Tuesday, 28 February 2006
The recording being used is the one that I reviewed for Music and Vision and it stood up rather well to being listened to continuously by me on my headphones. Besides Barenboim's wonderful way with the Bayreuth Orchestra it includes a remarkable collection of Anglophone singers; John Tomlinson, Graham Clark (in 2 roles), Linda Finnie, Anne Evans. My review is here.
Monday, 27 February 2006
a CD of Clytus Gottwald's stunning choral arrangements here and a rather disappointing disc of music by Jack Gottlieb from the Milken Archive here. All on Music-Web International.
Friday, 24 February 2006
We've also got our latest clutch of ENO tickets. There's the new production of Makropoulos Case with Cheryl Barker (a production which has all the hall-marks of being recorded for Chandos's Opera in English series); a delectable revival of Ariodante with Alice Coote (someone whose career we've followed with fascination ever since seeing her in her early days in Radamisto at Opera North); Nixon in China, which we were cheated of when the re-opening of the Coliseum was delayed; and Mark Morris's staging of Purcell's King Arthur, a curiosity that we could not miss.
Its been a week for organising details for both March concerts. What with sourcing music for the Salomon Orchestra (they're playing Haydn and Elgar in addition to my pieces) and digging out the choir copies we used for the July 2005 Cranmer concert. There have also been rehearsal details to sort out; I'm sure that with 2 concerts within a week, there is something that I've missed but I hope not.
For the Cranmer concert in Oxford on March 18th, I'm having posters and leaflets distributed by a firm there who specialise in that sort of thing. For the Salomon concert at St. James's Piccadilly on March 23rd I'm trying a different tack. I'm distributing leaflets to the venue and important places like Westminster Music library but in addition I'm having someone do some email and fax marketing. They use one of these lists that people sign up for, so I'm hoping we'll be preaching to the converted. We'll see.
I've also started to sort out the music for the FifteenB concert at the Chelsea Festival. At the moment the concert seems miles away but it will soon be time to send the music to Paul Ayres, the conductor for marking up before sending it out. It's alarming the way things creep up on you, one minute a concert's 6 months away and the next deadlines are closing in and you're scrabbling to get things organised. I've now got to set-to and transpose the Byrd Regina Coeli motet down a tone so that we can do it with the whole choir (currently its for SAT, but down a tone we think we can manage to split the whole choir and to it S+A1/A2+T1/T2+B).
Thursday, 23 February 2006
Wednesday, 22 February 2006
Regarding the amazing falling Druids, its not as stupid as it might seem. In his production for Scottish Opera with Jane Eaglen, Ian Judge had the chorus falling down flat during Casta Diva, the result was effective in that it gave Judge a credible way of highlighting Eaglen, who is not the tallest of people. Incidentally, having a large Norma at least gives credibility to her having had 2 babies without detection. Over-weight women often can be pregnant without detection.
The last Covent Garden Norma was a semi-concert performance, but the last full production included some wonderfully kinky leather costumes for Oroveso's warriors with lots and lots of bare flesh showing through the cut outs. Very entertaining indeed!
Regarding RVW's other operas, I'm not going to hold my breath. I have still not seen a professional production of Riders to the Sea and have never seen Hugh the Drover. I'm not sure about the latter, it has some lovely music but I have a horrifying feeling that it will seem rather dated in that curious English way. We happily put up with opera companies dredging up items from the fringes of consciousness and we don't get too worked up that the libretto is rather lacking. But perform a rarely done opera with an English libretto and everyone gets highly critical.
We desperately need someone to bring Riders to the Sea back into regular performance. It is RVW's undisputed masterpiece, but at a bare 45 minutes long it is rather difficult to programme especially it is rather dark in subject matter (it sets a Synge play about a family in the West of Ireland where the men tend to work on the sea and die there. RVW was working on another Synge opera when he died (based on The Tinker's Wedding, I think). If he'd finished it, it would have made an ideal pairing. As it is we're casting around for a balance programme.
The other operas are less likely to appear. The Pilgrims Progress requires a large cast and resources. It was given a fine semi-staged production at the Barbican when the Royal Opera House was in exile, so I can't see there being a stampede to stage it. It has also been troubled by accusations of lack of drama and being an oratorio in disguise. But having seen it twice (once in the ROH staging and once in a tremendous full staging by the Royal Northern College of Music) I can't agree and would love to see it again.
Over the Poisoned Kiss we'll draw a veil and solace ourselves with Richard Hickox's disc of highlights which hides the work's terrible libretto. (Not just English embarassing, but really awful).
Monday, 20 February 2006
Rather interestingly, even though opera companies insist on adhering to Verdi's final, 1865, wishes they usually miss out the 1865 ballet music for the Witches (as do Covent Garden). So its a case of adhering to the composers final thoughts, except when it is inconvenient to our preconceptions.
