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.

Continue reading

Dancing to Così

Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker is a well known, rather avant garde Belgian choreographer and not, perhaps, the obvious choice to direct an opera production but that’s the assignment she took at Opéra nationale de Paris in 2017 with Mozart’s Così fan tutte which was recorded at the Palais Garner.  Her approach is to double each of the six characters with a dancer and develop an elaborate, largely abstract and severely modern choreography for all twelve players though, naturally enough, with the more technical dance elements going to the dancers.  The choreography, as is apparently often the case with De Keersmaeker is explicitly geometric.  The stage is marked with circles and other geometric figures which inform or constrain the choreography.  Much of the time this results in a lot of running round in circles or standing in semicircles swaying backwards and forwards.  Indeed right up to Ah, guarda, sorella that’s pretty much all that happens though as things hot up emotionally the dancers get more to do with most of the big arias being paired with a dance solo and so on.

1.circle

Continue reading

Castellucci’s Moses und Aron

Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron is a very peculiar opera.  It’s pretty much an extended debate about the nature of God cast in highly abstract terms.  So who better to direct it than the almost unbearably cerebral Romeo Castellucci.  Previous encounters with his work have been puzzling, thought provoking (and WTF provoking) but never dull.  All those terms could be deployed to describe the production recorded at L’Opéra nationale de Paris in 2015.

1.tape

Continue reading

Tapestry 2016/17

naomiTapestry Opera has now announced its upcoming season.  There are three shows.  The season begins in November with Naomi’s Roadlibretto by Ann Hodges based on the novel by Joy Kogawa with music by Ramona Luengen. Set in Vancouver during the Second World War, the opera follows 9-year-old Japanese-Canadian girl Naomi and her brother, whose lives are upturned when they are sent to internment camps in the BC interior and Alberta. It runs November 16th to 20th at St. David’s Anglican Church, the home of the last Japanese-Canadian Anglican parish in Toronto. Continue reading

Salome – DVD of 2008 ROH production

Strauss’ Salome is not for the faint hearted. It contains perversions including, but not limited to, necrophilia, paedophilia and incest. I think this makes David McVicar an obvious choice as director. In fact, by McVicar standards, this 2008 Covent Garden production is fairly restrained and straightforward. McVicar gves the work a 1930s setting which works just fine. The action evolves on a rather elegant two level set; upstairs is Herod’s banquet and downstairs is a sort of guardroom including Jokanaan’s cistern. It’s all quite elegant in light blues and greys and essentially all the action takes place downstairs. There are a few supers including a naked woman and another not far off floating around for no apparent reason except perhaps to suggest that the Judean army is not the Brigade of Guards.

1.beginning

Continue reading