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

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

Vivaldi scores intriguing but uneven Dangerous Liaisons in The Hague

“Why should I spend good money on tables when I have men standing idle?” asks a Regency country squire in the British sitcom Blackadder the Third. The Marquise de Merteuil in OPERA2DAY’s Dangerous Liaisons would agree with him. Her servants support her dinner table, groaning with gateaux, on their backs.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

'Sound the trumpet': countertenor duets at Wigmore Hall

This programme of seventeenth-century duets, odes and instrumental works was meticulously and finely delivered by countertenors Iestyn Davies and James Hall, with The King’s Consort, but despite the beauty of the singing and the sensitivity of the playing, somehow it didn’t quite prove as affecting as I had anticipated.

Brenda Rae's superb debut at Wigmore Hall

My last visit of the year to Wigmore Hall also proved to be one of the best of 2018. American soprano Brenda Rae has been lauded for her superb performances in the lyric coloratura repertory, in the US and in Europe, and her interpretation of the title role in ENO’s 2016 production of Berg’s Lulu had the UK critics reaching for their superlatives.

POP Bohème: Melodic, Manic, Misbehaving Hipsters

Pacific Opera Project is in its fourth annual, sold out run of Puccini’s La bohème: AKA 'The Hipsters', and it may seem at first blush that nothing succeeds like success.

Edward Gardner conducts Berlioz's L’Enfance du Christ

L’Enfance du Christ is not an Advent work, but since most of this country’s musical institutions shut down over Christmas, Advent is probably the only chance we shall have to hear it - and even then, only on occasion. But then Messiah is a Lenten work, and yet …

Fantasia on Christmas Carols: Sonoro at Kings Place

The initial appeal of this festive programme by the chamber choir, Sonoro, was the array of unfamiliar names nestled alongside titles of familiar favourites from the carol repertoire.

Dickens in Deptford: Thea Musgrave's A Christmas Carol

Both Venus and the hearth-fire were blazing at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance during this staging of Thea Musgrave’s 1979 opera, A Christmas Carol, an adaptation by the composer of Charles Dickens’ novel of greed, love and redemption.

There is no rose: Gesualdo Six at St John's Smith Square

This concert of Christmas music at St John’s Smith Square confirmed that not only are the Gesualdo Six and their director Owain Park fine and thoughtful musicians, but that they can skilfully shape a musical narrative.

Temple Winter Festival: The Tallis Scholars

Hodie Christus natus est. Today, Christ is born! A miracle: and one which has inspired many a composer to produce their own musical ‘miracle’: choral exultation which seems, like Christ himself, to be a gift to mankind, straight from the divine.

A new Hänsel und Gretel at the Royal Opera House

Fairy-tales work on multiple levels, they tell delightful yet moral stories, but they also enable us to examine deeper issues. With its approachably singable melodies, Engelbert Humperdinck's Märchenoper Hänsel und Gretel functions in a similar way; you can take away the simple delight of the score, but Humperdinck's discreetly Wagnerian treatment of his musical material allows for a variety of more complex interpretations.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Dido and Aeneas</em>, <em>La Nuova Musica</em> at the Wigmore Hall, London Handel Festival 2018
09 Apr 2018

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Dido and Aeneas, La Nuova Musica at the Wigmore Hall, London Handel Festival 2018

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: David Bates

Photo credit: Andy Staples

 

But, while my attention was drawn to freshening rhythmic gestures in the bass line or inner instrumental voices, and captivated by the enrichment provided by the varying continuo ensemble of theorbo (Alex McCartney (occasionally switching to baroque guitar) and Lynda Sayce) and harp (Siobhan Armstrong), I missed the essential simplicity and sincerity of the work in this lunchtime performance at the Wigmore Hall, where Dido was presented as part of the 2018 London Handel Festival.

I wondered how much time the talented young soloists and chorus members had had to consider and rehearse the practical matters of stage business. Although La Nuova Musica essentially played one-to-a-part and the chorus was formed largely from those taking small solo roles, the Wigmore Hall stage looked uncomfortably crowded. Principal soloists sat stage-right, moving centre for their arias; minor soloists, for the most part, moved to the front, negotiating the instrumentalists - and sometimes other singers - as they made their way to the fore-stage. Though Bates swept fluently from recitative to aria to chorus in a seamless musical continuum, it looked - and thus felt - a little clunky at times.

