Thursday, 31 December 2015

End of the year

Concert-going for 2015 has drawn to a close, alas. Here are some personal highlights.

Finest opera. The extraordinary sounds produced by the OAE for Saul mark it out as special indeed. Purves and Davies were on absolute top form. Obviously an oratorio, but let's not be pedantic.
New opera. I came out of Between Worlds and felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. Was it even an opera? As much as a soundscape as an opera. 
Exceptional recital: Gerhaher for detailed work: Joyce for astonishing range and maximum goosebumps.
Symphonic performance: Ashkenazy showed how spellbinding both Sibelius and the Philharmonia  can be: I hope 2016 will provide more evidence of this.

Chamber: it may have come late but Beethoven PC3 with the SCO was fiery, iridescent and unforgettable.  

Farewell to a crowd-pleaser: to Copley's Boheme - a charming production. Whatever will follow it? (The most recent number of Opera notes that Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano with Pappano next year; production by Richard Jones. Playing it safe, rather wisely).

Hello to a new one: Die Entführung aus dem Serail is likely to be long a crowd pleaser whenever it is revived.
Best concert performance of an opera, and overall winner by a country mile: the CBSO's Parsifal at Symphony Hall in May was nothing short of a transformative experience. The CBSO delivered a singularly powerful and thrilling performance which will be remembered for many years; all the more perfect for not being broadcast or repeated. Unfathomably good.

Highlights for 2016:
Joyce in Werther: any excuse for a bit of Joyce.
Iestyn Davies's revival of David in Saul (one night only - he is not listed yet on Barbican site, but Davies lists it on his. Not to be missed.)
Gerhaher in Tannhauser: that voice and all that brass.
ON Rings promise fine music and a provincial company really stepping up to the major league.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A seriously good Messiah (Dunedin/Messiah)

Handel, Messiah (Dunedin Consort cond. John Butt at the Queen's Hall).
Christmas didn't happen last year, as I didn't get to a Messiah. That implies a lack of effort, as there are lots of them. Yet the prospect of the Dunedin Consort was a particularly enticing one, especially in the clean acoustics of the Queen's Hall. Goosebumps remain from the wonderful hard /k/ on Counsellor.
The Dunedin ensemble was pared-back from what can often involve enormous choruses: twelve singers and modest band, yet not for a minute did I feel short-changed. Many of the singers visibly appeared to be having a whale of a time, and enjoying the work of the others  when not singing. In particular, a number were in rapt, astonished attention at their colleagues, not least at Brook, of whom more later. The band were fine indeed, and clipped along at a decent pace under John Butt.
Yet the Messiah is really about the voices, and a fine cast sang it here. Mhairi Lawson was clear but pure - glucose rather than honey. Beautiful lines like spun sugar, clear and that wonderful trick of making it seem effortless. Matthew Long seemed to rely a little on a vibrato effect to keep going, and this is not something I find all that appealing if truth be told. Mezzo Rowan Hellier singing Alto was fine too. She is mainly occupied in Salzburg presently, but I hope very much to see her feature more in the UK.

Yet by some way the towering performance of the evening was Matthew Brook's; I still have goosebumps from his jaw-dropping rendition of  'The Trumpet Shall Sound' which was supported by consistently fine trumpet solos/duets. Rather than the very deepest, rumbling sort of bass, this was a rounder, softer, fleshier tone which suited perfectly the venue and the arrangement.
Any previous attempts to displace the magnificent Pinnock recording from my library have failed. Even some quite good efforts (such as the Sixteen's) have been attempted. But I think there might be space for the Dunedin one. Over the evening I couldn't help but think about Fosse's suggestion in the novella Morgen und Abend that through music one might hear 'a little of what his God wants to tell him'. This was a seriously good performance. Quite why the hall wasn't packed out - there were even a few seats free in the stalls, is nothing less than a Christmas mystery. 
Conductor: John Butt
Matthew Brook
Matthew Long
Mhairi Lawson
Rowan Hellier

Full details here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Beethoven's PC3 on fire (Beethoven PC3 and others/SCO)

Beethoven, CPE Bach and Mozart (Alexander Janiczek and Llŷr Williams dir. SCO/Queen's Hall)
It is hard to imagine a more delightful prospect than some CPE Bach, Mozart and Beethoven by a good chamber orchestra.

