April 30, 2020

Schubert 200 : in conversation with Tom Guthrie

So recalled Franz Schubert’s friend, the painter Moritz von Schwind (1804-71) - with, no doubt a liberal dash of nostalgia - when describing to the composer Ferdinand Hiller (1811-85) the convivial evenings during which Schubert’s fellow artists, friends and patrons had gathered to hear the composer and his musical companions perform his new songs and instrumental works. Forty years after Schubert’s death, Schwind began a sepia representation of a grand party of regular ‘Schubertiad’ attendees, writing in 1868 to the poet Eduard Mörike: ‘I have begun to work at something which I feel I owe the intellectual part of Germany - my admirable friend Schubert at the piano, surrounded by his circle of listeners. I know all of the people by heart.’

In this drawing, Schwind and his fellow artists, Wilhelm August Rieder and Leopold Kupelwieser, stand side by side behind the seated ladies. Literary circles are represented by Franz Grillparzer, Johann Senn, Johann Baptist Mayrhofer, Ignaz Castelli and Eduard von Bauernfeld, positioned on the extreme right. The host, Austrian nobleman Joseph von Spaun, is seated to the left of Schubert who, at the piano, accompanies baritone Johann Michael Vogl. The latter, chest somewhat pompously puffed out, extends one hand towards the music. The poet Franz Adolf Friedrich Schober, in the second row on the far right, flirts with Justina von Bruchmann (sister of the poet Franz von Bruchmann). Over-looking all, the portrait of Countess Caroline von Esterházy, the former student for whom Schubert nurtured an unrequited passion, peers down on the lively gathering. [1]

Schwind’s representation is undoubtedly idealised rather than documentary. But, the vivacity of the scene matches that in Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s sketch of 1827, which depicts soprano Josephine Fröhlich, Vogl and Schubert engaged in active, social and spontaneous music-making. Both images present performance contexts that are quite different from those familiar today and pose interesting questions. Who are the audience and who the performers? How do the performers and audience relate to each other?

Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller .pngA pencil drawing of soprano Josephine Fröhlich, barítone Johann Vogl and Franz Schubert (1827) by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller.

Such questions are of great interest to director and musician Thomas Guthrie, who will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Schubert’s three great song cycles - Die schöne Müllerin (1823), Winterreise (1827) and Schwanengesang (1828) - with new arrangements of each cycle, using period instruments and puppetry to bring the cycles’ narratives to life:

“I have always thought that the genesis of the songs - and particularly the cycle - came about in a much more creative, spontaneous and relatable storytelling atmosphere than we’ve become used to. The sense you get from contemporary reports and paintings conjures a world where friends dressed up, recited and sang poetry, played different parts, brought different instruments. This Music and Theatre for All project will celebrate this historical approach, take it further, and help these songs to reach a wider audience.”

Vienna c1815.pngVienna, c.1815

Working with the historically informed performance ensemble Barokksolistene, Guthrie will record these new arrangements for Rubicon Classics during 2020 to 2022. Tours will then follow to coincide with the 200th anniversary of each cycle. The Schubert 200 project is supported by Music and Theatre for All , a charity founded by Guthrie in 2013 which aims to connect performers and public through transformative music and theatrical projects.

Discussing the Schubert 200 project with Tom, I ask him about its genesis and what he hopes to achieve. He explains that Schubert’s song cycles, especially Die schöne Müllerin, were works that he encountered and sang as a teenager, and that, as his own work has developed over the years since, so has his understanding of and response to these songs.

Tom first worked with puppets in 2001 when performing in a production of Purcell’s The Indian Queen. Schubert 200 was, in a sense, born three years later when Tom was asked to preparer =and direct a performance of Winterreise for New Kent Opera - for singer, puppet, guitar and piano - with animated drawings by Peter Bailey and puppetry by Mandarava. New Kent Opera’s 2004 Winterreise was presented at the Theatre Royal Margate, a Grade II listed theatre dating from 1787. Since then it has become well-travelled and internationally admired, a recent revival, in a new arrangement, taking place at Princeton in 2017.

Tom Guthrie.jpgTom Guthrie

Tom suggests that working in new contexts, with attendant practical and budget constraints, can excite the imagination in fresh ways. He also emphasises the opportunities afforded by preview performances which enable one to evaluate what ‘works’ and what doesn’t, and to amend and develop in response to audience reactions. “What do they hold on to? What doesn’t translate?” The notion of involving the audience in the act of creation is clearly an important aspect of Tom’s creative process and storytelling is paramount.

Performing with puppets, he believes, can change a performer’s perception of a piece, encouraging them to find new ways of telling stories and thus forge fresh dialogues with audiences. In 2014, MTFA supported a performance of Die schöne Müllerin at the Spitalfields Festival , arranged for two guitars, percussion, tree branch, double bass, violins and viola, directed by Tom and performed by Barokksolistene and tenor Robert Murray, with a puppet designed and made by Mandarava. At a Q&A session following a performance of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the York Early Music Festival last year, Tom was asked why he had added things that ‘got in the way’ of the musicians? An ‘answer’ was provided by a blind audience member who declared that their awareness of new dynamics between the performers onstage - the ‘swish’ of the puppets’ costumes, for example - had made this the most enjoyable performance of Schubert’s cycle that they had experienced. Tom adds, “For puppets to work, the performance must compel the audience to imagine and thereby invite them into the work.”

Orfeo I fagiolini Ben Pugh.jpgMonteverdi's Orfeo, at the York Early Music Festival 2019. Photo credit: Ben Pugh.

Just as using puppets can make stories accessible in news ways, so creating new arrangements of these song cycles can create new opportunities for musicians to connect with each other and audiences. The orthodox formality of a singer standing beside a modern grand piano in the concert hall might be challenged in productive ways which facilitate new channels of communication and creativity. Tom describes how the Barokksolistene soloists gather to explore themes and colours, and that improvisation is an important element of the creative process. The forthcoming Rubicon recordings of Schubert’s song cycles will be similarly organic, built layer by layer as the performers respond to each other, and Tom emphasises that the value of working with musicians who are well-versed participants in such musical conversations cannot be overstated. Similarly, although the puppetry will be incorporated in the later stages of the project, Tom explains that the performers’ prior involvement with puppetry, in the context of these cycles, has undoubtedly shaped and changed their perception of the works. Moreover, live performances with workshops are planned as part of the creative process.

I wonder, though, about the problems that might arise when arranging Schubert’s setting of Wilhelm Müller’s Die Winterreise and creating new sounds, sequences and stories. Is our knowledge of, and familiarity with, the musical and psychological narrative of Schubert’s cycle too entrenched to be easily relinquished? Tom reminds me that there is an inherent creative flexibility in Schubert’s settings of Müller’s twenty-four poems one which invites re-consideration and recreation. Indeed, Müller’s Die Winterreise was first published as group of twelve poems in the journal Urania in 1823. Schubert came across and set these twelve poems in 1827, dropping Müller’s ‘Die’ in his Winterreise. Müller subsequently published a longer version, in the second volume of his poetry, interweaving twelve new poems into his original sequence, though the former were not scattered evenly. When he came across these new poems, Schubert was reluctant - presumably for reasons relating to the musical relationships between the songs - to change the order of the songs in his cycle, so his settings of the new texts were simply added onto the original sequence.

Much has been written about the relationship between the song cycle and the poem sequence, not least the altered order of the final songs in Schubert’s Winterreise: Müller’s ‘Die Nebensonnen’ is the twentieth poem and ‘Mut!’ and ‘Der Leiermann’ bring the sequence to a close; Schubert’s final three songs are ‘Mut!’, ‘Die Nebensonnen’, ‘Der Leiermann’ - something that pianist Graham Johnson has argued was ‘one of the greatest examples of necessity being the mother of sublime invention’. Others disagree, but such debates certainly seem to imply inherent tensions and energies which might invite and inspire creative reinterpretation.

Barokksolistene Tatjana Dachsel.jpgBarokksolistene. Photo credit: Tatjana Dachsel.

I ask Tom if Schwanengesang presents particular problems, given that it is not a ‘cycle’ in a conventional sense, rather a compilation of two different sets of songs - to seven texts by Ludwig Rellstab and six by Heinrich Heine - gathered together by the publisher Tobias Haslinger (who added a further song, ‘Die Taubenpost’, to a text by Johann Gabriel Seidl) three months after Schubert’s death. Did Schubert himself intend to combine these songs and if so, how? The songs don’t tell a story as such, though there are unifying poetic themes - nature and love’s trials being the concern of Rellstab’s poems, loss and despair the focus of those by Heine. Tom relishes the creative potential of the questions posed by Schwanengesang, and notes that if one places Schubert’s Heine settings in the order in which the poems were written, a narrative does emerge. Moreover, it is complemented by a compelling musical narrative, for this re-ordering reveals an extraordinary key sequence formed of semi-tonal shifts between the songs which culminates in ‘Atlas’ with a dramatic harmonic fall of a minor third. I can see that, for Tom, a story is forming! One perhaps founded, he allows, on coincidences; but, such coincidences can enable one to learn new things, see works differently and create new dialogues with audiences.

After my conversation with Tom, I reflect on my own CD collection - seven recordings of Winterreise by different singers, all accompanied by a modern concert grand - or of the countless performances I have enjoyed of Schubert’s songs cycles in the intimacy of Wigmore Hall during the past thirty years. Perhaps it is time to reimagine such modern orthodoxies. There has never been, and there is not, just one way of interpreting and performing ‘canonical’ classical repertory. Listening online to some early 20th-century recordings of Schubert’s lieder - German-born baritone and composer Sir George Henschel (1850-1934) accompanying himself in 1928, Irish baritone Harry Plunket Greene (1865-1936) singing ‘Der Leiermann’ at the age of 69 - I am struck by the way that the informal, conversational tone of these performances makes one feel closer somehow to the 19th-century song traditions of Schubert.

In his book Schubert: A Biographical Study of His Songs (1971), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau asks, ‘Should one perform Die Winterreise in public at all? Should one offer such an intimate diary of a human soul to an audience whose interests are so varied?’, adding that the songs are ‘not for that section of the audience which expects only a refined, aesthetic experience’ from an evening of lieder. Communicating to and connecting with audiences, involving them in the process of creation and performance, lies at the heart of the Schubert 200 project. And, I remember the words of Ferdinand Hiller describing the time when, at the age of sixteen, he first heard Schubert sing: ‘One song followed another - the donors were tireless, the receivers were tireless. Schubert had little technique, Vogl had little voice, but both had so much life and feeling, were so absorbed in their delivery, that it would have been impossible to perform these wonderful compositions with greater clarity or with greater sincerity. We thought neither of the piano playing, nor of the song: it was as though the music had no need of any material sound, as though the melodies were revealing themselves like visions to ethereal ears.’

Claire Seymour

[1] See Christopher Gibbs, The Life of Schubert (CUP, 2000)

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Moritz%20von%20Schwind%20%281804-1871%29%2C%201868%20%28c%29%20Bildarchiv%20Preussischer%20Kulturbesitz.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title=Schubert 200: Tom Guthrie and Music Theatre for All celebrate the 200th anniversary of Franz Schubert’s song cycles product_by=An interview by Claire Seymour product_id=Above: 'A Schubertiade' (1868), a drawing by Moritz von Schwind (1804-1871)

(c) Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz
Posted by claire_s at 5:10 AM

April 27, 2020

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

For me, the crowning discovery so far is the production of the Dryden-Purcell “semi-opera” The Indian Queen by Guy Cassiers and Emmanuelle Haïm. Lille is not the first company to try to find a playable version of the music-drama left incomplete at the death of its composer. Peter Sellars has had a whack at it at the ENO, with predictably arbitrary interventions.

In a way Lille’s show is even farther from tradition than Sellers’. But the result is to turn one of the British Baroque’s less successful innovations into an incantatory evocation of what opera seria at its greatest must have seemed like to its contemporaries: an invocation of the Baroque’s most potent dramatic trope: the conflicting ideals of love and honor.

The means employed at Lille are as familiarly “cutting-edge” as the drama is portentiously stylized: bare stage, spotlight and neon bars, proscenium-filling projections. The spoken text is cut by more than half, the the score pieced out with other Purcell music and supplemented by works of John Blow and other contemporaries. The usual dance episodes are replaced by lengthy dumb-shows.

But for the first time in my experience, a “semi-opera” achieved dramatic coherence and tragic force. Viewers, deprived of synopsis and program notes may at first find the story line difficult to follow and the pace glacial: persist. You will be abundantly rewarded.

In outline: Two empires are at war, Aztec and Inca. At curtain’s’ rise, the Aztecs are down, thanks to Peru’s condottiere Montezuma. When he asks the Inca for the hand of his daughter in reward for his victor, he is coldly rejected. Enraged, he offers his services to the enemy and prevails once more and is once more betrayed. The compulsory lieto fine is achieved through a dizzying series of reverses in which honor-cards trump each other until love and valor at last win over malice and betrayal.

On stage, the drama plays out on two planes: a bare stage upon which black-clad speaking actors and singers enact tableaux presenting the action in abstract outline, while projected behind and above them, the same figures play out scenes garbed like figures of epic myth. On yet more screens, projections of war’s devastation alternate with procenium-filling grisaille close-ups of images of nature fuse with the stately flow of the music in a dense, tense unity.

The actors are uniformly believable in their declamation of Dryden’s extravagant dialogue, the closest thing in Engllsh to the thundering heroic verse of Corneille. If one performer is to be singled out, it is Julie Legrand as the scheming, murderous, lascivious Aztec queen Zampoalla. With Ben Porter as her lover/co-conspiriteo /rival Traxalla, they make Mr and Mrs Macbeth seem an estimable couple.

The singers too are uniformly excellent. Among those stepping out of the chorus to portray accessory characters, Gareth Brynmor John raises genuine Hell as thes orcerer Ismeron, while Anna Dennis as Amexia, the deus ex machina resolving the action, suspends time with her rendition of “So when glitt’ring Queen of Night” from the composer’s Orpheus Brittanicus.

