Sometimes a video recording just seems to have it all and I would put the 2019 Salzburg Festival version of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra in that category. It’s quite an interesting production but it’s the sheer quality of the music making that puts it in the very top bracket. It’s also technically very good in all departments.
The Salzburg Festival rarely does operetta but in 2019 they decided to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Offenbach’s birth with a new production of Orphée aux enfers by Barrie Kosky. With Kosky and comedy one sort of knows what to expect but there’s always something very original. Here, in order to get the (German) dialogue as crisp as possible he takes it away from the singers and gives it to a new character; John Styx, played by actor Max Hopp, who not only speaks all the dialogue in an amazingly wide range of voices but also produces all the sound effects. The only other character who speaks is Anne Sofie von Otter as L’Opinion publique and even she is doubled by Hopp. Not that the singers have nothing to do during the dialogues. They pantomime their words, often in quite an exaggerated fashion and to great effect.
The Anchoress is a 2018 work for soprano and instrumental ensemble by David Ludwig setting texts by Katie Ford. There are eight “scenes” each exploring an aspect of life of the medieval anchoress; a woman who voluntarily secluded herself in a cell attached to a church. Such women were seen as almost saintly and thought to have great insight which was sought by all ranks of people. Issues explored in Ford’s poems include faith, alienation, gender and social power as seen through the anchoress’ eyes.
Robert Wilson’s take on Turandot is interesting. It’s symbolic, even ritualistic and it’s perhaps best seen as a performance of a performance. It’s certainly not in any way naturalistic. Throughout the characters are “abstracted” by colour scheme in costume and make up and they move in highly stylized patterns. This is especially apparent in Act 3 where when Liù dies nothing happens. She just stands in a pose. She and Timur then walk back and forth across the stage a few times before slowly processing into the wings. It’s the same with the final scene with Calaf and Turandot. They never even touch each other which makes Calaf’s rather lurid description of what he’s going to do to Turandot seem even rapier than usual. The words and the music (the IMHO overblown Alfano completion) seem at odds but maybe make sense in a ritualistic way. The approach does make for some very striking stage pictures though.
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA consisted of four pieces for voice, tuned percussion and assorted other instruments by percussionist and composer Bob Becker. Apparently the tonal palette for all four was taken from the North Indian rag; Rag Chandrakosh. This is the sort of information I wouldn’t even be able to process without the help of the Wunderlemur.
Autumn Winds is a new CD of vocal and chamber music by American composer Kirk O’Riordan. Much of the music is unashamedly beautiful but it doesn’t sound in the least retro. It’s a long way from the neo-Broadway style that drives me nuts.
The first piece is Four Beautiful Songs for soprano, piano and viola. There’s both an ethereal beauty and a driving, rhythmic, sometimes jazzy, quality to the piano part adding energy to the lyrical text setting and equally lyrical viola part. It suits Ann Moss’ light, bright voice and the playing from pianist Holly Roadfeldt and Peter Dutilly on viola is lovely.
Prayer Stones, for piano and viola, is meditative and very beautiful piece. Again very nicely played. Continue reading →
If anybody in Canada is interested in seeing the HD broadcast of the Met production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess I may be able to help. I can’t do anything about this upcoming weekend’s live broadcast but I do have, courtesy of Touchwood PR, a couple of tickets to give away for the encore presentations. It’s a Canada only deal and you could pick any showing between Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, April 5th at the movie theatre of your choice. This link should serve to figure out when it’s on where. Comment with an email address and I’ll sort out logistics with the lucky winner. First come first served.
Back in the days when all British regiments had bands it was common for the band to entertain the locals with outdoor concerts in park or seaside bandstands. As well as the usual martial and patriotic fare, such concerts often featured suites drawn from operettas or operas; both old and new. Shortly before the First World War the more than averagely enterprising bandmaster of the Grenadier Guards made such a suite from Richard Strauss’ Elektra (premiered 1909). Rather pleased with it, he decided to insert it into one of those rather dull pauses that happen during Trooping the Colour. The bandsmen were also rather pleased with themselves for executing such advanced music. Unfortunately they were soon to be deflated as a liveried flunkie emerged from the palace with a message for the bandmaster… “The King does not know what the music the band just played was but it is never to be played again”. Sic transit gloria mundi. Mozart apparently is OK though as the Coldstream’s slow march to this day is Non più andrai.
I wanted to listen to Robert Fleming’s song cycle The Confession Stone today but I didn’t appear to have a recording in my strangely eclectic collection of physical and digital recordings. There’s nothing either on any of the umpty ump labels distributed by Naxos USA (lucky me has pretty much unlimited access tot heir digital catalogue) so off I went to YouTube. And I found a lovely recording by the talented duo of Wallis Giunta and Steven Philcox. Enjoy.