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

07 Jan 2019

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo (Baroque at the Edge)

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Emily Owen, Niall Ashdown and Jenni Harper

All photographs by Robert Piwko

 

Well, we were the audience at LSO St Luke’s and we were being taken back to 1695 and permitted into a ‘theatre of the mind’. That is, into the feverish dreams and dramas, hallucinations and hauntings of one Henry Purcell who, with the shadow of death falling over his tousled bed, revisited the past and conjured his former self from the archives of memory and nostalgia: son and father, singer and composer, bon vivant and bereaved child and parent.

Clare Norburn’s latest concert-drama, Burying the Dead, was first seen at last year’s Buxton International Festival and has since toured the UK, arriving finally in London for the three-day festival, Baroque at the Edge. What is most impressive about Norburn’s conception is the way that the various strata and elements combine and cohere so effortlessly. Past and present, truth and fantasy, real and imagined come together in a tightly knit and intimate drama. The personal narrative is embedded neatly within historical, cultural and political contexts. At LSO St Luke’s, Niall Ashdown’s Henry Purcell, somewhat dishevelled in night-gown and breeches, took us through an account of his life - his losses and loves, career and carousing - and so created not just a portrait of the ‘matchless man’ (to recall the words of John Blow in his elegiac ode), but also a landscape of seventeenth-century London and a vision of the age.

Ashdown.jpgNiall Ashdown.

Ashdown captured the restless energy, wit and self-awareness of the creative genius, snatching up the manuscript paper strewn upon the bedroom floor when his Muse stirred, frustratedly shaking his quill when the ink stalled, the mechanics of transcription failing to keep up with the flow of invention as the music - beautifully played by the three musicians (harpsichordist Satoko Doi-Luck, viola da gamba player Kate Conway and theorbist Toby Carr) seated either side of the composer’s bed - raced ahead of the hand. Expressive of gesture, Ashdown used irony and self-irony with judiciousness, as when recalling the young composer’s growing success and pride in having his music performed at the soirees held by violinist-composer John Banister in his home. These were the first “concerts” given in London: “I’m sure you’re familiar with the term. Concerts. They are rather like this, but with less speaking,” Ashdown wryly observed.

We had tales of derring do, as when Purcell and the other choristers ran from Westminster to the church of St Dunstan to save it from being consumed by the flames of the Great Fire; and, of disaster, in the form of a pacy account of the origins of the conflagration and its passage through the city, supplemented by asides from the onlookers - “It was started by the French!”, “No, by the Dutch” - and by the crackles and pops of rustled paper bags and hand-claps from the musicians. Desire was not absent, Ashdown joining in tuneful duet with Emily Owen as Purcell courted his wife Frances. And, various of the singers and actresses, such as Letitia Cross, with whom Purcell had amorous liaisons passed through his bedchamber, engaging in ribald banter.

Harper and Owen.jpgJenni Harper and Emily Owen.

Ashdown shifted swiftly and persuasively between moods, and alongside droll humour there was also deep sadness: the bewilderment of the five-year-old boy at the death of his father; the loneliness of the young man whose beloved Jane disappeared one day from the family home after a change of personal circumstances; the bereaved father, mourning the deaths of four of his six children. The ode that he composed upon the death of Queen Mary was in fact, so Purcell confessed, an elegy not for the monarch but for his own small babes. Such personal triumphs and tragedies were framed by the broader context of the political age, as Purcell reflected upon upheavals and uncertainties of his day, as the culturally rich age of Charles II was succeeded by the religious unrest of James II’s reign which in turn led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 around the crowning of the Dutch William and English Queen Mary.

Final Scene Ceruleo.jpg

Interwoven into Clare Norburn’s text are assorted instrumental and vocal compositions by Purcell: bawdy theatre ballads; slow airs such as ‘The Virtuous wife, or Good luck at last’; joyful celebrations of love such as ‘She loves and she confesses too’; the mad song, ‘From silent shades’, in which ‘Bess of Bedlam’ mourns in love-sick melancholy; and numbers from the semi-operas, such as ‘Two daughters of this aged stream’ in which two sirens, naked to the waist, emerge from a silver stream and beg King Arthur to lay aside his sword and join them. Emily Owen and Jenni Harper sang with fine focus and strong dramatic presence, characterising their various impersonation vividly. And, the three musicians were not left out of the dramatic action, occasionally putting aside their instruments to participate in the unfolding narrative.

Director Tom Guthrie has imaginatively and skilfully integrated these various elements with the simplest of dramatic means and the whole achieved a directness worthy of Purcell himself. With the audience so close to the stage, and at times drawn into the action - handed a tankard, strewn with red petals - the immediacy of the drama was captivating. Indeed, the integration of drama and song seemed almost to re-create the theatre of Purcell’s day, to place his songs back within their original context. As the lights slowly diminished upon the dying phrases of Dido’s lament, we had been gifted a magical vision of the man behind the music, the very human soul behind the creative genius.

Claire Seymour

Ceruleo: Burying the Dead, by Clare Norburn

Thomas Guthrie - director, Niall Ashdown - actor, Emily Owen and Jenni Harper - sopranos, Satoko Doi-Luck - harpsichord, Kate Conway - viola da gamba, Toby Carr - theorbo; Lighting - Pitch black lighting, Costume - Hannah Pearson.

LSO St Luke’s, London; Saturday 5th January 2019.

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):