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

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

21 Nov 2018

'So sweet is the pain': Roberta Invernizzi at Wigmore Hall

In this BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall, soprano Roberta Invernizzi presented Italian songs from the first half of seventeenth-century, exploring love and loyalty, loss and lies, and demonstrating consummate declamatory mastery.

Roberta Invernizzi, at Wigmore Hall (BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert)

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Roberta Invernizzi

Photo credit: Davide Capelli

 

Invernizzi and her instrumental partners - lutenists Craig Marchitelli and Franco Pavan, and viola da gamba player Rodney Prada - began with two solo madrigals by Caccini. It took a little time for the musicians to settle, the sparse lute textures of the opening of ‘Dolcissimo sospiro’ (Most gentle sigh) providing only the mildest anchor for the voice, while the piquant chromaticism freed the vocal line still further. But, Invernizzi did not compromise the purity of her tone, floating dreamily. The entry of the viola da gamba underpinned the tangibility of the ‘sweet pain’ and drama accrued at the close, with a sudden injection of fleetness at the protagonist’s self-chastisement for futilely addressing a rambling sigh that would surely fly off to another’s heart - ‘Ad un sospiro errante/ Che forse vola in sen ad altro amante’.

All the qualities that would make this such an enthralling recital were present in this song. Invernizzi contrasted a ‘clean’, sincere sound, employing little vibrato, with richer colours, rippling through a musical or textual gesture to indicate a surge of anger or pain. Dynamic contrasts were similarly emotive and enhanced by vocal exclamations. Ornamentation was restrained, ensuring the listener’s engagement with the text, but the decoration of sustained notes was beautiful, and complemented by virtuosic diminutions and gestural flourishes in the accompanying parts. Most notable, though, was Invernizzi’s phrasing. She was responsive to the harmonic insinuations, bringing musical phrase, text and chromatic nuance together in a flexible line, often ‘bending’ the pitch towards a particular note or syllable and so blending the pain and pleasure which are the essence of these songs.

Caccini’s strophic dance ‘Dalla porta d’Oriente’ (From the gateway to the East) tripped along freely, until an affective rallentando at the close conveyed the suffering of the dawn sky, whose colorific splendour is paled by the fire of rubies that burns in two lovers’ hearts, an extravagant lute flourish sharpening the bitter tears which infuse the ‘roseo manto’ (rosy mantle).

It was good to hear some rarer songs too. Tarquinio Merula’s ‘Folle è ben che si crede’ (He is indeed mad, the man who believes’ was a droll protestation of fidelity, the final repetition of the stanzas’ indifferent refrain - ‘Dica chi vuole,/ dica chi sa’ (Let them speak who want to,/ let them speak who know’ - thrown away with an insouciant wry shrug. Luigi Rossi’s ‘La bella più bella’ (The most wondrous beauty) sparkled with the flightiness of the woman who vanishes abruptly from a sleeper’s dream, before the wriggling vocal line revealed his self-indulgent revelling in the piercing pains of love. The winding vocal line of Sigismondo d’India’s ‘Intenerite voi, lagrime mie’ (Move to pity, my tears) fired chromatic darts of pain, twisting and burning; the composer’s ‘Crud’Amarilli’ (Cruel Amarilli) was more pensive, submitting in crushed resignation in the final two lines, ‘Poi che col dir t’offendo,/ I’ mi morrò tacendo’ (and by saying this I offend you,/to my death silent will I go’).

The music of Monteverdi was the heart of the recital. ‘Ecco di dolci raggi il sol armato’ (See the sun armed with gentle rays) was a drama of fire and ice, the arioso fluid and seemingly spontaneous. A lovely bloom was followed by the soft diminishment of the voice at the close of ‘Si dolce è’l tormento’ (So sweet is the pain) to convey first the ardent lover’s unrequited passion, then his bitter resignation: ‘Ben fi ache dolente/Pentita e languente/Sospirami un dì’ (let her one day, repentant and languishing, suffer and yearn for me) ‘Disprezzata regina’ from L’incorozanione di Poppea was gripping, as Invernizzi communicated all the theatre of the rejected Ottavia’s emotional rollercoaster, in which, vulnerable and confused, she grieves for lost love (‘Dove, ohimè, dover sei’; hurls her anger at her evil deserter, ‘empio Nerone’; and imagines her tears reflecting her husband’s sensuous delights mingled with her own distress, the slippery chromatic line culminating in a delicious slow trill.

Woven between the vocal items were instrumental toccatas and passacaglias. In a passacaglia by Giovanni Kapsberger, the contrasting musical characters of the two lutenists made for an engaging duet discourse, as Marchitelli, more extrovert, leaned over his chitarrone towards Pavan, as the initial mood of gentle intimation and mystery became invigored with stronger animation and definition. Kaspberger’s Toccata Arpeggiata (from Libro I d’intavolatura di chitarrone) was rhythmically playful and impulsive, retreating to a whispered pianissimo and then, just when the threads of sound seemed about to disappear, propulsively swelling once more. Rodney Prada roved across the full range of his viola da gamba in Orazio Bassani’s Tocatta per B Quadro, producing a full, juicy bass tone, while in a Canzone by Giralomo Frescobaldi an engaging discourse ensued between the sweet, decorative melody of the viola da gamba and the vigorously brushed chords of the lutenists.

Invernizzi returned to Caccini at the close, offering one of the best-known madrigals of the period, the composer’s ‘Amarilli, mia bella’, as her encore. Once again, one marvelled at her declamatory technique and style, which gave such life to the fictional poet-singer that one could believe he was indeed present in Wigmore Hall.

Claire Seymour

Roberta Invernizzi (soprano), Rodney Prada (viola da gamba), Craig Marchitelli (lute), Franco Pavan (lute)

Caccini - ‘Dolcissimo sospiro’, ‘Dalla porta d’oriente’; Kapsberger - Passacaglia; Monteverdi - ‘Ecco di dolci raggi il sol armato’, ‘Disprezzata Regina’ (from L’incoronazione di Poppea); Bassani - Toccata per B Quadro; Frescobaldi - Canzone a basso solo; Merula - ‘Folle è ben che si crede’; Rossi - ‘La bella più bella’; Kapsberger - Toccata Arpeggiata from Libro I d’intavolatura di chitarrone; d’India - ‘Intenerite voi, lagrime mie’, ‘Cruda Amarilli’; Monteverdi - ‘Sí dolce è’l tormento’, ‘Voglio di vita uscir’.

Wigmore Hall, London; Monday 19th November 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):