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

28 Mar 2019

Mozart’s Mass in C minor at the Royal Festival Hall

A strange concert, this, in that, although chorally conceived, it proved strongest in the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto: not so much a comment on the choral singing as on the conducting of Dan Ludford-Thomas.

Lewisham Choral Society and the Hackney Singers at the Royal Festival Hall

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Dan Ludford-Thomas

 

That might seem odd, given that he proved himself very much a choral rather than an orchestral conductor, but the concerto came off best precisely because control of its direction was for the most part in the more than capable hands of pianist, Nico de Villiers. There was no doubt whatsoever that he was the real thing, offering playing both pellucid and, where required, weighty (making me keen to hear his Brahms). Insofar as he was able to lead the London Mozart Players, he did, with all the give and take of chamber music. The shaping of the first-movement cadenza offered a conspectus of that movement, even the work, as a whole. A lovely blend of ‘Classical’ and ‘Romantic’ was similarly achieved in the Intermezzo, also benefiting from fine cello playing (though a few more cellos and indeed strings more generally would have been welcome). Finely sprung rhythms characterised a finale both buoyant and directed, the LMP on noticeably better form throughout the concerto than in the choral works by Brahms and Mozart that surrounded it.

First of those was Brahms’s Schicksalslied, or ‘Song of Destiny’. Again, one would ideally have had a larger orchestra, not least given the presence of two very large choruses, the Hackney Singers and Lewisham Choral Society, but there were doubtless financial reasons for that. Ludford-Thomas certainly handled those gigantic, Gurrelieder-like choral forces well here. They offered a pleasing sound and excellent diction, clearly well trained, with convincing dynamic contrasts. The final stanza proved hard driven, though, and the orchestra was largely left to fend for itself - sometimes with more convincing results than others.

The second half of the concert was given over to Mozart’s Mass in C minor. The ‘Kyrie’ offered a largely promising start. Swift, if not unreasonably so, and well balanced - again, given the mismatch in size between choruses and orchestras - it once again offered fine choral singing, and a nice change to hear so many voices in Mozart. Alas, soprano, Elin Manahan Thomas proved parted here and elsewhere, also contributing decidedly peculiar Latin pronunciation and ornamentation. If there was nothing especially insightful to Ludford-Thomas’s conducting of the ‘Gloria’, it enabled the chorus, which was a good part of the point of such a concert. Helen Meyerhoff, in its ‘Laudamus’ section proved a more convincing soloist, a bizarrely fast tempo notwithstanding. Subsequent sections sounded more like rushes to the bus stop than moments of Rococo wonder and suffered from poor blend between soloists. By the time we reached the ‘Qui tollis’, choral intonation left a good deal to be desired. However, the teenor, Peter Davoren had some good moments.

Maybe the novelty of such large choral forces had simply worn off, or maybe they were growing tired: either way, the ‘Credo’ seemed more affected by roughness around the edges than had been the case earlier. The ‘Et incarnatus est’, which should be one of the most wondrous movements in all Mozart’s sacred music, suffered from uneven singing, plain strings, and serious disjuncture in pitch between the two; only the woodwind redeemed it. A plain ‘Sanctus’, lumbering ‘Osanna’ and perfunctory ‘Benedictus’ made for dispiriting listening.

Mark Berry

Brahms: Schicksalslied Op.54; Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54; Mozart: Mass in C minor KV 427/417a.

Nico de Villiers (piano), Elin Manahan Thomas, Helen Meyerhoff (sopranos), Peter Davoren (tenor), Philip Tebb (bass), Hackney Singers, Lewisham Choral Society, London Mozart Players/Dan Ludford-Thomas (conductor).

Royal Festival Hall, London, Friday 22 March 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):