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

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

Daring Pairing Doubles the Fun by Pacific Opera Project

Puccini’s only comedy, the one act Gianni Schicchi is most often programmed with a second short piece of tragic fare, but the adventurous Pacific Opera Project has banked on a fanciful Ravel opus to sustain the mood and send the audience home with tickled ribs and gladdened hearts.

Bieito's Carmen returns to English National Opera

‘Men Behaving Badly’ wouldn’t be a bad subtitle for Calixto Bieito’s production of Carmen, currently being revived at ENO.

Twilight People: Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halperin at Wigmore Hall

Twilight people: existing betwixt and between states, slipping the bounds of categorisation, on the edge of the norm.

A French Affair: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

A French Affair, as this programme was called, was a promising concept on paper, but despite handsomely sung contributions from the featured soloists and much energetic direction from David Bates, it never quite translated into a wholly satisfying evening’s performance.

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

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):