Friday, 17 February 2006
Also at the ROH, we're going to see the new production of Sleeping Beauty which is going to use Oliver Messel's designs for the production of the ballet which re-opened the Opera House after the war. This production is iconic in the history of the Royal Ballet but is also iconic in my own history as my mother saw the production with Moira Shearer in the early 1950's and it had a profound effect on her. She never failed to enjoy recounting her delight both at the dancing and at the spectacular staging. Her stories helped inculcate my interest in ballet. So I will be fascinated to see a recreation of the production, but such returns to memory lane rarely work.
Also in the post, tickets to Grange Park Opera. Wasfi Kani's company never fails to offer an interesting mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. This year the unfamiliar is Massenet's Thais, an opera that I saw as a student in Manchester in a lovely production at the Royal Northern College of Music in 1977. Both the staging and the singing had a profound effect on me and help fuel my love of opera. Of the singers in that production the Thais was outstanding but I am not aware of ever hearing her again. The Nicias was a talented young tenor called Robin Leggate whose career has proved rather more enduring.
Since then I've come across the opera on record, but missed the ENO concert performance. So I'm looking forward to the performance immensely. The title role is being sung by Anne-Sophie Duprels who was Teresa in Benvenuto Cellin in Strasbourg recently.
Also on the Grange Park agenda is a revival of their 1950's L'Elisir d'Amore. Nemorino is Colin Lee who has done some rather good things at ENO recently. We are also going to the recital being given by Bruce Ford; a singer who I've heard in opera but never in recital.
Thursday, 16 February 2006
Granted, there are a clutch of cross genre collaborations but the intention seems to be to try and develop new musical theatre of all varieties. Their heart seems to be in the right place, lets hope the results aren't too cringe-making.
On the more regular opera scene, there are new productions of Strauss's Aegytische Helena which might be worth crossing the Atlantic for; plus Tan Dun's new opera, The First Emperor. Further ahead there is a new Attila and From the House of the Dead. Not earthshattering but interesting nonetheless.
Every new opera-house director seems to want to make their mark by scheduling the Ring. Gelb seems to be no different. He is planning a new Ring in 2010-2011 directed by Robert LePage, inspired by Viking myths and Icelandic landscapes. Might be interesting, but non-operatic directors do have a tendency to fall by the wayside when it comes to the Ring. Lets see what happens here.
Gelb seems to be continuing the Met's recent forays into contemporary opera. Besides the Tan Dun, they are reviving John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles. This latter I saw some years ago and it seemed rather a sprawling mess, redeemed only by Marilyn Horne's superb turn as a houri! Adams's Dr. Atomic is coming as is a new opera from Osvaldo Golijov, who seems to be turning into the current flavour of the month.
I can't say that there is anything in this list which has me desperate to return to New York, but you never know.
Monday, 13 February 2006
Saturday, 11 February 2006
I did some more searching, and the title of Luc arbogast's disc Fjall d'Yr Vinur produced some results, there is a review here on the www.musique-chroniques.ch site.
According to Luc Arbogast's posting on this page, the instrument that he most commonly plays is a bouzouki, but an Irish rather than Greek model (if I read his French correctly). And evidently they have another disc in the offing - more power to their elbow.
Live, he sang to his own accompaniment but on the disc Melusine Arbogast contributes flute and voice; Luc plays a variety of lute/guitar like instruments and sings. His voice is a high counter-tenor (generally F above middle C to the F an octave above that), a voice type which is very tricky to record. The disc manages very well, the results are highly affecting and do reflect what Luc sounded like live, but there are hints of acidity which weren't there live - almost certainly the result of a tricky recording process. Still, the resulting songs are highly attractive and make superb late night listening. I can highly recommend the disc but have no idea where you'd get it from, so I quote the contact details from the disc.
DOMUS: 06 21 24 06 88
I was in Oxford on Thursday delivering leaflets for the Cranmer concert, including a large batch for distribution (reprinted after correcting the date). I've also done most of my publicity mailing as well, so the living room is looking a lot tidier.
Wednesday, 8 February 2006
I'm still busy doing the publicity for my 2 March concerts (18th in Oxford and 23rd in London). Tomorrow I'm delivering the posters and leaflets for distribution in Oxford. I happened to slip one of them into some music that I was sending out and luckily the recipient had sharper eyes than we do. I'd managed to omit the month from the leaflet and unfortunately both March 18th and February 18th are Saturdays. This means that I've had to pay to have the flyers re-done and will have to scrap around 1700. Just shows you that you never can be too careful in your proof-reading.
This element of familiarity and unfamiliarity applied to the Rachmaninov as well as I found that I knew the first 2 movements quite well, but seemed to have forgotten the third; so the concert gave me a good opportunity to get re-acquainted.
They had a near capacity audience who were very enthusiastic. In case you don't know, the orchestra's next gig is on March 23rd when they are doing a concert at St. James's Church, Piccadilly in which Adrian Brown conducts them in a programme which includes 2 of my pieces.