No one will deprecate Haïm’s presentation of the score, and the players and chorus of her Concert d’Astrée ensemble have never played more grandly and trenchantly. But many readers may (as many reviewers did) deprecate Cassiere’s physical production as distracting, inappropriate, or cliched.

For me it provides a deep insight into how other strange musico-dramatic beasts may be brought back to life. Not by unimaginative by-the-numbers presentation (like Glyndebourne’s lumbering, exhausting Fairy Queen) or zany, audience-baiting modernizing (Peter Sellars’ abominably presumptuous Royal Opera Indian Queen). Would-be producers need to recognize and revel in the fundamental doubleness and dichotomy of the form. In such works, the mixture is the message.

Roger Downey

[The Indian Queen, recorded for television on October 8 th, 2019 at l’Opera de Lille, France Nord. Available for free streaming at France.tv through October 11, 2020]

The actors: Christopher Ettridge (L’Inca); Elisabeth Hopper (Orazia); Gareth Brynmor John (Ismeron); Julie Legrand (Zampoalla); James McGregor (Montezuma); Ben Porter (Traxalla); Matthew Romain (Acacis); Anna Dennis (Amexia).

The singers: Zoe Brookshaw (soprano); Anna Dennis (soprano); Rowan Pierce (soprano); Carine Tinney (soprano); Ruairi Bowen (ténor); Hugo Hymas (ténor); Nick Pritchard (ténor); Gareth Brynmor John (baryton); Tristan Hambleton (baryton-basse).

Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm; stage director: Guy Cassieres; set and costumes: Tim Van Steenbergen; video: Frederik Jassogne; imagery: Narciso Contreras; lighting: Fabiana Piccioli; dramaturgy: Erwin Jans; chorusmaster: Benoît Hartoin.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Indian%20Queen%20Lille.png image_description=Actors Ben Porter, Christopher Ettridge, Elisabeth Hopper, Julie Legrand, James McGregor [Photo by Frédéric Iovino] product=yes product_title=Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille product_by=A review by Roger Downey product_id=Above: Actors Ben Porter, Christopher Ettridge, Elisabeth Hopper, Julie Legrand, James McGregor [Photo by Frédéric Iovino]
Posted by Gary at 1:32 PM

April 22, 2020

Wexford Festival Opera on RTÉ Player: Stanford's The Veiled Prophet available to view online

The project presented at last year’s Wexford Festival Opera in association with Heritage Music Productions, founded and produced by international pianist and broadcaster Una Hunt, was a momentous milestone in the quest to recover Irish opera from oblivion and was thus supported by a major grant from the Arts Council of Ireland. The opera was recorded live by RTÉ lyric fm for radio broadcast and was included as part of the European Broadcasting Union Premium Opera Series which is heard by millions of listeners across the globe. This is the first complete presentation to take place in more than 125 years, making it a ‘must-see’ for newcomers to opera and connoisseurs alike.

www.rte.ie/player/movie/ player/131026471997

The opera has other Irish connections in addition to the composer as it is based on part of the enormously successful oriental romance, Lalla Rookh, by Irish poet and national songwriter, Thomas Moore. The production, conducted by David Brophy, was performed by a predominantly Irish cast including soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace, tenor Gavan Ring, mezzo-soprano Mairéad Buicke, and bass/baritone John Molloy. The title role is sung by the young Polish baritone, Simon Mechliński and the superb Wexford Festival Chorus is augmented by the Chorus from TU Dublin Conservatoire.

The NYC based Opera News Magazine hailed the opera: “Stanford’s sense of structure and his ear for orchestration are very strong.”

Producer Una Hunt said, “The reawakening of The Veiled Prophet after an absence of more than a century fulfills a personal dream in seeing this magnificent opera spring back to life. Its launch on the RTÉ Player means it can now be appreciated and enjoyed by audiences around the world.”

Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Managing Director, RTÉ lyric fm, Orchestras, Quartet & Choirs, commented, “As well as being a versatile pianist who has performed concertos with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra, Una Hunt is a leading authority in the field of historic Irish music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. RTÉ lyric fm has worked closely with Una on many projects, across many platforms including radio broadcasts, CDs, books, documentaries and features, to create awareness of the wonderful music-making that took place on the island of Ireland during those centuries. We were delighted when Una approached us to get involved in her latest project, the first-ever performance in English of The Veiled Prophet by Dublin-born composer, Charles Villiers Stanford in performance at last year’s Wexford Festival Opera and we have no doubt that you will enjoy the fruits of her work for many years to come.

David McLoughlin, CEO of Wexford Festival Opera added, “Wexford Festival Opera is built on the artistic foundations of presenting rare and unjustly neglected opera works to national and international audiences, illustrated by it previously winning the award for Best Rediscovered Work at the International Opera Awards. In recent years it has also pioneered, in association with RTÉ, the wider dissemination of opera performances by way of live streaming and web download. Wexford was therefore honoured to have been the location for the staging of this rediscovered opera work of great Irish and international significance. We are equally pleased that one of the highlights of last year’s Festival will be available to view and enjoy by audiences around the world on the RTÉ Player, similar to some of Wexford’s other recent stagings.”

Very few professional performances have been given of Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas in the last century, and many other parts of his musical outlook remain neglected. Mostly remembered these days for his late-Victorian church music, the Anglo-Irish composer enjoyed a full and varied career. Indeed, there is much more to the Dublin-born Stanford (1852-1924) than most modern listeners realise, and in particular, his symphonies, concertos and Irish Rhapsodies are a joy to discover. Stanford was also a prolific opera composer, but recognising the hopelessness of pursuing an operatic career at home, he turned to Germany and it was in Hanover that the first of his ten operas, The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, was premiered in 1881.

Sarah Ryder, Assistant Commissioning Editor, Documentary & Arts at RTÉ also commented, “It’s a real honour for RTÉ to partner with Una Hunt and the brilliant people at Wexford Festival Opera to bring another very special WFO production to audiences in Ireland and overseas on the RTÉ Player. More than ever, in these worrying times, we are seeing how music and the arts are bringing joy and solace to people, and we hope that this gorgeous production of The Veiled Prophet will bring much-needed pleasure and inspiration to many, many households in the weeks and months ahead.”

There are two other WFO productions still available to view on the RTÉ Player, Il bravo by Saverio Mercadante (2018) (https://www.rte.ie/player/find?q=il%20bravo) and Dorilla in Tempe by Antonio Vivaldi (2019) (https://www.rte.ie/player/find?q=dorilla).

Select scenes are also available on the Festival’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WexfordFestivalOpera

Posted by claire_s at 7:01 AM

April 14, 2020

The Met announces plans to live-stream an all-star At-Home Gala

Hosted by General Manager Peter Gelb in New York City and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Montreal, the program will be streamed for free on the Met’s website. “While the Met is famous for its high-definition transmissions into cinemas, this will be a great artistic but low-tech operation,” said Mr. Gelb, noting that the performances will be relayed in real time from the singers’ laptops and transmitted via Skype in what will nonetheless be a complicated exercise in logistics and time zones. “We will be providing operatic uplift to our audiences, as well as for our singers, who are eager to connect with their fans.” While Mr. Gelb will be producing the event from his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Nézet-Séguin will be co-hosting from his apartment in Montreal. Mr. Nézet-Séguin will also be participating in the gala as a pianist.

Met list.jpg

“I can’t tell you how happy it makes me for all these tremendous artists to be able to come together and perform in this way during this time of crisis,” said Mr. Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director. “While we cannot wait to get back to the Met stage, for the moment, this is the next best thing.”

The gala will start at 1pm EDT/6pm BST, the regularly scheduled time for the Met’s Saturday matinee performances, and will be available via the Met’s website at metopera.org. After the live showing, the program will continue to be available on demand on the Met website until 6:30pm EDT/11:30pm BST the following day. The complete program will be announced shortly.

The At-Home Gala builds on the success of the company’s Nightly Met Opera Streams, a series of encore presentations of Live in HD performances, made available each day on the Met website for free. Since the nightly streams launched on March 16, they have attracted more than 4 million viewers around the world, representing more than 200 million minutes of viewing time.

The At-Home Gala is part of the Met’s urgent “The Voice Must Be Heard” fundraising campaign to support the company and protect its future. This gala is generously sponsored by Mercedes T. Bass and Rolex.

Posted by claire_s at 7:21 AM

April 11, 2020

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

She immediately set about trying to publish some of her early songs. On 7 th April 1878 Smyth wrote a letter to her mother (which she later quoted in her 1919 memoir, Impressions That Remained):

‘I went to Breitkopf and Härtel - the music publishers par excellence in the world. The nephew, who conducts the business, Dr. Hase, I know very well and he is quite one of the most charming men I ever met. ... Well, he began by telling me that songs had as a rule a bad sale—but that no composeress had ever succeeded, barring Frau [Clara] Schumann and Fräulein [Fanny] Mendelssohn, whose songs had been published together with those of their husband and brother respectively. He told me that a certain Frau [Josephine] Lang had written some really very good songs, but they had no sale. I played him mine … and he expressed himself very willing to take the risk and print them. But would you believe it, having listened to all he said about women composers, and considering how difficult it is to bargain with an acquaintance, I asked no fee!’

It’s worth noting that the said ‘Dr. Hase’ advised that the reason that songs by Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann had been published was that they had been included in volumes of songs by the celebrated male composers to whom they were related, as sister and wife respectively. It was not to be until 1886 that Smyth succeeded in persuading a music publisher, C.F. Peters of Leipzig, to publish her songs. This SOMM disc presents her Op.3 and Op.4 sets, published that year but composed long before, theFour Songs for Chamber Orchestra (1908) and the Three Songs (1913).

One of the interesting suggestions made by Chris Wiley and Lucy Stevens in their liner notes is that the song collections are ‘cycles’, a slippery term which in her Grove article Susan Youens defines as ‘A group of individually complete songs designed as a unit […] for solo or ensemble voices with or without instrumental accompaniment’. Youens goes on to explain that: ‘The coherence regarded as a necessary attribute of song cycles may derive from the text (a single poet; a story line; a central theme or topic such as love or nature; a unifying mood; poetic form or genre, as in a sonnet or ballad cycle) or from musical procedures (tonal schemes; recurring motifs, passages or entire songs; formal structures); these features may appear singly or in combination.’

So, it is suggested that the Op.3 Songs and Ballads are infused with imagery of the natural world; that the Op.4 Lieder, dedicated to Smyth’s mother, feature ‘motherhood [as] as recurring theme; that the 1913 Three Songs are informed by Smyth’s suffragette activity, and ‘have the theme of freedom, both personal and political’. Wiley and Stevens also cites scholar Cornelia Bartsch’s observation: ‘When publishing her songs, Smyth seemed to acknowledge the notion of unification. In terms of poetic imagery as well as musically her songs from a unit: they may even be understood as a cycle, reflecting a self-narrative similar to that convey in her memoirs more than twenty years later’. [1]

I’m not so sure. It’s hard to pin down a unified ‘voice’ in these songs. There’s more a sense of exploration, adaptation, pragmatism, perhaps opportunism. The French texts (three by Henri de Régnier and one by Leconte di Lisle) of the four instrumental songs that open the disc, in which the voice is accompanied by flute, string trio, harp and percussion, seem to have inspired a certain ‘impressionistic quality’ - oscillating harps and ‘oriental’ flute gestures combined with neoclassical composure from the strings, and with an added dash of Spanish flair in the ‘Anacreontic Ode’ - that perhaps led Debussy to describe them as ‘tout à fait remarquables’.

Indeed, as Debussy suggests, there is much to enjoy here, and in this recording Smyth’s music makes a direct and sincere impact. The Op.3 Lieder und Balladen are dedicated to Livia Frege - friend, interpreter and dedicatee of the Schumanns and Mendelssohns - and are recorded here for the first time. The choice of texts - a folksong, three poems by Joseph von Eichendorff and one by Eduard Mörike - and the imagery (drawn from the natural world) and emotional contexts (essentially, lost love), place the songs firmly within the German lied tradition.

I’ve not heard either contralto Lucy Stevens or pianist Elizabeth Marcus perform before, live or on recording. Stevens, the notes inform me, studied voice with Gerald Wragg at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, after acting studies at rose Bruford College; Marcus is a Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music. Together they convey a responsiveness to Smyth’s musico-poetic sensibility.

Stevens has a pleasing, easeful and well-centred middle and lower range but can sound a little tense, and sometimes thin, when she ventures higher. I’d also like more pristine diction, though it’s good that texts and translations are provided. The tenderness and folk-like simplicity of the first of the Op.3 songs, ‘On the Hill’, is occasionally marred by a slightly fraught and wide vibrato when the vocal line rises. Marcus, a prize-winning harpsichordist, shapes the left-hand in ‘The Lost Hunter’ most sensitively, whether in octaves with the vocal line or representing the speaker’s heart as it rumbles “full of woe”, or the trees as they rustle and the upwelling of the poet-speaker’s emotion: “What awe does swell my breast!” The accompaniment forms a winning narrative and repeatedly Marcus draws forth the details of Smyth’s responses to literary expression and imagery most perceptively. Stevens finds the more introspective and gentle emotional terrain of songs such as ‘Near the Linden Tree’ and the rather contemplative and sombre ‘It changes what we’re seeing’ more comfortable. The more complex narrative of the longer song, ‘Fair Rohtraut’, is thoughtfully shaped, though the dynamism and exhilaration of the hunt, enhanced by the closeness of hunter and beloved, and by the use of direct speech, is not fully exploited.

The Op.4 Lieder begin with ‘Tanzlied’ (Dance Song), a setting of text drawn from Georg Büchner’s political satire Leonce und Lena, in which Rosetta, Prince Leonce’s mistress, addresses the fragmented parts of her own body: “O my poor tired feet, you have to dance/In multi-coloured shoes”, “O my hot cheeks you have to glow/From wild caresses.” Marcus captures the rather brittle and sparse quality of the ‘waltz’, though one feels that both piano and voice might more emphatically convey the strange disorientation created by both the textual imagery and rhythmic asymmetry. The plummet in the piano postlude at the close feels as if it should be darker and more disturbing than it is here.

