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 Performances

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.

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.

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.

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.’

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.’

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."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Hector Berlioz by Pierre Petit [Source: Wikipedia]
05 May 2019

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Hector Berlioz by Pierre Petit [Source: Wikipedia]

 

The second of two performances conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano took place on the 4th of May and also functioned as a Memorial Concert. The 4th of May is when the Dutch honor all wartime victims since the outbreak of the Second World War with remembrance ceremonies and concerts across the country.

A day before, at the first performance, the enormous fortissimos literally made the Concertgebouw floor quake. But Berlioz’s Mass for the Dead, with its huge choir and instrumental arsenal, does not just overwhelm with shock and awe. Its hushed, timorous moments provoke pity. Unexpected changes of temperament and color buffet listeners about, leaving them disoriented. For the Rex tremendae Berlioz prescribes sixteen timpani and four brass orchestras, strategically positioned to produce a quadrophonic effect. In terms of size and span, this is the ultimate spatial theatre. Yet the sense of boundless space also comes from choral phrases that rise softly from or are suddenly swallowed up by silence. In a gripping, theatrical performance, Sir Antonio Pappano brought out the work’s myriad spatial and dynamic facets in fine detail. The first bars of the Introitus—confident, expansive and perceptively molded—heralded the character of his whole Requiem. The RCO don’t need a great conductor to play beautifully, but to hear them play in a thrillingly conceived account such as this one was an extraordinary experience.

For the world premiere in 1837 Berlioz envisioned 800 choristers and 465 musicians filling the huge church of the Invalides in Paris. Expense limitations cut that number to about half, and the published score calls for a 200-strong chorus. But the composer indicated that the number of singers and players should be tailored to the venue. The forces at the Concertgebouw were not as big as those set down in the score, but they were perfectly sufficient. There were around 120 choristers and the number of instruments in the brass bands, two flanking the onstage organ and two at the extreme ends of the balcony, had been halved. It was still enough to make the hall shake. No recording can approach hearing Berlioz’s Last Judgment fanfares live and so splendidly played. And his instrumental coloring, at times downright bizarre, makes perfect sense when rendered so exquisitely. Who but Berlioz could have conceived the improbable mix of male voices accompanied by flutes and trombones in the Hostias? The hopeful flutes reach towards heaven while the trombones drag them uncompromisingly down to earth. It’s a sobering device that he also employs in the Lacrimosa, when the choir basses and the bassoons counter the ethereal tenors with plummeting, despondent figures. The orchestra and choir could not have depicted this struggle between yearning and despair more perspicuously.

Besides being music director of the Royal Opera House, Sir Antonio Pappano is also at the helm of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and he brought their chorus with him for the occasion. It was up to their chorus master, Ciro Visco, to meld the Roman choir and the local Netherlands Radio Choir into an integrated ensemble, a task he fulfilled with triumphant success. The choir produced sumptuous, full-bodied harmonies, with defiantly percussive consonants in the ferocious Dies irae and Rex tremendae. The lyrical lines of the unaccompanied Quaerens me flowed like clear honey. Blanched, fearful murmurs receded into an almost tangible abyss, high voices shimmered in heaven-bound invocations. Berlioz may have been a hardened unbeliever, but anyone who heard the tenors’ beautiful entrance on “Te decet hymnus” in the Agnus dei, after the series of hesitant chords in the woodwinds, must have at least been tempted to have faith in something. Heightening the intensity of the evening, tenor Javier Camarena was a prayerful, expressive soloist in the Sanctus, with irreproachable legato and top notes with brilliant overtones. This stupendous performance was captured for transmission on the radio at a later date. Hopefully, the RCO will also produce a commercial recording.

Jenny Camilleri


Berlioz: Grande Messe des morts

Javier Camarena, Tenor. Sir Antonio Pappano, Conductor. Ciro Visco, Chorus Master. Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor). Choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Heard at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on Friday, the 3rd of May, 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):