Tuesday, 7 February 2006
I can highly recommend this atmospheric disc and Pristine Audio’s
distinctive delivery mechanism means that it comes at a highly affordable
Sunday, 5 February 2006
Friday, 3 February 2006
Curtis is another American harpsichordist who works extensively in Europe. Whereas with William Christie I always get the feeling that even in Handel, the notes inegals of the French Baroque are never far away, Curtis’s Handel has a more traditional feel to it; wonderfully crisp, rhythmic and sprightly, even if there was the odd hint of untidiness in the orchestra.
The advantage of the cast we actually heard was that 4 of the 6 singers were native Italian speakers. (Sonia Prina as Bertarido, Filippo Adami as Grimoaldo, Romina Basso as Eduige and Vito Priante as Garibaldo) This had two effects, firstly the recitatives were particularly vivid and cantered along in a very lively manner without ever seeming gabbled. They also felt as if they really meant something, you could almost follow the opera without ever looking at the surtitles. The second advantage was in the sheer vividness of the performances. There was no hint of Northern coolness which can often beset concert performances. All the singers, including the 2 English ones (Hilary Summers as Unolfo and Emma Bell as Rodelinda), emoted in a very dramatic fashion and reacted to each other. Though a concert performance, with the singers using scores, this was no static spectacle, all projected the drama in a very credible fashion. You hardly missed a stage presentation, especially one like Glyndebourne’s which often seems to get in the way of the drama.
Emma Bell was superb in the title role; her voice has developed more richness and depth but she has preserved her virtuosity in Handel’s fioriture and she used the music in a superbly expressive way. Rodelinda is a role which has accompanied Bell since her sensational debut at Glyndebourne whilst still at college. You sometimes wonder whether she might be getting bored with it, but on this showing she certainly isn’t. Being so close to the singers we were able to appreciate that she has a very nice line in sneering.
But Bell is quite a known quantity; as her husband Sonia Prina was a revelation. A lively and dramatic singer, it was almost as if she couldn’t keep still whilst singing. I am used to the slightly cool interpretation of Bertarido in Glyndebourne’s production, developed with the counter-tenor Andreas Scholl in mind; Prina’s Bertarido was a complete contrast, her delivery more lively and vivid, she projected Bertarido’s emotions on a larger scale, this was a man who lived on the edge of his nerves. She and Bell developed a credible and touching relationship.
As Bertarido’s sister Eduige, Romina Basso was no less vivid and she managed to make the character’s twists and turns believable; her was a passionate woman who acted before she thought. Though both Prina and Basso have strong, rich mezzo/alto voices, they were remarkably differentiated. One of the nice things about the casting (with 3 low female voices) was the way that each woman had a rich voice but all 3 voices were strikingly different. The third of the trio was Hilary Summers as Unolfo. Unolfo’s arias can often seem superfluous to the drama, but in Summer’s hands they were as gripping as the rest of the opera.
With such a strong female cast, the 2 men had their work cut out. Vito Priante in the role of the evil Garibaldo, managed to combine the necessary Handelian virtuosity with a nice line in sneering and sheer evil. No mean feat indeed. As his weak cohort Grimoaldo, Filippo Adami created a believably weak character and projected the drama well. I will not comment on his musical performance as he was such a last minute replacement. He is a very young tenor (born 1980) so I suspect he will not be singing Handel for long as his voice develops.
The performance included a final duet for Rodelinda and Bertarido which has been less often done. Curtis’s direction was perhaps a little stiff at times, but the performances were so entrancing that it hardly mattered.
Besides concerts given to promote recordings, there are other areas where tie-ins occur. Sometimes performances are set up with a view to doing a live recording (Opera Rara do this rather creatively) and then some performances happen simply so that the performers can perform the work prior to recording. At other times the linkage is less obvious until the recording appears. A number of recent ENO performances (a revival of Verdi's Ernani, the new Madame Butterfly) have had the finger print of the Chandos Opera in English in the casting and the conductor so it came as no surprise when it was confirmed that recordings would indeed be made. As long as this is transparent, then this is enterprising; the recent revival of Lulu at the Coliseum gave rise to a recording for Chandos. But if it means that the opera company has to compromise on cast and conductor, then I'm not so sure.
Sometimes you go to a performance and enjoy it so much that you hope that it pressages a recording. A year or so ago we heard the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment doing the Verdi Requiem with Christine Brewer as the soprano solo. A fabulous performance I kept hoping a recording was in the offing; sadly it wasn't.
For New Year's eve 2004 we went to the Wigmore Hall to hear Robert King and the King's Consort doing Rossini's Petite Messe Solonnelle with just 8 singers; a performance far closer to Rossini's intentions than the larger scale choral performances that are common. One of the singers in this lovely performance was Hilary Summers. She was Unolfo in Rodelinda at Wednesday's Barbican performance and her biography in the programme referred to the King's Consort's forthcoming recording of the Rossini; so at least this time I have a recording to look forward to besides memories of that New Year's eve concert. I can't wait!
A percussion duo to watch. They display admirable virtuosity. The
selected works say much of their musicianship ... they do not try to
dazzle us just for virtuosity's sake