Sunday, July 24, 2016
Opera House, Buxton An unfamiliar but compelling version of Leonore precedes an assured staging of Bellini’s Romeo and Juliet opera and the challenges of Handel’s great tragedyThis year’s Buxton festival opens with Beethoven’s only opera, in an unfamiliar edition: the original version of 1805, usually called Leonore (Beethoven’s preferred title) as opposed to the final revision of 1814, known as Fidelio.Conductor Stephen Barlow and director Stephen Medcalf declare themselves partisans of Leonore, which they believe to be more satisfying and illuminating than Fidelio, though the majority of Beethoven commentators disagree, arguing that the tighter structure of the later revision and the composer’s innumerable rewrites, small and large, turned something exceptional but awkward into a masterpiece. Continue reading...
August 18, 1991. First performance at the Colón of the revival of Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro" in a new production by Sergio Renán. An Argentine-Spanish cast except for the Countess: a beautiful young American called Renée Fleming at the start of her international career. With a crystalline lyric soprano timbre and impeccable line, she proved to be a charming actress as well. Unfortunately, that was her only operatic role in BA. We missed her in such operas as Massenet´s "Thaïs" and Dvorák´s "Rusalka", but especially in Straussian parts (the Marschallin in "Der Rosenkavalier", Arabella, the Countess in "Capriccio"), for she was a leading interpreter of all the mentioned operas. It´s useless to speculate about the reasons, but the Colón has had strong ups and downs and established artists want reliable theatres. After two decades, she finally came back during the García Caffi years; however, it was for a recital. It was quite successful and varied, and the voice was still in good condition. And now she came back, inaugurating the so-called Abono Verde. This time the charm and the savvy are still there, but her career has entered the autumnal phase, as demonstrated by what´s happening at New York´s Met, her home for so many years: last season she didn´t sing a difficult opera but an operetta, Lehár´s "The Merry Widow"; and now she has announced her goodbye to opera, with May 2017 performances at the Met of "Der Rosenkavalier" (fortunately it will be seen here on the Met´s direct transmissions at the Teatro El Nacional organized by the Fundación Beethoven). In this recital she was admirably accompanied by Gerald Martin Moore (debut), an expert singing teacher who has worked with Fleming for many years (and with several other famous artists) and has prepared operas for the Met, Covent Garden, Opéra Bastille, La Scala, and such festivals as Glyndebourne and Aix-en-Provence. What a coincidence that his first name and his surname should be the same as those of the ultra-famous Gerald Moore, the greatest accompanist during golden decades. Anyway, G.M.M. gave precious support during the Colón evening. I have my reservations about some of the choices in the programme. First, I was sorry that there were no Lieder, not even from Richard Strauss. Second, I believe that singers in recitals should stick to their sexes: a woman should sing texts clearly designed for women, and a man those that are evidently masculine; self-evident, the reader may think, but often disregarded by artists; and there were several instances in this case. Third, she is a singer for joyful or melancholy music, but not for stark drama: the terrible content of "L´altra notte in fondo al mare", from Boito´s "Mefistofele", in which the mad Margherita , imprisoned, says that she was wrongly accused of killing her baby and her mother, needs a true tragedian such as Callas was. Finally, there was a bit too much Broadway in her gestures on certain pieces, in themselves rather crossover. A moot point is whether you like or not that artists should speak to the audience; I think it is a wrong trend, concerts are just that, music played or sung. She talked a good deal in a very American way (like Joyce Di Donato). She started with, yes, "Porgi amor", the initial aria of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro", in evident reminiscence of her Colón debut; the result was tasteful but the voice was not settled yet. Two Händel arias followed: a fast, humoristic one from "Agrippina", early and Venetian-influenced; and the lovely "V´adoro pupille" sung by Cleopatra in "Giulio Cesare in Egitto"; she did well in both. Then, two welcome Massenet items: "C´est Thaïs, l´idole fragile" from the homonymous opera (neglected by the Colón since 1952), and the sad "Adieu, notrre petite table" (with its previous recitative) from "Manon". She felt quite comfortable in both. Saint-Saëns wrote 120 songs but they are little-known; "Soirée en mer", strophic, on a Victor Hugo text, seemed to me beautiful and fluid; both artists were fine. And then, a tribute to that delicious 1930s singer, Yvonne Printemps: the sensual "Je t´aime quand même" from the operetta "Les trois valses"; in it Fleming waltzed, singing with abandon. The pithiest part of the night was the fine selection of Neo-Romantic songs by Rachmaninov, who deserve wider recognition; of the five songs I mention three: "Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair", an orientalised melody (I have the recording of tenor John McCormack); "Lilac" contrasts a fast piano segment with an airy soprano tune, and "Spring waters" is expansive and better-known as a Russian miniballet. Fleming was really good in all this group, her voice firm and brilliant. Apart from the Boito, the Italian pieces were light and though agreeably sung not idiomatic: "O del mio amato ben" (Donaudy), "Aprile" (Tosti) and "Mattinata" (Leoncavallo). I liked Fleming in the famous song "Estrellita" by the Mexican Manuel Ponce (the tune fits her like a glove) but she was over the top in "La morena de mi copla" by Carlos Castellano Gómez. Encores: lovely in the "Moon aria" from Dvorák´s "Rusalka" and melting in "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini´s "Gianni Schicchi", but not convincing in "I could have danced all night" from Loewe´s "My fair lady" (Julie Andrews was the right one for this). A nice sweet evening. For Buenos Aires Herald
In this year of Shakespeare celebrations, the opera world too is marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. Glyndebourne not least, with one new and one old Shakespearean productions in their summer season. Do you know your Titania from your Trinculo? Try our quizWhich Italian tenor sang the title role in Verdi’s Otello more than 400 times and was buried in his Otello costume? Luciano Pavarotti Enrico CarusoMario del MonacoFrancesco TamagnoIn Thomas Ades’s opera The Tempest, Caliban’s original speech “The isle is full of noises, / Sounds, and sweet airs” becomes which glorious aria? “Twangling instruments will hum”“This noisy place”“Friends don’t fear” “Friends do fear” In cutting and rearranging the text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to make the play work as an opera libretto, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears made one mistake with the plot. Did they:Forget to cure Tytania of her infatuation with BottomForget to cure Bottom of his ass headForget to wake up the lovers; the opera ends with everyone still asleep in the forest Forget to marry off the mortals before Theseus sends them all to bedWagner’s second opera was a flop when it premiered: it was performed once in 1836 then cancelled the next night when only three people showed up. Wagner himself later called it “a sin of my youth”… What’s the opera, and on which Shakespeare play is it based?Die Feen (The Fairies), based on A Midsummer Night’s DreamDas Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), based on Measure for MeasureMännerlist größer als Frauenlist oder Die glückliche Bärenfamilie (Men are more cunning than women or The Happy Bear family), based on Twelfth Night Die hohe Braut (The High-born Bride), based on The Taming of the ShrewFor the Paris version of Verdi’s Otello, premiered at the Theatre de L’Opera in 1894, Verdi added what to the opera’s third act?Live animals A raffle A Punch and Judy précis of the plot A ballet The text of Hans Abrahamsen’s sublime song cycle Let Me Tell You — composed in 2013 for the soprano Barbara Hannigan — strings together the lines of which female Shakespeare character? Juliet Lady Macbeth Ophelia Desdemona Which two Shakespeare plays form the basis of Verdi’s Falstaff? The Taming of the Shrew The Merry Wives of Windsor Much Ado About Nothing King Henry IVOn New Year’s Eve 2011, Placido Domingo played his first-ever god role and finally achieved on-stage status to match the deified heights of his career. The production was Jeremy Sams’s pasticcio This Enchanted Island — a mash-up of The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream plus bits of Handel and Vivaldi. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. Which god did Domingo play?Apollo NeptuneCupidDionysus Where and when was the first UK performance of Berlioz’s 1862 opera comique Béatrice et Bénédict?London, 1863London, 1963Glasgow, 1936Cardiff, 2001Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains just one line of text that doesn’t come directly from the Shakespeare play. Is it: Lysander to Hermia: “Compelling thee to marry with Demetrius”Hippolyta to Theseus: “Thou art foxier than all our subjects put together” Tytania to Puck: “more of thy trippy herb, good sir”Bottom to nobody in particular: “methinks this wall must fall”“No one but a barbarian or a Frenchman would have dared to make such a lamentable burlesque of so tragic a theme”. The words of a London critic for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1890 — but to which opera did he refer? Béatrice et Bénédict by Hector BerliozHamlet by Ambroise ThomasLe Marchand de Venise by Reynaldo HahnRoméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod Among the cast of Jonathan Kent’s 2009 production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne was a corps de ballet of: Bonking rabbits Humping voles Rutting hedgehogsBanging badgers 10 and above. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” (Twelfth Night, Act II, v)0 and above."Lord what fools these mortals be" (Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, iii)5 and above."Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt.” (Measure for Measure, Act I, iv) Continue reading...
