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

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

POP Butterfly: Oooh, Cho-Cho San!

I was decidedly not the only one who thought I was witnessing the birth of a new star, as cover artist Janet Todd stepped in to make a triumphant appearance in the title role of Pacific Opera Project’s absorbing Madama Butterfly.

The Maryland Opera Studio Defies Genre with Fascinating Double-Bill

This past weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presented a double-billed performance of two of Kurt Weill’s less familiar staged works: Zaubernacht (1922) and Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927).

Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall: Focus on Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Nash Ensemble’s annual contemporary music showcase focused on the work of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom the group has enjoyed a long and close association. Three of the six works by Birtwistle performed here were commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, as was Elliott Carter’s Mosaic which, alongside Oliver Knussen’s Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon, completed a programme was intimate and intricate, somehow both elusive in spirit and richly communicative.

McVicar's Faust returns to the ROH

To lose one Marguerite may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But, with the ROH Gounod’s Faust seemingly heading for ruin, salvation came in the form of an eleventh-hour arrival of a redeeming ‘angel’.

A superb Semele from the English Concert at the Barbican Hall

It’s good to aim high … but be careful what you wish for. Clichéd idioms perhaps, but also wise words which Semele would have been wise to heed.

A performance of Vivaldi's La Senna festeggiante by Arcangelo

In 1726 on 25 August, Jacques-Vincent Languet, Comte de Gergy, the new French ambassador to the Venetian Republic held a celebration for the name day of King Louis XV of France. There was a new piece of music performed in the loggia at the foot of Languet's garden with an audience of diplomats and, watching from gondolas, Venetian nobles.

Matthew Rose and Tom Poster at Wigmore Hall

An interesting and thoughtfully-composed programme this, presented at Wigmore Hall by bass Matthew Rose and pianist Tom Poster, and one in which music for solo piano ensured that the diverse programme cohered.

Ekaterina Semenchuk sings Glinka and Tchaikovsky

To the Wigmore Hall for an evening of magnificently old-school vocal performance from Ekaterina Semenchuk. It was very much her evening, rather than that of her pianist, Semyon Skigin, though he had his moments, especially earlier on.

Hubert Parry's Judith at the Royal Festival Hall

Caravaggio’s depiction (1598-99) of the climactic moment when the young, beautiful, physically weak Judith seizes the head of Holofernes by the enemy general’s hair and, flinching with distaste, cleaves the neck of the occupying Assyrian with his own sword, evokes Holofernes’ terror with visceral precision - eyes and screaming mouth are wide open - and is shockingly theatrical, the starkly lit figures embraced by blackness.

La Pietà in Rome

Say "La Pietà" and you think immediately of Michelangelo’s Rome Pietà. Just now Roman Oscar-winning film composer Nicola Piovani has asked us to contemplate two additional Pietà’s in Rome, a mother whose son is dead by overdose, and a mother whose son starved to death.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Orfeo ed Euridice in Rome

No wrecked motorcycle (director Harry Kupfer’s 1987 Berlin Orfeo), no wrecked Citroen and black hearse (David Alagna’s 2008 Montpellier Orfée [yes! tenorissimo Roberto Alagna was the Orfée]), no famed ballet company (the Joffrey Ballet) starring in L.A. Opera’s 2018 Orpheus and Eurydice).

Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel - a world premiere at English National Opera

Jack the Ripper is as luridly fascinating today as he was over a century ago, so it was no doubt sensationalist of the marketing department of English National Opera to put the Victorian serial killer’s name first and the true subject of Iain Bell’s new opera - his victims, the women of Whitechapel - as something of an after-thought. Font size matters, especially if it’s to sell tickets.

Tosca at the Met


The 1917 Met Tosca production hung around for 50 years, bested by the 1925 San Francisco Opera production that lived to the ripe old age of 92.  The current Met production is just 2 years old but has the feel of something that can live forever.

Drama Queens and Divas at the ROH: Handel's Berenice

A war ‘between love and politics’: so librettist Antonio Salvi summarised the conflict at the heart of Handel’s 1737 opera, Berenice. Well, we’ve had a surfeit of warring politics of late, but there’s been little love lost between opposing factions, and the laughs that director Adele Thomas and her team supply in this satirical and spicy production at the ROH’s stunningly re-designed Linbury Theatre have been in severely short supply.

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Samson et Dalila at the Met


It was the final performance of the premiere season of Darko Tresnjak’s production of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Four tenors later. 

The Enchantresse and Dido and Aeneas
in Lyon

Dido and Aeneas, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and Tchaikowsky’s L’Enchantresse, the three operas of the Opéra de Lyon’s annual late March festival all tease destiny. But far more striking than the thematic relationship that motivates this 2019 festival is the derivation of these three productions from the world of hyper-refined theater, far flung hyper-refined theater.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

29 Jun 2018

Dangerous Liasions : Music and dance in the French Baroque

Dangerous Liasions with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Joined by Les Corps Éloquents (Hubert Hazebrouq, choreographer, Irène Feste and Romain Arreghini), the OAE surpassed even their own high standards, demonstrating the link between music and dance in the French baroque.

