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

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

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."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Prom 64: Verdi’s <em>Requiem</em>, London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada
31 Aug 2018

Prom 64: Verdi’s Requiem

“The power of sound” wrote Joseph Conrad, “has always been greater than the power of sense.” Verdi’s towering Requiem is all about the power of sound, not least because of all the great sacred works this is the one that least obviously seems sacred when you hear it.

Prom 64: Verdi’s Requiem, London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrés Orozco-Estrada

A review by Marc Bridle

Above: Sarah Connolly

Photo credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

 

If the text is religious, the music can seem apocalyptic, coruscating, relentless - and even agnostic. Hans von Bülow, even before he had heard the work, described it as “Verdi’s latest opera, though in ecclesiastical costume”, and for some (though not Brahms), this view remains a valid one. But the scale of this requiem, and the miracle of its orchestration and vocal writing, rather prove the opposite: Where else, except perhaps in Mahler’s Resurrection, does the power of trumpets, on-stage, and antiphonally off-stage, take you towards the precipice of religious cataclysm? In what other sacred work does the timpani sound like a hammer against an anvil? And is there a darker, more sonorous, and bleaker, ‘Amen’ than the one that Verdi writes at the close of his ‘Dies Irae’?

Great performances of Verdi’s Requiem are rare in my experience. They fall short for all kinds of reasons - and yes, the worst do treat this work as an opera. The young Columbian conductor, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, making his Proms debut with this work - as Lorin Maazel had done almost fifty years ago - clearly sees Verdi’s work in very sacred terms. This was in no sense a hard-edged, or even driven, performance in the Solti mould - but nor was it one that lingered over phrases to the point of paralysis as Maazel was wont to do in his later years. That is not to say that Orozco-Estrada doesn’t take time to illuminate details of orchestration. The woodwind phrasing was luscious, for example - but given this conductor’s ear for ravishing sonorities in a work like Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben this didn’t overly surprise me.

It’s difficult to sustain drama and tension in this piece for almost ninety minutes but for most of that span Orozco-Estrada managed to do just that. The ‘Dies Irae’ was taken in almost a single arc and the impact of it was entirely memorable. He brings a younger man’s sense of terror to this music rather than the more usual sense of prophecy than someone like Giulini did. Those indelible piccolos almost seemed to stab themselves through the orchestra like blades, the bass drum thundered, the trombones erupted into pyroclastic clouds of sound. This was a ‘Dies Irae’ with fire scorching like an inferno, the horror of the Day of Wrath painted from the ink of Verdi’s music. But there was room for great luminosity, too: bassoons were sculpted, not just phrased, flutes fluttered like angels. The ‘Agnus Dei’ had an ethereal beauty to it, and this is a conductor who can shape a pianissimo with breath-taking transparency.

Lise Davidson Prom 64.jpgLise Davidsen. Photo Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou.

None of this would have been possible without his soloists or choir, however. Of all the great choral works, Verdi’s Requiem is the most difficult to cast well and this one did much better than most. The Norwegian soprano, Lise Davidsen, I sometimes felt was a touch hard-edged. This isn’t the most obviously beautiful, or creamy, soprano and the sheer steeliness of her voice sometimes felt too harsh. I think anyone who was familiar with Margaret Price in this work would have found her rather cold - even shrill. But where it mattered the accuracy of her singing, the brilliance of her upper register and the ability to scale her dynamics was stunning. She definitely took some time to get into her stride; the ‘Introit and Kyrie’ wasn’t as assured as I’d have liked, but she undoubtedly became more secure as the performance developed. Indeed, her ‘Libera me’ was a tour de force: exquisite strength, imperious high notes and a pianissimo that was ravishing. This is a voice that doesn’t just cut through the orchestra like a sabre; it rises effortlessly above it as well.

The mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, replacing the indisposed Karen Cargill, was magnificent. The voice is rich, yet the tone is so burnished as well, and no-one who heard her sing would have been unmoved by the depth she brought to her part. Perhaps the voice isn’t huge - and certainly it didn’t have the dramatic impact that Lise Davidsen summoned at times - but the pairing of these two voices was symbiotic. The Ukrainian tenor, Dmytro Popov, is that rare thing: A true Verdian tenor. His ‘Ingemisco’, so often a point of anti-climax in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, was staggering. The top notes ring out with a steady evenness that is as disciplined as it is stentorian, and yet that brightness of tone belies a really deep, unquivering lower register that is granitic. Short of stature - it was difficult from where I was sat in the stalls to see him above his music stand - the voice has huge presence. The Polish bass, Tomasz Konieczny, brought the strength and terror of Wotan to his ‘Confutatis’. Again, here was a singer who didn’t just sing his part; he brought a wealth of vocal colour and heroic range to it. Konieczny’s voice is rock-solid at the bottom, the final line of his ‘Confutatis’ - ‘Gere curam mei finis’ - so sonorous you felt it would split the heavens apart. This isn’t just a voice that has strength, however; it abounds in lyricism, too.

Tomasz Konieczny.jpgTomasz Konieczny. Photo Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou.

Both the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and its chorus, were fully equal to the demands of Verdi’s score. This was a performance where neither the orchestra, nor the chorus, overwhelmed the other. It wasn’t the weightiest sounding Verdi Requiem I can remember; in fact, it projected a feeling of period performance being both highly disciplined and strongly incisive. Indeed, balances were so in harmony with each other you often felt the whole requiem was like a slow, blossoming flower. Moments like the opening of the ‘Introit and Kyrie’ were exquisitely poetic, defined by playing that was almost inaudible, barely above the level of a ghostly whisper; yet, on the other hand, the ‘Sanctus’, with its double fugue and double chorus, was a triumph of vocal clarity.

This was a sublime concert, magnificently performed and interpreted, and a very notable Proms debut from its young Columbian conductor.

Marc Bridle

Prom 64: Verdi, Requiem

Lise Davidsen (soprano) - Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano) - Dmytro Popov (tenor) - Tomasz Konieczny (bass) - London Philharmonic Choir (Neville Creed, Chorus-master) - London Philharmonic Orchestra - Andrés Orozco-Estrada (conductor)

Royal Albert Hall, London, 30th August 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):