The cellist on Les Blancs at the National, a gripping book of letters, and Kirill Gerstein at the PromsThe acclaimed cellist Steven Isserlis was born in London in 1958 to musical parents. His grandfather was a Russian composer and pianist; one sister is a viola player, the other a violinist. In addition to his many recordings and performances, Isserlis is the author of children’s books, including Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and Why Handel Waggled His Wig. He will be appearing at the Harrogate international festival on 14 July and at the BBC Proms on 15 August. His latest book, Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians: Revisited by Steven Isserlis, will be published by Faber in September. Continue reading...
English Baroque opera at St Jiohn's , Smith Square, ready for booking now. The English baroque style is unique, more "classical" than mor exuberant, southern forms, yet connected to contemporary theatrical values. St John's, Smith Square is a gem of British baroque architecture, an ideal place in which to enjoy English baroque music. Bampton Classical Opera starts the new season with "Diviner Comedies"| on 13/9, pairing Thomas Arne's The Judgement of Paris, "a witty account of a celestial beauty contest" with "the supremely lyrical Gluck Philemon and Baucis, continuing Bampton's, enterprising exploration of Gluck's lesser known operas. Paul Wingfield will conduct CHROMA Henry Purcell Dido and Aeneas on 29/9 with the celebrated La Nuova Musica, led by David Peter Bates. Major headliners - Dame Ann Murray will sing Dido and George Humphreys will sing Aneas. Again, a very good cast. What's more, with typical adventurous La Nuova Musica flair, this performance will be illustrated with dancers, choreographed by Zack Winokur. This should be one of the highlights of the season - book early ! Thomas Linley's Lyric Ode: on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare features in Bampton Classical Opera's second concert on 15/11. A glorious piuece,, vivisly dramatic. It's being paired with excerpts from Georg Benda's Singspeil Romeo and Juliet,which Bampton Opera did in 2007. Gilly French conducts the Bampton Classical Players and cast that includes Rosemary Coad, Caroline kennedy, Thomas Hereford and James Harrison. Anothernhighlight ! The Early Opera Company, conducted by Christopher Curnyn malkes a werlcome return to St Jihns Smith Square on 18/11 with Handel's Serse HWV40 , this time with Anna Stépany, Rupert Enticknap, Callum Thorpe and Claire booth, among others. Lots more, too. La Nuova Musica is doing Bach Mozart and Haydn in December. And don't foirget the famus SJSS Christmas season, which sells out fast because it's so much fun. For more details visit the SJSS . website HERE>
Ralph Vaughan Williams and Friends Weekend at St John's Smith Square, a glorious three-day celebration of British music. This follows on the success of previous SJSS weekends devoted to Schubert and Schumann. Curated by Anna Tilbrook, the RVW/SJSS weekend features The Holst Singers, James Gilchrist, Philip Dukes, and Ensemble Elata. The Weekend runs from 7th to 9th October, but get tickets soon as they will sell fast. There's no clash with the Oxford Lieder Festival which starts the following weekend, this year featuring Schumann. Friday 7th at 7.30 : The Holst Singers conducted by Benjamin Nicholas launch the festival on Friday evening: Parry I was Glad, Stanford Beatoi quorum via, W Lloyd Weber, Howells Requiem, Holst Nunc Dimittis, and RVW's Lord thou hast been our refuge Saturday 8th at 1 pm : RVW Songs of Travel, Elgar Salut d'amour, Frank Bridge Oh, that it were so, Rebecca Clarke Passacaglia, Quilter : Go, lovely Rose, Bantock Hebrew Melody, Ivor Gurney Ludlow and Teme Saturday 8th 4 pm : The Folk Connection Quilter I will go with my father a-ploughing, Percy Grainger : Molly on the Shoree, RVW : Along the Field, Six Studies in English Folk Song, Winter's Willow and Linden lea, Rebecca Clarke : I'll bid my heart be still, Grainger: Handel in the Strand. Saturday 8th at 7.30 : The Spiritual Realm RVW : Rhosymedre, Four Hymns, Orpheus with his lute, Sky above the roof, Silent Noon, Piano Quintet, Finzi : Til the Earth Outwears, Elgar : Chanson de matin, Chanson de nuit (photo above Finzi and RVW, courtesy Finzi Trust) Sunday 9th at 11.30 : The Shadow of War : Bliss Elegaic Sonnet, Ireland The Darkened valley, Butterworth : Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad, Elgar : Piano Quintet Sunday 9th at 3 pm : The Shadow of War II : Ireland ;The Soldier, Blow out, you bugles, Spring Sorrow, Elgar : Sospiri, Gurney: Severn Meadows, Lights Out, Sleep, In Flanders, By a Bierside, Howells : Elegy, RVW : On Wenlock Edge
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