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

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

Ovid and Klopstock clash in Jurowski’s Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’

There were two works on this London Philharmonic Orchestra programme given by Vladimir Jurowski – Colin Matthews’s Metamorphosis and Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. The way Jurowski played it, however, one might have been forgiven for thinking we were listening to a new work by Mahler, something which may not have been lost on those of us who recalled that Matthews had collaborated with Deryck Cooke on the completion of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony.

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

17 Aug 2019

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Prom 39: L’enfance du Christ - Maxime Pascale conducts the Hallé

A review by David Truslove

Above: Roderick Williams, Julie Boulianne, Allan Clayton and Neal Davies

Photo credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

 

In addition, there was eloquent choral singing and much to admire from the baton-less French conductor Maxime Pascal whose sinuous movements conjured a giant flying invertebrate seemingly from another planet. But his skeletal frame and exaggerated gestures - hands and arms frequently elongated and swooping over the front strings - brought so much life to this charming and original score.

In an anniversary year when one might have expected to hear La damnation de Faust or even the Grande Messe des morts, both works matching the magnitude of the Albert Hall, L’enfance du Christ was an interesting choice, and one not performed at a Prom since 2003. Given the pastoralism and restraint of L’enfance du Christ, its imaginative elaboration of Christ’s childhood could have disappeared from view in this cavernous venue had everything not been so convincingly and vividly projected. Pascale and his forces fashioned a compelling and mostly hall-stilling atmosphere, the spirit of Berlioz’s boldly conceived music conveyed with such care and affection that my quibble regarding the inclusion of an interval soon vanished.

Of course, Berlioz’s theatrical instincts in this ‘sacred trilogy’ are understated in a work that largely occupies a devotional mood, its dramas gently but tellingly evoked in a series of tableaux where delineation of character is stylised ‘in the manner of old illuminated missals’. Domestic and political resonances are discreetly outlined, yet its few dramatic moments such as Herod’s scene with the fanatical soothsayers and Joseph’s attempts to find shelter create an operatic dimension that simultaneously blurs distinctions of genre.

Regardless of such formal divisions, this performance unfolded from its strange woodwind sonorities with an absolute sureness of touch, the Hallé frequently subdued yet always captivating and providing much of the work’s cinematic detail. Pianissimo strings (placed antiphonally and underpinned by six double basses behind them) brought a haunting intensity to Herod’s restlessness in the ‘Nocturnal March’ and the cabalistic dance was carried off with aplomb. The Overture to Part Two was beautifully shaped, woodwind sparkled in the domestic preparations by a welcoming Ishmaelite family in Sais and a restful Trio for harp (Marie Leenhardt) and two flutes (Amy Yule and Sarah Bennett) brought exceptional musicianship.

Much was enjoyed too from Roderick Williams - always an engaging presence on the platform - doubling as a warm-toned Polydorus and Joseph. His was a well-matched partnership with Julie Boulianne, a French-Canadian mezzo blessed with radiant tones, ideally cast as Mary. It’s a shame Berlioz doesn’t provide her with more vocal opportunities, but the stable duet was a delight, shaped with effortless control and tenderness. Allan Clayton impressed too as Narrator and Centurion, singing with polished tone that seemed gripped by a quasi-religious fervour in the Epilogue. His traversal of Christ’s early years and return to Bethlehem was sung with bewitching tenderness, almost heart-breaking at the lines, ‘O my soul, what remains for you to do but shatter your pride before so great a mystery?’ Equally compelling was Neal Davies as Herod and Father of the Family, delivering every ounce of emotion in the troubled dream sequence; upper notes purring nicely and with just enough security at the bottom of the stave. Whether malevolent or munificent, Davies taps into the core of the role and commands our attention.

The combined singers of Britten Sinfonia Voices and Genesis Sixteen caught the ear as Ishmaelites, soothsayers and shepherds, although the much-loved leaving taking of the Holy family didn’t quite have me gasping for breath, wondering how any choir can sing so quietly. A shame that the quadruple piano marking in the third verse was ignored and the love of the shepherds for the Christ child not as moving as it might have been. Whatever shortcomings there, compensation arrived with an angelic chorus offstage, and the work’s ethereal apotheosis could not have been better judged - the chorus transcendent.

David Truslove

Julie Boulianne (mezzo-soprano), Allan Clayton (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Neal Davies (bass), Maxime Pascal (conductor), Genesis Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia Voices, Hallé

Royal Albert Hall, London; Wednesday 14th August 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):