‘Schlummerlied’ (Lullaby) has a lovely Brahmsian lilt and bitter-sweetness, with both chromatic nuances in the vocal line and harmonic wanderings discerningly emphasised. The abstract wondering of ‘Mittagsruh’ (Midday Rest) seems to demand greater intensity than the performers inject here. Two settings of Klaus Groth complete the set: ‘Nachtreiter’ (The Night Rider) again requires greater vocal weight, intensity and range of colour than Stevens can summon, but in ‘Nachtgedanken’ (Night Thoughts) there is a fitting restlessness which builds to the central image: “Es wird mein Bette/ Dem Kampf zur Wiege,/ Dem Kriege,/ Dem bösen Kriege/ Zur friedlosen Stätte.” (My bed is becoming/ The cradle of struggle, The peaceless site of war/ Of evil war.) Again, Marcus’ contribution to the dramatic narrative is considerable.

The Op.13 songs were among many of Smyth’s works from the 1910-14 that contained autobiographical and/or political elements. ‘Possession’ was dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘On the Road: A Marching Tune’ to Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline’s eldest daughter; the latter contains several transposed fragments from Smyth’s earlier Women’s Social and Political Union anthem, ‘March of the Women’, and I feel that this song requires more fervour and energy than we have here. However, there’s a harmonic, phrasal and textural unpredictability about ‘Possession’ which the duo exploit to convey the unsettling tension in the text; and, voice and piano pull against each other, or simply meander in their own fashion, in ways which suggest an innate uncertainty.

Smyth wrote of the mesmerising quality of Emmeline Pankhurst’s voice, in Female Pipings in Eden (1933), recalling: ‘a voice the deep pitying inflexion of which I shall be able to make ring in the ears of memory till my dying day. […] ‘a voice that, like a stringed instrument in the hand of a great artist, put us in possession of every movement of her spirit - also of the great underlying passion from which sprang all the scorn, all the wrath, all the tenderness in the world.’ Such imagery resonates during this performance. However, the strange opening song, ‘The Clown’, which also develops the theme of ‘freedom’, has an acerbic Weimar-ish quality, which Stevens and Marcus don’t quite tap with sufficient piquancy or satirical sharpness.

De la Martinez - whose direction of Retrospect Opera’s recent release of Smyth’s Fête Galante I admired - conducts the Berkeley Ensemble in the Four Songs for voice and chamber orchestra which opens this disc, and the enlarged timbral canvas significantly enhances the emotional range and impact of these songs: there is a vivacity, diversity and mercurialness which is beguiling. ‘Chrysilla’, in particular, highlights the sensitivity and nuance of Stevens’ tone and phrasing.

The words of Sir Thomas Beecham seem apposite: ‘She was a stubborn, indomitable, unconquerable, creature. Nothing could tame her, nothing could daunt her, and to her last day she preserved these remarkable qualities. And when I think of her, I think of her as a grand person, a great character.’ Stevens and Marcus certainly reveal this ‘character’, untameable and indomitable perhaps, but also intriguing and thought-provoking.

Claire Seymour

[1] Cornelia Bartsch, ‘Cyclic Organisation, Narrative and Self-Construction in Ethel Smyth’s Lieder und Balladen, Op.3 and Lieder, Op.4’, in edd. Aisling Kenny and Susan Wollenberg, Women and the Nineteenth-Century Lied (Ashgate, 2015), pp.177-216.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Smyth%20Songs%20%26%20Ballads.jpg image_description=SOMMCD 0611 product=yes product_title=Dame Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads product_by=Lucy Stevens (contralto), Elizabeth Marcus (piano), Berkeley Ensemble, Odaline de la Martinez (conductor) product_id=SOMMCD 0611 [CD] price=$13.13 product_url=https://amzn.to/34w9mua
Posted by claire_s at 4:46 PM

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

Indeed, many aspects of it are jaw-dropping: ravishing detail, exquisite artistry and, above all, an orchestra that just takes the breath away. It feels like one of those Wagner recordings which defines the decade in which it was made just as a very few Wagner recordings, from the 1960s onwards, defined their own.

Paavo Järvi is not particularly noted as an interpreter of Wagner - I believe this may be the first time he has turned his attention to this composer - although the orchestra he conducts is certainly not unfamiliar with him. Today, it is not just in Japan that Wagner’s “bleeding chunks of butcher’s meat” - as Tovey luridly described it - are less played than they once were; it seems to be a phenomenon you get from Tokyo via Berlin and London. That was not the case in the 1960s and 1970s; indeed, the two colossal recordings from each of those decades, the first from Otto Klemperer, and the second from Herbert von Karajan, are the two which come closest to this new recording. This is an orchestra, however, which during those dominant Philharmonia and Berlin periods played Wagner under some of the greatest of the composer’s conductors - the Bayreuth factory of Horst Stein, Otmar Suitner and Wolfgang Sawallisch is but one school which has found its way onto their CDs. But their Wagner also comes from conductors such as Lovro von Matačić. In concerts, the reach has been even wider.

The NHK Symphony orchestra is particularly honed in this repertoire; but also, too, in Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner. Theirs is the most European sound of Japanese orchestras, especially in the warmth of their strings. But, like many of that country’s orchestras in the 1960s, and for ten or so years later, the brass could swamp everything else in performances; many recordings are notable for exactly that imbalance. Today, there is a profound luxury to this orchestra’s sound, a tempered distribution of equilibrium in the horns and trumpets, a complexion to its woodwind which is entirely driven by individual expressivity - and a string sound of such depth it carries everything on its weighty shoulders. If great orchestras are measured by whether you can identify their sound the NHK Symphony Orchestra is one of those, and this Wagner disc is an example that.

If you’re looking for any particular sequential narrative to Järvi’s journey through Wagner’s Ring you won’t find it on this disc. Siegfried goes on his Rhine Journey after his funeral, and the Gods enter Valhalla right at the end - though given the richness of the sound, and sheer drama of the playing it’s a climax that is better placed to end a disc rather than to begin one. It’s almost a unique approach, though not entirely - Tennstedt does this, Solti begins this way then falls into line very quickly, Ormandy places Das Rheingold after Siegfried. The arrangements stick to those by Humperdinck, Hutschenruyter and Stasny though the sheer opulence and textures we get from the orchestra - rather emphasised by the thrilling and very wide dynamic range of the recording - can sometimes more than recall the rich palette and doublings we get with Stokowski’s reworkings. Järvi has clearly divided his violin desks antiphonally, much more common in Wagner than one thinks. And although Wagner composes for larger orchestral forces (six harps might be considered excessive for many), Järvi is a conductor who can sometimes seem as if he has gone further than some composers want - his recording of Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen sounds uncommonly rich, so much so one wonders if he has gone beyond the twenty-three strings Strauss asks for.

Although the sound and weight Järvi gets from the NHKSO on this disc is massive his fluid tempi - a very common trait of this conductor - more than compensates for the beautiful clarity he gets from individual instruments in the orchestra. It is precisely this which gives this purely orchestral disc a sublime vocal quality. Take for example Siegfried’s ‘Trauermarsch’- possibly the single finest track on this recording. The pulse of the opening timpani (so light to the touch) is like a heartbeat, but the way the pianissimo is done is just exquisite - a beat which falls entirely imperceptibly. It is never a given in this music, either, that you will get the solo oboe, clarinet, or English Horn to play at the marked ausdruscksvol, nor that the poco crescendo will quite be distinctive - nor that the playing will quite have the sheer beauty of phrasing we have here. What we also get are the two spaced harp glissandi (marked ff) punching through like a mini chorus against the much larger choral forces of the ff brass. What is, however, utterly unique about this performance is how bleakly Järvi demands his orchestra takes the closing bars. The weight he draws from the cellos is phenomenally rich - and yet it is deeply unsettling. In a complete reversal, those heartbeats, which were so light on the ear, and which opened this music, are now like a final mark of death. Rarely will you hear double basses and cellos play pianissimos with both the depth and power the NHKSO bring to these closing bars and yet hear this music as it probably should sound.

These are much the same qualities you hear at the opening of the ‘Morgendammerung’. It is darker than one is used to, but the sigh and cantabile which you get from the expressive playing of this cello section is exceptional. You hear harps beautifully emerging from within the orchestra (any moment around 4’53), or a distant calling of the horn so beautifully phrased, at first like an off-stage voice in the wings and then appearing in the centre of it during Siegfried’s ‘Rhinefahrt’. The track of Siegfried’s ‘Waldweben’ may be the one which most defines the dichotomy of this recording. The bassoon playing is so lustrous, so velvety in tone - with a gorgeous mezzoish colour to it - that you almost forget it is an instrument which may be the one reason when listening to this music one finds oneself becoming distracted from much else that is happening. Do you miss those strings hovering beneath it? I think you do. It’s rather the same with the eloquent phrasing of the cellos which tends to hide the solo horn above them - it’s rather difficult to focus on this music as a whole. In a rather characterless performance of this music this rarely matters, but the range of the NHKSO’s expressivity creates that same diaphanous opening of vocal colours you might hear in a Mozartian operatic quartet or sextet.

The track which sounds the least operatic on this disc is ironically the one which should - ‘Walkürenritt’. This is a considerably more energised account than the Simon Rattle/BRSO performance from his complete Die Walküre. There is much fire and brimstone to the playing here - and some well controlled brass playing - though other than that it is neither more exceptional nor weaker than many other recordings of the piece.

‘The Entry of the Gods into Valhalla’ is quite another matter, however. This is such a tour de force of a performance it would have been almost counterproductive to have begun the disc with it. Although it is the end of a prelude to this vast operatic journey, it is in another way also the beginning and end of this orchestra’s instrumental revelation. What we hear are the summing up of careful balances - and this piece is especially notable for its harp writing weaving through the orchestra, or the undulating rhythms of the woodwind phrasing. But there is also a sweeping drama to how the NHKSO play this particular music as if it is being taken in one single vast ten-minute crescendo. Perhaps the volume of the orchestra at full tilt does stretch the limits of the recording in the final bars but in the end it is as meaningful an ending as any.

The qualities of this recording are very unusual. Even by the standards of conductors like Klemperer and Karajan, Järvi has taken an approach to Der Ring des Niebelungen which is operatic rather than purely symphonic. The NHKSO is not necessarily more unique than some of the great European orchestras - but there is unquestionably a quality to this particular recording which is simply in a class of its own. You will not find a ‘Trauermarsch’ quite as black as this one - and none that even comes close to matching the final five bars, let alone equalling them. I’m not sure you listen to instruments playing in an orchestra and you think of great Wagnerian singers - this recording stretches the imagination to think like that simply because the solo phrasing from the orchestra is so beautifully defined to make you think that way. Some might not get that impression at all; others might entirely immerse themselves in that sound world. What is without question, in my view, is that this is one of the great Wagner recordings.

Marc Bridle

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Jarvi%20Ring%20NHK.jpg image_description=Sony G010004171085T product=yes product_title=Orchestral Selections from Der Ring des Nibelungen product_by=NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (conductor) product_id=Sony G010004171085T [Digital Download] price=$10.00 product_url=https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8733424--orchestral-selections-from-der-ring-des-nibelungen
Posted by claire_s at 10:59 AM

April 10, 2020

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

But, a lack of complexity doesn’t imply that Rattle is uninteresting as a conductor - although in some repertoire he never quite catches fire. His Wagner is where these two conditions often meet - and have done for decades - and this most recent recording of Die Walküre is as divisive as any of his finest recordings of recent years.

And, I think this is generally a very fine performance; but it is also one, which in parts, really makes one ask why Rattle made the choices he did. Two reviews from February 2019, only serve to illustrate the divergent views on this very same concert performance from the Herkluessaal: for Opernmagazin its perfection was something which could only be heard outside Bayreuth at the Bavarian State Opera. For Abendzeitung, however, the Bavarian State Opera was again analogous but not in the same way - Kirill Petrenko (its music director) could develop this opera into an event; Rattle spent his time stumbling through it - “Die Impulse dazu gehen wohlgemerkt nicht vom Diregenten aus.” (“The impulses do not come from the conductor”). I think I fall somewhere in the middle of these two views, although depart significantly from Michael Bastian Weiß in Abendzeitung who thought the Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks were shaky and imprecise, with a light tone and unimpressive brass. The superb engineering on this recording probably helps - and listening to it in Hi-Res almost certainly does - but the orchestral sound is the complete antithesis of how Weiß describes it.

I assume what Weiß means by Rattle’s “stumbling” into scenes - especially into Act’s I and III - though he barely has the space to expand on this, is this conductor’s propensity for shaping the music by sudden, and often dramatic, tempo changes. This works in some composers where Rattle does this - Stravinsky, for example - but it is less convincing in Wagner. What might also be true is that Rattle doesn’t always seem to care about unifying both the orchestral and vocal lines and this is why one gets a disparity between the tension generated. The prelude to Act I, for example, is simply stunning - quite possibly one of the most exciting on record. But as soon as you listen to it one realises that no conductor - least of all Rattle - is going to be able to sustain that level of energy through the act (though perhaps you wouldn’t want that). On the other hand, the beginning of Act III Scene 1, even before the entry of the Valkyries, is just lugubrious. But contradictions abound: why would chords have such razor shape precision from the orchestra, and yet the climax of Act’s I and II be the opposite? Leonard Bernstein, in his concert recording of Tristan und Isolde, with this same orchestra, brought such huge power and incisiveness to the ending of acts, but Rattle elides them into closure? It’s these paradoxes which suggest not so much a lack of interpretation but an indifference to how it is done.

The singing and the orchestra do raise this performance above the ordinary. James Rutherford’s Wotan - a short notice replacement for Michael Volle - amply demonstrates that there is no shortage of fine British Wagnerian bass-baritones (although given the intelligence, clarity and shine he brings to his singing perhaps these descriptors should be reversed). But this is not a light-voiced Wotan - there is considerable heft to the tone, and he is perhaps rather better than some more noteworthy singers in conveying the discord of the shattered world of the Gods. He is domineering but seems oddly vulnerable - the power behind Rutherford’s vocal command perhaps revealing that no matter how towering this figure maybe his isolation is like an island cast into an ocean.