Singers dealt differently with the circumstances. While tenor Nick Pritchard fairly bounded forward to deliver the Sailor’s light-voiced, vigorous plea to his fellow tars to ‘Come Away’ from the shore-bound nymphs’ allurements and set forth with the impatient tide, bass Richard Bannon took two steps forward, through the viola da gambas, and forthrightly issued the Spirit’s decree that Aeneas must ‘forsake this land’ with statuesque and dark-hued weight.

After Anna Dennis had delivered Belinda’s slightly too frank and forte appeal to Rachel Kelly’s Dido to ‘Shake the cloud from your brow’ - for goodness sake stop wallowing in self-pity, for your solipsistic sorrow is making us all miserable, she seemed to infer - Kelly found herself directing her response, ‘Ah Belinda, I am press’d with torment’, to her conductor, as her companion-servant Belinda had retreated to her seat at the side. Subsequently, Kelly found herself ‘stranded’ onstage during ‘Fear no danger to ensue’ (Belinda, Second Woman and Chorus), and struggled to stay ‘in role’ (i.e. Dido has just sung of her fear that her pity for the distress of others will be her undoing) when tempted to smile at the beguiling quality of the choric assurance that Cupid has strewn Dido’s path with flowers.

But, these are, for the most part, tangential matters. The singing was characterful, and none more so than in the choruses which were invigorating, dramatic and lithe, always propelling the action forward - though the witches’ ‘Ho, ho, ho!’s were rather demure!

Dennis, after a somewhat resounding start - one might expect a slightly lighter voice embodying this impulsive stirrer - found the measure of the Hall, and her mezzo settled beautifully though she remained, to good effect, unafraid to lean on expressive textual details or emotive appoggiaturas. ‘Thanks to these lonesome vales’, sung within the tranquil grove, was bright, full and satisfying, the viola da gamba offering further comforting support. Emilie Renard was a Sorceress of supercilious eye-brow raising, sly smiles and sultry vocal tone, and Louise Kemény impressed as the Second Woman: her Act 2 number, ‘Off she visits this lone mountain’, was richly enhanced by the theorbos’ gentle charm and the contrasting animation of the viola da gamba.

I admired George Humphreys’ two embodiments of Cavalli’s Giove in 2016 (for English Touring Opera and for La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall (where I found his powerful baritone, ‘haughtily contemptuous as he surveyed the destruction wreaked on the mortals’ and that ‘his appealing tone captured Giove’s presumptuousness’), as well as the inspiring power and brightness that the baritone put to good use as Lieutenant Jenkins in WNO’s In Parenthesis that year. Humphreys has now joined the ensemble of Salzburg State Theatre and is no doubt destined for satisfying success. But the physical stature and vocal sonority which made his Demetrius so compelling at Snape Maltings in June 2017 made this Aeneas seem rather too big for his boots. One could not fault either technique or attention to textual detail, though; Act 3’s encounter with the Spirit was dramatically intense and engaging, the emotional twists and turns of ‘But ah! what language can I try/ My injur’d Queen to pacify’ being matched by diversity of tone, colour, dynamics, weight and pace.

My one disappointment was Rachel Kelly’s Dido, all the more so for the pleasure that her singing has brought on many other occasions. While the melismas bristled and shone, and she keenly communicated the moments of heightened emotional piquancy and distress, Kelly did not look entirely comfortable in the role of the deserted Queen. I missed a sure, smoothness of line; and the text was not always clearly enunciated, even when set with Purcellian naturalness. ‘Remember me’ is the appeal of the dying Queen … but, I’m not sure one would. I think it boiled down to ‘trying too hard’: vocal sophistication is not what is needed here, as I suggested at the start, it is simplicity and sincerity which make Purcell’s greatness, genius and musical generosity felt.

Claire Seymour

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
London Handel Festival

Dido - Rachel Kelly, George Humphreys - Aeneas, Belinda - Anna Dennis, Sorceress - Emilie Renard, First Witch - Helen Charlston, Second Witch - Martha McLorinan, Second Woman - Louise Kemény, Sailor - Nick Pritchard, Spirit - Richard Bannan; La Nuova Musica - David Bates (harpsichord, organ, director), Anaïs Chen and James Toll (violins), Jane Rogers (viola), Jonathan Rees and Ibraham Aziz (viola da gamba), Alex McCartney and Lynda Sayce (theorbo), Siobhan Armstrong (harp).

Wigmore Hall, London; Saturday 7th April 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):