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

Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger commemorated at the Proms

Two French commemorations - ‘anniversaries’ always seems the wrong word - and surely is - here: the centenary of the deaths of Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger.

Pique Dame in Salzburg

It was emeritus night at the Salzburg Festival with 75 year old maestro Mariss Jansons conducting 77 year old stage director Hans Neuenfels production about Pushkin’s 87 year old countess known as the Pique Dame.

Lohengrin at Bayreuth

Three electrifying moments and the world is forever changed.

Salome in Salzburg

A Romeo Castellucci production is always news, it is even bigger news just now in Salzburg where Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has made her debut as the fifteen year-old Salome.

Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem - BBC Prom 41

Prom 41 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with Edward Gardner conducting the BBCSO in Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem, Elgar's Cello Concerto (Jean-Guihen Queyras) and Lili Boulanger . Extremely perceptive performances that revealed deep insight, far more profound than the ostensible "1918" theme

John Wilson brings Broadway to South Kensington: West Side Story at the BBC Proms

There were two, equal ‘stars’ of this performance of the authorised concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the Royal Albert Hall: ‘Lenny’ himself, whose vibrant score - by turns glossy and edgy - truly shone, and conductor John Wilson, who made it gleam, and who made us listen afresh and intently to every coloristic detail and toe-tapping, twisting rhythm.

Prom 36: Webern, Mahler, and Wagner

One of the joys of writing regularly – sometimes, just sometimes, I think too regularly – about performance has been the transformation, both conscious and unconscious, of my scholarship.

Prom 33: Thea Musgrave, Phoenix Rising, and Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, op.45

I am not sure I could find much of a connection between the two works on offer here. They offered ‘contrast’ of a sort, I suppose, yet not in a meaningful way such as I could discern.

Gianni Schicchi by Oberlin in Italy

It’s an all too rare pleasure to see Puccini’s only comedy as a stand alone opera. And more so when it is a careful production that uncovers the all too often overlooked musical and dramatic subtleties that abound in Puccini’s last opera.

Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton journey through the night at Cadogan Hall

The mood in the city is certainly soporific at the moment, as the blistering summer heat takes its toll and the thermometer shows no signs of falling. Fittingly, mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton presented a recital of English song settings united by the poetic themes of night, sleep, dreams and nightmares, juxtaposing masterpieces of the early-twentieth-century alongside new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Australian composer Lisa Illean, and two ‘long-lost’ songs by Britten.

Vanessa: Keith Warner's Glyndebourne production exposes truths and tragedies

“His child! It must not be born!” Keith Warner’s new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival Opera makes two births, one intimated, the other aborted, the driving force of the tragedy which consumes two women, Vanessa and her niece Erika, rivals for the same young man, Anatol, son of Vanessa’s former lover.

Rollicking Rossini in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Opera welcomed home a winningly animated production of L’Italiana in Algeri this season that utterly delighted a vociferously responsive audience.

Rock solid Strauss Salomé- Salzburg

Richard Strauss Salomé from the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, a powerful interpretation of an opera which defies easy answers, performed and produced with such distinction thast it suceeds on every level. The words "Te saxa Loquuntur" (The stones are speaking to you) are projected onto the stage. Salzburg regulars will recognize this as a reference to the rock foundations on which part of the city is built, and the traditions of excellence the Festival represents. In this opera, the characters talk at cross-purposes, hearing without understanding. The phrase suggests that what might not be explicitly spoken might have much to reveal.

Prom 26: Dido and Cleopatra – Queens of Fascination

In this, her Proms debut, Anna Prohaska offered something akin to a cantata of two queens, complementary and contrasted: Dido and Cleopatra. Returning in a sense to her ‘early music’ roots – her career has always been far richer, more varied, but that world has always played an important part – she collaborated with the Italian ‘period’ ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.

Parsifal: Munich Opera Festival

And so, this year’s Munich Opera Festival and this year’s Bavarian State Opera season came to a close with everyone’s favourite Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, in the final outing this time around for Pierre Audi’s new production.

Santa Fe: Atomic Doesn’t Quite Ignite

What more could we want than having Peter Sellars re-imagine his acclaimed staging of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the renowned Santa Fe Opera festival?

Santa Fe: Continuing a Proud Strauss Tradition

Santa Fe Opera has an enduring reputation for its Strauss, and this season’s enjoyable Ariadne auf Naxos surely made John Crosby smile proudly.

From the House of the Dead: Munich Opera Festival

Frank Castorf might have been born to direct From the House of the Dead. In this, his third opera project - or better, his third opera project in the opera house, for his Volksbühne Meistersinger must surely be reckoned with, even by those of us who did not see it - many of his hallmarks and those of his team are present, yet without the slightest hint of staleness, of anything other than being reborn for and in the work.

Haydn's Orlando Paladino in Munich

Should you not like eighteenth-century opera very much, if at all, and should you have no or little interest in Haydn either, this may have been the production for you. The fundamental premise of Axel Ranisch’s staging of Orlando Paladino seems to have been that this was a work of little fundamental merit, or at least a work in a genre of little such merit, and that it needed the help of a modern medium - perhaps, it might even be claimed, an equivalent medium - to speak to a contemporary audience.

