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

L’equivoco stravagante in Pesaro

L’equivoco stravagante (The Bizarre Misunderstanding), the 18 year-old Gioachino Rossini's first opera buffa, is indeed bizarre. Its heroine Ernestina is obsessed by literature and philosophy and the grandiose language of opera seria.

BBC Prom 44: Rattle conjures a blistering Belshazzar’s Feast

This was a notable occasion for offering three colossal scores whose execution filled the Albert Hall’s stage with over 150 members of the London Symphony Orchestra and 300 singers drawn from the Barcelona-based Orfeó Català and Orfeó Català Youth Choir, along with the London Symphony Chorus.

Prom 45: Mississippi Goddam - A Homage to Nina Simone

Nina Simone was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century music. But she was much more than this; many of her songs came to be a clarion call for disenfranchised and discriminated against Americans. When black Americans felt they didn’t have a voice, Nina Simone gave them one.

Sincerity, sentimentality and sorrow from Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake at Snape Maltings

‘Abwärts rinnen die Ströme ins Meer.’ Down flow the rivers, down into the sea. These are the ‘sadly-resigned words in the consciousness of his declining years’ that, as reported by The Athenaeum in February 1866 upon the death of Friedrich Rückert, the poet had written ‘some time ago, in the album of a friend of ours, then visiting him at his rural retreat near Neuses’. Such melancholy foreboding - simultaneously sincere and sentimental - infused this recital at Snape Maltings by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake.

Glimmerglass’ Showboat Sails to Glory

For the annual production of a classic American musical that has become part of Glimmerglass Festival’s mission, the company mounted a wholly winning version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s immortal Showboat.

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Edward Elgar: <em>The Hills of Dreamland</em> - orchestral songs.  Kathryn Rudge, Henk Neven, Barry Wordsworth, BBC Concert Orchestra.
10 Sep 2018

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.

Edward Elgar: The Hills of Dreamland - orchestral songs. Kathryn Rudge, Henk Neven, Barry Wordsworth, BBC Concert Orchestra.

A review by Anne Ozorio

SOMM Recordings SOMM CD2712 (2 CDs) (£11.64)

 

Elgar's genius for oratorio, and large scale works for orchestra and voice somewhat eclipse his ventures in art song, apart from the masterpiece Sea Pictures, and the more recently acclaimed Fringes of the Fleet. Those who have treasured SOMM's first collection of Elgar songs for voice (with Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Christopher Maltmann, Neal Mackie and Malcolm Martineau) will seek this out, for they make good companion pieces. In any case, there are some real treasures here, such as Elgar's Song Cycle op 59 which deserves greater appreciation. Heartfelt thanks to SOMM Recordings for bringing this back into the repertoire.

The first disc in this 2 CD set (offered at the price of one) features Elgar's Song Cycle op 59 and his Two Songs op 60 plus Pleading, The King's Way, Follow the Colours and incidental music to Grania and Dairmid. The soloists are Kathryn Rudge and Henk Neven, with Barry Wordsworth conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Elgar's Song Cycle op 59 was initially planned as a set of songs to texts by Gilbert Parker, a Canadian born novelist who was later to be knighted for services to Britain during the 1914-18 war. "O soft was the song", "Was it some golden star?" and "Twilight” are tender, and almost elegaic. They were written for a concert in memorial of A J Jaeger, Elgar's friend, whom he immortalized in the Enigma Variations. Henk Neven's burnished timbre gives them personal, intimate warmth.

The cycle develops to a high point with "The Wind of Dawn", initially written in 1888 to a poem by Alice, before she and Elgar were married. In its original form it was a song for voice and piano. In the bolder orchestration the strings surge, suggesting heaving passion, since the text is daringly erotic, for the era. The full orchestra rises to expansive crescendo, the mezzo (Kathryn Rudge) soaring above. It is a song worthy of Sea Pictures, and indeed, the imagery includes references to "the sea stream'd red from the kiss of his brow". A pity it was created after Sea Pictures had made its mark. It would be interesting to speculate why Elgar concluded this cycle - for it is a cycle - with "The Pipes of Pan". the words are by Adrian Ross who wrote hits for musical theatre, though this text refers to Greek mythology. But Pan is the god of fertility and robust disorder, a shepherd whom polite society cannot contain. Pan is a musician, too,who plays his pipes and enchants those who pay attention. This song therefore connects to "The Wind at Dawn", with its fulsome sense of adventure. Ever enigmatic, Elgar could be making cryptic links between himself and his muse Alice, thus affirming the joy of life even at a time of sorrow.

More secret humour in the Two Songs op 60 — poems purportedly by Pietro D'Alba, who was in fact young Carice's pet rabbit. The words are Elgar's own, and whimsical, the composer claiming that they were folk tunes from "Leyrisch-Turasp, 1909", a place which doesn't exist. Nonetheless, the fantasy gave Elgar a chance to write florid mock-Slavic drama, crashing climaxes blending with delicate expressiveness.

Pleading op 48 is a reverie which might suggest Richard Strauss in autumnal mood, but we're back to exuberance with Follow the Colours: a Marching Song for Soldiers written for the Royal Albert Hall's Empire Day in 1908. The text, by a military officer, is jingoistic, but Elgar seems to relish the opportunity with high spirits. The deliberately four-square rhythm evokes images of "Thousands, thousands of marching feet" stomping mindlessly in strict formation. Thus The King's Way isn't as banal as it might seem on the surface. It surges forth with almost parodic expansiveness. "Let every voice in England say - God keep the way by night and day - The King of England's Way!" But the poem - again by Alice, who must have had a sharper mind than she gets credit for, refers explicitly to the "newest street in London town - the Kingsway which had recently been constructed. destroying older parts of London in the process.

William Butler Yeats and George Moore collaborated on the play Grania and Diamid, a Celtic Revival tale of ancient Ireland. Elgar sets the Introduction with dark, brooding chords which suggest forests and mysterious forces. Hunting horns are complemented by harps, for this is an Irish, not a Teutonic Wagner saga. "There are seven that pull the thread" is a keening song of mourning, with lush harps and strings, written for low female voice. It's Elgar, but he doesn't seem to have been much taken by it.
The second disc in this set features eleven songs for voice and piano (Nathalie de Montmollin, Barry Collett) which have not previously been recorded. They are enjoyable, but the first disc, with the orchestral songs, is the one to focus on.

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):