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

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

Emmerich Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

Brilliant Emmerich Kálmán’s Ein Herbstmanöver from the Stadttheater, Giessen in 2018, conducted by Michael Hofstetter now on Oehms Classics, in a performing version by Balázs Kovalik.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique
06 Sep 2018

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.

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique

A review by Robert Hugill

Above: Joyce DiDonato (soprano) and John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Photo credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

 

Playing standing, the orchestra launched into Le corsaire with enormous energy. Throughout the music was by turns headlong and thoughtful with a real tang to the timbres, creating a vivid performance full of contrasts.

This was followed by La mort de Cleopatra, Berlioz's third attempt at winning the Prix de Rome (in fact that cantata was far too daring for the jury). It is a striking sequence of recitative and aria which Berlioz sets in a fluid manner, creating a single narrative. Joyce DiDonato gave a dramatic performance, full of arresting detail and a vivid attention to the words. She was complemented by the timbres and textures of the orchestra, everyone making the music full of quick changes of mood. The death scene at the end was terrific.

Next came the Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, the ballet sequence which is as much orchestral showpiece as anything else. Gardiner started quietly but again it was the sound and contrasts of the period instruments which brought the music alive. Gardiner brought the off-stage brass on-stage so that we were able to make the most of the saxhorns, and it was lovely to be able to hear the contrast between the smooth even tone of the saxhorns and the more varied timbres of the hand-stopped French horns. This was a performance full of contrasts and textures you could cut with a knife, a vivid and theatrical orchestral experience.

We plunged on directly to Dido's death scene, with Joyce DiDonato rushing on during the prelude. She gave us fluidly shaped recitative, complemented by the colours in the orchestra. She made a passionate and dignified Dido, with touching references back to the love duet. Unfortunately, given such a vivid performance, we did not get the final death scene and the performance finished with the air 'Adieu, fiere cite'.

In the second half we returned to earlier in Berlioz' career with his symphony Harald in Italy. Gardiner and the orchestra began the first movement with the soloist, Antoine Tamestit, off stage. Gardiner brought a classical sweep to the music, yet the timbre of period instruments gave romantic spice to the music. The piece is hardly a concerto, Harold is the eternal observer, and Tamestit emphasised this by coming on stage and observing the orchestra before playing, and he rarely stood in the classic soloist’s position, instead wandering round the stage creating a sense of visual dramatic narrative. He plays quite a big viola with a beautiful singing sound, so that though not a virtuoso work Tamestit's melodic line was the passionate centre of attention, and both Tamestit and Gardiner brought sheer energy to the work. The second movement was full of attractive textures, whilst Tamestit’s playing had real poetry to it in the third movement. In the lively last movement, Gardiner and the orchestra emphasised the crisp and lively rhythms, whilst Tamestit's viola wandered in and out of the orchestra both physically and musically.

This was a programme which showed what can be gained from performing Berlioz on period instruments, and Gardiner and his team complemented this with a vivid sense of energy. It was lovely to hear DiDonato in the snippet from Les Troyens, but as with the recent Proms performance of two arias from Samuel Barber's Anthony and Cleopatra, it made you wish that room could have been made for more substantial excerpts or even the whole work. As it was, there was rather a sense of greatest hits about the evening, but what hits they are.

Robert Hugill


Prom 71: Hector Berlioz - Le corsair, La mort de Cleopatra, ‘Royal Hunt and Storm’ (Les Troyens ), Dido’s death scene (Les Troyens), Harold in Italy

Joyce DiDonato - soprano, Antoine Tamestit - viola, John Eliot Gardiner - conductor Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique.

BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London; 5th September 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):