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 Commentary

In conversation with Nina Brazier

When British opera director Nina Brazier tries to telephone me from Frankfurt, where she is in the middle of rehearsals for a revival of Florentine Klepper’s 2015 production of Martinů’s Julietta, she finds herself - to my embarrassment - ‘blocked’ by my telephone preference settings. The technical hitch is soon solved; but doors, in the UK and Europe, are certainly very much wide open for Nina, who has been described by The Observer as ‘one of Britain’s leading young directors of opera’.

2019 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera International Song Competition

Russian bass-baritone Mikhail Timoshenko has won the top prize at the 2019 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera International Song Competition.

An Englishman in Vienna: Stephen Storace

When his first opera, Gli sposi malcontenti, premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1st June 1985, the 23-year-old Stephen Storace must have been confident that his future fame and fortune were assured.

Stendhal on the Rossini Revolution

Some Details concerning the Revolution inaugurated by Rossini

Louise Jeffreys to become Deputy Chair of ENO

English National Opera (ENO) is pleased to announce that Louise Jeffreys is to become Deputy Chair of English National Opera and the London Coliseum. She replaces Nicholas Allan. Louise is currently Artistic Director of the Barbican where she leads...

Verdi Treasures from Milan’s Ricordi Archive make US debut

Rare testimonies to the history of Italian opera from the Milan-based, Bertelsmann-owned Ricordi Archive will now be shown in the United States for the first time. Fans of classical music and literature can look forward to the exhibition “Verdi: Creating Otello and Falstaff - Highlights from the Ricordi Archive”, which will be on view at the renowned Morgan Library & Museum in New York from September 6, 2019 to January 5, 2020.

Odyssey Opera Resurrects Henry VIII

BOSTON, MA (For Release 07.18.19) — One of the nation’s most adventurous opera companies, Odyssey Opera, begins its seventh season with a concert performance of Henry VIII (1883) by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns based on El cisma en Inglaterra (The schism in England) by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Glyndebourne Announces the Return of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup in 2020

Glyndebourne’s major new international singing competition returns in 2020 with a renewed commitment to supporting diversity in opera. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup - the international competition for opera singers is designed to discover and spotlight the best young singers around the world, offering a top prize of £15,000 and a guaranteed role at a leading international opera house. The final will once again be broadcast live on Sky Arts on 7 March 2020 and the series is produced by Factory Films.

Garsington Opera: Five Young Singers Win Prestigious Awards

Winners of this year’s prestigious Leonard Ingrams Foundation awards are mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew and tenor Oliver Johnston. These awards support, encourage and nurture the best young artists involved in the creative process of bringing opera to the stage, and are made in memory of Garsington Opera’s founder Leonard Ingrams, to ensure the continuity of his vision.

Bill Bankes-Jones on the twelfth Tête à Tête Opera Festival

“We need to stop talking about ‘diversity’ and think instead about ‘inclusivity’,” says Bill Bankes-Jones, when we meet to talk about the forthcoming twelfth Tête à Tête Opera Festival which runs from 24th July to 10th August.

The Italian Opera Connection at ‘The English Versailles’: The Duchess of Buccleuch and the Georgian Stage at Boughton House

As part of its annual programme of events, Boughton House in Northamptonshire hosts ‘A Passion for Opera’, a rare exhibition portraying the musical life of Lady Elizabeth Montagu (1743–1827) and the world of Georgian operatic culture.

An interview with composer Dani Howard

The young Hong Kong-born British composer Dani Howard is having quite a busy year.

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycle

Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced both schedules and cast-lists for is Spring 2020 performances of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Given the series of individual productions already staged by the company since Fall 2016, that pave the way for the complete cycle, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s complete production should affirm the artistic might of the great composer.

Irish mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy on Salzburg, Sellars and Singing

For Peter Sellars, Mozart’s Idomeneo is a ‘visionary’ work, a utopian opera centred on a classic struggle between a father and a son written by an angry 25-year-old composer who wanted to show the musical establishment what a new generation could do.

London Bel Canto Festival 2019: an interview with Ken Querns-Langley

“Physiognomy, psychology and technique.” These are the three things that determine the way a singer’s sound is produced, so Ken Querns-Langley explains when we meet in the genteel surroundings of the National Liberal Club, where the training programmes, open masterclasses and performances which will form part the third London Bel Canto Festival will be held from 5th-24th August.

The Royal Opera Tours to Japan in September 2019

The Royal Opera is delighted to be returning to Japan in September 2019 as part of an exciting year of UK-Japan exchanges, titled UK in Japan 2019-20, following the Company’s hugely successful tour in autumn 2015.

