Whispers of Heavenly Death

small-whispers-of-heavenly-death---front-coverWhispers of Heavenly Death is a new CD of song settings by Scott Perkins. It’s a generously filled disk with nine works amounting to some 33 tracks.  First up are five Walt Whitman poems from the eponymous collection.  The settings are sparse but quite varied with legato vocal lines handled nicely by the dark toned mezzo Julia Mintzner.  Accompaniment, as on the rest of the disk, is by Eric Trudel.

Six settings from the Holy Sonnets of John Donne follow sung by soprano Jamie Jordan.  The music here is spikier and set much higher.  It suits Jordan’s light, bright soprano.  My favourite tracks are next; four settings of riddles from the Exeter codex sung by baritone Dashon Burton.  They are very varied. Ic eom ƿunderlicu ƿiht is jerky and set very high for baritone with arpeggio accompaniment. Moððe ƿord fræt is very rhythmic while Ic ᵹefræᵹn for hæleþum is in a very beautiful, liturgical, vein sounding more medieval than the rest. Ƿrætlic honᵹað gets perhaps the only blues setting an Old English text has ever got! The very short Ƿundor ƿearð on ƿeᵹe is just plain weird.  Plenty here for any Old English geek.

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Classic Lulu

I’ve been taking another look at the Glyndebourne production of Berg’s Lulu that I first reviewed in April 2011.  I think a reappraisal is in order.  It’s a 1996 production directed by Graham Vick with Andrew Davis conducting and Christine Schäfer in the title role.  When it first appeared it got rave reviews with Gramophone awards and the like.

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Conservatory 16/17

Adrianne-Pieczonka-4-credit-Johannes-IfkovitsThe Royal Conservatory announced the concert line up for the 2016/17 season last night.  As usual it’s a very eclectic mix with over 100 concerts in a rather staggering variety of genres.  The one loose them is the Canada Sesquicentennial with 70% or so of the line up having some CanCon.  Here are the highlights for the classical vocal music fan.

Koerner Hall will feature recitals by Deb Voigt (November 11th) and Natalie Dessay (May 2nd) plus Phillippe Jaroussky with Les Violins du Roy (April 13th).

The GGS fall opera is Viardot’s Cendrillon with Peter Tiefenbach as music director in Mazzoleni Hall (November 18th and 19th).  The big spring production, at Koerner, will be Piccini’s La Cecchina with Les Dala conducting (March 15th and 17th).  No word on directors yet.  There’s also the GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall on February 4th.

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Tarkovsky’s Godunov

Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1983 production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov for Covent Garden was restaged in 1990 by the Kirov in St. Petersburg with, Tarkovsky by this time no more, Stephen Lawless directing.  It being Tarkovsky I had expectations of something really interesting (perhaps a four hour silent opera?) but it’s not really.  In fact Tarkovsky seems to have been intimidated by the form or foiled by its technical limitations into producing a lavish but ultimately not very consequential production.  The AMOP crowd would thoroughly approve I think.

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Another Ulisse

William Christie and Les Arts Florissants recorded Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria in Aix-en-Provence, five years before their Madrid recording.  The Aix production was directed by Adrian Noble and featured real life couple Kreśimir Śpicer and Marijana Mijanović as Ulisse and Penelope.

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A blast from the past

The 1983 Royal Opera house production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is probably a pretty good representation of what that annoying person at your local opera company’s season launch means when they ask why they can’t have productions the way they used to be.  Except it’s a rather exceptionally good example of what s/he means. Continue reading

Foaming at the mouth

I am developing a pathological hatred of the people who do the video direction for opera DVDs. The sole exception I can think of is François Roussillon. Brian Large, Humphrey Burton, Kriss Rumanis, Gary Halvorson and the rest I could happily roast over a slow fire while poking them with a sharp stick. I do not want to see the tenor’s dental work or the soprano’s tonsils. I certainly don’t want a head shot of someone who isn’t even singing filling the whole screen. I do not watch opera on a 1950s television with a ten inch screen. Who does? FFS let us poor viewers see what is going on on the stage. It’s quite likely that the stage director does all that stuff deliberately(1) and maybe we might be able to understand the production if we could only see the bloody thing. This rant brought to you courtesy of trying to decode David Alden’s Ariodante while looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

This is what I want to see much/most of the time:

With tons going on all around and in the background this isn’t helpful:

And as for this…

Words fail me.

fn1. OK this may not be true of Zeffirelli or similar Met favourites. If the alternative is a furniture catalogue I’ll take the close ups.