Sunday 24 May 2020

A Life On-Line: Der Freischütz and Arabella in Vienna, Orphée et Eurydice in Munich, and Nicky Spence in London

This week we begin and end with tenors; first tenor Jorge Navarro Colorado who with Opera Settecento and Leo Duarte shared a pre-lockdown video, a  lovely account of 'Amor deh lasciami' from Handel's pasticcio, Elpidia - in fact an aria by Orlandini [YouTube, embedded above]. I've managed to miss Jorge's Handel performances at the Göttingen Handel Festival and do look forward to being able to hear him live in the UK soon.

Willingdon House Music is a group of four musicians, Max Mausen (I reviewed Max's debut CD back in 2015), Flavia Hirte, Nicola Barbagli, and Ellen Bundy, living together, who make music regularly on Facebook with delightful programmes ranging from Bach to Bartok to folk-music. Violinist Tasmin Little was on BBC Radio 4 playing Harold Arlen's Somewhere over the rainbow, but only got to play a few notes, so she and her daughter Chloe got together to give us the whole piece [YouTube]. Music on the Rebound contributed a video of flautist Clare Chase in Dai Fujikura's Sandpiper [YouTube]. Pianist Yulia Chaplina's Music for the Mind series this week included a Schubert Impromptu [YouTube], and a chat with pianist Katya Apekisheva [YouTube].

Soprano Gemma Summerfield gave us Ophelie's Mad Scene from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet accompanied by Ella O'Neil (piano) [YouTube]. Tenor Jesus Leon [see my review of his 2015 CD, Bel Canto] accompanied himself in Ennio Morricone's Se which comes from the film Cinema Paradiso [YouTube]

Mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston was remembering performing with lutenist Toby Carr last year for the City Music Foundation and gave us some Barbara Strozzi [YouTube]. Soprano Jessica Hale's account of 'Guardian Angels, O Protect Me' from Handel's The Triumph of Time and Truth was recorded before lockdown with pianist Jo Ramadan [YouTube].

In lieu of talking at the Colorado MahlerFest, Gavin Plumley made a Mahler in Isolation film [Facebook].

Like many people, pianist Simon Lepper has been teaching on-line, and contributed a video of one of his students from the Royal College of Music, soprano Stephanie Hershaw singing Schumann' s Widmung [Facebook]. The problems of rehearsing on-line featured in Richard Barnard's Choir Rehearsal in Lockdown with soprano Elizabeth Karani, tenor Thomas Atkins and pianist Edmund Whitehead [YouTube].

The London Funeral Singers have raised over £1,000 for Hospice UK with their #ASongForThem, providing tribute videos through music for people who have recently been bereaved and shared a special version of Simon & Garfunkel A Bridge over troubled Water [Facebook].

We have attended some lovely concert at Conway Hall over the years, particularly as part of the Sunday Concert Series (which dates back to the 19th century), where I often give pre-concert talks and write the programme notes. And Joanna Wyld and my opera The Gardeners was premiered there last year. The venue is about more than just music, with a regular programme of talks and lectures. They are currently running a #DoorsOpen fundraiser to help them keep going at a time when the venue's income has plummeted [Facebook]

Dutch National Ballet is streaming Ted Brandsen's 2016 ballet Mata Hari all week (until 30 May), and it has a major score by Tarik O'Regan, see the their website.

This week we started off with Weber's Der Freischütz at the Vienna State Opera, a new production by Christian Räth from 2019 which was the first time the opera had been performed there for 20 years (so it isn't just in the UK that Weber's opera gets overlooked). Räth's production replaced the scenario with one where Max was Weber himself, overcoming writer's block via a deal with the devil. I wasn't quite convinced, but there were some spectacular scenes, and terrific performances from Camilla Nylund as Agathe, Andreas Schager as Max, Daniela Fally as Ännchen  and Alan Held as Capar, conducted by Tomáš Netopil.

And we went back to Vienna State Opera for another opera currently rather ignored in the UK, Richard Strauss' Arabella. I have very fond memories of seeing Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role in the 1981 revival of Rudolph Hartmann's 1965 production at Covent Garden conducted by John Pritchard, with Ingvar Wixell as Mandryka (the production lasted right until 1996!). And also remember seeing Josephine Barstow memorably singing the role at English National Opera in the 1980s. Since then, sightings have been rarer. In this 2012 Vienna performance, Emily Magee was a very striking Arabella with Tomasz Konwiczny as a very buttoned up yet rather sexy Mandryka, in a production by Axel Kober which moved the action to the 1920s or 1930s. I am not sure that this translation works, but the performances were very affecting nonetheless.

And over in Munich, at the Bavarian State Opera, there were more unhappy musicians with Vesselina Kasarova's troubled composer Orphée in Nigel Lowery's production of Berlioz's 1859 version of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, conducted by Ivor Bolton. Musically this was terrific, with Rosemary Joshua as Eurydice, but Lowery's translating the action to a modern opera house rather weakend the drama somewhat.

We end with another tenor, this time Nicky Spence, whose Janacek recording with Julius Drake won the Vocal category in the BBC Music Magazine Awards. The Friends of English National Opera presented their first on-line event, a delightful evening with Nicky and his partner, pianist Dylan Perez who entertained us with live music from Richard Strauss to Scots song, and chatted as well.

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