The Australian Stuart Skelton also gives a standout performance as Siegmund. Here is another singer who has the gift of clarity - what is it about English speaking Wagnerian tenors and bass-baritones which makes their diction so clear? The voice is almost ideal for Siegmund - powerful, in full range of the part, and most importantly has the breadth and depth. I suppose Heldentenors in Die Walküre are for better or worse almost defined by the great ‘Wälse! Wo ist dein Schwert!’. Rattle’s entry into it is spacious, and if Skelton’s voice is almost identical in timbre to James King’s it is probably unsurprising that they approach ‘Wälse…’ in almost identical ways. It is one of the most thrilling moments on this recording.

As his sister, Sieglinde, Eva Maria Westbroek is never less than involving. That Westbroek and Skelton are able to scale heights of such intensity - especially given this is a concert performance - is quite an achievement. Their casting is like looking at the relief on a Grecian frieze: two voices that are beautifully matched in their velvety tone, a balance of heaviness and lightness to both which works like the symmetrical movement of scales but neither is there a lack of underlying sexual tension between them, even if this is never particularly replicated in Rattle’s conducting.

The problem I have with Iréne Theorins as Brünnhilde is that the voice is uneven in quality. At times I struggle to understand her German and there is a disconcerting edge to her upper chest register which tends to grate on the ear. But if she is uncomfortable at the top the delicacy which she brings to less strained sections of the score shows the voice to be in better shape. Eric Halfvarsung’s Hunding is a potent instrument - snarling and gruff, granular yet with a roaring power which seems to overwhelm Theorins’ Brünnhilde.

Rattle does get superlative playing from his Bavarian players. Perhaps what is most striking is the depth of that orchestral sound - this is a very string centred performance, and the terror of that sound is often very thrilling to hear. Clarity is perhaps not as crystalline as one would wish for - I think at times one barely notices woodwind at all in this performance - but the sheer wash of paint that overwhelms this interpretation of the score is beyond impressionistic. These heavy textures may not appeal to everyone - especially those who prefer their Wagner to be more lucid; this is a performance which utterly eschews lyricism. I think Rattle gets a very different kind of playing from the Bavarian orchestra than he usually got from the Berliner Philharmoniker - this is Wagner that plays very much to this orchestra’s tonal strengths - I’m not sure the BPO would ever have produced a string sound quite as sonically sepulchral or saturnine as we hear in Act II Scene 2 during ‘Lass’ ich’s verlauten’. The lack of definition Rattle doesn’t get in the score can be troubling - and quite why this happens is equally perplexing. Petrenko and the Bavarian State Opera, or even Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, give significantly more revealing accounts of this score than Rattle manages - although I don’t think either quite manage one quite as terrifying or powerful.

This is a recording which I particularly enjoyed for Rutherford’s Wotan and Skelton’s Siegmund. Simon Rattle’s interpretation of Die Walküre is, I think, a distinctively individualistic one - and not for everyone. Who it is clearly for are Wagnerians who love hearing a great orchestra at full tilt with a superb recorded sound to match.

Marc Bridle

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Rattle%20Walkure.jpg image_description=BR Klassik 900177 product=yes product_title=Richard Wagner: Die Walküre product_by= Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Eric Halfvarson (Hunding), James Rutherford (Wotan), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde), Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde), Elisabeth Kulman (Fricka), Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Sir Simon Rattle product_id=BR Klassik 900177 [4CDs] price=$49.99 product_url=https://amzn.to/2RBrvS7
Posted by claire_s at 10:29 AM

April 9, 2020

English Touring Opera to broadcast St John Passion on Easter Sunday

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company took the decision to end the tour, cancelling the remaining 52 performances of its Spring season. ETO made a commitment to its artists and audiences, honouring the entire company’s fees for the tour and developing new ways to keep music in the lives of the communities it serves.

English Touring Opera’s debut broadcast creatively weaves together footage of the live performance at the Hackney Empire, with 90 individual video contributions made by choir members in isolation from Cumbria to Cornwall who were due to participate in performances across the country.

Conductor, Jonathan Peter Kenny, and English Touring Opera’s Artistic Director, James Conway, are encouraging audiences to experience the St John Passion in a communal way this Easter Sunday, with many thousands of us sitting down to listen to one of the great masterpieces of Western civilisation together, connecting with one another through Bach’s music, whilst in physical isolation.

English Touring Opera’s production of Bach’s St John Passion will be broadcast from their YouTube channel - https://www.youtube.com/user/ETO5254 - at 4pm on Sunday 12 April and will be available to stream for one week. Use the hashtag #ETOStJohn to share your listening experience and connect with other audience members.

English Touring Opera are set to release other digital content in the coming weeks including other performances; interactive insight talks; signing lessons for children and adults; and music projects for people with special educational needs and disabilities. Follow their YouTube and other social media channels, or join their mailing list at www.englishtouringopera.co.uk to find out more.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Andreas-Grieger.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title=English Touring Opera broadcasts St John Passion on Easter Sunday product_by= product_id=Above: Jonathan Peter Kenny conducts ETO soloists, The Old Street Band, and local choirs at Hackney Empire in Bach’s St John Passion (Spring 2020).

Photo credit: Andreas Grieger
Posted by claire_s at 3:12 AM

April 8, 2020

Verdi – Il Trovatore (La Scala 1930)

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi 1813-1901). Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano after El trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez.

First Performance: 19 January 1853, Teatro Apollo, Rome

Principal Characters:
Count di Luna, a young nobleman of AragonBaritone
Leonora, a lady-in-waiting to the Princess of AragonSoprano
Azucena, a gypsyMezzo-Soprano
Manrico, an officer in the army of Prince Urgel, and the supposed son of AzucenaTenor
Ferrando, a captain in the Count's armyBass
Ines, Leonora's confidanteSoprano
Ruiz, a soldier in Manrico's serviceTenor
An Old GypsyBass
A MessengerTenor

Setting: Biscay and Aragon, 1409


Act I

Scene 1:

The guard room in the castle of Luna (The Palace of Aljaferia, Zaragoza, Spain). Fernando, the captain of the guards, orders the guards to keep watch while Count Luna wanders restlessly beneath the windows of Leonora, lady-in-waiting to the Princess, whom he loves. Luna's heart is torn with jealousy against his fortunate rival, the troubadour Manrico. In order to keep the guards awake, Fernando narrates the history of the count to the guard. (Fernando: "Once upon a time a father of two sons lived happily.") It appears that a Gypsy of dreadful aspect had once exercised her magic arts upon the little brother of the count, making the child weak and ill, and for this had been burnt alive as a witch. Dying, she had commanded her daughter Azucena to avenge her, which vengeance had been partially accomplished by the carrying off of the younger son. Although no news had been heard of him, the father refused to believe in his son's death, and dying, commanded his son, Count Luna, to seek for the Gypsy.

Scene 2:

Garden in the palace of the princess. Leonora confesses her love for Manrico to her confidante, Inez. ("The story of love.") When they have gone, Count Luna hears the voice of his rival. (Manrico, behind the scenes: "Alone and forsaken am I.") Leonora in the darkness mistakes the count for her lover, when Manrico himself enters the garden, and she rushes to his arms. The count recognises Manrico as his enemy, who has been condemned to death, and compels him to fight. Leonora tries to intervene but cannot stop them from fighting. Manrico could have killed the count but, as he explains later to his mother, he mysteriously restrains himself, and escapes.

Act II

Scene 1:

Camp of the gypsies. The gypsies sing the famous "Anvil Chorus". Manrico at the bedside of his mother, Azucena (Chorus: "See the clouds in heaven's vault."), the daughter of the Gypsy burnt by the count. She is old, but still nurses her vengeance. (Aria: "Flames rise to heaven.") The gypsies break up camp while Azucena confesses to Manrico that after stealing him she had intended to burn the count's little son, but had thrown her own child into the flames instead. Manrico realises that he is not the son of Azucena, but loves her as if she were indeed his mother, as she has always been faithful and loving to him. A messenger arrives and reports that Leonora, who believes Manrico dead, is about to take the veil. Manrico rushes away to prevent her from following out this purpose.

Scene 2: In front of the convent. Luna and his attendants intend to abduct Leonora. (Aria: "Her enlightening smile.") Leonora and the nuns appear in procession, but Manrico prevents Luna from carrying out his plans and instead, joins Leonora and proposes matrimony.


Scene 1:

Luna's camp. (Chorus: "In the midst of conflict.") Fernando brings in the captured Azucena. She is recognised by Luna and sentenced to be burnt.

Scene 2:

Chamber in the castle, which is besieged by Manrico. Leonora and Manrico live only for each other. (Aria, Manrico: "Yes, I am yours forever.") Ruiz, Manrico's comrade, reports that Azucena is to be burned at the stake. Manrico flies to her aid. (Stretta: "Of the funeral pyre.") Leonora faints.

Act IV

Scene 1:

Before the dungeon keep. Leonora attempts to free Manrico, who has been captured by Luna. (Miserere of the prisoners and aria of Manrico in the turret: "Born on rosette wings.") Leonora begs Luna for mercy and offers herself in place of her lover. She promises to give herself to the count, but intends to take poison before the marriage.

Scene 2:

In the dungeon. Manrico and Azucena are awaiting their execution. Manrico attempts to soothe Azucena, whose mind wanders. (Duet: "Home to our mountains.") At last the gypsy slumbers. Leonora comes to Manrico and tells him that he is saved, begs him to escape. When he discovers she cannot accompany him, he refuses to leave his prison. He believes Leonora has betrayed him until he realizes that she has taken poison to remain true to him. As she dies in agony in Manrico's arms she confesses that she prefers to die with him than to marry another. The count enters to find Leonora dead on his rival's arms and orders Manrico to be led to execution. Azucena arises from her couch and when Luna, dragging her to a window, shows her the dying Manrico, she cries in triumph: "He was your brother. Now my mother really is avenged!" and falls dead at his feet. The opera ends with the count screaming in despair.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Up_from_the_highest_tower_%2816079304178%29.png image_description=View of Zaragoza and the Ebro [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Il Trovatore first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Trovatore1.m3u product=yes product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Il Trovatore product_by=Aureliano Pertile (Manrico), Maria Carena (Leonora), Apollo Granforte (Il Conte di Luna), Irene Minghini-Cattaneo (Azucena), Bruno Carmassi (Ferrando), Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Carlo Sabajno (cond.)
Recorded 1930. product_id=Above: View of Zaragoza and the Ebro [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 11:37 AM

April 3, 2020

Strauss – Ariadne auf Naxos (Salzburg 1954)

As initially conceived, the work was in two parts—the first being an adaptation of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme with incidental music composed by Strauss and the second being a collision of an opera seria based on the legend of Ariadne with commedia dell’arte, which would replace the Turkish ceremony with which Molière’s play ends. The work was completed in April 1912 and premiered in Stuttgart the following October. As Charles Osborne notes:

The first night, on October 25, was something of a disaster. Though the press reports were in general favourable, the audience received the Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss mélange without enthusiasm. Those who had come to enjoy Molière were bored by the opera which was tacked on at the end of the comedy, while the opera-goers who had come to hear Strauss’s latest opera were vexed at having first to sit through a play by Molière.

[Charles Osborne, The Complete Operas of Strauss, London: Grange Books, 1992]

Eventually, the work was revised with the first part being entirely rewritten as a prologue to the opera. The location was changed from Paris to Vienna, all dance scenes were eliminated and the plot bears but scant resemblance to Molière’s play. The incidental music that Strauss had composed would reappear later as Le Bourgeois gentilhomme Suite (1920).

As revised, Ariadne auf Naxos premiered at the Hofoper in Vienna on 4 October 1916.



In the house of the richest man in Vienna, where a sumptuous banquet is to be held in the evening, two theatrical groups are busy preparing their entertainments. The Music Master protests to the Major-domo about the decision to follow his pupil's opera seria, Ariadne auf Naxos, with 'vulgar buffoonery'. The Major-domo makes it plain that he who pays the piper calls the tune and that the fireworks display will begin at nine o'clock. The Composer wants a last-minute rehearsal with the violinists, but they are playing during dinner. The soprano who is to sing Ariadne is not available to go through her aria; the tenor cast as Vacchus objects to his wig. There is typical backstage chaos. Seeing the attractive Zerbinetta and inquiring who she is, the composer is told by the Music Master that she is leader of the commedia dell'arte group which is to perform after the opera. Outraged, the Composer's wrath is turned aside when a new melody occurs to him. The Major-domo returns to announce that his master now requires both entertainments to be performed simultaneously and still to end at nine o'clock sharp. More uproar, during which the Dancing Master suggests that the Composer should cut his opera to accommodate the harlequinade's dances.

The plot of Ariadne is explained to Zerbinetta, who mocks the idea of 'languishing in passionate longing and praying for death'. To her, another lover is the answer. Zerbinetta and the Composer find they have something in common when Zerbinetta tells him 'A moment is nothing - a glance is much'. 'Who can say that my heart is in the part I play?' Heartened, the Composer sings of music's power. But when he sees the comedians scampering about, he cries, 'I should not have allowed it.'


On the island of Naxos, where Ariadne has been abandoned by Theseus, who took her with him from Crete after she had helped him to kill the Minotaur. Ariadne is asleep, watched over by three nymphs, Naiad, Dryad and Echo. They describe her perpetual inconsolable weeping. Ariadne wakes. She can think of nothing except her betrayal by Theseus and she wants death to end her suffering. Zerbinetta and the comedians cannot believe in her desperation and Harlequin vainly tries to cheer her with a song about the joys of life. She sings of the purity of the kingdom of death and longs for Hermes to lead her there. The comedians again try to cheer her up with singing and dancing, but to no avail. Zerbinetta sends them away and tries on her own, with her long coloratura aria, the gist of which is that there are plenty of other men besides Theseus. In the middle of the aria, Ariadne goes into her cave. Zerbinetta and her troupe then enact their entertainment in which the four comedians court her.