The evening started with CPE Bach. I can't really get enough of him. He  A luminous piece, like liquid gold; the flowing melodies one would expect. All of which  characterising the distinctive, attentive but intuitive style of the SCO. In this Alexander Janiczek sat as first violinist and led the orchestra from this point. They amount of eye contact sustained was impressive.

Next came two mozarts: both exquisite, Janiczek  took to centre as soloist. At the end of the first piece, the first violin was encouraged by her elbow to her feet; at the end of the second she firmly instructed Janiczek to take a bow. This reluctance seems to reflect the depth of the relationship at work here. 

After the interval, the birthday boy got the sort of treatment he deserves. This wasn't a perfect rendition but it is hard to imagine it being given more fire. Two directors (both Janiczek and pianist Llŷr Williams were at it) reflected the fact that it is bloody hard to play the piano and conduct from memory. was there are a note or two off? Possibly. But this is a small price to pay for the coherence of having soloist and director in one. The whole thing seemed to gel together, and perhaps Williams infected the SCO with enthusiasm. The amazing achievement was to hear PC3 for the first time. The freshness was astounding. When will I hear it again like that? Any time I like for the next weeks: it was on Radio 3 and is currently available on iplayer. Listen here.
Overall: magic

Alexander Janiczek -Director/leader
Llŷr Williams - Soloist/director

Symphony in E-flat, Wq183/2 (10’)
Violin Concerto No 1 in B-flat, K207 (21’)
Rondo Concertante in B-flat, K269 (07’)
Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor (34')

Singing very high

I suppose most chaps wouldn't naturally try to sing all that high, but thank goodness Iestyn Davies was messing around one day. The Economist produces its Intelligent Life magazine - I've only ever seen it given away at train stations or airports, but the article is available here.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Second chance salon (ROH/Chénier)

If you feel slightly nauseous at the prospect of something called "Panic Saturday", whereby consumers are induced to expend even more money on Christmas gifts, then the perfect antidote is provided by the BBC's screening last night of Andrea Chénier. No this isn't the best opera, but it is likely one of the finest productions of it. For the next month here. I had forgotten, inter alia, just how splendid Željko Lučić was.
My notes on the production from January here.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Breaking it down (Glyndebourne Tour 2016)

I notice that the 2016 Glyndebourne Tour is offering only two productions: a revival of Don Giovanni, already seen at the festival twice (review) and on tour; a new production of Madama Butterfly. Poliuto (review) from the 2015 Festival will be on screen. The reason for this reduction isn't stated. It might be that the cost of Wagner means the subsidy from the Festival budget will be less. It is very sad to see this reduction. I can't imagine there is much opera in Stoke since that painful cut.
The third slot will be occupied by Don Giovanni: Behind the Curtain, which '...will present a specially tailored event offering an accessible introduction to opera. Through a deconstruction of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the event will reveal opera’s power to convey intense human emotion.' I wonder if that really is a deconstruction  - and is taking the visceral and rendering it intellectual the best way to make things accessible. Breaking it down, surely, would be a better way to put it. And apt too.

Can you spare a few quid?

The Birmingham Opera Company is in the final days of a crowdfunder campaign to support its next production. With Arts Council matched funding at £1 for every £1.50, even a very modest donation will do very much good. This is a chance to support Vick's transformative vision for opera. The tickets are cheap as chips (well about the same as in the Royal Opera restaurant) when they come round, so think about it as paying the full price of your ticket. If they are new to you, see these links for a little more on mad opera evenings in a tent and an old factory courtesy of the Birmingham Opera Company. People from all ten districts come together for these wonderful productions. A young, diverse audience. I think few will not have their ideas about opera challenged by them.

If you have a few spare quid, do visit here if you can before 9:15 on Monday morning.

A Mixed programme (Philharmonia/DMH)

Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, Siberlius, Grieg (Joshua Weilerstein cond. Philharmonia, De Montfort Hall)

On 2nd December, the Philharmonia held their last DMH concert of the year with a mixed programme. The Bernstein was egotistical and derivative as one would expect: written in the 1930s this might have been noteworthy; yet it clearly borrows so much from Ives and Britten to name but two.
A pause ensued as one chap rearranged everything on the stage. Seriously embarrassing. It took an age. Had the weather been warmer, people might have squeezed in a little picnic outside. The DMH is slowly unravelling it seems. A new paintjob has to be paid for somehow. Or perhaps the Philharmonia only send one chap up north.
The Grieg PC, a favourite everywhere had moments of real beauty, but much of it seemed a bit turgid and underwhelming.
After the interval, a very decent account was offered of a relatively unknown Sibelius tone-poem. I think it is fair to say that the shortcomings which remained were of composition, not of the interpretation. There were some very fine moments in this (not the least of which was a fine flute solo. Spring was sorrowful much as Sibelius intended here.
Finally Tchaikovsky, perhaps the best piece and by some way the finest performance of the evening - the orchestra seemed in its element and the music flowed

Joshua Weilerstein conductor
Denis Kozhukhin piano

Full programme:
Bernstein, Symphonic Suite, On the Waterfront
Grieg, Piano Concerto
Sibelius, Spring Song
Tchaikovsky, Francesca da Rimini

Saturday treat: Iestyn Davies and Thomas Dunford

A special Saturday treat. This is an NPR performance from 2014 at a desk, for no obvious reason which I can discern. Regrettably the acoustics don't do much by way of favours for Iestyn Davies's sublime voice (wittering about this here), but it is great to hear him with Thomas Dunford (on his wonders here). I'd hazard that both are even more astonishing in the flesh.

It is always enjoyable often productive when two artists can join forces over a prolonged period. A little more singing and some discussion between the two may be found here.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The 'Morgen' after (ROH/Morgen)

Georg Friedrich Haas, Morgen und Abend (Michael Boder, cond. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House)

As second thump at Morgen und Abend on Saturday before the run finished, and I took the advice of a Guardian reviewer and concentrated on the score and how it reflected grief.

A few observations:
1) It isn't a difficult or even particularly demanding piece.
2) From the middle of the stalls you cannot see the large drums being banged, and it seems much more organic, intuitive; where you sit for this production will have a major impact.
3) I still don't like the unnecessary amplification of the actor at the beginning. Talking with an orchestra backdrop is music and it is unnecessary. If it was designed to reflect some separation from us the living (or possibly the dead as he came to meet us), then it was a regrettable gimmick and the sound and staging should do this. After two trips, I am still not entirely sure quite sure what is going on there.
4) I still didn't like having a bright light sung in my eyes.
5) The Guardian suggestion is spot-on for a second visit. Just as Bacon carefully captured the colours of grief in his paintings shortly after George Dyer's death, in pinks and purples, Haas has summoned up the equivalent sound world. In this the beauty lies.
6) A final question is this: is it even an opera?

‘In Memory of George Dyer
‘In Memory of George Dyer
I still haven't entirely made up my mind about it, but I am glad I had more time to figure it out.

Production finished but will be broadcast on Radio 3  on Saturday, 5th December at 18:30.

More detailed notes made after opening night here, including full cast.

Vintage revival (ON/Jenůfa)

Leoš Janáček, Jenůfa (Aleksandar Marković cond. Orchestra of Opera North, Nottingham Theatre Royal).

Image: Opera North
Doing Wagner is mega-expensive. A duff cycle risks ruin (such as that threatened by an unpopular Met one some years ago).  So Valkyrie horns must be drawn in if it is to be done. Glyndebourne are having only two new productions and four revivals to accommodate the Meistersinger in the summer. Opera North, by no means the most lavishly-funded of organisations, are doing complete Ring cycles next summer, on tour, as an addition to their full programme. So even if semi-staged, still an unfathomable trick.
On Wednesday, 17th November Opera North's revival of a vintage 1990s production of Jenůfa drew to a close in Nottingham. Certainly it looked of its period, but it was engaging and aesthetically pleasing. The stage was fairly uncluttered, and it to some degree it reminded me of Christof Loy. Strong geometric shapes, primary colours. A simple staging left space for a number of coups
This isn't light opera, and it required a number of singers with Wagnerian experience - viz sometime Valkyries Susan Bickley and Elizabeth Sikora.  Somehow Susan Bickley carried off Kostelnička that we felt some sympathy for what she had done, and for her the loudest ovation was reserved.Jenůfa (Ylva Kihlberg) was deeply impressive too. The whole thing was carried off to great effect.
One problem from the dress circle was that the orchestra was too loud and the signers struggled to make themselves heard, especially in the first act. These were usual seats, this is not a customary problem for ON there, so I can't quite fathom that one. It certainly detracted.

Overall: not an enjoyable evening, but an impressive one.

Cast & Creative Team

Jenůfa: Ylva Kihlberg
Kostelnička: Susan Bickley
Grandmother: Elizabeth Sikora
Števa Buryja: Daniel Norman
Laca Klemeň: David Butt Philip
Foreman: Dean Robinson
Karolka: Daisy Brown
Mayor: Jeremy Peaker
Mayor’s Wife: Claire Pascoe
Maid: Beth Mackay
Barena: Sarah Estill
Jano: Frankie Bounds
Conductor: Aleksandar Marković
Director and designer: Tom Cairns
Lighting Designer: Wolfgang Göbbel
Choreographer: Aletta Collins
English translation: Otakar Kraus & Edward Downes

Thursday, 19 November 2015

An honest review?

A stir has been created by actor Jesse Eisenberg's honest film review for the New Yorker, unpicking the subtexts and what is really going on in a film review. I reckon much of this would hold for grumpy opera reviews too.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Don Carè to the rescue (ROH/Carmen)

Georges Bizet, Carmen (Alexander Joel cond. Orchestra of the Royal Opera)
There's a grim inevitability about it. Several months ago a mortgage-sized payment for tickets. Two nights at Covent Garden because -gasp - Kaufmann is singing Don José. And then an email. Jonas is sick. And so was I for a few moments. But I bounced back pretty quickly. A nice weekend in town, a premiere  and some Carmen. It turns out, his replacement was pretty decent by any reasonable standard. If Kaufmann is Dom Pérignon (or should that be Don? [groan]) then Carè is a young vintage broachable now, but with much potential.

Andrea Carè © Andrea Carè, 2015

To the rescue: Andrea Carè © Andrea Carè, 2015
On Saturday things began with a moment's silence for Paris. In opera, so often the silences are the most powerful. There was no marsellaise as elsewhere. It wasn't needed with Carmen: the French opera.

Having been back on the Monday too, I combine comments in a comparative fashion;  the performances were surprisingly distinct, but are best dealt with together.
Firstly , the production by Francesca Zambello is fairly straight-down-the-middle and includes a replica Seville orange tree so realistic I was searching for my maslin pan. Alexander Joel - who made a fine job of Puccini in the summer, delivered a sensitive, punchy interpretation of the score. Monday night finished well ahead of Saturday, and a minute's silence hardly accounts for this. This is meant to please, and a horse, a donkey and some chickens (watered on Saturday but not Monday) achieve this animal element guaranteed to entrance the British public. What I didn't like was smuggling of "explosivos": it was all a bit G&S at this point and it ought not to be amusing.
The singing was excellent and at times sublime. Carmen (Anita Rachvelishvili) made for a sexy performance, and brought a physicality to the production which was to be admired; in so doing it was a bullfight with so many of the male characters. Initially-docile Don José was taunted to the horrible conclusion of the opera. On Saturday he took a little while to warm and I think he possible felt the pressure with the flower song; by Monday this was much more powerful. A much rounder-sounding tenor than Jonas, he didn't stretch to cover all the notes so generously, but in the middle-ranges his sound was sweeter and fuller. A José with slightly too much composure perhaps; at the end it was hard to believe he had really been driven to kill Carmen.  All the same, Carè is one to watch.
The rest of the cast was almost as big a draw as Kaufmann.  An estimable toreador, Escamillo (Gábor Bretz) has more depth and power than when I heard him as Bluebeard in July 2014, when he had just arrived at Covent Garden. And he can ride a horse on stage. With this swagger, he was every part the toreador.
The best singing of the evening came from aMicaëla (Sonya Yonchev). Fine and clear, perhaps ever so slightly shrill on the Monday night at the very top end: this was a highly memorable performance.
Yoncheva takes curtain call.
An especial mention must go to Frasquita (Vlada Borovko). A fairly small part, but really very wonderful  - more noticeable from the front of the stalls than the back of the stalls circle, a commanding presence and really beautiful instrument. I anticpate her in Godunov and I might well plonk for Nabucco too.
Zuniga (Nicolas Courjal) came almost fresh from his psychopathic peformance in Guillaume Tell. The quality of his diction was as remarkable as the meance he brought again. I am quite sure he is a very nice person, but on stage he does rather suit the villain of the piece. I don't think I shall tire of him any time soon. Since Gerhaher's unfathomably perfect recital I had been pondering the value of native-speakers. Courjal makes it rather more eloquently than I ever might. I look forward to hearing him in Oedipe in 2016.
With quite different locations over the two nights, it was a joy to see so many new aspects on the second night. The team had settled more on Monday  and there was so many good things, one almost forgot about Jonas. Almost. 

Overall: a very memorable Carmen despite the illness of the main attraction; I wouldn't be surprised if in 2030 the excitement is that Carè is to sing José.

Conductor: Alexander Joel
Carmen: Anita Rachvelishvili
Don José: Andrea Carè
Escamillo: Gábor Bretz
Micaëla: Sonya Yoncheva
Frasquita: Vlada Borovko
Mercédès: Rachel Kelly
Le Dancaïre: Adrian Clarke
Le Remendado: Harry Nicoll
Zuniga: Nicolas Courjal
Moralès: Samuel Dale Johnson
Royal Opera Chorus
Sergey Levitin
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Music: Georges Bizet
Libretto: Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
Director: Francesca Zambello
Designer: Tanya McCallin
Lighting designer: Paule Constable
Choreography: Arthur Pita
Fight director: Mike Loades

Must the show go on?

Sunday night's Orpheus at the Sam Wannamaker playhouse was cancelled due to illness. Kaufmann's replacement  in Carmen didn't seem quite so dramatic in this light. So much for the show must go on! A sicklist here of Norman Lebrecht's dreams, surely.

Coffee concert (Wigmore/Gaspard)

Haydn, Fauré, Liszt and Beethoven (Trio Gaspard at the Wigmore Hall)
It is absolutely the most civilized thing you can possibly do with a Sunday morning - possibly anywhere, certainly in London: a coffee concert at the Wigmore Hall. An hour of invariably excellent chamber music, followed by a glass of sherry or cup of coffee.
On Sunday morning, hot-shots from Germany thoughtfully drew a musical weekend to a close.
The Fauré was the most beautiful piece but it made sense that resequencing placed Beethoven at the end. 

The Liszt was perhaps the least-satisfying of the pieces. With Beethoven, the concert finished with fireworks. 
I do wish the Wigmore would provide some contextual notes in the programme sheet for these concerts.
Trio Gaspard
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Piano Trio in E flat major HXV:10
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Piano Trio in D minor Op. 120
Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Orphée S98 (arr. Camille Saint-Saëns)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): 10 Variations on 'Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu' in G major Op. 121a

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Fishers of men (ROH/Morgen)

Georg Friedrich Haas, Morgen und Abend (Michael Boder, cond. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House)
The stage at the Royal Opera looked like the White Company and Farrow and Ball had taken on the job of decorating. But in Vick's hands this was a powerful storyscape to match the soundscape Haas generated with (probably quite a lot of musicians making only) a very small amount of noise at times.
 Add to this Gisueepe Di Iorio's lighting, which was powerful and moving, and '59 Productions' projection of the text - simply in Times New Roman. Whitish objects revolve around the stage, and gain coherence and the elements of the novella. Not the least of which was a death-bed and a the boat. For these were Fishers of men. God featured more prominently in the novella:
...he can hear a little of what his God wants to tell him when a musician plays well, yes then He is there, because good musicians turn away from the world of course, but Satan doesn't like that, that's why he arranges so much commotion and deviltry when a truly good musician is playing and that's horrible... 
Musically, it was by turns astonishing and moving; at others puzzling. The first half hour was filled with Olai (Kalus Maria Brandauer) speaking on stage, with amplification. This was a peculiar element and detracted: could they really find no actor who was unable to do this without? the came Sarah Wegender as Midwife, announcing the birth of Johannes, in what was undoubtedly the finest, most lyrical moment. The realization of his death by Johannes Sr sent a real shiver down the spine too. The singing was generally good, but often formed part of the sound scape.