Longborough Festival Opera announces collaboration with The Academy of Ancient Music in 2020

Longborough Festival Opera will collaborate with the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) for its production of Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses in 2020. Robert Howarth will conduct Monteverdi’s beautiful, compassionate drama, with Tom Randle in the title role.

Glyndebourne’s first production of Dialogues des Carmélites to open Glyndebourne Festival 2020

Glyndebourne’s first production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites will open Glyndebourne Festival 2020, it was announced today. The opera house unveiled its 2020 plans at an event in its recently built Production Hub, hosted by Glyndebourne’s new senior leadership team, Artistic Director Stephen Langridge and Managing Director Sarah Hopwood, who jointly replace the former position of General Director.

Garsington Opera Announces 2020 season and 2019 Paris Performance

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce the 2020 season that will open on 28 May, featuring three new productions - Verdi’s Un giorno di regno, Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, Dvořák’s Rusalka and a revival of John Cox’s legendary production of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park: in conversation with Alison Langer

“Sop. Page, attendant on the King.” So, reads a typical character description of the loyal page Oscar, whose actions, in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, unintentionally lead to his monarch’s death. He reveals the costume that King Gustavo is wearing at the masked ball, thus enabling the monarch’s secretary, Anckarstroem, to shoot him. The dying King falls into the faithful Oscar’s arms.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

15 May 2019

Thomas Larcher's The Hunting Gun at the Aldeburgh Festival: in conversation with Peter Schöne

‘Aloneness’ does not immediately seem a likely or fruitful subject for an opera. But, loneliness and isolation - an individual’s inner sphere, which no other human can truly know or enter - are at the core of Yasushi Inoue’s creative expression.

The Hunting Gun: the first UK performance of Thomas Larcher’s opera, at the Aldeburgh Festival

An interview with Peter Schöne, by Claire Seymour

Above: Peter Schöne

 

And, when the operatic adaptation of the Japanese writer’s 1949 novella, The Hunting Gun, by Austrian composer Thomas Larcher and librettist Friederike Gösweiner, was premiered at Bregenz last summer, it was praised for its “clear, powerful text, some striking imagery and a luminous score of great beauty and originality” (The Observer) and its combination of “lyric beauty” and “explosive intensity” ( Financial Times).

Next month, the Bregenz production, directed by Austrian film director Karl Markovics and designed by Katharina Wöppermann, travels to the Aldeburgh Festival. Peter Schöne will perform the role of the elusive Josuke Misugi - a cold, remote but self-assured man who declares his hunting gun indispensable to him, no matter how successful his public and private affairs - and I spoke to the German baritone about the forthcoming production which will mark Peter’s debut in England.

I began by remarking my surprise that Inoue’s sparse, poetic style and introspective narrative have proved apt for operatic setting. In their translation of The Hunting Gun, for the Tuttle edition, Sadamichi Yokoö and Sanford Goldstein describe the loneliness that Inoue depicts as peculiarly ‘oriental’, “related to the weariness of life and its negation”. Certainly, silence and suicide pervade The Hunting Gun, which is dominated by two recurring images. Shoko’s painful vision of a love “unlighted by the sun, flowing from nowhere to nowhere, and buried deep in the earth like an underground stream” is crystallised by her memory of a glass paperweight, its petals “frozen immovably in glass, petals that could not stir if it was spring or autumn, petals put to death”. Then, there is the “snake” which Josuke observes each individual has within themselves, and which his lover Saiko imagines as one’s egotism, jealousy and destiny: “an unbearably sad thing that we carry inside us.”

The Hunting Gun recounts a tragic love triangle through the medium of three letters addressed to Josuke. Penned by wife Midori, his lover Saiko, and her daughter Shoko, the letters take us into the minds of these women as their reflections form a layered dialogue of opposing perspectives and narrative gaps are slowly filled. Midori, bold and rebellious, has kept her knowledge of her husband’s affair secret for thirteen years, but now reveals her awareness of Josuke’s deceit and demands a divorce. When she finally confronts her cousin Saiko, the latter commits suicide by poison after first asking her daughter to burn her diary. The bereaved Shoko, however, reads the journal and, learning of her mother’s affair, feels betrayed and bewildered.

We become privy to the women’s painful private reflections when the letters are sent by Josuke to a poet. Via a framing device, we learn of the unnamed, self-deprecating poet’s journey to the Amagi mountains where his attention had been drawn to a man, gun on his shoulder, pipe in his mouth, who had a strange contemplative air about him: an impression of loneliness. Recognising himself in the poem that the author published about this encounter, Josuke contacts the poet, enclosing the three letters which he trusts the poet will burn.