Donizetti's 'Regiment' Ride the Highway: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

'The score … is precisely one of those works that neither the composer nor the public takes seriously. The harmony, melody, rhythmic effects, instrumental and vocal combinations; it’s music, if you wish, but not new music. The orchestra consumes itself in useless noises…'

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Angelika Kirchschlager [Photo © Nikolaus Karlinsky]
05 Feb 2018

Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday—Angelika Kirchschlager

At the Wigmore Hall, Schubert's birthday is always celebrated in style. This year, Angelika Kirchschlager and Julius Drake, much loved Wigmore Hall audience favourites, did the honours, with a recital marking the climax of the two-year-long Complete Schubert Songs Series. The programme began with a birthday song, Namenstaglied, and ended with a farewell, Abschied von der Erde. Along the way, a traverse through some of Schubert's finest moments, highlighting different aspects of his song output : Schubert's life, in miniature.

Franz Schubert: Lieder—Angelika Kirchschlager, Julius Drake, Wigmore Hall, London 31st January 2018

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Angelika Kirchschlager [Photo © Nikolaus Karlinsky]

 

A beautiful Namenstaglied D695 (1820), where the lines rock gently, almost more lullaby than Lied. it was written for one of Schubert's friends, Josefine Koller, who wanted to sing it to please her father. Not many singers can do artistry without artifice, but that genuine sincerity is one of Angelika Kirchschlager's great strengths. She can create youthful freshness like no-one else with the agility and purity of her timbre, yet can also warm that sweetness with a promise of innocent sensuality. In the context of those times, it was accepted that child-like beauties would grow into women, hopefully fulfilled by love. In reality, of course, things don't always work out right, so even happy Lieder can be haunted by a sense of unease. Thus Frühlingsglaube D686b (!820, Johann Ludwig Uhland) All things change, but, importantly, "Das Blühen will nicht enden". So have faith in Spring, for change is also endless renewal. In Geheimes D719 (1821,Goethe), a young person learns that love isn't easy, but in Im Frühling D882 (1826) the artist yet again finds solace in hope. Ironically, that song sets a text by Ernst Konrad Friedrich Schulze (1789-1817) whose obsessive love for two sisters wasn't romantic, as the love existed only in his mind. Bei dir allein ! D866 (?1828, Seidl), Lambertine D301 (1815 anon) and Am Bach im Frühling D361 (?1816, Franz von Schober) combined well, as did the next set : Ganymed D544 (1817, Goethe), Wiegenlied D489 (1816 anon). But with In der Mitternacht D464 (1816 Johan Georg Jacobi), a sense of doom intruded, preparing us for Erlkönig D328 (1815, Goethe) that masterpiece of Gothic horror. Since it sits fairly low, it's usually the preserve of male voices. Kirschschlager, however, made it work, since, for a change, we could hear it from the perspective of the terrified child.

Schubert himself blossomed early, reaching peaks early in his youth, dying before autumn set in. Gesang der Norna D832 (1825, Walter Scott) and Romanze zum Drama Rosamunde D797/3b (1823 Helmina von Chézy) connected to other genres Schubert was interested in, followed by more classic Lieder. Songs like Suleika I D720 (1821 Goethe) and Suleika II D717 (1821 Goethe) are Kirchschlager specialities, which suit her ability to create girlish charm tinged with tragedy. Her self confidence renewed, she sang with the warmth and sincerity that is her forte. Wigmore Hall Schubert Birthday concerts are far too high profile to cancel unless you're in extremis, which Kirchschlager was not. But Wigmore Hall audiences know Kirchschlager so well, and have heard her so often over the years, that we appreciate what she does. Singers are not machines. We understand the Liederabend ethos. Singers are singers, not machines. In Schubert's time, people didn't demand CD perfection, they cared about the singers as human beings. It's the Liederabend ethos. Kirchschlager and Drake rewarded us with classics like An den Mond D259 (1815 Goethe), Der Jüngling an der Quelle D300 (?1815 Johan Gaudenz von Salus-Seewiss), and Der Wanderer an den Mond D870 (1826 Seidl).

Finding joy in art, Schubert seems to have made light of his troubles, but we cannot help but ponder what might have been in his soul. Listening to Der Unlückliche D 713 (1821 Karoline Pichler) we can perhaps glimpse intimations of something beyond conventional Romantic morbidity. Yet the song responds to gloom by speeding up and pushing forwards: "Du hast geliebt", and later "Zerrissen sind nun alle süssen Bande". At moments, Drake's pounding forcefulness serves good purpose. In Lied des Florio D857/2 (!825, Christian Wilhelm von Schütz), we return to calm, "erst mit Tönen sanft wie Flöten". But this sleep is poisoned. Here Kirchschlager was at her peak again, with beautiful timbre and phrasing. The recital ended with Abschied von der Erde D829 (1826) The text comes from a play, Der Falke, written by teenage poet Adolf von Pratobvera von Weisborn as a gift to his father. Strictly speaking it is not a Lied at all. The voice part is declaimed, not sung, against a piano backdrop. As the last song in the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series, it's an extraordinarily moving moment. We remember that Schubert died in his prime, his voice silenced before its time, the piano lingering to remind us of its loss.

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):