herald.

Hansel and Gretel in San Francisco

This Grimm’s fairytale in its operatic version found its way onto the War Memorial stage in the guise of a new “family friendly” production first seen last holiday season at London’s Royal Opera House.

An hypnotic Death in Venice at the Royal Opera House

Spot-lit in the prevailing darkness, Gustav von Aschenbach frowns restively as he picks up an hour-glass from a desk strewn with literary paraphernalia, objects d’art, time-pieces and a pair of tall candles in silver holders - by the light of which, so Thomas Mann tells us in his novella Death in Venice, the elderly writer ‘would offer up to art, for two or three ardently conscientious morning hours, the strength he had garnered during sleep’.

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Stockhausen’s <em>Cosmic Pulses</em> and <em>Stimmung</em>, Singcircle at the Barbican
22 Nov 2017

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.

Stockhausen’s Cosmic Pulses and Stimmung, Singcircle at the Barbican

A review by Marc Bridle

Above: Cosmic Pulses

Photo credit: Mark Allan

 

“I am an adventurer. I like invention, I like discovery.” Karlheinz Stockhausen’s view of himself as a composer is, oddly enough, precisely what we experience as an audience when we hear and see his works. Though these pieces span the era of the student revolutions and social and political unrest of 1968, to the final two years of Stockhausen’s life when he was still tarnished by the “monstrous art” (my quotes) period before his death, there is much they have in common. They are works about projection - they both share a sense of ritual and mysticism, albeit from entirely differing perspectives. They are both works of theatre, though the impact of one is solitary whilst the impact of the other is entirely enveloping and spatial. STIMMUNG is entirely about inner voices projecting outwards; COSMIC PULSES, is about a hurricane of sound that projects inwards towards nothing and the eventual desolation of silence. They are both about the nature and extremes of sound - the possibilities that are thrown up by the human and the computerised.

STIMMUNG , it has to be said, is a notoriously difficult work to pull off. In part, the work’s structural simplicities (everything that follows is developed from a single low B flat) are offset by its vocal complexities (harmonics, pitch, melodies, identities, phonetics), and the improvisatory scale of the work that can make it vulnerable to wildly different timings. This one clocked in at almost exactly 70 minutes, a touch shorter than usual. Singcircle have this music in their blood, and the performance was driven by a sense of momentum and intimacy that has been lacking in some performances I’ve heard elsewhere. Today, there is a considerable age gap between some of these artists - Gregory Rose has been with the ensemble for all of its forty years; other members very much less than this. This posed some challenges, especially vocally, but the unanimity of ensemble was both transparent and pitch sharp.

Stimmung.jpgSTIMMUNG. Photo credit: Mark Allan.

A masterpiece this work might be, but in a bad performance it can be a very dull masterpiece. I found the six voices - three female, and three male - to be almost perfectly in tune with what each was doing: singers were able to find an identity, a requisite in this work, and then pass it on so the performance had a seamless quality to it. Tempos, rhythms and dynamics were almost universally shared between the sextet. Perhaps today, Stockhausen’s actual text for STIMMUNG - with its erotic and intimate love poems - doesn’t raise quite the same sense of surprise it might have in 1967/8 any more than one would find the poetry or drawings of Verlaine or Cocteau risky; in this sense, the work sounds a little dated. The staging for STIMMUNG was as it usually is - a bright globe on a table with the singers placed around it. If in this particular instance this had the feeling of Leonardo’s Last Supper this was probably not by design. The only occasional problem during the performance was some microphone glare through the speakers at the sides of the auditorium but this was barely loud enough to cause a significant problem.

Stochausen.jpgCOSMIC PULSES. Photo credit: Mark Allan.

The intimacy of STIMMUNG before the interval had been memorable, but the pyroclastic explosion of sound that is COSMIC PULSES was on a different level entirely. Composed in 2006/7 as part of the incomplete KLANG cycle, based on the 24 hours of the day, COSMIC PULSES, is the thirteenth hour. Musically, in its most basic sense, it’s twenty-four melodic loops, each of which has a different number of registers between one and twenty-four, rotated in twenty-four registers between a range of seven octaves. The loops are then layered on each other in a sequence from low to high, and slow to fast - and then they repeat and end one another in the same order until the work ends in desolation as if the universe has imploded on itself. They are played through eight speakers giving a sense of dynamic, surround sound.

The cleverness behind COSMIC PULSES is multi-fold. Stockhausen could simply have done nothing with the sound other than left it pure - but he doesn’t. The tempi are given accelerandi and ritardandi - just as the electro-acoustic melody is pushed upwards and downwards, elastically stretched to breaking point, sounding at times like electronic glissandi. The greatness of the work is that huge blocks of electronic sound have an almost neo-classical form to them. I remain unconvinced I heard everything as intended, but the spatialisation of the work was more dramatic than I have encountered on the CD recording of the work, for example. Visually, of course, looking straight ahead at an empty black stage is rather like peering into a black hole. The eyes are drawn up to fan-belts of lasers that spin and loop to the changes of the tempo. Did Robert Henke’s laser projection add anything to the performance? I think yes because it underscored the work’s planetary sculpture. This was certainly an unforgettable experience.

Marc Bridle

Singcircle - Gregory Rose - bass, Jacqueline Barron - soprano, Zoë Freedman - soprano, Heather Cairncross - mezzo, Guy Elliott - tenor, Angus Smith - tenor.

Robert Henke - laser artist, Kathlinka Pasveer - sound projection, Stephen Montague - assistant sound projection, Reinhard Klose - sound engineer.

Barbican Hall, London; 20th November 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):