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

31 Dec 2019

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Tara Erraught (mezzo-soprano) and James Baillieu (piano) at Wigmore Hall, 29th December 2019

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Tara Erraught

 

Wigmore Hall was silent for just three days this Christmas before first the Schumann Quartet and then pianist Jonathan Plowright reignited man’s search for ‘the elusiveness of music in its great abstraction’, as represented by Gerald Moira’s cupola above the Wigmore Hall platform. They were followed by Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught in this recital with pianist James Baillieu, in which lieder by Carl Loewe and Gustav Mahler were complemented by Irish songs, both traditional and composed by Hamilton Harty.

Erraught is a calm, self-assured and personable performer. Sadly, the audience at Wigmore Hall was not large but the Irish mezzo-soprano was obviously delighted to be performing at the Hall, and her warmth and ease were communicated throughout the recital. The piano lid was fully raised, and the instrument positioned towards the front of the platform. In the opening few songs, the balance between voice and piano was not always effective, especially when the vocal line lay low, but Erraught quickly got the measure of the acoustic and her clear, fresh mezzo and generally attentive diction communicated the poetic moods and situations effectively.

During his lifetime, Carl Loewe (1796-1869) built up a reputable career as a composer-singer, accompanying himself in public concerts, but his work is not well-known today in comparison with that of his fellow Romantic songsters. His oeuvre includes approximately 250 lieder and 150 art ballads, and Erraught and Baillieu offered us a welcome opportunity to hear eighteen of his songs; if one was inclined to compare them with more familiar settings of these texts by the likes of Schubert, Schumann et al, then Loewe held his ground well, Erraught and Baillieu bringing forth the diverse characters and colours within the sequence.

Of the four songs presented from Gesammelte Lieder, Ges änge, Romanzen und Balladen Op.9, ‘Der du von dem Himmel bist’ (You who come from heaven) was the most engaging. Following segue from ‘Über allen Gipfein’ (Over every mountain-top), it effected a striking change of mood from a hushed calm to a more vibrant, Schumann-esque passion. Before that, Baillieu’s dark, ponderous ambience-setting opening to the ‘Szena from Faust’ had revealed his sensitivity to poetic-dramatic mood and nuance, while Erraught worked hard to convey the extremes of tenderness and pain which Goethe juxtaposes.

Five songs from Loewe’s Liederkreis nach Gedichten von Friedrich R ückert Op.62 followed. Again, the Irish mezzo-soprano communicated the spirit of the text effectively. In ‘Irrlichter’ (Will-o’-the-wisps), the voice hurried and scurried mischievously, sinisterly while the piano’s whispers raced and whirled, but it was in the slower more lyrical songs that Erraught seemed most comfortable. ‘Süsses Begräbnis’ (Loving burial) achieved a beautiful tranquillity, enhanced by the piano’s gentle chromaticisms and fluid oscillations. And, whereas on occasion there was a sense that Erraught was going through the motions of storytelling rather than truly living the protagonists’ dramas, in ‘O süsse Mutter’ (O mother dear), she seemed to engage more fully and freely with the sentiments and experience of the song’s speaker, thereby communicating feeling and situation more directly and persuasively.

The Loewe sequence closed with the composer’s Op.60 cycle of nine songs settings poems from Chamisso’s Frauenliebe, composed in 1836. ‘Seit ich ihn gesehn’ (Since first seeing him) and ‘Du Ring an meinem Finger’ shared a charming simplicity, though the latter blossomed more expansively in the final couplet, while ‘Er, der Herrlichste von allen’ (He, the most wonderful of all) enabled Erraught to exploit her richly coloured lower voice and demonstrate her vocal agility. Baillieu’s characterisation captured the contradictory impulses of the soon-to-be-wed maiden in ‘Helft mir, ihr Schwestern’ (Help me, my sisters); again, Erraught displayed a fine sensitivity to the melodic phrasing in ‘Süsser Freund’ (Sweet friend). Best of all was ‘Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan’ (Now you have caused me my first pain) in which the bereaved woman’s hurt was communicated with affecting poise, the words fully painted with vocal and harmonic colour as voice and piano octaves captured the extent and volatility of the singer’s grief. To conclude, Erraught exhibited a strong sense of structure and nuance as she took us through the repetitive melodic utterances of ‘Traum der eignen Tage’ (Dream of my own days), the voice carried forward by the piano’s fluency towards a convincing if sombre close when the voice was finally permitted to fall, in grave resolution: “Sei der Schmerz der Liebe/ Dann dein höchstes Gut.” (May love’s sorrow then be your dearest possession.)