The three nymphs excitedly announce the arrival of the young god Bacchus, who has just escaped from the sorceress Circe. At first he mistakes Ariadne for another Circe, while she mistakes him for Theseus and then Hermes. But in the duet that follows, reality takes over and Ariadne's longing for death becomes a longing for love as Bacchus becomes aware of his divinity. As passion enfolds them, Zerbinetta comments that she was right all along: 'Off with the old, on with the new.'

Click here for the full text of the libretto.

image_description=The Sleeping Ariadne in Naxos by John Vanderlyn [Source: Wikipedia]

first_audio_name=Ariadne auf Naxos

product_title=Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
product_by=Lisa Della Casa (Primadonna/Ariadne), Hilde Güden (Zerbinetta), Irmgard Seeried (Komponist), Rudolf Schock (Tenor/Bacchus), Paul Schöffler(Musiklehrer); Wiener Philharmoniker, Karl Böhm (cond.). Live from Salzburger Festspiel, 7 August 1954.
product_id=Above: The Sleeping Ariadne in Naxos by John Vanderlyn [Source: Wikipedia]

Posted by Gary at 5:13 PM

MOZART: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Berlin 1949)

First Performance: 16 July 1782, Burgtheater, Vienna.

Principal Characters:
Selim, Pasha Nonsinging role
Constanze, a Spanish lady and Belmonte's bethrothed Soprano
Blonde, Constanze's English maid Soprano
Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman Tenor
Pedrillo, Belmonte's servant and now supervisor of the Pasha's gardens Tenor
Osmin, overseer of the Pasha's country palace Bass
Klaas, a sailor Nonsinging role
Mute, Osmin's servant Nonsinging role

Setting: The country palace of Pasha Selim.


Background to the story

This is the tale of Constanze and Belmonte, two young Spaniards of noble birth. Constanze, her English maid, Blonde, and Pedrillo, Belmonte’s servant, fell into the hands of pirates who attacked their ship. The pirates sold their captives at a slave market to Pasha Selim. After month of searching for them in despair, tormented by not knowing what had become of his beloved Constanze and the two servants, Belmonte sets out to find them.

Act One

Belmonte has arrived on the distant Turkish shore and approaches the high wall surrounding the seraglio. Here he encounters Osmin, the Pasha’s right-hand man, and questions him about the people he is seeking. Osmin, however, has not the slightest intention of giving this stranger any information whatsoever and sends him on his way.

Belmonte continues to look for a way to get into the seraglio.Through a prison window, he manages to catch a glimpse of Pedrillo. This confirms that Constanze and Blonde are also being held prisoner in the harem.

Pasha Selim has chosen Constanze to be the object of his affections. He visits the harem every day and does everything in his power to persuade her into accepting his suit. Constanze remains steadfast in adamantly refusing to succumb. She has no idea yet that her beloved Belmonte is so near.

Meanwhile, Belmonte has disguised himself as an architect an enters the First Courtyard of the seraglio. He teams up with Pedrillo and together they try to get past Osmin into the Second Courtyard.

Act Two

Osmin has taken a fancy to Blonde, but his persistent advances are met with resistance by the young English woman. The two of them are involved in constant battles of wit, which Osmin just can’t win.

Constanze makes it increasingly difficult for the Pasha to approach her and he finally loses patience. He threatens to punish her if she does not soon accept his suit.

Blonde learns about the plan for their escape from Pedrillo. Before they can put the plan into action, however, they first have to outwit Osmin. Pedrillo manages to persuade Osmin to help him empty a bottle of wine and the latter then falls into a deep sleep. The two couples are able to meet and plan their escape.

Act Three

Belmonte, still disguised as an architect, smuggles Pedrillo out of the Seraglio and they head for Belmonte’s ship. There they wait for night to fall.

At midnight, Belmonte and Pedrillo row round the coast to the foot of the harem. Pedrillo serenades his Blonde as a signal. Osmin discovers them in the boat and sends a fleet of ships out to capture them again.

The death penalty awaits them, but Pasha Selim decides to forgo revenge and sets the captives free.

[Synopsis Source: Bayerische Staatsoper]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/John_frederick_lewis-reception1873.png image_description=An illustration of the women's quarters in a seraglio, by John Frederick Lewis (1873) [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Abduction1.m3u product=yes product_title=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail product_by=Sari Barabas (Constanze), Anton Dermota (Belmonte), Rita Streich (Blonde), Helmut Krebs (Pedrillo), Josef Greindl (Osmin), Ernst Dernburg (Pasha Selim), RIAS-Kammerchor und RIAS-Sinfonieorchester, Ferenc Fricsay (cond.)
Live recording, 19-21 December 1949, Berlin product_id=Above: An illustration of the women's quarters in a seraglio, by John Frederick Lewis (1873) [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 3:46 PM

MOZART: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Aix-En-Provence 1954)

First Performance: 16 July 1782, Burgtheater, Vienna.

Principal Characters:
Selim, Pasha Nonsinging role
Constanze, a Spanish lady and Belmonte's bethrothed Soprano
Blonde, Constanze's English maid Soprano
Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman Tenor
Pedrillo, Belmonte's servant and now supervisor of the Pasha's gardens Tenor
Osmin, overseer of the Pasha's country palace Bass
Klaas, a sailor Nonsinging role
Mute, Osmin's servant Nonsinging role

Setting: The country palace of Pasha Selim.


Background to the story

This is the tale of Constanze and Belmonte, two young Spaniards of noble birth. Constanze, her English maid, Blonde, and Pedrillo, Belmonte’s servant, fell into the hands of pirates who attacked their ship. The pirates sold their captives at a slave market to Pasha Selim. After month of searching for them in despair, tormented by not knowing what had become of his beloved Constanze and the two servants, Belmonte sets out to find them.

Act One

Belmonte has arrived on the distant Turkish shore and approaches the high wall surrounding the seraglio. Here he encounters Osmin, the Pasha’s right-hand man, and questions him about the people he is seeking. Osmin, however, has not the slightest intention of giving this stranger any information whatsoever and sends him on his way.

Belmonte continues to look for a way to get into the seraglio.Through a prison window, he manages to catch a glimpse of Pedrillo. This confirms that Constanze and Blonde are also being held prisoner in the harem.

Pasha Selim has chosen Constanze to be the object of his affections. He visits the harem every day and does everything in his power to persuade her into accepting his suit. Constanze remains steadfast in adamantly refusing to succumb. She has no idea yet that her beloved Belmonte is so near.

Meanwhile, Belmonte has disguised himself as an architect an enters the First Courtyard of the seraglio. He teams up with Pedrillo and together they try to get past Osmin into the Second Courtyard.

Act Two

Osmin has taken a fancy to Blonde, but his persistent advances are met with resistance by the young English woman. The two of them are involved in constant battles of wit, which Osmin just can’t win.

Constanze makes it increasingly difficult for the Pasha to approach her and he finally loses patience. He threatens to punish her if she does not soon accept his suit.

Blonde learns about the plan for their escape from Pedrillo. Before they can put the plan into action, however, they first have to outwit Osmin. Pedrillo manages to persuade Osmin to help him empty a bottle of wine and the latter then falls into a deep sleep. The two couples are able to meet and plan their escape.

Act Three

Belmonte, still disguised as an architect, smuggles Pedrillo out of the Seraglio and they head for Belmonte’s ship. There they wait for night to fall.

At midnight, Belmonte and Pedrillo row round the coast to the foot of the harem. Pedrillo serenades his Blonde as a signal. Osmin discovers them in the boat and sends a fleet of ships out to capture them again.

The death penalty awaits them, but Pasha Selim decides to forgo revenge and sets the captives free.

[Synopsis Source: Bayerische Staatsoper]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Porty%C3%A1z%C3%B3_t%C3%B6r%C3%B6k%C3%B6k.png image_description=Ottoman soldiers in the territory of present-day Hungary (circa 1550–1600) [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Abduction2.m3u product=yes product_title=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail product_by=Teresa Stich-Randall (Constanze), Nicolai Gedda (Belmonte), Carmen Prietto (Blonde), Michel Sénéchal (Pedrillo), Raffaele Arië (Osmin), Jean Vernier (Pasha Selim), Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur, Orchestre de la Societé des Concerts du Conservatoire, Hans Rosbaud (cond.)
Live recording, 11 July 1954, Aix-En-Provence product_id=Above: Ottoman soldiers in the territory of present-day Hungary (circa 1550–1600) [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 3:38 PM

Participants announced for the first ever Wexford Factory

In advance of the opening of public booking on Saturday, 4 April, the twelve singers chosen to take part in the inaugural Wexford Factory were announced. A new initiative, established for the first time this year by WFO Artistic Director, Rosetta Cucchi, the Wexford Factory is a two-week academy for young Irish / Irish-based singers, which will take place in early September, prior to the beginning of rehearsals for this year’s Festival.

Speaking of her reasons for developing the Wexford Factory, Rosetta said, “The best memories of my life are associated with the academies I attended in my youth. That is where I learned the true meaning of professionalism and how I could continue to challenge myself as an artist. This is the reason I decided to establish the Wexford Factory. It is the duty of every highly regarded international festival such as Wexford to give a new generation of singers the opportunity to grow; giving them wings to fly in their careers.”

The Wexford Factory is designed to mentor young singers through masterclasses led by internationally recognised artists and professionals. Guest tutors will include world-renowned tenor Juan Diego-Flórez, Irish soprano Celine Byrne, as well as Ernesto Palacio of the Rossini Opera Festival and Dmitry Vdovin, head of the Bolshoi’s Young Artist programme. Veteran Wexford Festival Opera director Roberto Recchia, Classical Music journalist Michael Dervan, movement specialist Sara Catellani and Rosetta Cucchi will also provide professional instruction.

Graduating students will perform in one of the Pocket Operas / Opera Beag Shakespeare for Fun, a reduced production of Verdi’s Falstaff which will be performed this October in the National Opera House.

The Wexford Factory is in collaboration with TUD (Technological University Dublin), RIAM (Royal Irish Academy of Music) and CSM (Cork School of Music) and in keeping with the International profile and reach of Wexford Festival Opera, a partnership with the Bolshoi Academy, Moscow, the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, and Opera for Peace has also been established. In addition to the twelve Irish and Irish-based singers, two young singers, one from the Bolshoi Academy, Moscow and one from the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro will also join this new initiative.

The twelve Irish or Irish-based singers have been announced as:

Anna Brady, Ava Dodd, Rory Dunne, Andrew Gavin, Francesca Federico, David Howes, Kathleen Norchi, Conall William O’Neill, Jade Phoenix, Sarah Richmond, Sarah Shine, Vladimir-Mihai Sima.

Anna Brady received her BA in Performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 2011 before studying for her Masters in Vocal Studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which she recently completed. She is a 2012/13 alumni of the Young Associate Artist Programme with Opera Theatre Company, now amalgamated with Irish National Opera. Her performing experience includes Annina in La traviata with Fife Opera, Margot-Froufrou inThe Merry Widow with Opera Bohemia and Daisy in The Next Station is Green Park with Opera Eos among others. Anna is currently preparing to sing the role of Arnalta in L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS).

Soprano Ava Dodd originally from Wicklow, is currently in her final year of Bachelor of Music Performance (vocal studies) in RIAM and will continue on to study her masters in London. She has been greatly inspired by her own teacher Professor Mary Brennan, as well as artists including Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko. Ava was named the ‘Young Opera voice of 2019’ at the Festival of Voice competition with Northern Ireland Opera. Ava has performed in venues including the National Concert Hall Dublin, Project Arts Centre, RDS Concert Hall, the Peacock Theatre and Kilmainham Gaol.

Kildare born bass-baritone Rory Dunne studied as an actor before he realised that he wanted to pursue a career in opera when he first stood on a stage, in full costume, in character and with an orchestra playing in the pit and felt that it is the one place that he felt truly empowered. Rory studied at TU Dublin Conservatoire and has gone on to perform with WFO, Lyric Opera Productions, Irish National Opera, Cork Opera, Opera Collective Ireland and Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.

Soprano Francesca Federico spent all her summers growing up with family in west Cork and Kerry. Francesca received a Bachelor's degree in Global Politics and a Masters in Voice at the Mannes School of Music. Her interest in classical music was sparked by seeing her first opera, Rigoletto at the Met when she was 15. Now based in NYC Francesca is due to perform in dell’Arte Opera's 2020 summer festival and recently made her debut at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center.

Tenor Andrew Gavin from Navan, Co Meath, has performed with Wexford Festival Opera on a number of occasions in 2015, 2016 & 2017. He was recipient of the WFO / PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary 2016. Graduating with an M. Phil in Children’s Literature from Trinity College, Andrew was awarded his Masters in Music Performance at the RIAM. Andrew made his debut at Wigmore Hall as part of the 'Irish Culture in Britain’ celebrations and participated in a joint production with the Juilliard school, New York and the RIAM, Ten Thousand Miles Away. Among the many awards he has won include prizes at the ESB Feis Ceoil, the O’Mara Cup, the Plunket Greene Cup, and the William T. Watt trophy for Tenor solo.

Bass-baritone David Howes, originally from Limerick completed his Bachelor of Music Degree at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. David’s grandad Harry, a self-taught bass singer, inspired him to pursue his singing career, along with his parents’ staunch support. A graduate of the distinguished Young Artist Programme with Northern Ireland Opera David has worked with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, performed in the world premiere of Andrew Synnott’s opera, Dubliners at WFO 2017, Irish National Opera, Buxton Opera Festival and Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Currently based in NYC, soprano Kathleen Norchi studied Music at the Boston Conservatory of Music and her masters at the Mannes School of Music. With a love of performance since she was very young Kathleen has performed with Utopia Opera as well as in productions of Die Zauberflöte, The Telephone, Carmen and Hansel and Gretel.

Bass Conall William O'Neill is based in London where he attended the Royal College of Music (RCM) for both his Bachelor's and Master's degree in music and performing. Most recently, he performed as Colline in Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of La bohème, singled out for his “powerful bass voice and a knockout vecchia zimarra”. He also sang the role of Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring for the Koninklijk Conservatoire Antwerpen. Prior to studying at the RCM, Conall attended Imperial College London, receiving a BSc of Biology degree. His father hails from New Ross, Co. Wexford originally, so performing at the Festival adds an additional element of excitement to his involvement.