Dangerous Liasions : The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Anna Dennis, Nick Pritchard, Les Corps Éloquents (Hubert Hazebrouq, choreographer), Queen Elizabeth hall, London. 26th June 2018. A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: -Armide_Lully_by_Saint-Aubin

 

More than 40 extracts, primarily from Lully and Rameau, were chosen to form a highly original compilation, unfolding in thematic sequence : Idyllic Delight, Seduction, a Ballet des Fleurs, Vexation, Loss and Despair, Frolics and Mischief, with Reconciliation, the happy ending. It's quite an achievement to put together more than 40 disparate extracts so they flow together naturally, yet with much variety. Like Le Concert Royal de la Nuit, (more here) this cohered well, an excellent summary of style and content. Much admiration is due to the OAE's Principal Flute Lisa Beznosiuk, who curated this with the support of an OAE team and Hubert Hazebroucq, who choreographed the dancing in period style. This was also an exercise in French declamatory song style, with period (not modern) pronunciation, so credit is due, too, to soloists Anna Dennis and Nick Pritchard. Conducted by John Butt, the OAE were in vivacious form : a delightful two and a half hours which passed all too quickly.

Like a prologue to a drama, the OAE began with Lully's Overture from Le Triomphe de L'Amour, followed by six miniatures, four from Lully's Thésée (1675) "Aimons tout nous y convie, on aime ici sans danger". Notice the archaic language, which did mater, since it complemented the stylised, idealised sentiments in the text, and in this context reminded us that the world of the baroque needs to be understood on its own terms. Thus the dancing, very different to what we take for granted today. Like the art of fencing, dance prepared young noblemen with skills much needed in Court circles : physical fitness, mental discipline, alertness to strategy and form and an awareness of elegant presentation. Thus the stances - hands and feet held at angles, foot positions which would have developed formidable muscles, enabling the dancer to control his position until he was ready to execute swift, decisive changes. The formal patterns of dance also reflected concepts of social and cosmic order, the individual functioning as part of an ensemble.

Hazebroucq's choreography is based on extensive archival research but also on the relationship between dance and music, so fundamental to the baroque aesthetic. Lully didn't conduct with a staff for nothing : he was (literally) beating time, creating a percussive foundation for music that was made to be moved to. Hence the vigorous rhythms and exuberance, at times reminiscent of military marches and fanfares. Period instruments pack an earthy punch, horns and percussion evoking instruments from even more archaic times, complementing the baroque fascination with classical antiquity. The stringed instruments, plucked or bowed, added variety and character, sometimes providing continuo, or embarking on flights of inventiveness. Seeing the dancers move in close relation to the music enhanced understanding of the musical logic.

Thoughtfully, this Liaisons Dangereuses (like the novel that is told in letters, not narrative), interleaved an extract from Lully's Les Noces de Village (1663),between the pieces from Lully's Thésée. Philinte and Climene are idealised shepherd and shepherdess, more personable than the more stylised, abstract evocations of love in Thésée. This also served to show that court dance, even when inspired by pastoral fantasy, was not folk dance but far more sophisticated. The second section, "Seduction", combined extracts from André Campra's L'Europe Galante (1697) and Lully's Le Bourgeois Genthilhomme (1670),, the vaguely "Spanish" allusions adding exotic spice, to the dancing as much as to the music. In the Interlude, a "Ballet des Fleurs" , the dancers enacted an allegory in which three figures interact as lovers and rivals, eventually finding reconciliation. This is an allegory in music, too, combining Gavottes and Airs sourced from Rameau's Les Indes Galantes and Lully's Atys (1676), allowing the dancers ample room for elegant, intricate patterns of movement. The section "Vexation" was based on Lully's Armide (1686), where the sorceress Armide tries to seduce Renaud. Anna Dennis was particularly impressive in this splendid role with Nick Pritchard her foil, dancers in black, the orchestra conjuring up a storm..

The section "Loss and Despair" began with the Prelude from Charpentier's Orphée descendant aux enfers (1684) setting the scene. An extract from Lully's Ballet royal de la Naissance de Venus (1665) prepared the way for Orpheus "Tu ne la pendras point, hélas, pour me le rendre" and Proserpine's "Courage Orphée, étale ici les plus grands charmes", also from Charpentier's La descent d'Orphee aux Enfers depict the Underworld. But love itself does not die. Venus (Anna Dennis) sang "Amiable Vainqueur" from Campra's Hésione (1700), neatly connecting the Orpheus legend with a tragédie en musique with characters from other parts of classical mythology. "Love that is strong enough can "Désarmer le Dieu de la Guerre: le Dieu de la Tonnere" evoked by the wind machines, crashes of percussion and baleful brass in the orchestra. After the tumult, fantasy and fun. From Rameau's Platée (1745) a satire, and a parody from Jean-Joseph Mouret's Les Amours de Ragonde (1714) In the former, the gods squabble, causing invertebrates and mortals to fall in unrequited love. In the latter, couples end up mismatched. Colin, who ends up wed to his would be mother in law sings mock peasant dialect "Je ne songeons qu'uà bien aimer, je rougirions d'être volage". Warped humour, the opposite of idealised courtly love, but an opportunity to see the dancers imitate folksy jigs and "exotic" dances. But all is resolved in the final tableau, Reconciliation. Eglé and Mercury sort out their differences in a dialogue from Rameau's Les Fêtes d'Hébé (1739) and Calatée, Mercure, Zoroaster and Amelite sort out theirs in Rameau's Zoroastre (1739).

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):