Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

25 Aug 2020

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Precipice: The Grange Festival, 2020

A review by David Truslove

Above: The Finale choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November. Tonderai Munyevu & Héloïse Werner (Narrators), Isabela Coracy, Emma Farnell-Watson, Sayaka Ichikawa, Vanessa Pang & Ebony Thomas (Dancers), Claire Barnett-Jones (Soloist), The Grange Festival Chorus

Photo credit: Joe Low

 

This was a collaborative response to the global health crisis compiled by director and writer Sinéad O'Neill and designer Joanna Parker. Entitled Precipice, the assemblage of hour-long outdoor presentations drew inspiration from both the collective experiences of the pandemic and the magnificent surroundings of this rural idyll, its grounds offering natural performance spaces and a home to families of geese, rooks and hawks whose presence prompted the theme of creation and renewal.

With a strolling audience limited to sixty people (invited to sit on socially distanced boxes or stand on marked crosses), and dancers and musicians occupying fixed positions, there was a sense of private guests being shown around animated displays in a stately home. Within this ‘new normal’, performers could almost have been museum exhibits, a sign of the past which the novelist L.P. Hartley once memorably described as a ‘foreign country’. If a sense of loss was tangible, there was plenty of excitement to be gained from the shared intimacy of live entertainment.

Image 2 Precipice.JPGSophie Page Hall & Antonia Mellows (circus performers). Photo credit: Joe Low. The production’s multimedia aspect was a bold reminder of the power of live performance as a source of meaning, hope and redemption. Precipice brought together two dance groups, a pair of circus artists, a solitary cellist, a string quartet (expanding to quintet with an electronic keyboard), four soloists and a chamber choir of twelve singers strictly placed two metres apart. Artists operated independently and collaboratively and were linked by the Zimbabwean actor Tonderai Munyevu whose narrative texts, beginning with “In the beginning was the bird”, served to join each of three performance ‘stations’. The first was occupied by the sounds of a vocal aviary conjured by French-born soprano and composer Héloïse Werner, a concoction of wordless birdsong crisscrossed by amplified cries and tweets, operatic in technique and providing a suitably exotic link to Léo Delibes’s ‘Flower duet' (Lakmé), beautifully rendered by Kiandra Howarth’s jewel-like soprano and Claire Barnett-Jones’s fruity mezzo.

Next up were three movements from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No.3 in C, distantly executed by Tom Isaac yet projecting clearly enough despite a gradually increasing breeze blowing across the estate. There followed a 2001 recording of John Tavener’s haunting meditation The Hidden Face – for countertenor, oboe and lower strings – performed by Grange Festival Director Michael Chance and Fretwork. Its exploration of inner silence and stillness was well-judged in the context of earlier lockdown constraints, segueing neatly to the first of two dance groups.

Dancers Precipice.JPG A specially restaged version of Contagion choreographed by Shobana Jeyasingh. Catarina Carvalho, Rachel Maybank, Emily Pottage & Ruth Voon (Dancers). Photo credit: Joe Low.

Devised by leading choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, four young dancers (Catarina Carvalho, Rachel Maybank, Emily Pottage and Ruth Voon) presented a specially repurposed version of a 2018 work, Contagion – conceived to commemorate the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that ravaged one third of the world’s population and took the lives of over 50 million people. This was a moving and stylised adaption bringing together narration, contemporary music by Graham Miller and superbly coordinated ballet. Its powerful emotional effect somewhat overshadowed Sir John Tomlinson whose musings as the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg felt a little strained. Accompanied by a string group and keyboard, one largely had to imagine Richard Wagner’s richly orchestrated score and the context of a singing contest.

Precipice quartet.JPGSir John Tomlinson performing Flieder Monologue from Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Photo credit: Joe Low.

Another scene change, and we relocated in front of the building’s imposing Greek-revival columns where a second group of dancers M22 directed by South African choreographer Mthuthuzeli November provided elegant movement to several choral items. Two of these belonged to Francis Poulenc’s secular cantata Figure humaine, setting surrealist poems by Paul Éluard. Composed during the height of the Second World War, Poulenc’s ambitious a cappella vocal score is a huge paean to freedom yet, despite excellent singing from The Grange Festival Chorus, ‘Aussi bas que le silence’ and ‘Riant du ciel et des planètes’ failed to achieve the impact they might have done with al fresco considerations rendering too slow a tempo and unclear diction. Lili Boulanger’s Hymne au soleil (1912) fared better in its marvellous evocation of a rising sun. New to me was the gifted American composer Caroline Shaw whose truncated Partita for 8 Voices left a deep impression.

In short, Precipice was an artfully planned and smoothly executed collaboration, demonstrating an indomitable optimism and spirited enterprise. A veritable triumph over adversity.

David Truslove

Michael Chance – artistic director. Sinéad O’Neill – director, Joanna Parker – designer, John Andrews – musical director, John Leonard – Sound Design, Shobana Jeyasingh & Mthuthuzeli November – choreographers, Tonderai Munyevu – narrator, Héloïse Werner – singer/composer, Sir John Tomlinson –bass, Kiandra Howarth – soprano, Claire Barnett-Jones – mezzo-soprano, Sophie Page Hall & Antonia Mellows – circus performers, Mark Derudder & Carol Paige – violin, Tom Beer – viola, Jesper Svedberg & Tom Isaac – cello, Tim Primrose – keyboard, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, M22, The Grange Festival Chorus.

The Grange Festival; 22nd August 2020.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):