Jade Phoenix is an Irish lyric soprano based in Greystones, Wicklow, currently in her final year in the Royal Irish Academy of Music studying with Prof. Mary Brennan and Dr. Dearbhla Collins. From September, she will attend the Guildhall school of Music and Drama to begin her Masters in Music Performance under the tutelage of Yvonne Kenny, having been awarded a scholarship. In 2019, Jade performed the role of Charlotte Badger in the opera Banished by Stephen McNeff, performed in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Upcoming performances include Kevin O´Connell´s contemporary opera DreamCatcher, an opera for two principal females which will be performed in the Abbey Theatre.

Carrickfergus born mezzo-soprano Sarah Richmond made her Wexford Festival Opera debut in 2015 in the critically acclaimed Guglielmo Ratcliff by Mascagni, singing the role of Willie and returned in 2016 to sing the principal role of Yelena in the ShortWorks production of The Bear by William Walton. A recipient of the WFO / PwC Emerging Young Artist Bursary 2016, Sarah graduated from the RNCM with a MMus (Distinction) and a PG Dip Solo Performance (Distinction) as a Drapers' de Turckheim Scholar. Sarah has also performed with North West Opera, NI Opera/Nevill Holt Opera, Wide Open Opera, Castleward Opera and more.

Limerick soprano Sarah Shine studied at the RIAM under Veronica Dunne who has been her biggest inspiration in her career along with her grandmother who encouraged a love of music from an early age. Sarah was a member of the Salzburg Young Singers Project 2019 and has just finished two seasons as a singer in residence at the Académie of Opera National de Paris. After a performance at Palais Garnier in 2018, Sarah was awarded the Siemens Opera Award.

Tenor Vladimir-Mihai Sima studied computer programming and International Business/Economics before studying music and graduating from the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Music has always been a part of his journey which saw him start his own heavy metal band in his teens. The moment Vladimir-Mihai discovered that this was what wanted to do in life was when someone at work showed him a video of Placido Domingo singing 'E lucevan le stelle' and this changed the course of his life. Some key productions to date include Carmen, The Enchantress and La finta giardiniera.

Wexford Factory video: www.wexfordopera.com

Wexford Festival Opera runs from 20 Oct - 1 Nov 2020.

Find out more at wexfordopera.com

Priority booking is now open for all Friends.
General booking opens on Saturday, 4 April 2020.

Posted by claire_s at 12:44 PM

April 2, 2020

STRAUSS: Arabella – Dresden 2005

Music composed by Richard Strauss. Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

First Performance: 1 July 1933, Sächsisches Staatstheater Opernhaus, Dresden

Principal Roles:
Count Waldner Bass
Adelaide, his wife Mezzo Soprano
Arabella, their daughter Soprano
Zdenka, Arabella's younger sister Soprano
Mandryka, a Croatian landowner Baritone
Matteo, an officer Tenor
Count Elemer Tenor
Count Dominik Baritone
Count Lamoral Bass
Fiakermilli Soprano
Fortune-Teller Soprano
Three Players Basses
Welko, Mandryka’s bodyguard Spoken Role


The impoverished Count and Countess Waldner seek a rich suitor for their eldest daughter Arabella, and have disguised their younger daughter Zdenka as a boy to save money. Zdenka is in love with Matteo, one of Arabella's admirers, and has written him letters in her sister's name. Arabella believes she will recognise 'the right man', and is curious about a stranger who has watched her outside the hotel. She agrees to choose a husband by the end of the Coachmen's Ball that evening, and leaves for a sleigh-ride. Beset by creditors, the Count has written to a Croatian landowning friend, enclosing a photo of Arabella. The friend's nephew and heir, Mandryka, announces himself. He is bewitched by Arabella's portrait and has come to Vienna to woo her. The Count accepts Mandryka's suit and a loan for the gambling tables. At the ball, Arabella and Mandryka are attracted to each other - he is the stranger she had noticed. He describes a village custom in which a glass of water is offered by a maid to her betrothed to drink. She agrees to marry him, but begs a few hours to bid farewell to her youth. Arabella is proclaimed Queen of the Ball by Milli, the coachmen's darling, and takes leave from each of her former suitors. Zdenka arranges an assignation with Matteo, luring him with a key to Arabella's room. This is overheard by Mandryka, who notes Arabella's departure and falls into a drunken fury, outraging the Countess with accusations of Arabella's infidelity. The Waldners leave the ball and the Count commands Mandryka to follow. Back at the hotel, Matteo believes he has met with Arabella in her darkened bedroom, but in the foyer she is baffled by his allusions. Mandryka has lost his trust in Arabella, and in the growing confusion challenges Matteo to a fight. Zdenka appears in a nightdress and confesses her love for Matteo. Arabella seeks forgiveness from Mandryka and asks her father to bless the union of Zdenka and Matteo. Mandryka, alone, contemplates his feelings for Arabella and sends a glass of water to her room. She brings it down for him to drink, as a symbol of their love.

[Synopsis Source: Boosey & Hawkes]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Arabella_Denoke_Dresden_Cre.png image_description=Angela Denoke as Arabella (Photo by Matthias Creutziger) audio=yes first_audio_name=Richard Strauss: Arabella first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Arabella3.m3u product=yes product_title=Richard Strauss: Arabella product_by=Waldner (Alfred Kuhn), Adelaide (Christa Mayer), Arabella (Angela Denoke), Zdenka (Birgit Fandrey), Mandryka (Hans-Joachim Ketelsen), Matteo (Klaus Florian Vogt), Elemer (Martin Homrich), Dominik (Jürgen Hartfiel), Lamoral (Matthias Henneberg), Fortune-Teller (Andrea Ihle), Semperoper Dresden, Wolfgang Rennert (cond.)
Live performance: 24 June 2005, Semperoper, Dresden product_id=Above: Angela Denoke as Arabella (Photo by Matthias Creutziger)
Posted by Gary at 5:11 PM

MOZART: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Vienna 1956)

First Performance: 16 July 1782, Burgtheater, Vienna.

Principal Characters:
Selim, Pasha Nonsinging role
Constanze, a Spanish lady and Belmonte's bethrothed Soprano
Blonde, Constanze's English maid Soprano
Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman Tenor
Pedrillo, Belmonte's servant and now supervisor of the Pasha's gardens Tenor
Osmin, overseer of the Pasha's country palace Bass
Klaas, a sailor Nonsinging role
Mute, Osmin's servant Nonsinging role

Setting: The country palace of Pasha Selim.


Background to the story

This is the tale of Constanze and Belmonte, two young Spaniards of noble birth. Constanze, her English maid, Blonde, and Pedrillo, Belmonte’s servant, fell into the hands of pirates who attacked their ship. The pirates sold their captives at a slave market to Pasha Selim. After month of searching for them in despair, tormented by not knowing what had become of his beloved Constanze and the two servants, Belmonte sets out to find them.

Act One

Belmonte has arrived on the distant Turkish shore and approaches the high wall surrounding the seraglio. Here he encounters Osmin, the Pasha’s right-hand man, and questions him about the people he is seeking. Osmin, however, has not the slightest intention of giving this stranger any information whatsoever and sends him on his way.

Belmonte continues to look for a way to get into the seraglio.Through a prison window, he manages to catch a glimpse of Pedrillo. This confirms that Constanze and Blonde are also being held prisoner in the harem.

Pasha Selim has chosen Constanze to be the object of his affections. He visits the harem every day and does everything in his power to persuade her into accepting his suit. Constanze remains steadfast in adamantly refusing to succumb. She has no idea yet that her beloved Belmonte is so near.

Meanwhile, Belmonte has disguised himself as an architect an enters the First Courtyard of the seraglio. He teams up with Pedrillo and together they try to get past Osmin into the Second Courtyard.

Act Two

Osmin has taken a fancy to Blonde, but his persistent advances are met with resistance by the young English woman. The two of them are involved in constant battles of wit, which Osmin just can’t win.

Constanze makes it increasingly difficult for the Pasha to approach her and he finally loses patience. He threatens to punish her if she does not soon accept his suit.

Blonde learns about the plan for their escape from Pedrillo. Before they can put the plan into action, however, they first have to outwit Osmin. Pedrillo manages to persuade Osmin to help him empty a bottle of wine and the latter then falls into a deep sleep. The two couples are able to meet and plan their escape.

Act Three

Belmonte, still disguised as an architect, smuggles Pedrillo out of the Seraglio and they head for Belmonte’s ship. There they wait for night to fall.

At midnight, Belmonte and Pedrillo row round the coast to the foot of the harem. Pedrillo serenades his Blonde as a signal. Osmin discovers them in the boat and sends a fleet of ships out to capture them again.

The death penalty awaits them, but Pasha Selim decides to forgo revenge and sets the captives free.

[Synopsis Source: Bayerische Staatsoper]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Jean-Auguste-Dominique_Ingres_-_La_Baigneuse_Valpin%C3%A7on.png image_description=Le bain turc by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1862) [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Abduction3.m3u product=yes product_title=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail product_by=Erika Köth (Constanze), Lisa Otto (Blonde), Rudolf Schock (Belmonte), Murray Dickie (Pedrillo), Kurt Böhme (Osmin), Hannsgeorg Laubenthal (Pasha Selim), Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Wiener Philharmoniker, George Szell (cond.)
Live recording, 7 August 1956, Vienna. product_id=Above: Le bain turc by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1862) [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 2:56 PM


First Performance: 8 April 1876 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
La Gioconda, a singer Soprano
Laura Adorno, a Genoese lady Mezzo-Soprano
Alvise Badoero, a member of the Inquisition and husband of Laura Bass
La Cieca, Gioconda's mother Contralto
Enzo Grimaldi, a Genoese prince disguised as a sea captain Tenor
Barnaba, a spy for the Inquisition disguised as a singer Baritone
Zuàne, a competitor in the Regatta Bass
A Singer Bass
Isèpo, a public scrivener Tenor
A Pilot Bass

Setting: Venice, 17th Century.


Act I ["The Lion’s Mouth"]

Grand courtyard of the Ducal palace, decorated for festivities. At back, the Giant’s Stairway, and the Portico della carta, with a doorway leading to the interior of St. Mark's Church. On the left, the table of a public letter-writer. On the right, one of the historic Lion’s Mouths, with the following inscription cut into the wall in black letters:


It is a splendid afternoon in spring. The stage is filled with holiday-makers, monks, sailors, shipwrights, masquers, etc., and amid the busy crowd are seen some Dalmatians and Moors.

Barnaba, leaning his back against a column, is watching the people. He has a small guitar, slung around his neck.

The populace gaily sings, "Feste e pane" (Sports and feasting). They dash away to watch the regatta, when Barnaba, coming forward, announces that it is about to begin. He watches them disdainfully. "Above their graves they are dancing!" he exclaims. Gioconda leads in La Cieca, her blind mother. There is a tender duet between them: "Figlia, che reggi il tremulo" (Daughter, in thee my faltering steps).

Barnaba is in love with the ballad singer, who has several times repulsed him. She is in love with Enzo, a nobleman who has been proscribed by the Venetian authorities, but is in the city in the disguise of a sea captain. His ship lies in the Fusina Lagoon.

Barnaba again presses his love upon the girl. She escapes from his grasp and runs away, leaving her mother seated by the church door. Barnaba is eager to get La Cieca into his power in order to compel Gioconda to yield to his sinister desires. An opportunity soon arises. For, when the regatta is over, the crowd returns, bearing the victor in triumph. With them enter Zuane, the defeated contestant, Gioconda, and Enzo. Barnaba subtly insinuates to Zuane that La Cieca is a witch, who caused his defeat by sorcery. The report quickly spreads and the populace becomes excited. La Cieca is seized and dragged from the church steps. Enzo calls upon his sailors, who are in the crowd, to aid him in saving her.

At the moment of greatest commotion the palace doors swing open, revealing Alvise and his wife Laura, who is masked. Alvise sternly commands an end to the rioting, then descends the stairs with Laura.

Barnaba, with the keenness that is his as chief spy of the Inquisition, observes that, through her mask, Laura is gazing intently at Enzo, and that Enzo, in spite of Laura’s mask, appears to have recognized her and to be deeply affected by her presence. Gioconda kneels before Alvise and prays for mercy for her mother. When Laura also intercedes for La Cieca, Alvise immediately orders her freed. In one of the most expressive airs of the opera, "Voce di donna, o d’angelo" (Voice of woman, or of angel), La Cieca thanks Laura and gives her a rosary, at the same time extending her hands over her in blessing. She also asks her name. Alvise’s wife, still masked, and looking significantly in the direction of Enzo, answers, "Laura!"

"’Tis she!" exclaims Enzo.

Everyone, save Barnaba and Enzo, enters the church. The observant Barnaba has seen through Enzo's disguise as a sea captain and addresses him by his name and title, "Enzo Grimaldo, Prince of Santa Fior." He reveals the whole story: Enzo and Laura were betrothed, then separated, and Laura forced to wed Alvise. Though neither had seen the other again since the meeting a few moments before, their passion still is as strong as ever. Barnaba cynically explains that in order to obtain Gioconda for himself, he wishes to show her how false Enzo is, and promises him that he will arrange for Laura, on that night, to be aboard Enzo’s vessel, ready to escape with him to sea.

Enzo departs. Barnaba summons one of his tools, Isepo, the public letter-writer, whose stand is near the Lion’s Mouth. At that moment Gioconda and La Cieca emerge from the church, and Gioconda, seeing Barnaba, hides with her mother behind a column. She overhears the spy dictate a letter to Isepo, informing an unspecified person that his wife plans to elope that evening with Enzo. Having thus learned that Enzo no longer loves her, Gioconda vanishes with her mother into the church. Barnaba drops the letter into the Lion’s Mouth. Isepo goes. The spy, as keen in intellect as he is cruel and unrelenting in action, addresses in soliloquy the Doge’s palace. "O monumento! Regia e bolgia dogale!" (O monument, palace and den of the Doges).