Despite his pleasure in the poet’s representation of him, and his admiration for “the uncommonly sharp insight of a poet”, Josuke reflects, “It seems to me that a man is foolish enough to want another person to understand him.” And, ironically, the poet explains that the details in the poem - such the type of gun, a Churchill, the finest gun in England - were selected by chance, declaring that “the real Josuke Misugi, the source of my poem, was still unknown to me.” All we have of Josuke are his brief words of address, his calligraphy - “huge characters”, “robust and gorgeous and flowing that threatened to jump off the page” - and the women’s enigmatic and frustrated wonderings. Can such a man be ‘brought to life’, made ‘real’ and ‘knowable’ by the music?

Peter begins by noting that despite the ‘strangeness’ of the novella, in which the characters do not actually speak to one another, there is a strong energy in the text, one which - having travelled in Japan, beyond the cities and into the countryside - he feels is distinctly Japanese: a balance of lightness and blackness, which brings back memories of Mount Fuji to Peter, and which he feels is sustained throughout the novel. One thinks of Buddhist teaching which asserts that pain and passion are inextricably entwined: “To love, to be loved - our actions are pathetic,” writes Saiko, moments before she takes her own life. It’s a dichotomy that Peter finds, too, in Larcher’s music, the post-Mahlerian tonality of which captures both the intense cruelty of the characters’ suffering and the delicate beauty and freshness that one might associate with Japanese sakura.

There is a resilience about Josuke Misugi, Peter notes; he is a strong character, and has had a successful business career, yet the private man has flaws, as do we all. Thus, we can relate to Josuke when, despite have a new, young wife, he loves another woman and succumbs to temptation. He makes a decision which brings the outside world into his own inner life. Larcher’s music is beautiful to sing, Peter says: the legato line enables one to show the strength and shine of one’s voice but there are dark moments too - a wide emotional and expressive bandwidth. Does the music encourage us to sympathise with Josuke, who seems so distant and ineffable in the novella, I wonder? Peter agrees enthusiastically!

When I mention that The Hunting Gun will mark Peter’s debut in the UK, he corrects me: he has actually performed in Scotland twice previously, first in a Youth Orchestra as a teenage violinist, and then at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival, singing songs by Hugo Wolf. Does he still play the violin, I ask? Peter explains that he began playing as a five-year-old, when living in East Berlin. When the Wall came down, many of the musical contexts in which he studied and performed disappeared. His mother looked for other possibilities for Peter to continue his musical development and her attention was caught by a television programme about a boys’ choir.

When she asked the then fifteen-year-old Peter if he wanted to join, he was adamant that he did not! But, she encouraged him to begin singing alongside his ongoing violin studies. As his voice became stronger, it was necessary to make a decision: it would not be possible to do the necessary seven-hours-a-day practice on both violin and voice, so Peter decided to audition for conservatoires in both disciplines and see what the results were. Ten offers to study voice against one for violin determined the future, and he completed his vocal training with Harald Stamm at the University of the Arts Berlin, though Peter did also graduate as a violinist, following studies with Valerie Rubin at the Academy of Music Nuremberg-Augsburg, and still plays violin for pleasure.

Interestingly, he remarks that he thinks that his training as a violinist helps him to read and learn music quickly, and is especially beneficial when he is learning the contemporary music to which he is dedicated, having performed in several world premieres such as Moritz Eggert’s Helle Nächte, Johanna Doderer’s Der leuchtende Fluss and Ichiro Nodaira’s Madrugad.

Peter will spend three weeks in Snape rehearsing The Hunting Gun, but before that he performs in another epistolary-related opera [pi:ps] by Swiss composer Luca Martin, based on the diaries of Samuel Pepys, at the Grand Concert Hall in Solingen. He joined the ensemble of the State Opera House of Saarbrücken last year, and recently took the role of Faninal in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at Saarländisches Staatstheater. But, he explains that a house contract of this nature is both a blessing and a potential problem. There is the ‘luxury’ of regular work, but a company singer’s plans are made for them and sometimes one needs to feel free to listen to one’s inner self about what projects to take on next. Peter seems to be getting the balance right: he will soon dip his toes for the first time into Wagnerian waters, tackling the role of Wotan; and next year will travel to and Theater St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland to sing in George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence.

But, before that there is love and violence of a different kind, in the form of the secrets, sins and inner snakes of The Hunting Gun. What song could be more sad, or perhaps more truthful, than the song of human aloneness?

The Hunting Gun will be performed at the Aldeburgh Festival, 7-9 June.

Claire Seymour

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):