Janáček’s Jenůfa was staged and recorded at the Staatsoper unter den Linden in 2021 under COVID conditions. There’s no audience and the chorus members, in black, are distributed all around the auditorium. Even without a live audience it’s extremely dramatic and intense.
The thing that struck me most about the Royal Opera House’s 2018 recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre is how lyrical it is. It’s not without excitement in the appropriate places, far from it, but there’s such lovely singing. Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde is tender and poetic and the combo of Stuart Skelton and Emily Magee as the twin lovers is really good. Throw in a nuanced Wotan from John Lundgren and a typically elegant performance from Sarah Connolly as Fricka and it’s really a pleasure to listen to. Ain Anger is not so lyrical as Hunding but it’s a fine menacing performance. Antonio Pappano and the house orchestra are equally fine.
No, not Flanders and Swann but rather a well constructed new recording from Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It contains music by four composers exemplifying that lush territory that lies emotionally, if not always temporally, between Wagner and the Second Vienna School. The two central works were both inspired by Richard Dehmel’s Verklärte Nacht. The first is a 1901 setting of the text for mezzo, tenor and orchestra by Oskar Fried. It’s lushly scored and rather beautiful. The sound world is not dissimilar to Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. Gardner gets a lovely sound from his players and some really gorgeous singing from Christine Rice and Stuart Skelton. The second Verklärte Nacht is the more familiar Schoenberg piece for string orchestra. It’s curious how without voices and with only strings it manages to sound almost as lush as the Fried.
This new recording of Britten’s Peter Grimes was recorded from semi-staged performances in the Grieghallen in Bergen in November last year. It’s very good indeed. Of course, there are many good audio and video recordings of this piece going back to the composer’s own version with Peter Pears in the title role; recorded in 1959 and many fine singers have recorded the title role. To stand out from the field, a new recording needs an outstanding Grimes and in Stuart Skelton this version has one. He manages to encompass both the brutal, gritty side of Grimes as well as the more ethereal side. Pears did the latter brilliantly but could never quite manage the grit. Vickers, who practically owned the role in the 1970s, was brutal but didn’t have the voice or the stage skills to bring out the gentler side. Perhaps the first person to really portray the full complexity of the character was the late Philip Langridge and there’s much about Skelton’s portrayal that reminds one of him. It shades toward the delicate most of the time with some lovely singing in “Now the Great Bear” and in the mad scene. But when Skelton needs to be brutal he’s downright scary.
David Fallis’ last show after 28 years as Artistic Director of the Toronto Consort is, perhaps appropriately, the earliest opera in the repertoire; Monteverdi’s Orfeo. The first performance of three was last night at Trinity St. Paul’s. It’s a concert performance with surtitles and some interesting orchestration. The expected strings and woodwinds are supplemented here by the sackbuts and cornettos of Montreal based La Rose des Vents as well as triple harp and an assortment of keyboards including, I think, two different organs. Continue reading →
Season announcements, it seems, are like the King Street streetcar(1). You wait for ages then three come along at once. This time it’s Opera Atelier announcing the 2017/18 season. As ever there are two productions. A remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro runs October 26th to November 4th. The cast icludes Douglas Williams, making his Opera Atelier debut, in the title role, with Mireille Asselin (Susanna), Stephen Hegedus (Count Almaviva), Peggy Kriha Dye (Countess Almaviva), Mireille Lebel (Cherubino), Laura Pudwell (Marcellina), Gustav Andreassen (Bartolo), Christopher Enns (Basilio/Don Curzio), Olivier Laquerre (Antonio), and Grace Lee (Barbarina). This one will be sung in English.
Patrick Jang, Carla Huhtanen and Phillip Addis in “The Marriage of Figaro” (2010). Photo by Bruce Zinger.
The Play of Daniel (Danielis ludus) is a 12th or 13th century Latin liturgical play from Beauvais in nothern France. It appears in the liturgy for January 1st, The Feast of the Circumcision, and appears to have been an attempt to channel the traditional post Christmas disorder into more acceptable channels. It was probably performed by the sub deacons of the Cathedral; young men in minor orders. Alex and David Fallis have run with this setting and tried to create a piece that would evoke the same sort of reactions from a 21st century audience as the original did for those who saw it in Beauvais. That’s a huge ask but, to my mind, they succeeded admirably.
Every time I go to Roy Thomson Hall, as I did last night to see the TSO perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, I have to recalibrate for the acoustic. It’s just much quieter than the Four Season’s Centre and, indeed, many other venues. This has the advantage that coughing is largely inaudible but also that even a large orchestra playing full bore doesn’t exactly blow one’s socks off. So, perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that I was more struck by the meditative aspects of this score than its moments of high drama such as the chorus of demons. I’m pretty sure this was just the acoustic because conductor Peter Oundjian was certainly going for maximum effect in those sections. Continue reading →
This evening at 7.30pm at Trinity St. Paul’s The Talisker Players have their first concert of the season entitled Songs of Travel. Virginia Hatfield will be performing the French baroque work Le Sommeil d’Ulisse by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and the rarely performed Algoma Central by Louis Applebaum. Also featured is baritone Geoffrey Sirett in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Vally Weigl’s Songs of Love and Leaving. Also on tomorrow.
There a few things coming up in Toronto over the next week or two that might be worth a look.
Tomorrow at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Lauren Segal and Robert Gleadow accompanied by Sandra Horst are giving a free concert featuring Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, de Falla’s Siete canciones populares Españolas, Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel.