Vincent Brossard’s production of Verdi’s Otello for the 2016 Salzburg Easter Festival is both elegant and subtle; the latter quality being backed up by superb singing and acting from the principals. In many ways the production is clean and straightforward with a focus on character development but it also makes use of elegant lines and sharply contrasting darks and lights in creating the stage picture. There’s also a really cool use of mirrors during Già nella notte densa that I can’t quite figure out.
Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbre sets texts from Lamentations and is incredibly beautiful in a very French baroque way as well as rather bing music to cut your wrists to. There’s a new CD recording of it by English sopranos Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts with La Nuova Musica directed by David Bates. It’s very fine. Both Crowe and Watts give exemplarty performances. They use minimal vibrato; just enough to create some resonance in louder passages and both have a wonderfully expressive trill. Coupled with really expressive playing from Jonathan Rees – viola da gamba, Alex McCartney – theorbo and David Bates – organ, it’s a real pleasure to listen to. Interestingly the three sections of the Leçons are separated by two trio sonatas by Sébastian de Brossard where the instrumentalists are joined by Bojan Čičić and Sabine Stoffer – violins. It works really well. The disc is rounded out by Brossard’s Stabat Mater, another rather lovely piece of Lenten dolorosity. The singers on this last are Miriam Allan, James Arthur, Nicholas Scott and Simon Wall with Jonathan Rees – viola da gamba, Judith Evans – double bass, Alex McCartney – theorbo and Silas Woolaston – organ. The recording, made in St. Augustine’s Kilburn, is clear and well balanced with an ambience that suits the music well.