The masquers and populace return, singing and dancing "La Furlana." In the church a monk and then the chorus chant. Gioconda and her mother come out. Gioconda laments that Enzo has forsaken her. La Cieca seeks to comfort her. In the church the chanting continues.

Act II ["The Rosary"]

Night. A brigantine, showing its starboard side. In front, the deserted bank of an uninhabited island in the Fusina Lagoon. In the farthest distance, the sky and the lagoon. A few stars visible. On the right, a cloud and a rising moon. In front, a small altar of the Virgin, lit by a red lamp. The name of the brigantine -- "Hecate" -- painted on the prow. Lanterns on the deck.

At the rising of the curtain sailors are discovered; some seated on the deck, others standing in groups, each with a speaking trumpet. Several cabin boys are seen, some clinging to the shrouds, some seated. Remaining thus grouped they sing a Marinaresca, in part a sea-chanty in part a regular melody.

In a boat Barnaba and Isepo appear, disguised as fishermen. Barnaba sings a fisherman’s ballad, "Ah! Pescator, affonda l’esca" (Ah, fisherman, lower the net).

He has set his net for Enzo and Laura, as well as for Gioconda, as his words, "Some sweet siren, while you’re drifting, in your net will coyly hide," imply. The song falls weirdly upon the night. The scene is full of "atmosphere."

Enzo comes up on deck and gives a few orders; the crew go below. He then sings the famous "Cielo! e mar!" (O sky, and sea) -- an impassioned voicing of his love for Laura, whom he awaits. The scene, the moon having emerged from behind a bank of clouds, is of great beauty.

A boat approaches. In it Barnaba brings Laura to Enzo. There is a rapturous greeting. They are to sail away as soon as the setting of the moon will enable the ship to depart undetected. There is distant singing. Enzo goes below. Laura kneels before the shrine and prays, "Stella del mariner! Vergine santa!" (Star of the mariner! Virgin most holy).

Gioconda steals on board and confronts her rival. The duet between the two women, who love Enzo, and in which each defies the other, "L’amo come il fulgor del creato" (I adore him as the light of creation), is the most dramatic aria in the score.

Gioconda is about to stab Laura, but stops suddenly and, seizing her with one hand, points with the other out over the lagoon, where a boat bearing Alvise and his armed followers is seen approaching. Laura implores the Virgin for aid. In doing so she lifts up the rosary given to her by La Cieca. Through it Gioconda recognizes in Laura the masked lady who saved her mother from the vengeance of the mob. Swiftly the girl summons the boat of two friendly boatmen who have brought her tinder, and bids Laura to escape. When Barnaba enters, his prey has evaded him. Gioconda has saved her. Barnaba hurries back to Alvise’s galley, and, pointing to the fugitive boat in the distance, bids the galley start in pursuit.

Enzo comes on deck. Instead of Laura he finds Gioconda. There is a dramatic scene between them. Venetian galleys are seen approaching. Rather than allowing his vessel to be captured, Enzo sets fire to it.

Act III ["The House of Gold"]

A room in Alvise’s house. Alvise sings of the vengeance he will wreak upon Laura for her betrayal of his honour. "Si! morir ella de’" (Yes, to die is her doom).

He summons Laura. Nocturnal serenaders are heard singing offstage, as they travel in gondolas along the canal. Alvise draws a curtain and reveals a funeral bier erected in the next chamber. He hands Laura a vial of quick-acting poison, telling her to drink it before the serenaders sing their last note. He will leave the room, and when the song ends, he will return to find her dead.

When he has gone, Gioconda, who, anticipating the fate that might befall the woman who saved her mother, has been in hiding in the palace, hastens to Laura, and hands her a flask containing a narcotic that will create the semblance of death. Laura drinks it, and disappears through the curtains into the funeral chamber. Gioconda pours the poison from the vial into her own flask, and leaves the empty vial on the table.

The serenade ends. Alvise re-entering, sees the empty vial on the table. He enters the funeral apartment for a brief moment. Laura is lying, seemingly dead, upon the bier. He believes that he has been obeyed and that Laura has drained the vial of poison.

The scene changes to a great hall in Alvise’s house, where he is receiving his guests. Here occurs the "Dance of the Hours," a ballet suite which, in costume changes, light effects and choreography represents the hours of dawn, day, evening, and night. It is also intended to symbolize the eternal struggle between the powers of darkness and light.

Barnaba enters dragging La Cieca, whom he has found concealed in the house. Enzo also has managed to gain admittance. La Cieca, questioned as to her purpose in the House of Gold, answers, "For her, just dead, I prayed." A hush falls upon the fête. The passing bell for the dead is heard slowly tolling. "For whom?" asks Enzo of Barnaba. "For Laura," is the reply. The guests shudder. "D’un vampiro fatal l’ala fredda passo" (As if over our brows a vampire’s wing had passed), chants the chorus. "Gia ti vedo immota e smorta" (I behold thee motionless and pallid), sings Enzo. Barnaba, Gioconda, La Cieca, and Alvise add their voices to an ensemble of great power. Alvise draws back the curtains of the funeral chamber, which also gives upon the festival hall. He points to Laura extended upon the bier. Enzo, brandishing a poniard, rushes upon Alvise, but is seized by guards.

Act IV ["The Orfano Canal"]

The vestibule of a ruined palace on the island of Giudeca. In the right-hand corner an opened screen, behind which is a bed. Large porch at back, through which are seen the lagoon, and, in the distance, the square of Saint Mark, brilliantly illuminated. A picture of the Virgin and a crucifix hang against the wall. Table and couch; on the table a lamp and a lighted lantern; the flask of poison and a dagger. On a couch are various articles of mock jewelry belonging to Gioconda.

On the right of the scene a long, dimly lit street. Two men advance, carrying Laura in their arms, who is enveloped in a black cloak. The two cantori (street singers) knock at the door. It is opened by Gioconda, who motions them to place their burden upon the couch behind the screen. As they go, she pleads with them to search for her mother, whom she has not been able to find since the scene in the House of Gold.

She is alone. Her love for Enzo, greater than her jealousy of Laura, has prompted her to promise Barnaba that she will give herself to him, if he will help Enzo to escape from prison and guide him to the Orfano Canal. Now, however, despair seizes her. In a dramatic soliloquy -- a "terrible song," it has been called -- she invokes suicide. "Suicidio!. . . in questi fieri momenti to sol mi resti" (Suicide! the sole resource now left me). For a moment she even thinks of carrying out Alvise’s vengeance by stabbing Laura and throwing her body into the water -- "for deep is yon lagoon."

Through the night a gondolier’s voice calls in the distance over the water" "Ho! gondolier! Hast thou any fresh tidings?" another voice, also distant: "In the Orfano Canal there are corpses."

In despair Gioconda throws herself down weeping near the table. Enzo enters. In a tense scene Gioconda excites his rage by telling him that she has had Laura’s body removed from the burial vault and that he will not find it there. He seizes her. His poniard already is poised for the thrust. She hopes for the ecstasy of dying by his hand.

At that moment, however, the voice of Laura, who is coming out of the narcotic, calls, "Enzo!" He rushes to her, and embraces her. In the distance is heard a chorus singing a serenade, the same tune as in Act III. Both Laura and Enzo now express their gratitude to Gioconda. The girl has provided everything for their escape: two of her friends will row them in a small boat to a larger, awaiting barque. What a blessing, after all, the rosary that an old blind woman bestowed upon the queenly Laura has proved to be. "Che vedo la! Il rosario!" (What I see there! The rosary!), sings Gioconda, while Enzo and Laura voice their thanks: "Sulle tue mani l’anima tutta stempriamo in pianto" (Upon thy hand thy generous tears of sympathy are falling). The scene works up to a powerful climax.

Gioconda is alone once more, and remembers her agreement with Barnaba. She is ready to flee, when the spy himself appears in the doorway. Pretending that she wishes to adorn herself for him, she begins putting on the mock jewelry, and, utilizing the opportunity that brings her near the table, seizes the dagger that is lying on it.

"Gioconda is thine!" she cries, facing Barnaba, then stabs herself to the heart.

Bending over the prostrate form, the spy furiously shouts into her ear, "Last night thy mother did offend me. I have strangled her!" But no one hears him. La Gioconda is dead. With a cry of rage, he rushes down the street.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the complete libretto in English.

Click here for poster of performance at La Fenice, 7 January 1971.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Bocca%20di%20Leone.png image_description=Bocca di Leone [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Amilcare Ponchielli: La Gioconda first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Gioconda2.m3u product=yes product_title=Amilcare Ponchielli: La Gioconda product_by=Giannina Arangi-Lombardi (La Gioconda), Ebe Stignani (Laura Adorno), Camilla Rota (La Cieca), Alessandro Granda (Enzo Grimaldo), Gaetano Viviani (Barnaba), Corrado Zambelli (Alvise Badoero), Aristide Baracchi (Zuane), Giuseppe Nessi (Isepo), Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Lorenzo Molajoli (cond.)
Recorded 1931 product_id=Above: Bocca di Leone [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 2:47 PM

VERDI: Don Carlo

First Performance: 11 March 1867 at the Opéra, Paris. Revised version 10 January 1884 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Philip II, King of Spain Bass
Rodrigue/Rodrigo, Marquis of Pisa Baritone
Don Carlos/Don Carlo, Infante of Spain Tenor
The Grand Inquisitor Bass
Elisabeth de Valois, Philip's queen Soprano
Princess Eboli, Elisabeth's lady-in-waiting Mezzo-Soprano
Thibault, Eisabeth's page Soprano
The Countess of Aremberg Silent role
The Count of Lerma Tenor
An Old Monk Bass
A Voice from Heaven Soprano
A Royal Herald Tenor
Flemish Deputies Basses
Inquisitors Basses

Setting: France and Spain, about 1560


Act I

Summary: Don Carlo, the heir to the throne of Spain, is in love with his young stepmother, Elisabeth of Valois. His friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, attempts to distract him and begs him to take steps on behalf of the oppressed Low Countries. Carlos asks Elisabeth to intervene with the King, Philip II. Carlos then gives his emotions free rein, at which Elisabeth reproves him, even though she loves him also. Carlos flees. The King arrives and is furious that he finds the Queen alone. Rodrigo pleads for the Low Countries with the King, but Philip tells him of his worries about Elisabeth and Carlos.


Part 1
Carlo il sommo Imperatore Male Chorus
Io la vidi e al suo sorriso Don Carlo
Scena: Il duolo della terra Don Carlo, Monk
Mio salvator (Duet) Don Carlo, Rodrigo
Tristo me! (Duet) Don Carlo, Rodrigo
Dio, che nell'alma (Duet) Don Carlo, Rodrigo, Mon, Male Chorus
Sotto ai folti Female Chorus
Nei giardin del bello (Song of the Veil) Eboli, Tebaldo, Female Chorus
Chi mai si fa Elisabeth, Eboli, Rodrigo, Female Chorus
Carlo ch' è sol il nostro amore Elisabeth, Eboli, Rodrigo
Part 2
Io vengo a domandar (Duet) Elisabeth, Don Carlo
Perduto ben, mio sol tesor (Duet) Elisabeth, Don Carlo
Qual voce a me (Duet) Elisabeth, Don Carlo
Il Re! (Scena) Tebaldo, Philip, Chorus
Non pianger, mia compagna (Romanza) Elisabeth, Rodrigo, Philip, Female Chorus
Restate! (Duet) Philip, Rodrigo
Ah! sia benedetto Iddio (Duet) Philip, Rodrigo
Quest' è la pace (Duet) Philip, Rodrigo
Il lor destin (Duet) Philip, Rodrigo

Act II

Summary: It is evening.Carlos has received an anonymous letter and is waiting for the Queen in the garden. The letter’s writer was the princess Eboli, who is also in love with him. Carlos reveals that he loves Elisabeth and rejects Eboli, who swears vengeance. Rodrigo asks Carlos to entrust any incriminating documents concerning the Low Countries that he might possess to him. An auto-da-fé is about to begin; deputies from the Low Countries approach and beg the King for aid. He sends them away, at which Carlos draws his sword and demands to be sent to the Low Countries. Rodrigo disarms him. Philip creates Rodrigo a duke and has Carlo arrested.


Part 1
Prelude Orchestra
A mezza note Don Carlo
Sei tu, sei tu Don Carlo, Eboli
V' è ignoto forse Don Carlo, Eboli, Rodrigo
Al mio furor Don Carlo, Eboli, Rodrigo
Trema per te, falso figliuolo Don Carlo, Eboli, Rodrigo
Part 2
Gran finale (Auto de Fé)
Spuntato ecco il di Chorus
Il di spunto Monks (Male Chorus)
Spuntato ecco il di Chorus
Schiusa or si la porta Herald, Philip, Elisabeth, Rodrigo, Chorus
Sire, no, l'ora estrema (Flemish Deputies) Don Carlo, Herald, Philip, Elisabeth, Rodrigo, Tebaldo, 6 Deputies, Chorus
Sire! egli è tempo ch'io viva Don Carlo, Philip, Elisabeth, Tebaldo, Rodrigo, Monks
Spuntato è il di Heavenly Voice, Deputies, Monks, Chorus


Summary: Philip obtains help from the Grand Inquisitor in setting up a trial for his son. Princess Eboli has passed Elisabeth’s jewel box on to the King; a portrait of Carlos is inside. The King confronts the Queen with it, at which she faints.Eboli then confesses everything, including the fact that she has been the King’s mistress. Elisabeth bans her from the Court. The incriminating documents have been found in Rodrigo's possessions. He goes to see Carlos in prison, knowing that his own last hour is upon him. A gun fires and Rodrigo falls; mortally wounded, he dies in Carlos' arms. Philip enters and goes to give Carlos back his sword, but Carlos rejects him, having realised that Rodrigo has died to save him. The populace storm the prison and Carlos flees.