A new, full-scale opera is a big deal, and accordingly there is loads of super information about it on the ROH site - a veritable slew of videos to watch and interviews to enjoy: click here to see them all.

Fosse's novella has been ably translated by Damion Searls (published only last month). It is a beautiful  text, and worth reading. It is almost a stream of consciousness, beautiful, lucid; a realising of death and a meditation on what it might be like if life meant something. Vick's achievement was to take the almost-plotless story and construct a narrative within it - Johannes' journey to the other side. Some how the lucidity of the text - its quiet luminance is transferred exquisitely. The audience clearly had mixed views: some cheered, a few even stood to ovate, whilst others sat in silence. At the birth of a new opera, many were unsure; a bit like Johannes perhaps?
The loudest ovation was reserved for Haas.
Overall: moving, meditative, but why was it amplified at the start?
Cast and credits:
Music: Georg Friedrich Haas
Libretto: Jon Fosse
Director: Graham Vick
Designer: Richard Hudson
Lighting designer: Giuseppe Di Iorio
Projections: 59 Productions
Translation: Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel and Damion Searls
Performed by: The Royal Opera
Conductor: Michael Boder
Olai: Klaus Maria Brandauer
Johannes: Christoph Pohl
Signe / Midwife: Sarah Wegener
Peter: Will Hartmann
Erna: Helena Rasker
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Concert Master: Sergey Levitin

Friday, 13 November 2015

Pastel-hued perfection (Glyndebourne Tour/Don Pasquale)

Donizetti, Don Pasquale (Duncan Ward cond. Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra at Milton Keynes Theatre)

There may no longer the ritual of a trip to Stoke for Glyndebourne Tour, but there still is bunking off for the afternoon for a matinee in Milton Keynes. The quality of the opera on Glyndebourne's reduced Tour is still very high.  Having seen Die Entführung and Saul at the Festival, however lovely, these weren't really a priority. But Don Pasquale is nothing but unalloyed delight.

Don Pasquale (José Fardilha) is furious with his nephew Ernesto's (Tuomas Katajala) choice of girlfriend Norina (Eliana Pretorian). Trickery engineered by Pasquale's doctor, Malatesta (John Brancy) saves the day and the lovers are united. Mariame Clément's production, revived by Paul Higgins for the tour is an absolute and utter delight. They might not have quite the comic opera firepower of Alessandro Corbelli and Danielle di Niese (reuniting, incidentally for Il barbiere, another opera stuffed with medical and legal men, at the 2016 Festival), but they really weren't too far off, if truth be told. Fardilha had a hard job, as in many ways has to carry the whole thing, and was more than up to the task; Pretorian has a whale of a time spending Pasquale's money - sort of a not-quite-Rake's progress. And the various attendants were fine too. The chorus revolve around in white wigs almost as if an opera crowd from some unknown Hogarth series: a touch of some of the opening vignettes from Saul, I thought; but this came first.Stalwarts of comic opera figure importantly here: notary (Timothy Nelson) and doctor (Brancy) as well as the inevitable faithful servant (Anna Marie Sullivan). A strong well-rehearsed cast gelled to get the most humour they could from it.

With Glyndebourne's tour, as always, and perhaps slightly tedious of me to keep going on thus, are the impressive production values, and quality of what a scratch orchestra. Not as perfect as OAE or LSO, but  a more than creditable account fo the score. Those production values (apparently not trimmed down from the Festival all that much), were crucial. As was rehearsing properly and fully - essential given how crucial timing was to this pastel-hued production. The large revolve spins, and our characters move through scenes,flopping through doors and paintings. Changing out flowers for fresher ones by placing them in a cupboard (I'd like that at home). You hopefully get the picture. In the resolution, with a tea party sur l'herbe, we couldn't help but think of summer months.

Archive footage here: but who isn't envious of Danni's "commute"? 

Overall: an unalloyed joy. 
On tour and in rep to 4th December; festival production on disc.

