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

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Arnold Schoenberg, <em>Gurrelieder</em>: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Philharmonia Orchestra, Robert Dean Smith, Camilla Tilling, Michelle deYoung, David Soar, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Barbara Sukova, Philharmonia Voices, Choirs of the he Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Royal Festival Hall, London.  28th June 2018.
01 Jul 2018

Superb Schoenberg Gurrelieder - Salonen, Philharmonia, London

Schoenberg Gurrelieder at the Royal Festival Hall, with Esa-Pekka Salonen, demonstrating how well the Philharmonia Orchestra has absorbed Schoenberg's idiom. A blazing performance, formidably dramatic, executed with stunning assurance. Salonen has made his mark on the Philharmonia through in-depth explorations of the 20th century repertoire he loves so well.

Arnold Schoenberg, Gurrelieder: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Philharmonia Orchestra, Robert Dean Smith, Camilla Tilling, Michelle deYoung, David Soar, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Barbara Sukova, Philharmonia Voices, Choirs of the he Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Royal Festival Hall, London. 28th June 2018.

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Photo credit: Katja Tähjä

 

After their first Gurrelieder with him in March 2009, I was at an airport where many of the players were talking excitedly about Gurrelieder and the way Salonen worked with them. Musicians can be blasé (at least on the surface), but these players were genuinely enthusiastic. And they didn't know that I was listening in !

The deep surging undercurrents in the Prelude, lit by bright sparkling figures, seemed almost to vibrate. Well-defined the strings, harps and horns introduced the dream-like mood, textures gradually build up in sweeping arcs, string lines swelling and heaving. Perhaps Schoenberg had in mind Tristan und Isolde, or Siegfried's journey down the Rhine. Either way, vast cosmic forces are being invoked. Or can we hear echoes of Verklärte Nacht writ infinitely larger ? Schoenberg then introduces the mortals, King Waldemar (Robert Dean Smiith) and Tove (Camilla Tilling). The parts are tricky to cast, since Schoenberg, in his youth, pits the singers against huge orchestral forces. Yet voice along doesn't create a part. Simon O'Neill, for example, doesn't have a pretty voice but more than compensates with artistry and insight. Waldemar was anti-hero enough that he dares curse God : a Flying Dutchman of sorts. Dean Smith didn't quite have the heft or gift for characterisation, so this Waldemar came across in milder form, though the music around him roared with passion. Tilling created a refined Tove, her lines soaring gracefully, serving the part well. Few Tove's are truly "wunderliche" but Tilling is attractive, as gentle as a dove. Tove is silenced, but the Wood Dove takes her place.

The Wood Dove, a much stronger personage than Tove, is an Erda figure, who sees all, and the mood is almost incantation. . Michelle DeYoung was ideal, her rich timbre enhanced by sombre dignity. The recurring line "Weit flog ich....." rose forcefully from the surging undercurrents, bringing out the rhythmic flow. Every good performances helps us think more about the music. This time I was pondering how the Wood Dove's music might resemble Sprechstimme. A pity that the "Herrgott ! Herrgott!" part didn't have quite the impact in the Royal Festival Hall as it could have. The front of that stage sucks voices into the void even if you've got a voice-friendly seat. On the BBC Radio 3 broadcast, Dean Smith's can be heard with better balance. In the orchestra, however, the "Herrgott!" chords were magnificent, executed so they seemed to have a metallic quality, like hammerblows striking stone.

A haunted, baleful introduction to the final part, when the orchestra seemed to explode with the horror of the apocalyptic vision being described. Trombones wailed, percussion rumbled, strings evoking a sense of wind and wildness. Waldemar and his doomed knights are riding theough the sky. Another excellent cameo with David Soar's Peasant. The firmness in Soar's timbre suggested that even a doughty peasant can be so shaken that he must bolt his door and pray. The Philharmonia Voices were augmented by the male voices of the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.In the relatively small space of the Royal Festival Hall, the impact could have been overwhelming, but under the direction of Aidan Oliver, what came over was clarity, not sheer volume. Good articulation, the "Holla!"'s wild, the sudden descent into near silence chilling. Yet again, the orchestra set the scene. The strings surged, then opened out to strangely disturbing calm, the woodwinds adding quirky menace. Despite the turbulence around him, Waldemar is alone.

Thus the spooky interlude before Klaus-Narr sings, cloaking the part with surreal horror. Wolfgang Ablinger Sperrhacke is one of the finest "Character" singers in the business, so this cameo, like Michelle DeYoung's Wood Dove, was a major highlight. Ablinger-Sperrhacke captured the strange, disjointed rhythms in the part extremely well, the "fool" easily the match of the orchestra. Perhps Waldemar is the fool, still obsessed by ."Ich und Tove, wir sind eins", oblivious to his predicament. Thus the brooding in the orchestra before the male choirs returned, textures subdued yet uncowed. "Ins Grab! Ins Grab!" A particularly good Wild Hunt of the Summer Wind, tubas booming, let by high winds, with chamber-like delicacy in the playing. The role of the Speaker is usually cast with a singer whose voice is past its bloom, but whose musical instincts are still strong enough to declaim with Sprechstimme intonation. Some of the great singers of the past have done the Speaker so he/she feels like a ghost from the past, revived, like Waldemar and his Knights, a thoughtful insight. Barbara Sukova is an actress with musical nous, whose voice is still fairly youthful, so her Speaker was different, closer perhaps to Klaus-Narr commenting on the spectres, as opposed to being one of them, which is perfectly valid. A blazing "Seht die Sonne!"! and the audience in the Royal Festival Hall went wild. In orchestral terms, this was an outstanding Gurrelieder, Salonen and the Philhrmonia delivering with insight and understanding.

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):