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

La traviata at the Palais Garnier

The clatter of information was overwhelmed by soaring bel canto, Verdi’s domestic tragedy destroyed by director Simon Stone, resurrected by conductor Michele Mariotti, a tour de force for South African soprano Pretty Yende.

San Jose Pops the Cork With Fledermaus

Opera San Jose vivaciously kicked off its 2019–2020 season with a heady version of Strauss’ immortal Die Fledermaus that had all the effervescence of vintage champagne.

Tempestuous Francesca da Rimini opens Concertgebouw Saturday matinee series

Two Russian love letters to the tragic thirteenth century noblewoman Francesca da Rimini inaugurated the Saturday matinee series at the Concertgebouw.

Immortal Beloved: Beethoven Festival at Wigmore Hall

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park 2019

Lyric Opera of Chicago presented this year’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park. The evening’s program featured a range of selections from works to be presented in the 2019–2020 season along with arias and scenes from other notable and representative operas.

Prom 74: Uplifting Beethoven from Andrew Manze and the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover

Ceremony, drama and passion: this Beethoven Night by the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover under their Chief Conductor Andrew Manze had all three and served them up with vigour and a compelling freshness, giving Prommers at this eve-of-Last-Night concert an exciting and uplifting evening.

Prom 69: Elena Stikhina’s auspicious UK debut in a dazzling Czech Philharmonic concert

Rarely can any singer have made such an unforgettable UK debut in just twelve minutes of music. That was unquestionably the case with the Russian soprano, Elena Stikhina, who in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, sang with such compelling stage magnetism and with a voice that has everything you could possibly want.

Prom 68: Wagner Abend - Christine Goerke overwhelms as Brünnhilde

Wagner Nights at the Proms were once enormously popular, especially on the programmes of Sir Henry Wood. They have become less so, perhaps because they are simply unfashionable today, but this one given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht steered clear of the ‘bleeding chunk’ format which was usually the norm. It was still chunky, but in an almost linear, logical way and benefited hugely from being operatic (when we got to the Wagner) rather than predominantly orchestral.

Prom 65: Danae Kontora excels in Mozart and Strauss

On the page this looked rather a ‘pick-and-mix’ sort of Prom from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis, who was making his Proms debut. In the event, it was not so much a Chinese take-away as a Michelin-starred feast for musical gourmands.

British Youth Opera: Rossini's La Cenerentola

Stendhal (as recorded in his Life of Rossini) was not a fan of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, complaining that after the first few bars of the Introduzione he was already suffering from a ‘faint feeling of nausea’, a condition which ‘never entirely dissipated, [recurring] periodically throughout the opera, and with increasing violence’.

La traviata at the Arena di Verona

There is esoteric opera — 16,500 spectators at this year’s Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, and there is pop opera — upwards of 500,000 spectators for the opera festival at the Arena di Verona, one quarter of them for an over-the-top new production of La traviata, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings Benvenuto Cellini to the Proms

Berlioz' Benvenuto Cellini is quite rarity on UK stages. Covent Garden last performed it in 1976 and English National Opera performed it for the first time in 2014 (in Terry Gilliam's riotous production), and yet the opera never quite goes away either.

Prom 58: varied narratives from the BBCSSO and Ilan Volkov

There are many ways and means to tell a story: through prose, poetry, sounds, pictures, colours, movement.

Prom 53: Elgar’s emotionally charged Music Makers

British music with an English and strong European accent marked this Prom featuring three well-wrought works, stylistically worlds apart but each characterised by a highly individual musical personality.

Scoring a Century: British Youth Opera at the Peacock Theatre

‘It is well known that Eisler was a master of the art of self-contradiction, using non-sequitur, change of tack and playing devil’s advocate in a brilliantly ironic way in an attempt to look at a problem from every angle, to expose it fully to the gaze of his interlocutor. For an ordinary person to take part in this, let alone keep up with the pace and fully appreciate the wide range of references, which his enormous reading threw out, was wonderfully stimulating, and exhausting.’

Prom 55: Handel's Jephtha

‘For many it is the masterpiece among his oratorios.’

Opera della Luna's HMS Pinafore sails the seas at Wilton's Music Hall

The original production of HMS Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25th May 1878 and ran for an astonishing 571 performances. Opera della Luna’s HMS Pinafore, which has been cresting the operatic oceans for over twenty years now, has notched up almost as many performances.

Spectra Ensemble present Treemonisha at Grimeborn

‘We see him now as one of the most important creators of his generation, certainly comparable to Schoenberg.’ T.J. Anderson, who reconstructed the score of Scott Joplin’s only surviving opera, Treemonisha, for its first staged production in 1972, was probably rather over-enthusiastic in his assessment.

Fortieth Anniversary Gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

Earlier this month I reported from the Macerata Opera Festival – a largely Italian affair frequented by few foreigners. One week later I attended the 40th anniversary gala of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, about 100 km north in the same region of Le Marche and a prominent stop on the international circuit. One one hears much English, French, German and Japanese, and the printed program features a long list of non-Italian financial sponsors.

Bel Canto Beauty at St George's Hanover Square: Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda

A merciless and neurotic ruler, whose right to govern is ambiguous and disputed. A dignified Queen whose star is setting, as her husband’s heart burns with new love and her lady-in-waiting betrays her. A courtier whose devotion to the Queen, his first love, is undimmed and destined to push both towards a tragic end. No, not Donizetti’s Anna Bolena but Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, written three years later, in 1833, for Venice’s La Fenice.

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):