Cast and creative team:
Conductor Duncan Ward
Director Mariame Clément
Revival director Paul Higgins
Designer Julia Hansen
Lighting designer Bernd Purkrabek
Revival lighting designer Andrew May
Assistant conductor Gareth Hancock
Music preparation Nicholas Bosworth, Steven Maughan, Duncan Williams
Language coach Barbara Diana
Supertitles Ian Julier
Staff director Rachael Hewer
Costume supervisor Kate Vaughan
Wig supervisor Sheila Slaymaker
Head of Make-up Sarah Piper
Cast includes

Don Pasquale José Fardilha
Dr Malatesta John Brancy
Ernesto Tuomas Katajala
Norina Eliana Pretorian
A Notary Timothy Nelson (Jerwood Young Artist 2015, member of the Glyndebourne Chorus)
Servant Anna Marie Sullivan
Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus master Jeremy Bines

It was the horns what fluffed it (Philharmonia/Beethoven)

Weber, Mendelssohn and Beethoven (Philharmonia, cond. Juraj Valčuha)
Sunday's evening concert is in the running for performance of the year. So tough luck to whoever comes next, right? The Weber overture with which the programme offered should offer ten minutes of sheer Romanticism. As it was, this was a decent enough rendition spoiled only by the horns. The whole thing didn't exactly scream that Valčuha was in control of things.
Next the Mendelssohn's VC - Krylov have a respectable tender version of this work, and it was the best performance of the evening. Valeriy Sokolov was sick, and replaced by Sergej Krylov due to illness

After the interval, Eroica; this is real bread and butter stuff, or should be. A serious orchestra like the Philharmonia no matter how much popular stuff it does, should have something special to say with a work of such genius; but with Valčuha they thundered along and wanted nuance or genius, in a pretty uneven fashion. A shame.

One wondered: had allegations in Private Eye put the orchestra of its footing?

Overall, a moderately disappointing evening but with many good things and fine moments.

Juraj Valčuha conductor
Sergej Krylov violin
Weber, Overture, Der Freischütz
Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto
Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, Eroica

Monday, 9 November 2015

Musical painting with a single-hair brush (Wigmore/Gerhaher)

Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn and Berg (Gerhaher and Huber at the Wigmore Hall)
Is there a better singer than Gerhaher? when it comes to recitals, almost certainly not. And a better pairing than Gerhaher and Huber? it is hard to imagine. They may have had a genuine and deep rapport, but no eye-contact was needed. The Wigmore Hall was absolutely packed (in the audience James Baillieu had not rushed home after his consummate display earlier, and guitarist Milos Karadaglic.

It started with a  visibly nervous Gerhaher seeming almost to clutch the piano for support. Why on earth this might be the case is beyond me and everyone else there. Beethoven's Ferne Geliebte to start, a pretty easy introduction. At times so quiet, but perfectly audible even in the lowest register. Projection perfection. It was followed by a heart-breaking but hardly easy-listening Schoenberg cycle Book of the Hanging Gardens. After the interval, some Haydn - in English - which somehow highlighted just how clever it all was, just how much attention to detail was given. I have no German but could have transcribed the entire cycle quite confidently (not just because of being on the second row).  The Berg's Altenberg Lieder, hardly easy listening either. Programmatically, even if they share the connexions of love at a distance, Vienna, this second modernist piece made the evening harder work. Nobody seemed to mind.
To finish, touching Beethoven again: Adelaide. As an encore, some Mozart (unidentified, likely from his new Mozart CD). Only in Britain would an audience stay firmly seated after that.
What was really breath-taking, was the extend to which each syllable- or even some smaller element than this -was crafted in the most utterly exquisite fashion. This was the sort of craftsmanship you can't really fathom. In a museum some tiny painting executed with a single-hair brush. And with a pairing so deeply in sync, you really couldn't ask for more.
Christopher Cook captured the concert for radio 3, and you can listen here. Many times over the coming month. Click here.
Overall: a deeply and profoundly impressive display

Christian Gerhaher baritone; Gerold Huber piano
Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn and Berg
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): An die ferne Geliebte Op. 98
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): Das Buch der hängenden Gärten Op. 15
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): The Spirit's Song HXXVIa:41
Content HXXVIa:36
The Wanderer HXXVIa:32
Sailor's song HXXVIa:31
She never told her love HXXVIa:34
Alban Berg (1885-1935): Altenberg Lieder Op. 4
Ludwig van Beethoven: Adelaide Op. 46