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

Cilea's L'arlesiana at Opera Holland Park

In a rank order of suicidal depressives, Federico - the Provençal peasant besotted with ‘the woman from Arles’, L’arlesiana, who yearns to break free from his mother’s claustrophobic grasp, who seeks solace from betrayal and disillusionment in the arms of a patient childhood sweetheart, but who is ultimately broken by deluded dreams and unrequited passion - would surely give many a Thomas Hardy protagonist a run for their money.

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Gian Lorenzo Bernini : Bust of Louis XIV
03 Mar 2018

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, Ensemble Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon (conductor), Céline Scheen, Lucile Richardot, Samuel Boden, Marc Mauillon and Christian Immler.

A review by Anne Ozorio

Harmonia Mundi HMD 9909056.57 DVD, Blu-ray

  Click to buy

When Louis took control of his kingdom, he marked the occasion with an extravaganza, Le Concert Royal de la Nuit, a grand statement that was as much political as artistic. Just as the Sun King announced his arrival at Dawn, dressed as the sun, his funeral was staged in darkness : the Sun having gone down on his world. Everything Louis XIV did was a form of theatre, from the audacity of his vision for France, to Versailles, and even to his wigs and clothing.

Though extremely well played and sung, this performance needs to be experienced visually for maximum impact. Night time shrouds the architectural splendours of the Chapelle Royale, but this is how things should be. In the presence of death, material glory is nothing. In the presence of God, even the Sun King is mortal man. The original funeral rites took place over a period of 24 hours, with ovations, prayers and lying in state. Here, instead, we focus on the music, and its liturgical meaning. Darkness enhances the experience, intensifying the mystery that is life and death.

A single bell tolls. Out of the gloom we hear the Subventi sancti Dei, sung as if by monastic choir. The voices echo out into the distance, filling the recesses of the chapel. The echo in this performance space is glorious, more otherworldly and spiritual than can be replicated in modern buildings or studios. We catch quick glimpses of marble alcoves, lit for a moment before darkness falls again. Later the spotlight lingers on a soprano/tenor/baritone trio. The black and white starkness is warmed by flashes of golden light, contrasting with blue light through the windows beyond, reinforcing the idea of "eternal light" in the distance. But the days of wrath are still to come. The "monastic choir" intones, led at times by a bass baritone. A descent into total darkness, the silence broken by the thud of a single drum. André Danican Philidor Marche pour le Convoy du roi accompanies the procession of the King's simple black-draped coffin as it slowly enters the chapel and down the nave. Even in death, Louis XIV recognized the power of symbolism. The chapel door closes. The King is no longer "of the world". An extended De profundis by Michel-Richard de Lalande, led by the magnificent bass baritone of Christian Immler, reminds us of the achievements of the King's past. From a position near the roof, a solo bass voice intones,imploring God to grant mercy. His voice, and the voices of the two small choirs in balconies above the nave, reverberate as if unto the Heavens. The haute-contre, Samuel Boden sings an unearthly In paradisum. He isn't visible, but his voice is heard as we ponder the ornate ceiling fresco which depicts God. A de Lalande Dies Irae follows, Immler singing of the trumpet call that shall awake the dead to the Day of Judgement. A beautiful passage, where Samuel Boden sings of hope and redemption. Light is beginning to fill the chapel. The cameras linger on the singers and players, the mortals Jesus was sent to Earth to save. "Lord grant him Mercy" : soloists, choirs, and players all together in harmony, as the camera pans on the image of the sun above the altar, painted gold, its rays descending on the ensemble below. Soloists included Céline Scheen, Lucile Richardot, Samuel Boden, Marc Mauillon and Christian Immler. Realisation for film was by Stéphanien Vérité, lighting by Bertrand Coudere. Raphaël Pichon conducted the Ensemble Pygmalion orchestra and choirs. We're not supposed to "enjoy" funerals, but Louis XIV must have gone out in style.

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):