Saturday, September 24, 2016
As the BBC Proms at last flicker into life, in Germany the Musikfest Berlin gets under way.. Over 19 days, 27 events featuring 70 works of around 35 composers, performed by 20 orchestras, instrumental and vocal ensembles and soloists. Full programme here, reflecting the concept that audiences are mature enough to handle real music, as Sir Henry Wood believed a hundred years ago, instead of the Potato Fudge the Proms have descended into this year (bar a few outstanding performances). But those of us who can't get to Berlin (largely sold out, in any case), some concerts will be broadcast via the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall (List here) Listen live, because the broadcasts may be available for only 24 hours. On Saturday I caught Wolfgang Rihm's Tutuguri with Daniel Harding and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. This piece is legend, but not easy to pull off because it requires a huge orchestra, a whole row of percussion desks and elaborate off-stage effects Rihm's model for Tutuguri was a piece by by Antonin Artaud, the actor and theatre theorist whose ideas have great influence on modern theatre, film, dance and music. Artaud believed that communication could exist on multiple levels. Texts don't have to be spoken, nor even rational. In Tutuguri, the soloist and invisible choir (on tape) utter sounds in single syllable bursts of staccato, which don't have meaning in themselves: it's up to the audience to intuit the connections themselves. If, of course, there "is" any meaning we can deduce. Artaud was fascinated by primal states of experience that cannot be articulated - hence the animalistic grunts and piercing screams. Orchestra and singers all on the same communal level. Rihm's use of percussion is absolutely deliberate. because percussion reflects the rhythms of the human body, heartbeats, breathing, movement. This performance was exceptionally muscular and physical, yet mesmerizing just as the rite it (sort of) describes would have been. Savage as the subject may be, performance needs to be accurate and extremely tightly focussed or the whole point is missed. This performance was so powerful that it far eclipsed Kent Nagano and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican last year (read my piece here). The narrator, Graham Forbes Valentine, who bore a disconcerting resemblance to Artaud, was so forceful that he seemed possessed, the tightness of his articulation like an elemental force oif nature. Luckily I was able to watch it three times through before Digital Concert Hall pulled it. Explains why I'm too tired to write about Rossini Semiramide at the Proms, which I loved. So don't miss the next livestream on Tuesday 6/9 when Valery Gergiev conducts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Shostakovich Symphony no 4 and Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony no 3 "Jesus Messiah, save us", which I wrote about in July HERE. A striking piece I can't wait to hear again. Ivan Fischer and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin on 8/9 with Hans Werner Henze I vitalino raddoppiato for violin (Julia Fischer) and chamber orchestra. A beautifully expressive piece which could easily stand up to Bruckner 7, which I heard last week with Haitink and RCOA livestreamed from Amsterdam. Andris Nelsons conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker on Saturday 10th in Debussy Prélude à lʼaprès-midi dʼun faune, Edgard Varèse Arcana and Berlioz Symphonie fantastique. An intelligent programme presented, no doubt, with flair and extremely high musical standards. More Varèse (Déserts) and Ligeti (Violin Concerto, Pekka Kuuisto) the next day with Jonathan Nott and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie , followed by Beethoven 3 Eroica. Then Dudamel Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie. I heard this a few months back, but it's really for fans of the conductor rather than fans of the music. Kirill Petrenko conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester on 14/9 in Ligeti Lontano, Bartók Violin Concero no 1 (Frank Peter Zimmermann) and Richard Strauss Sinfonia domestica. Good combination, should be good. Then John Adams conducts an all John Adams concert on 17/9.
First performed at the ROH in 2005, Gioachino Rossini’s opera buffa has been revived for a fourth time. The Guardian’s Alicia Canter goes backstage and follows baritone Vito Priante, who sings Figaro, as he prepares for opening nightIl Barbiere di Siviglia is at the Royal Opera House, London, until 11 October Continue reading...
Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, The Royal Opera © ROH/Mike Hoban, 2013 Is there any limit to what a great soprano can do? There’s a host of roles that astonish and delight us: true showcases of extraordinary musical and dramatic talent from across the history of opera. We’ve gathered together some of our favourites, starting with… The Queen of the Night – Mozart ’s Die Zauberflöte Mozart wrote the role of the Queen in The Magic Flute for his sister-in-law Josepha Hofer, who was famous for her outstanding vocal technique and high notes. The Queen of the Night’s two dramatic arias are accordingly packed with fiendish coloratura, taking the soprano voice to amazing heights, particularly in the Act II aria ‘Die Hölle Rache’. Elena – Rossini ’s La donna del lago Elena is one of several roles that Rossini wrote for his first wife Isabella Colbran. Colbran had an exceptionally wide vocal range and the writing for Elena spans the gamut. The opera culminates in one of Rossini’s greatest showpieces for the female voice: Elena’s virtuoso Act II aria ‘Tanti affetti’. Norma – Bellini ’s Norma Norma requires immense stamina, vocal agility and (particularly for the aria ‘Casta diva’) lyricism and beauty of tone. But the challenges don’t stop there: the singer also has to convey the varied and intense emotions of a heroine torn between religious devotion and jealousy, romantic passion and maternal love. Lucia – Donizetti ’s Lucia di Lammermoor Lucia is another role that makes huge demands on a soprano’s stamina: she has to retain enough energy through the demands of Acts I and II in order to carry off Act III’s famous mad scene – a breathtaking display containing a stratospheric virtuoso cadenza accompanied by glass harmonica . Abigaille – Verdi ’s Nabucco Abigaille is a notoriously difficult part: it calls for a singer with a powerful, very agile voice who can move from the bottom to the