Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

The Royal Opera House lets everyone in on the act

The Royal Opera House today opens the doors to its transformed new home, following an extensive three-year construction project.

A Winterreise both familiar and revelatory: Ian Bostridge and Thomas Adès at Wigmore Hall

‘“Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?” the wanderer asks. If the answer were to be a “yes”, then the crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again. This could explore a notion of eternal recurrence: we are trapped in the endless repetition of this existential lament.’

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2018

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, given during last weekend, was both a tribute to the many facets of opera and a preview of what lies ahead in the upcoming repertoire season.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Dorothea Röschmann at Wigmore Hall: songs by Schumann, Wolf and Brahms

One should not judge a performance by its audience, but spying Mitsuko Uchida in the audience is unlikely ever to prove a negative sign. It certainly did not here, in a wonderfully involving recital of songs by Schumannn, Wolf, and Brahms from Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau.

Two of Garsington Opera's 2018 productions to reach a wider audience

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce that on Saturday 6 October, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Opera on 3’, will broadcast the production of its first festival world premiere - The Skating Rink by David Sawer set to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey based on a novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

The Path of Life: Ilker Arcayürek sings Schubert at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall’s BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert 2018-19 series opened this week with a journey along The Path of Life as illustrated by the songs of Schubert, and it offered a rare chance to hear the composer’s long, and long-germinating, setting of Johann Baptist Mayrhofer’s philosophical rumination, ‘Einsamkeit’ - an extended eulogy to loneliness which Schubert described, in a letter of 1822, as the best thing he had done, “mein Bestes, was ich gemacht habe”.

Heine through Song: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau open a new Wigmore Hall season

The BBC Proms have now gone into hibernation until July 2019. But, as the hearty patriotic strains rang out over South Kensington on Saturday evening, in Westminster the somewhat gentler, but no less emotive, flame of nineteenth-century lied was re-lit at Wigmore Hall, as baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Malcolm Martineau opened the Hall’s 2018-19 season with a recital comprising song settings of texts by Heinrich Heine.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Prom 74: Handel's Theodora

“One of the most insufferable prigs in a literature.” Handel scholar Winton Dean’s dismissal of Theodora, the eponymous heroine of Handel’s 1749 oratorio, may well have been shared by many among his contemporary audience.

Remembering and Representing Dido, Queen of Carthage: an interview with Thomas Guthrie

The first two instalments of the Academy of Ancient Music’s ‘Purcell trilogy’ at the Barbican Hall have posed plentiful questions - creative, cultural and political.

Landmark Productions and Irish National Opera present The Second Violinist

Renaissance madrigals and twentieth-century social media don’t at first seem likely bed-fellows. However, Martin - the protagonist of The Second Violinist, a new opera by composer Donnacha Dennehy and librettist Enda Walsh - is, like the late sixteenth-century composer, Carlo Gesualdo, an artist with homicidal tendencies. And, Dennehy and Walsh bring music, madness and murder together in a Nordic noir thriller that has more than a touch of Stringbergian psychological anxiety, analysis and antagonism.

The Rake's Progress: British Youth Opera

The cautionary tale which W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman fashioned for Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 opera, The Rake’s Progress - recounting the downward course of an archetypal libertine from the faux fulfilment of matrimonial and monetary dreams to the grim reality of madness and death - was, of course, an elaboration of William Hogarth’s 1733 series of eight engravings.

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique play Berlioz

Having recently recorded the role of Dido in Berlioz' Les Troyens on Warner Classics, there was genuine excitement at the prospect of hearing Joyce DiDonato performing Dido's death scene live at the BBC Proms. She joined John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique for an all-Berlioz Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 5 September 2018. As well as the scene from Les Troyens, DiDonato sang La mort de Cleopatre and the orchestra performed the overture Le Corsaire and The Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, and were joined by viola player Antoine Tamestit for Harold in Italy.

ENO Studio Live: Paul Bunyan

“A telegram, a telegram,/ A telegram from Hollywood./ Inkslinger is the name; And I think that the news is good.” The Western Union Boy’s missive, delivered to Johnny Inkslinger in the closing moments of 1941 ‘choral operetta’ Paul Bunyan and directly connecting the American Dream with success in Tinseltown, may have echoed an offer that Benjamin Britten himself received, for the composer had written expectantly to Wulff Scherchen on 7th February 1939, ‘(((Shshshsssh … I may have an offer from Holywood [sic] for a film, but don’t say a word))).’ Ten days later he wrote again: ‘Hollywood seems a bit nearer - I’ve got an interview with the Producer on Monday’.

Young audience embraces Die Zauberflöte at Dutch National Opera

The Dutch National Opera season opens officially on the 7th of September with a third run of Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, an unqualified success at its 2012 premiere. Last Tuesday, however, an audience aged between sixteen and thirty-five got to see a preview of this co-production with English National Opera and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

13 Aug 2018

Lisbon under ashes - rediscovered Portuguese Baroque

In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed, first by a massive earthquake, then by a tsunami pouring in from the Atlantic, then by fire and civil unrest. The scale of the disaster is almost unimaginable today. The centre of the Portuguese Empire, with treasures from India, Africa, Brazil and beyond, was never to recover. The royal palaces, with their libraries and priceless collections, were annihilated.

