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

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.

Prom 67: The Boston Symphony Orchestra play Mahler’s Third

Mahler and I, at least in the concert hall, parted company over a decade ago - and with his Third Symphony it has been an even longer abandonment, fifteen years. Reviewing can nurture great love for music; but it can also become so obsessive for a single composer it can make one profoundly unresponsive to their music. This was my tragedy with Mahler.

Bampton Classical Opera Goes to the Ball

I wonder if Cinderella realised that when she found her Prince she would also find international fame, becoming not just a Princess but also a global celebrity and icon. The glass slipper, placed loving on her shapely foot, has graced theatres, variety halls, cinema screens and opera houses - even postage stamps - and the perennial popularity of this rags-to-riches fairy-tale, in which innocence and goodness triumph over injustice and oppression, shows no signs of waning.

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):