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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Mortal Voices</em>Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court Concert Hall
16 Feb 2018

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

Mortal VoicesAcademy of Ancient Music at Milton Court Concert Hall

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Tim Mead

Photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega

 

On the one hand, a musician’s survival depended on patronage: wealthy individuals, and the institutes of state and Church, put their hands in their pockets and enabled budding young composers to learn their craft, and geniuses to get on with the business of composing masterpieces. On the other, the reflected glory - reputation for cultural discernment and refinement, social status among the wealthy elite - derived from works composed on demand was worth paying for.

Handel arrived in Rome in 1707 and one of his patrons was Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni who, each Wednesday, held concerts in his Palazzo della Cancelleria, directed by Corelli. Some think that Handel’s solo cantata, ‘Ah! che troppo ineguali’, may have been commissioned by Ottoboni; others that the commission came in 1708 from Cardinal Colonna, in celebration of the feast of the Madonna del Carmine. Whatever and whoever, the Church clearly had a hand in the composition: the text is religious, but non-liturgical, the brief recitative and short aria comprising a supplication to the Queen of Heaven to send peace down to earth - most likely a response to the War of the Austrian Succession in which the Papal States were then engaged.

Canadian soprano Keri Fuge, who won second prize in the 2011 Handel Singing Competition, seemed a little tense during the recitative, and took a while to gage the dimensions of the Milton Court Concert Hall. But, the slight shrillness and over-emphatic accents had gone by the time Fuge reached the da capo repeat, and though she employed what I thought was a rather wide vibrato, she summoned a noble eloquence which matched the sentiments of the accompaniment provided by members of the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christian Curnyn who made much of the expressive contrast between the high shine of the violins and the low sonorous of the bass strings and organ.

Fuge was joined by countertenor Tim Mead for Handel’s duet-cantata ‘Il Duello Amoroso’, which was composed in 1708 for Marquis Francesco Maria Ruspoli, a member of the Arcadian Academy. It presents a stand-off between a love-sick Arcadian shepherd, Daliso, and the scornful and supercilious Amarilli. Handel’s setting is characteristically playful: when Daliso threatens to subdue the teasing nymph, ‘either by force or inclination or resentment before the enticing pains of death come’, Amarilli doesn’t bat an eyelid: ‘No more! I would have you satisfy the wicked desire that torments you; unfeeling man, come! Why delay? Take the blade and strike it into this heart.’ The humiliated Daliso retreats and demands that she return his heart only to be further emasculated: ‘you do not have the torch that can kindle my flame.’

Keri Fuge.jpgKeri Fuge.

The menuetto of the three-part overture was delicately wry, but Mead initially seemed quietly crestfallen even stoical, rather than indignant and resentful, about his rejection. That said, his countertenor was agile and light, then sensuously legato, in the two parts of his opening aria, and later he summoned a simple plaintiveness - ‘Is it better to hear many times promises of love but not when they may be fulfilled?’ - which was complemented by some finely phrased violin-playing from the AAM. Fuge was more ‘on score’ and this, as well as Mead’s tendency to prioritise mellifluous beauty over dramatic impact, did temper the dramatic frisson between the pair. But, Amarilli’s cruelty was evident in a slight edge to the voice and in the pointed echoes between soprano and violins, though as the temptress’s fury rose so Fuge’s focus and intonation became less consistent. The showdown was spirited with Mead summoning an angry pride, expressed through vivid adornment - ‘Sì, , lasciami ingrate’ (Very well, leave me alone, heartless girl) - his bitterness highlighted by the contrast between the high vocal line and low-pitched accompaniment of cellos, bass and continuo.

Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater - commissioned by the Brotherhood of the Vergine dei dolori in Naples, in 1736 - followed after the interval, with the original vocal ensemble reduced to just two voices. I’m not sure of the wisdom of this slimming down of the vocal sound: in the opening duet, the poignant suspensions did not register as emphatically or with the immediacy that one might expect. Moreover, despite their concerted efforts to blend their voices, particularly in the duet ‘Sancta mater, istud agas’ (Holy mother, pierce me through), Fuge’s soprano was often dominant.

That said, the soprano aria ‘Vidit suum dulcem natum’ (She beheld her gentle child) which lies lower in the voice was very affecting, unfolding quietly and lyrically above hesitant accompanying phrases. And, the fugal duet, ‘Fac ut ardeat cor meum’ (Make me feel as thou has felt), generated fervency and passion.

Mead’s aria, ‘Fac ut portem Christi mortem’ was beautifully sung and his strong technique - well-crafted phrasing, assured breath control, impressive trills - apparent; the orchestral unisons added rhetorical weight.

In the final duet, ‘Quando corpus morietur’ (While my body here decays), the violas and celli shuddered with a suffering that was more tender than tragic. One was reminded of the question asked by Jean Frangois Marmontel in the Mercure de France (September 1778): ‘Does it not cause tears to fall?’ And as the vocal lines wound around each other the resultant dissonances made for a delicate but affecting statement of anguish and faith.

In this concert, The Academy of Ancient Music confirmed their status as perhaps the finest period-instrument ensemble performing today, not least with the fleet-footed performance of Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.1 in D major that opened the programme. The antiphonal placement of the violins created drama and excitement - there was some wonderfully seamless interplay between both section-leaders, Bojan Čičić and Rebecca Livermore, and the full violin ranks, particularly in the second Allegro. And, Curnyn drew a warm, full sound from his fairly small ensemble, Alastair Ross’s organ providing sonorous depth, particularly in the slow movements. The upper string players were standing throughout the concert which encouraged vitality and freedom - lead viola Alexandru-Mihai Bota exhibited surprising balletic nimbleness, despite his height! - but it was a pity that cellist Joseph Crouch was rather ‘buried’ amid the ensemble, for his contributions to the concertante episodes were beautifully dulcet yet incisive. The facility of all conveyed a virtuosic ease which, at the final cadence, cohered into a closing gesture of graciousness and taste.

Claire Seymour

Keri Fuge (soprano), Tim Mead (counter-tenor), Christian Curnyn (director, harpsichord), Academy of Ancient Music.

Corelli - Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.1 in D major, Handel - Cantatas HWV230 ‘Ah! Che troppo ineguali’ and HWV82 ‘Il Duello Amoroso’, Pergolesi - Stabat Mater.

Milton Court, London; Thursday 15th February 2018.

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):