Lisbon under ashes: Rediscovered Portuguese music : A Corte Musical, Rogério Gonçalves. A review by Anne Ozorio

Pan Classics PC 10386[CD]

£14.99  Click to buy

Some manuscripts survived in other cities, suggesting the scope of the original collections, which went back centuries. This recording, by A Corte Musical, led by Rogério Gonçalves, from Pan Classics, gives us an insight to some of the music that was lost. The spirit of the Age of Discoveries invigorated the Portuguese baroque, stimulating a vibrant culture that almost uniquely embraced influences from all over the world. So lively and varied is this recording that even without the historic significance, it's a delight to listen to.

Toquen as sonajas, by Gaspar Fernandes (1566-1629), was discovered in the Cathedral at Oaxaca, Mexico. Fernandes was an organist working in Guatemala at a time when Portugal and Spain were briefly united under one king. Accompanied by beaten percussion, the song is a round, the voices joining at different points to create lively rhythms. The words are simple : "Play the sonajas, sound the rebecs, and the Portuguese rejoice", repeated in different patterns in three distinct phases. A sonaja is a rattle, and a rebec a bowed string instrument, both known in medieval times, and connected to instruments in the Middle East and Africa.

Olà plimo Bacião, an anonymous piece from a 17th century codex, was found in the monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra. It's decidedly not monastic, but a negrillo, a type of villancico inspired by the "zente de Guiné" a term applied to all Africans in the Portuguese orbit. The rhythms suggest dance, possibly of African origin, possibly too uninhibited for the chorerography to be preserved, as was apparently the usual case in this period. A lively refrain "Gulungà, gulungà, gulungué, clap your hands, move your feet". An interlude with the gentle plucking of a stringed instrument, introduces a more reflective mood, in which the voice parts describe a beloved child, ie Jesus "for he is our God, and with the the black Santo Thomé, he is our God".

A vosa porte Maria was found in Madrid and Albrorada is an arrangement of a traditional melody from Tuizelo in northern Portugal. The former is plaintive and prayer-like, a soprano leading the chorus of voices and instruments. The latter is a vibrant parlay where the instruments interact, strings and winds over a strong rhythmic foundation. Làgrimas de Anarda is a sonnet by Manuel Botelho de Oliveira (1636-1711) one of the pioneers of Brazilian literature, taken from a book published in Lisbon in 1705. The original music is lost, so here it is used with a French melody of the period. Another interesting combination is the Passacalha da triste vida, an anonymous 16th century villancico paired with a passacaglia from an opera from the time of Monteverdi. The oldest piece in this collection is Toda noite e todo dia, from a songbook compiled in the 16th century , discovered in Elvas in 1928. The text deals with impossible love "Que do que não traz provieto, Lança mão a fantasia" (What does not bring benefit gives way to fantasy) The lovely soprano line elides over jaunty rhythmic strings, and then is joined by the tenor, singing alongside, not in duet. Tramabote is one of the earliest purely instrumental pieces from the Portuguese baroque. Bayle dei amor resucitado is part of a vanished genre of early theatrical pieces with incidental music Cupid is swooning from love, but damsels and handsome young men greet it, and all sing together "The swan which sings from the tomb promises the more from life, the more deceased it is". Also allegorical is Deseos sin esperança (desire without hope) by Frei Filipe Madre de Deus, a Lisbon born vilhuellist who worked in the Spanish court.

In complete contrast Mariniculas to a text by Brazilian poet Gregorio de Matos (1636-1696), published in 1668, which describes a glamorous rascal who makes ladies swoon, but who was "such a flaming faggot, he never looked at bonnets, finding the best undergarmnets in his pants". And more ! "empurrado por umas Sodmas no ano de tantos em cima de mil". Such a text might have stayed hidden in print, but here is used with a gay (in the old sense of the word) melody found in an archive in Coimbra. Another early song, Entre os parasismos graves, entwines male and female voices singing of "saudade infelice" before the cheerfully upbeat Dime pedro, por tu vida by Manuel Correa (1600-1653) from one of the oldest musical codices in Latin America. Wonderfully expressive percussion and jangly rhythms suggest indigenous influence of some kind. The singer is dancing in order to seduce, and presumably succeeds, as she's joined by a tenor. A short, sassy refrain "eh, eh eh !" punctuates the end of each verse. Exuberantly vivid.

A Corte Musical, led by Rogério Gonçalves,who compiled and researched this collection and also plays bassoon and percussion. The singers are Mercedes Hernández and Alice Borciani, with David Sagastume (alto) and Daniel Issa (tenor).

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):