We had been informed that three programmed songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn would not be performed, and so the second half of the recital opened with the composer’s Five R ückert Lieder. During the concert, Erraught reminded us that she has lived in Germany for several years (where since 2010 she has been a resident principal soloist with the Bayerische Staatsoper), and if I did not feel that she was truly ‘inside’ the German texts of the Loewe songs before the interval, now she seemed to find a more ‘natural groove’.

The mezzo-soprano found a nice balance between the intimacy of the songs and their expressive sophistication. After the playful ‘Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!’ (Do not look into my songs!), in ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’ (I breathed a gentle fragrance) Erraught’s voiced did indeed seem ‘scented’, floating like the fragrance wafting from the spray of lime, the mood dreamy, the harmonic colour somewhat enigmatic. As the vocal line rose in ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ (I am lost to the world), I wished that we had heard more of Erraught’s upper range, particularly as the bronzed sheen of the soaring phrases made such a striking contrast to the plummet of the final stanza, ‘Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,/ Und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebeit’ (I am dead to the world’s tumult, and rest in a quiet realm). Baillieu’s postlude was beautiful, transporting us to the heaven in which the sing lives along, ‘In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied.’ (In my loving, in my song). ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’ (If you love for beauty) was wonderfully understated and exquisitely controlled, lofting vocal phrases left hanging in ambiguity. ‘Um Mitternacht’ (At midnight) was disturbing, troubled and lonely: though the protagonist finds some solace in his faith in God, the piano’s closing utterance offered little consolation.

Erraught introduced the Irish songs, explaining that while it had once been standard for schoolchildren to learn and sing the traditional songs of their native land, this is now less common and she herself has only a limited knowledge of the repertory. ‘Roísín Dubh’ was intense and imbued with passion and drama: I think I like my Irish folk-songs rather more in the style of Niamh Parsons, but there was no doubting the rhetorical power and heartfelt sentiment of Erraught’s rendition, which was deepened by the piano’s shuddering dark tremolos in the final verse. ‘The lark in the clear air’ was cleansing and pure; simply and assuredly beautiful singing.

Two songs by Hamilton Harty brought the recital to a close. ‘Sea Wrack’ has the poetic and musical depth of a genuine lieder, and Erraught and Baillieu made much of the linguistic pun ‘wrack’/’wreck’ - the former being both a type of seaweed and an archaic Irish word for a shipwreck - though they never lapsed into melodrama as the sea-weed collector’s old brown boat went down ‘upon the Moyle’. The burbling piano gestures of the closing lines were eerie: ‘The dark wrack,/ The sea wrack,/ The wrack may drift ashore.’

Erraught and Baillieu obviously enjoyed each other’s musical company, and the small but appreciative Wigmore Hall audience were undoubted delighted that they had shared in the evening’s music-making.

Claire Seymour

Tara Erraught (mezzo-soprano), James Baillieu (piano)

Carl Loewe : From Gesammelte Lieder, Gesänge, Romanzen und Balladem Op.9 - ‘Meine Ruh ist hin’, ‘Ach neige, du Schmerzensreiche’, Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’ (Wandrers Nachtlied) and ‘Der du von dem Himmel bist (Wandrers Nachtlied II)’; From Liederkreis nach Gedichten von Friedric Rückert Op.62 - ‘Irrlichter’, ‘Hinkende Jamben’, ‘Das Pfarrjüngferchen’, ‘Süsses Begräbnis’ and ‘O süsse Mutter’; Frauenliebe Op.60; Gustav Mahler: Five Rückert Lieder; Trad/Irish: ‘Róisín Dubh’ and ‘The Lark in the Clear Air’; Hamilton Harty: ‘Lane o' the Thrushes’, ‘Sea Wrack'

Wigmore Hall, London; Sunday 29th December 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):