Sunday, 26 April 2020

A Life on Line: Gluck's Alceste, Cilea's Adriana, Strauss' Frau ohne Schatten (not to mention the young man without clothes)

Richard Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten - Bavarian State Opera on-line
Richard Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten - Bavarian State Opera on-line

Welcome to my weekly review of what I have been perusing on-line. Bastard Assignments had been taking a typically creative view of collaborative performance on Twitter, and for St George's Day William Vann and the choir of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea posted an on-line version of Parry's Jerusalem. Harpsichordist Christophe Rousset of Les Talens Lyriques posted a lovely version of the final duet from Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea, in lieu of being able to perform the work live.

And there was more Monteverdi from Ceruleo on YouTube with Si dolce e'l tormento, SV 332 with Jenni Harper (soprano), Kate Conway (viola da gamba) and Toby Carr (theorbo). Also, on YouTube the Kanneh-Mason family decided that being as pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason had her performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 cancelled, that they would do a performance at home, with the family orchestra. Conservatoire Concerts continue its regular slot, last Saturday was Alessandro Viale (piano) and Rebecca Raimondi (violin) in Beethoven's Spring Sonata and Ferdinand Ries' Sonata in D Major. Pianist Sandro Ivo Bartoli is working his way through Scarlatti's sonatas, one per day, on YouTube, so plenty of repertoire for him to go at!

On Facebook, the musicians of the orchestra of the Opera de Lyon gave conductor a virtual birthday greeting, an on-line performance with a nice mixture of humour, and the Ballet Opera de Paris has also posted an imaginative video, baritone Benjamin Bevan (with his wife on piano) posted a lovely performance of Quilter's Now sleeps the crimson petal.


On Instagram, Jacob Heringman posted a lovely video of Zan duetting with herself on the viol,  whilst pianist Simon Lepper has been posting song accompaniments,

Soprano Marina Rebeka has posted on her website an interview that she did last November for the Friends of the Vienna State Opera (in German). The Tait Memorial Trust is offering regular Tuesdays at Home, most recently Ann Beilby, viola; Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin;and George Fu, piano in Mozart's Kegelstatt Trio. The Culture Fix website provides a valuable digest of the varied on-line content available, and Eboracum Baroque is continuing its weekly series of Virtual Coffee Concerts.

I have always had a weakness for Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur despite the barminess of its plot. I first saw the opera at the San Carlo in Naples in the 1980s with soprano Maria Chiara in the title role, at a time when you never ever saw it in London. There were rumours that ENO sent representatives to the production, but it was Opera Holland Park which gave us the first recent London performances (I remember one production with a thrilling account of the Princess de Boullion from Rosalind Plowright), though the best account of the title role, for me, remains Nelly Miricioiu with Chelsea Opera Group in 2009 [see the review on Musical Criticism, and my review on Music & Vision] where she gave far more bite to the vocal line than most lyric sopranos.

On Sunday we caught a 2019 performance of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur from the Metropolitan Opera in the David McVicar production which debuted at Covent Garden in 2009. Anna Netrebko was a very luxurious (if somewhat placit) Adriana, with Piotr Beczala as an ardent Maurizio, and Anita Rachvelishvili as the Princesse de Boullion, plus Sarah Joy Miller, Ambrogio Maestri, Tony Stevenson, Samantha Hankey, Patrick Carfizzi, Carlo Bosi, Maurizio Muraro, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.

Monday it was the turn of Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten from Bavarian State Opera conducted by Kirill Petrenko  and directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski. The setting was modern day, Act One seemed to be in some sort of clinic and in Act Three the Emperor's being turned to stone was represented by him being on the operating table.

The opera is one where the work's complex iconography can sometimes bog productions down, and where the last act (which is rather too long) is fertile ground for director and conductors to cut and re-shape. Whilst Warlikowski and designer Malgorzata Szczesniak brought a great deal of visual stimulus to the production with some complex iconography, the story was told pretty straight and, unlike the recent Covent Garden production, the final act was pretty uncut. Johan Botha was the Emperor, Adrianne Pieczonka  the Empress, Deborah Polaski  the Nurse, Wolfgang Koch was Barak, Elena Pankratova  was his wife, with Sebastian Holecek, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Dean Power, Eri Nakamura, Okka von der Damerau. Warlikowski made great use of a scantily clad male dancer for the young man conjured by the nurse, which provided some lovely visual distraction. But it was the conducting of Kirill Petrenko which gripped, and despite the complex iconography I found the performance riveting.

On Tuesday we went over to OperaVision where we caught the Italian version of Gluck's Alceste from La Fenice in Venice. Pier Luigi Pizzi's production was very, very stylish and Guillaume Tourniaire conducted, with Marlin Miller as Admeto, and Carmela Remigio as Alceste.

We had also been intending to catch Charles Wuorinen's opera Brokeback Mountain from the Teatro Real in Madrid, but unfortunately their on-line videos are all geo-restricted so it did not prove possible to play them. A great shame.

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