Sunday 17 May 2020

A Life On-Line: Veiled Prophets, Invisible Cities, Swiss Resistance and 'British exceptionalism'

I couldn't resist, this week, another dose of the LouLouBelles, this time in Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, a song which takes me over 30 years to the period when I was doing arrangements for the cabaret group The Insinuendos.

Two cellists, Urska Horvat and Thibault Blanchard-Dubois, performed Borsarello's Tango [YouTube] in support of the Concordia Foundation's Vital Fund. From the cello to the viola da gamba as Ibraham Aziz accompanied himself on harpsichord in J.S. Bach's Andante from Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord no. 2 in D major, BWV 1028 [YouTube]. More Bach from Living Room Live, which has been presenting regular concerts, the most recent was Tamsin Waley Cohen in Freya Waley Cohen's Unveil and J.S. Bach's Violin Partita in E major BWV 1006 [Facebook].

Another group presenting regular live-streamed concerts is Front Room Concerts [Facebook], and any donations made are split between the performers and Help Musicians UK. 12 Ensemble has also started live-streaming, and the first of its events went out this week [Facebook]. The Opera Story was supposed to be giving us a new opera, Pandora's Box, but they continue to be creative in lockdown and are presenting a series of short songs, commissioned and recorded remotely. The first, The One With The Skype Call by Vahan Salorian with Alice Privett, Katie Coventry, Anthony Flaum and Berrak Dyer [YouTube]. Pianist Reiko Fujisawa and actor Crawford Logan are presenting a series Beethoven - pianist, prophet and dreamer exploring Beethoven in words and music [YouTube].

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has been sharing a delightful series of performances [Facebook], accompanying herself on the piano; the most recent in celebration of Mother's Day in the USA [Facebook], and Angus McPhee was in similar sentimental mood with some Ivor Novello [Facebook]. Maddy Holmes, accompanied by Ben Parker, shared another highly apposite song, 'No-one is alone' from Sondheim's Into the Woods [Facebook]. And in lighter mode, Steven Devine and Kate Semmens provided words, music, vocals and piano for Boris has a road map [YouTube]

Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players' new recording of Purcell's King Arthur [see my review], won the opera and best recording categories in the BBC Music Magazines awards. In celebration, five players and soprano Carolyn Sampson gave us 'Fairest Isle' [Vimeo]. And soprano Barbara Hannigan was due to receive the GlashĂŒtte Original Music Festival Award at this year's Dresden Music Festival. As the festival went on-line this year for a 24-hour non-stop event, Hannigan received the award remotely as part of the celebrations.

The British Council School in Madrid has created a terrific on-line version Madness' Our House as Our School [YouTube].

This week we caught up with the Wexford Festival's 2019 performance of Charles Villiers Stanford's first opera The Veiled Prophet which was given in concert with David Brophy conducting Simon Mechliński, SinĂ©ad Campbell-Wallace, Gavan Ring, Mairéad Buicke, John Molloy, Dominick Felix,  and Thomas D Hopkinson. For all its contrived exoticism (the piece was designed to tick all the right Meyerbeerian boxes), the opera is in fact based on a poem, Lalla Roohk by the Irish poet Thomas moore. And whilst Stanford's first opera is not his strongest, it is great to see the Irish composer finally getting a look in at the festival, and performances like this and New Sussex Opera's recent revival of The Travelling Companion [see my review] finally give us a chance to evaluate Stanford as opera composer. [On RTE Player].

And on OperaVision we caught up with the 2012 performance of Rossini's Guillaume Tell from the Pesaro Opera Festival, directed by Graham Vick. Like the performance of Richard Strauss' Die Frau Ohne Schatten from Munich [see my article], the production was somewhat baffling, but the personen-regie was so strong and the musical performance superb so the result was riveting. Michele Mariotti conducted, with Juan Diego Florez as Arnold, Nicola Alaimo as Tell, Amanda Forysthe as Jemmy, Luca Tittoto as Gessler, and Marina Rebeka as Mathilde. The strength of the performance was indicated not so much by the (very fine) performances of the arias but by the sturdy drama of Nicola Alaimo's account of the title role, which has virtual no arias. [OperaVision]. Guillaume Tell is something of a rarity at the best of times, and to hear it performed so well in such a full version was a delight.

Another rarity on OperaVision was Rimsky Korsakov's The Invisible City of Kitezh, a strange late work which people sometimes liken to Parsifal. Dmitri Tcherniakov's award-winning production from Dutch National Opera rather eschewed the religious aspect, but again performances were riveting particularly Svetlana Ignatovich in the terrifically long role of  Fevroniya, with equally strong support from John Daszak, and Maxim Aksenov, conducted by Marc Albrecht [OperaVision]. Like Rossini's opera, this is a piece that we are unlikely to see again soon (and the work has had precious few performances in the UK), so being able to catch it on-line is a boon.

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