very top of her range at great speed. Even the most lyrical of Abigaille’s arias, ‘Anch’io dischiuso un giorno’, includes a thrilling two-octave leap. Brünnhilde – Wagner ’s Der Ring des Nibelungen Brünnhilde is often seen as a dramatic soprano’s ultimate challenge. She must sound equally comfortable in the high notes of her opening war cry in Die Walküre and in the low-lying passages that punctuate Götterdämmerung . She must be heroic and tender, vengeful and noble. And above all, she must have the stamina to sing in three operas, each more than five hours long! Olympia – Offenbach ’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann Olympia the doll is only on stage for about half an hour, and for much of that time simply says ‘oui’. But her one aria ‘Les oiseaux dans la charmille’ is a virtuoso tour de force, each verse adorned with ever more elaborate coloratura. The part also calls for comic acting: Olympia’s mechanics periodically run down and stop her mid-flow. Elektra – Richard Strauss ’s Elektra At 90 minutes, Elektra is relatively short role – but it’s fiercely difficult. The singer has to project over a vast, intricately-scored orchestra and sing some of the most dramatic, declamatory music ever written for soprano, while also conveying lyrical tenderness in her reunion scene with Orest. She also needs to retain enough physical energy for the dance which brings the opera to its devastating close. Turandot – Puccini ’s Turandot Like Elektra, Turandot requires a powerful high voice and a singer able to execute very declamatory vocal writing with ease. The role also poses dramatic challenges: how can a soprano make this murderous princess sympathetic enough to convince us she deserves a happy ending? Lulu – Berg’s Lulu This near-impossible part requires a singer with a three-octave range who can shift from intense lyricism to flamboyant high coloratura to speech – sometimes within the space of one aria. The character is also dramatically deeply enigmatic, and is onstage for every scene of this four-hour opera. Ariel – Adès ’s The Tempest Possibly the highest role ever written for soprano, Adès’s ‘airy spirit’ enters The Tempest singing 17 full-voiced Es two and a bit octaves above middle C – and continues in a similar range for most of the opera. The high notes aren’t limited to coloratura either: many of them are in slow and sustained passages, which is fiendishly challenging. Which fiendishly difficult roles would you include? Let us know in the comments below. Norma runs 12 September–8 October 2016. Tickets are still available . Les Contes d’Hoffmann runs 7 November–3 December 2016. Tickets are still available . Turandot runs 5–16 July 2017. Tickets go on General Sale on 28 March 2017.
Royal Opera House, London Thomas Guthrie’s reworking of Leiser and Caurier’s 2005 production is tremendous fun, with a top-notch ensemble cast that includes Javier Camarena and Ferruccio FurlanettoThe fourth revival of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2005 production of Rossini’s great comedy turns out to be one of the best. Carefully reworked by Thomas Guthrie, some of the staging’s problems do remain: the stylised elision of the 18th century with the 1960s still seems a bit too self-consciously clever and we lose sight, on occasion, of the opera’s emphasis on class and social mobility. But it gets a terrific performance, this time around, from a truly virtuoso ensemble cast with no weak links. Ferruccio Furlanetto’s slimeball Basilio, his calumny aria balefully brilliant, is about as good as it gets. Continue reading...
Ferruccio Furlanetto, José Fardilha, Vito Priante, Javier Camarena, Madeleine Pierard and Daniela Mack in Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photo by Mark Douet Vito Priante is the best #ROHBarbiere since Hampson almost 25 years ago. And Daniela Mack is like a reincarnation of Marilyn Horne. — Attila (@attilalondon) September 14, 2016 Get the feeling this is going to be a memorable run, what a cast. Will return, make sure you go and see #ROHbarbiere — Edward Qualtrough (@QedwardRobert) September 13, 2016 Not only can I not wait until the review's out to tell you how fab #ROHbarbiere is, I can't even wait until the end of the show — Neil Fisher (@nfmusic) September 13, 2016 José Fardilha as Don Bartolo and Vito Priante as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Mark Douet Wow absolutely loving #ROHbarbiere - top drawer singing from @tenorjcamarena @dcecima @VitoPriante — sian brewis (@sianyprice) September 13, 2016 #ROHbarbiere is a delight. Best bit is how well each voice fits its part @ROHchorus funny and sounding great — Malcolm Noble (@MagickLoge) September 13, 2016 @RoyalOperaHouse absolutely hilarious, fabulous singing, and excellent staging! #ROHbarbiere — Kunika F. R. Kakuta (@FloppyFlossy925) September 13, 2016 Ferruccio Furlanetto, José Fardilha, Daniela Mack, Madeleine Pierard, Javier Camarena and Vito Priante in Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photo by Mark Douet Baritones: go and see #ROHbarbiere and experience the wonder and majesty of .@VitoPriante making all the hard stuff look easy. — Benedict Nelson (@ennobledinsect) September 14, 2016 @attilalondon Mystified at gr8 tweets for #ROHbarbiere . Gr8 cast sunk by leaden conducting which added 10 mins to the running time. Dreary — Seamus (@DoodieMaria) September 13, 2016 #ROHbarbiere @TheRoyalOpera wonderful cast, production & orchestra, loved it — DavidC (@motheradamplay) September 13, 2016 What did you think of The Barber of Seville? Let us know via the comments below. Il barbiere di Siviglia runs until 11 October 2016. Tickets are still available . The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Professor Paul Cartledge and Judith Portrait OBE and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund
From Barenboim to Blomstedt, Reich to Rossini and Argerich to Alsop, our music writers pick their highlights from the 2016 proms. Do you agree? Tell us what yours were in the comments section For me, the best concert was the one given by Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim, friends since childhood and two of the greatest musicians of our age. They were dazzling together for Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and in the Schubert four-hand duet as an encore, all followed by extracts from Tannhäuser, Götterdämmerung and Die Meistersinger that showed that Barenboim has no peers today as a Wagner interpreter. Continue reading...
Great composers of classical music