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

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."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>Les Salons de Pauline Viardot</em> Sabine Devieilhe (soprano) and Anne Le Bozec (piano) at Wigmore Hall
07 May 2018

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot Sabine Devieilhe (soprano) and Anne Le Bozec (piano) at Wigmore Hall

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Sabine Devieilhe

Molina Visual

 

It was a pity that the uncharacteristically tropical temperatures which have blessed this holiday weekend probably meant that fewer lovers of lieder grasped the opportunity to enjoy what was a discerning and elegant recital - as the sunshine took precedence over ‘la salon’.

I first encountered Devieilhe - whose initial studies focused on the cello and musicology - when reviewing the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016, in which Devieilhe took the role of Bellazza. I wrote that she ‘dazzles in Handel’s glittering cascades, uses ornamentation with exquisite expressiveness, and displays an astonishing agility, leaping cleanly to the stratosphere and back with startling ease. At times, Deveilhe is surprisingly fierce, snarling through the upward appoggiaturas, flashing sparks at the top, but in the Part 2 aria in which she comes to her fate-sealing decision to spurn Piacere she exhibits a paradoxical and touching combination of emotional fragility and sincerity which conveys through impressive strength of tone and control of line.’

Not surprisingly, I excitedly anticipated her arrival on the Covent Garden stage as the Queen of the Night in the sixth revival of David McVicar’s 2003 Die Zauberflöte last autumn, and I was not disappointed. This recital was similarly characterised by a balance of composure and intensity, by vocal purity and precision and impassioned expression, with a sustained sensitivity to text. To put it in a way which may seem facile, Devieihle’s gleaming soprano is beguilingly easy to listen to … but the ways in which it seduces those susceptible to vocal beauty are diverse, inventive and masterful. I was also enormously impressed by the lucidity and sensitivity of Anne Le Bozec’s invaluable contribution to an aesthetic which accommodated frissons of colour and fervency with a prevailing self-possession and control.

Daughter of the Spanish tenor Manuel García, sister of esteemed mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran and of baritone Manuel García junior, who is credited with the invention of the first laryngoscope, Pauline Viardot was a leading social and artistic figure of her day: a talented pianist and composer, celebrated singer and mistress of a salon to which venerable artists such as Berlioz and Bizet, Liszt and Rubinstein, as well as new kids on the block including Debussy and Reynaldo Hahn, flocked. After her farewell performance in Paris in April 1863, Pauline and her husband Louis Viardot settled in Baden-Baden, and it was here that she initiated the salon that would attract musicians, composers, artists and writers from across Europe.

Devieilhe’s first sequence of songs focused on the French connection, and she and Le Bozec needed no time to get into their stride. The piano introduction to Berlioz’s ‘Villanelle’ from Les nuits d’ été (1840) was deliciously cogent and clear - lightly articulated quavers were supported by an eloquent bass line, creating a cleansing freshness as the new season drives away the cold winter and the lovers enter the wood to gather lillies-of-the-valley - while Devieilhe’s youthful sweetness acquired frissons of incipient passion as the vocal line rose and fell. The predominant sentiment was one of carefree confidence and burgeoning, yet contained, ardour. The narrative simplicity of La mort d’Ophélie (1848) was immensely touching, against which Le Bozec provided emotional complexity and anguish, blooming richly into the third stanza’s account of Ophelia’s drowning. Dialectical motifs in the piano conveyed the airy ballooning of the young girl’s attire and the eddying force of the water that supports her, as Devieilhe’s increased vocal intensity wrung notes of anguish from Ophelia’s dying song. The close - as Ophelia’s dress dragged her down to the depths - was poignant, infused with sweetness and sadness.

Two songs by Bizet offered character and colour. ‘Pastoral’ (1868) was tenderly bucolic: the gentle siciliano lilt carried us with ‘Colin’ through the valley as he sang to his shepherdess, and Devieihle’s pertly confident replies to his wooing acquired a mischievous esprit. A touch of the ‘exotic’ tinged ‘Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe’ (1866): Le Bozec injected judicious sensuousness into her pulsing, repeating rhythm, avoiding wry parody, while Devieilhe saved the sultriness to the end as the daughter of the desert’s exhortation to the ‘handsome young white traveller’ rang with lingering fervency: ‘Hélas! Adieu! bel étranger! Souviens-toi!’ (Alas! Farewell, fair stranger! Remember!)

Camille Saint-Saëns had a lifelong friendship with Viardot, and it was he who introduced Gabriel Fauré to the Viardot salon in 1872: the latter was later briefly engaged to Pauline’s daughter Marianne and dedicated many songs to members of the family. We heard Fauré’s ‘Au bord de l’eau’, in which the duo created an entrancing lapping lilt to convey the flow of the stream and gliding clouds on the horizon.

The central sequence of songs turned to Germany. I cannot imagine a rendition of Clara Schumann’s ‘Ich stand in dunkeln Träunen’ (I stood in dark dreams) imbued with more simplicity and loveliness. Devieilhe captured the stillness and the stirrings of the rapt moment of reflection, while Le Bozec’s enrichening of the accompaniment conjured the deceptive animation of the portrait which springs mysteriously to life at the end of the first stanza. The final declaration, ‘ich kann nicht’s glauben,/ Dass ich dich verloren hab!’, was an utterly sincere and direct expression of grief: wonderfully but woefully captivating.

I am more used to hearing Robert Schumann’s Myrten Op.25 sung by a tenor voice, but Devieilhe lent a certain purity to the soaring lines depicting the image of the beloved as the ‘heaven … in which I float’ (Mein Himmel du, darein ich schwebe) which was immensely touching. And, if the soprano struggled a little to project some of the lower lying lines here and in the ensuing ‘Der Nussbaum’ (The walnut tree), then the tone was always clean, and the diction excellent. Mendelssohn’s ‘Neue Liebe’ shone with the thrill of wild nights and danger when, in a moonlit wood, sightings of ‘elves’ and forest fairies promise bliss, or death. Le Bozec scurried nimbly, à la Midsummer Night’s Dream, while in the first two stanzas Devieihle blossomed gloriously from intimation to imagined consummation. A momentary halting, in a fearful realisation of the abyss, was pushed aside by a winning brazen confidence at the close.

The final songs carried us to the end of the nineteenth century. Le Bozec’s accompaniment was laden with the aromatic scents and soul of Debussy’s ‘Romance’, as embodied by the ‘divine lilies’ gathered from the garden of a lover’s thoughts, while Devieilhe’s almost fairy-tale purity made me long to hear her sing the role of Mélisande. Reynaldo Hahn’s ‘Le printemps’ sparkled with freshness and happiness.

We were also treated to two songs by Viardot herself; she composed over 200 songs, made admired vocal arrangements of Chopin’s mazurkas, and produced a number of chamber works including a lovely salon operetta, Cinderella. That Viardot, in addition to her vocal talents, was both a fine accompanist, had a talent for musical characterisation and a sense of fun was evident in ‘Haï luli!’ (Willow-waly), the gentle minor-key complaint of anxious waiting giving way to the warmth of consoling self-reassurance as Devieilhe let phrase endings hover and linger with exquisite skill and judgement. Turbulence ensued, with fears of fickleness, and in this song the highs and lows of love and loneliness were superbly plundered by both Viardot and her interpreters. In contrast, ‘Aime-moi’ was replete with confident teasing.

My only small regret was that this was rather a short recital. With the sequence of songs over in less than 45 minutes, the audience’s vociferous appreciation drew a welcome encore - Debussy’s ‘Apparation’, a setting of Mallarmé, in which Devieihle’s soprano soared with crystalline lustre.

But, we wanted more! Viardot made a memorable impact on the composers and artists of her day; she was a singer of remarkable vocal, musical and dramatic range and depth, qualities to which Devieihle can rightly aspire.

This recital was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Claire Seymour

Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Anne Le Bozec (piano)

Berlioz - ‘Villanelle’ from Les nuits d’été; Pauline Viardot - ‘Hai luli!’; Bizet - ‘Pastorale’ Op.21 No.9; Fauré - ‘Au bord de l’eau’ Op.8 No.1; Berlioz - La mort d’Ophélie; Bizet - ‘Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe’ Op. 21 No.4; Clara Schumann - ‘Ich stand in dunklen Träumen’ Op.13 No.1; Schumann - Myrthen Op.25 (No.1 ‘Widmung’, No.3 ‘Der Nussbaum’); Mendelssohn - ‘Neue Liebe’ Op.19a No.4; Pauline Viardot - ‘Aime-moi’; Debussy - ‘Romance’; Hahn - ‘Le printemps’

Wigmore Hall, London; Monday 7th May 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):