Part 1
Ella giammai m'amo Philip
Il Grand' Inquisitor! Philip, Inquisitor, Lerma
Nell' ispano suol Inquisitor, Philip
Le idee dei novator Inquisitor, Philip
Giustizia, sire! Elisabeth, Philip
Ardita troppo Elisabeth, Philip, Eboli
Ah! sii maledetto Philip, Eboli, Rodrigo
O don fatale Elisabeth, Eboli
O mia Regina Eboli
Part 2
Son io, mio Carlo Rodrigo, Don Carlo
Per me giunto Rodrigo, Don Carlo
Io morrò, ma lieto Rodrigo, Don Carlo
Mio Carlo, a te la spada Philip, Don Carlo
Ciel! suona a stormo! Lerma, Philip, Eboli, Chorus
Sacrilegio infame! Lerma, Philip, Eboli, Inquisitor, Chorus

Act IV

Summary: Elisabeth and Carlos bid each other farewell in the gardens of the monastery of San Yuste.They are taken by surprise by the King and the Grand Inquisitor, but a mysterious monk appears (the ghost of Carlos V?) before the guards can take Carlos prisoner and drags him away into the monastery.


Tu che le vanita Elisabeth
È dessa! (Final Scene) Elisabeth, Don Carlo
Si . . . l'eroismo è questo Elisabeth, Don Carlo
Ma lassù ci vedremo Elisabeth, Don Carlo
Si per sempre! Philip, Elisabeth, Inquisitor, Don Carlo, Monks, 4 Brothers

[Synopsis Source: De Nederlandse Opera]

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the text of Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (English translation).

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Portrait_of_Philip_II_of_Spain_by_Sofonisba_Anguissola_-_002b.png image_description=Portrait of Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola (1573) [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Don_Carlo1.m3u product=yes product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo product_by=Nicolai Ghiaurov (Philip), Franco Corelli (Don Carlo), Eberhard Waechter (Rodrigo), Martti Talvela (Grand Inquisitor), Tugomir Franc (Monk), Gundula Janowitz (Elisabeth), Shirley Verrett (Eboli), Edita Gruberova (Thibault), Ewald Aichberger (Lerma), Judith Blegen (Heavenly Voice), Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, Horst Stein (cond.)
Live recording, 25 October 1970, Vienna product_id=Above: Portrait of Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola (1573) [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 2:09 PM

VERDI: Un ballo in maschera

First Performance: 17 February 1859, Apollo Theatre, Rome.

Principal Characters:
Riccardo, conte di Warwick e governatore di BostonTenor
Renato, creolo, suo segretario e sposo di AmeliaBaritone
Ulrica, indovina di razza neraAlto
Oscar, paggioSoprano
Silvano, marinaioBass
Samuel, Tom, nemici del conteBass
Un giudiceTenor
Un servo di AmeliaTenor

Setting: Boston and its outskirts near the end of the 17th Century.


Act I

Riccardo, count of Warwick, English governor of Massachusetts, opens a hearing. Among those present are his enemies, Samuel and Tom, who together with their followers, connive to murder him. Oscar, the page, brings to Riccardo the list of those invited to a ball; on seeing the name of Amelia, whom Riccardo is secretly in love with, he winces. The Creole Renato, secretary and confidant of Riccardo, and Amelia's husband besides, arrives and warns him of a plot against him, but Riccardo takes no heed of the warning. A judge proposes to banish the black Ulrica, accused of witchcraft, but a lenient Riccardo magnanimously proposes to all present to go visit the fortune-teller's hovel. Here Ulrica, who is invoking the "king of the abyss", is questioned by the sailor Silvano to whom she predicts a lucky future. Amid general exultation, the prophecy turns out to be true, since Riccardo had previously slipped money and a nomination of advancement to official into the sailor's pocket. Then one of Amelia's servants comes forward, asking for a private interview for his mistress. The fortune-teller sends all the others out and counsels Amelia, who asks her how she can free herself of a sinful passion, to go to the sinister execution grounds, where she will find an herb of forgetfulness. Riccardo, hidden and listening, is overjoyed to learn that Amelia is in love with him. He disguises himself as a fisherman and goes to the fortune-teller who, however, recognises his hand as that of a noble commander, but refuses to pronounce her prophecy. Finally, at the insistence of Riccardo and the others present, she predicts the death of the count at the hand of a friend, he who is the first to shake his hand. Renato arrives and gives him his hand. Amid the general consternation, Riccardo minimises the affair, while the people extol his virtues.

Act II

Amelia goes to look for the magic herb and is followed by Riccardo who declares his love for her; Amelia is shaken: she too loves him, but does not want to be unfaithful to her husband. Renato, worried for Riccardo's safety, arrives on the scene and advises Riccardo to leave that solitary spot. Before going, Riccardo entrusts the woman to him (she had covered her face with a heavy veil and has not been recognised by her husband), making him promise that he would not attempt to learn the woman's identity. The conspirators burst onto the scene surprised to find Renato, who tries in vain to protect the woman from their curiosity. In the confusion that follows, Amelia's veil falls. The husband is mortified and angry, and Samuel, Tom and the others comment the event with terrible irony. Upset, Renato makes an appointment to meet Tom and Samuel the next day.


Renato is determined to avenge what he presumes to be his wife's infidelity in blood. She asks to be allowed to see their son for the last time. Moved to pity, Renato then decides to satisfy his anger by killing his friend rather than his wife. Samuel and Tom on their arrival are incredulous when they learn of Renato's intentions, but he offers the life of his son as guarantee of his sincerity. The three determine that chance shall decide which of them shall carry out the murder of Riccardo and oblige Amelia to extract a name from the urn: it is Renato. The page Oscar arrives with the invitations for the masked ball. The three agree to take advantage of the occasion to carry out their design, while Amelia tries to think of a way to save the count. Riccardo has decided to renounce his love for Amelia and order their repatriation to England. Oscar brings him an anonymous letter urging him to forego the ball for his own safety, but the count, wanting to see Amelia for the last time, takes no heed of the warning. During the ball, Renato astutely makes Oscar tell him which is the disguise of Riccardo. Meanwhile, Amelia, recognised by Riccardo, implores him to flee and receives his last adieu. He barely has time to finish his dialogue with the woman when he is struck by Renato's dagger. The assassin is arrested, but Riccardo, dying, orders him released. He shows Renato the decree for their repatriation and reveals that Amelia had never been unfaithful. With his dying breath he pardons all the conspirators. All present bless his magnanimity. Renato is left alone with his remorse.

Synopsis Source: Verdi 200

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the complete score.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Gustav_III_by_Alexander_Roslin_-_torso_%28Nationalmuseum%2C_15330%29.png image_description=Gustav III by Alexander Roslin [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Un_ballo1.m3u product=yes product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera product_by=Luciano Pavarotti (Riccardo), Shirley Verrett (Amelia), Piero Cappuccilli (Renato), Elena Obraztsova (Ulrica), Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Claudio Abbado (cond.)
Live recording, December 1977, Milan product_id=Above: Gustav III by Alexander Roslin [Source: Wikipedia]
Posted by Gary at 1:39 PM

New Mascarade Opera Studio announces first participants

Beyond the carefully designed programme of enhanced opera skills training and continuing professional development, Mascarade Opera Studio Artists will become part of the international New Generation Festival network, with its connections and career opportunities. Held in the historic Palazzo Corsini al Prato in Florence, places on the programme for singers and répétiteurs are fully funded.

Complementing their studio training, participants will take part in a number of public events including orchestral showcases in Florence and Berlin, performances at Milan's Villa Medici Giulini, as well as regular recitals and opera galas in the Tuscan capital and in Andermatt, Switzerland.

Auditions took place in New York, London, Berlin, Florence and Glasgow in November and December 2019, welcoming applicants from all over the world. The ten emerging professionals in the first cohort are all 30 years or under in age and come from nine countries around the world.

Mascarade Opera Studio Artists 2020:

Sopranos Alexandria Wreggelsworth (USA), Marianna Hovhannisyan (Armenia)

Mezzo-sopranos Gabrielė Kupšytė (Lithuania), Lauren Young (Scotland), Xenia Tziouvaras (USA)Tenor Ángel Vargas (Puerto Rico)

Baritones Faik Mansuroğlu (Turkey), Thandolwenkosi Zwane (Eswatini, Swaziland)

Répétiteurs Henry Websdale (UK), Kristina Yorgova (Bulgaria)

The Studio Artists are graduates and alumni of renowned conservatoires and opera training programmes including Cape Town Opera Studio, the Georg Solti Accademia, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Manhattan School of Music, Rice University, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Yerevan State Conservatory.

Palazzo Corsini al Prato, Florence.jpgPalazzo Corsini al Prato, Florence

They have been successful in a number of prestigious competitions including the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Mildred Miller International Voice Competition and the Clonter Opera Prize. Faik Mansuroğlu appeared in the New Generation Festival's 2019 production of Le nozze di Figaro as Count Almaviva.

Studio Director Dr Ralph Strehle commented:

"Over the last three years we have done our homework and developed a training programme based on characteristics of elite performers in the world of music, sports and business. We have selected a group of exciting performers that we are confident will thrive in the operatic world."

Watch the Introduction to Mascarade Opera Studio

Dr Ralph Strehle is interviewed in the April issue of Opera Now Magazine ahead of the Studio's opening and has previously written about the Studio in Classical Music Magazine .

Mascarade Opera Studio

Mascarade Opera Studio was created to prepare young and exceptionally talented opera singers and répétiteurs for major careers in opera. Teaching is based on four core pillars: technical mastery, artistry, acting and performance psychology. Tailored to every studio artist's individual needs, Mascarade Opera Studio will offer repertoire coaching, masterclasses, residencies, psychological skills training, classes in performance, technique, language, acting and stagecraft, regular opportunities for performance, and extensive career management and career coaching with industry experts.

Mascarade Opera Studio has been developed by the New Generation Festival, co-founded by Maximilian Fane, Roger Granville and Frankie Parham, and follows the successful NGF Summer School which provides the chorus for the NGF main stage productions.

Maximilian Fane, Mascarade Opera Studio Chief Executive, commented:

"Florence - the birth place of opera - is the ideal place for a Renaissance in opera training. The aim of our programme is not just to prepare young and exceptionally talented opera singers and répétiteurs for major careers in opera. We want to re- evaluate opera training and the function of opera in society."

The Studio benefits from the support and expertise of two major operatic leaders: legendary Italian soprano Mariella Devia as Honorary President and world-renowned English baritone Sir Thomas Allen as Honorary Patron.

Studio Director Dr Ralph Strehle, performance coach at the National Opera Studio and former Associate Head of Vocal Performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, has put performance psychology at the heart of the studio's programme. Renowned accompanist and vocal coach Julia Lynch will oversee the studio's coaching provision as Head of Coaching. The team will be supported by Francis Parham, NGF's Executive Producer, as CFO of the Mascarade Opera Studio.

Mascarade Opera Studio has appointed a full Artistic Advisory Board including BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Finalist Anush Hovhannisyan, leading Wagnerian soprano Susan Bullock, conductors Jessica Cottis and Jonathan Santagada, and vocal coaches Jonathan Papp and Carmen Santoro. Further direction comes from Christophe Boehmke from the International Opera Studio at Hamburg State Opera, alongside Samantha McShane, Head of Artistic Planning at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Claudia Assmann, press and media expert, Roger Granville, creative director of the New Generation Festival.

Over half of the members of the artistic advisory board are women: Mascarade Opera Studio feels strongly that women are under-represented in key roles in the opera and music industry.

Further visiting staff in 2020-2021 include Leonardo Catalanotto, Elias Corrinth, Frédéric Rouillon, Laetitia Ruccolo, Jane Irwin, Scott Johnson, Professor Julie Kaufmann, Professor Michail Lanskoi, James Platt, and Marie Lambert.

The opening five-year budget from September stands at €2,100,000, with €35,000 per year to be directly invested annually into each participant. That is a total of €1,750,000 invested into 50 artists over five years, representing a programme-focused efficiency rate of 83%.


The New Generation Festival

The New Generation Festival (NGF) was founded in 2017 to promote emerging young artists from around the world. Taking place 26 – 29 August 2020 in Florence, Italy, The New Generation Festival will be taking over the Gardens of the Palazzo Corsini for its highly anticipated fourth year, creating an international platform for the most promising young musical talent.

After a triumphant third year, co-founders Maximilian Fane, Roger Granville and Frankie Parham, have collaborated with a diverse and young team for 2020's Festival, gathering some of the world's most exciting performers and rising stars. An annual event that breaks down barriers between generations, this is a Festival by a new generation of artists to inspire a new generation of audiences. Throughout the weekend, audiences will take to the Corsini Gardens in the heart of Florence for open-air musical and dramatic performances.

Growing significantly since its inaugural year in 2017, the Festival now sells over 2,000 tickets to a diverse and international audience that represented over 25 countries. Over the past three years, the Festival has worked with over 400 young artists, creatives and technicians in fields including stage management, costume and stage design, company management and stage direction.

The New Generation Festival prides itself on being an annual event that breaks down barriers between generations, and 2019 did just that: the ages of the Festival's audience ranged from 8 to 91 and over 50% of the audience for the opera performance was under 35. Inspired by the achievements of the Italian Renaissance, the NGF celebrates creativity and stimulates it through the connection of art forms, cultures and generations.

In 2019, the New Generation Festival expanded internationally, and now presents the finest talents in opera, music, theatre and the visual arts in a programme that runs throughout the year across spectacular locations, ranging from the Swiss mountains of Andermatt to its flagship summer festival in Florence. Hosting three festivals and a young artist recital series over Andermatt Concert Hall's first season, the New Generation Festival team have presented artists including Daniel Barenboim and orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

The New Generation Festival team now collaborate at the highest level with competitions and organisations across the world, including: the Concours musical international de Montréal (CMIM), The Solti Accademia, The Royal Academy of Music, and the Concorso Lirico Internazionale di Portofino (CLIP).

In collaboration with Mascarade Opera Studio, the New Generation Festival hosts a Summer School for talented singers from conservatoires across Europe to study with leading professional teachers and coaches. As well as daily in-depth individual coaching sessions, voice lessons, performance classes, performance psychology workshops, a public masterclass and a lunchtime concert, participants in the Summer School form the chorus for the NGF main stage productions.

Posted by claire_s at 1:32 AM