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Georges Bizet

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 29

How not to sell a new Carmen

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discThis is a brilliant press release for Bregenz’s forthcoming Carmen. Despite naming a host of irrelevant pop celebrities, it fails to mention who’s singing Carmen. Read, and wonder. UK: Wednesday 28th June 2017 – Event Cinema specialists CinemaLive are pleased to announce they are working in partnership with C-Major Entertainment to bring George Bizet’s Carmen on the Lake (Bregenz, Austria) to close to 300 cinemas in the UK on Thursday 14 September. This will be a uniquely staged spectacle under CinemaLive’s recently launched brand The World’s Most Spectacular Operas that showcases stunning operas from around the globe in cinemas, making them accessible to UK audiences. Seebühne (or floating stage), with its 7,000 seat open-air amphitheatre, is the location for the French composers most successful opera. With a set designed by British artist Es Devlin, who has designed sets for stars such as Adele, U2, Take That and Kanye West, the stage sits on the water near the shores of the stunning Lake Constance in Austria. This romantic and dramatic setting regularly welcomes opera lovers from all over the world, where the productions are extravagantly original and innovative and frequently use the waters of the lake as an extension of the stage. For stage director Kasper Holten, the former Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, this “opera about destiny and obsession” centres on “two people who are treated as outsiders, whose paths cross and who cling to each other in a passionate but unhealthy relationship.” Georges Bizet’s captivating music, with its instantly recognisable Spanish sounds is known to one and all. Music directors Paolo Carignani and Jordan de Souza will lead the musical direction of this production, with the Bregenz Festival Chorus and Prague Philharmonic Choir accompanied by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. For the past 5 years, CinemaLive have distributed Opera Australia’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour productions to cinema audiences in the UK & Ireland. These productions have now been seen by over 75,000 people on the big screen. Productions have included Madama Butterfly, Turandot and Aida (which in 2015 broke the UK & Irish box office record to become the highest grossing recorded opera of all time). Close to 300 cinemas across the UK will screen Carmen on the Lake captured in Bregenz, Austria on Thursday 14 September. For participating cinemas visit www.cinemalive.com photo: Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis

ArtsJournal: music

July 16

Alvin Ailey Gives Back In Paris

The City of Light is the first stop of a European tour. But "while the Alvin Ailey dancers perform nightly to urbane audiences at a concert hall on the western edge of Paris, another scene unfolds during the day across town at the Georges Bizet public conservatory."




Classical iconoclast

July 12

Véronique Gens Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester.  This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies. Here Gens presents extracts from Grand Opéra, reflecting her Tragodienne series of operatic arias.  Visions is a stunner, rich and so rewarding that you want to rush out and hear each opera as a whole.  This might be easier said than done, for some of the operas here aren't well known. Thus, all the more reason to get this recording because some real gems are included which  you've almost certainly not heard done as well as they are done here. Véronique Gens is a great pioneer of French repertoire. So intoxicating is this recording that if you come to it as a taster, you could end up addicted. Visions - visions of ecstasy, religious or romantic, exotic dreams and horrifying nightmares, virgins, nuns and heroines, plenty of variety, yet each piece a work of theatrical imagination  Alfred Bruneau's Geneviève (1881) for example, from the cantata the young Bruneau dedicated to Massenet.  The piece begins with a dizzying evocation of a storm. If this sounds Wagnerian, the scène lyrique that rises from it is decidedly French. "Seigneur ! Est-ce bien moi que vous avez choisi?", for she is just a shepherdess tending a flock.  But the nation needs her, and  she must put her mission above herself. From César Franck's Les Béatitudes (1879),  a moment of quietude interrupted by the fierce scream that introduces the récit et air de Leonore from Louis Neidermeyer's Stradella (1837), its rhythms influenced by Rossini, enhanced by florid vocal frills.  Benjamin Godard's Les Guelfes (1882) is represented by an orchestral prelude  introducing a song describing Jeanne d'Arc's journey to Paris, her way lit by angelic harps.   From history to fantasy, Félicien David's Lalla Rookh (1862).  French orientalism gloried in exotic images. This song is exquisite, its delicate perfumes warmed by the beauty of Gens' clear, pure expression.  It also evokes the aesthetic of the Belle Époque. Thus a song from Henry Février's Gismonda (1919) a reverie with tolling bells where a solo violin shadows the voice.The protagonist is a nun, but longs, without much hope, for sensual love. Camille Saint-Saëns's arrangement of Étienne Marcel's Béatrix is altogether stronger stuff . Cello rather than violin, and mournful winds and a resolute vocal line. Béatrix knows that the love she knew will never return. "O Beaux Rêves évanouis ! Éspérances tant caressées!". This song is reasonably well known, and Gens does it beautifully. This selection from Jules Massenet's La Vierge (1880) begins with an orchestral interlude. The Virgin Mary is about to die. The mood is subdued.  But the Gates of Heaven open showing the Virgin a vision of Paradise.  "Rêve infini, divine extase, l'éther scintille et s'embrase!" Gens voice glows, illuminated by rapture. After that explosive high, we return to the relative sedate Blanche from Fromental Halévy's La Magicienne (1885)  who chooses the cloister, and to the prayer of Clothilde from Georges Bizet's Clovis et Clothilde (1857). Another song whose loveliness lies in its simplicity, again ideally suited to Gens's clear, pure timbre.  .To conclude, L'archange from César Franck's Rédemption (1874) a vision of the End of Time.  "L'homme rebelle n'obéit pas", and God, in anger chastises him.  "Mais que faut-il pour son pardon? Après des siècles d'abandon , une heure de prière!"  A rousing and rather cheerful end to a very good recording.



Royal Opera House

May 22

How do you complete an opera when its composer has died before finishing it?

Marco Berti as Calaf in Turandot © ROH/Tristram Kenton, 2013 Operas left unfinished by their composers present a fascinating conundrum. Can anyone else bring them to a satisfactory conclusion? For David Murphy , the completer of Ravi Shankar ’s unfinished opera Sukanya , the answer is ‘yes’ – Shankar had completed his opera in outline, so, as his long-term collaborator, Murphy primarily needed to ‘fill in the gaps’. But it’s rarely so straightforward… Both Schoenberg ’s Moses und Aron and Debussy ’s Rodrigue et Chimène have proved unfinishable. Schoenberg created a three-act libretto for Moses und Aron, but only wrote music for Acts I and II. His sketches for Act III are too slight to convey any sense of his intentions, so the Act III text is usually left unperformed. Debussy’s messy sketches for Acts I to III of Rodrigue et Chimène have been reconstructed, orchestrated and performed, but nothing can be done about Act IV, for which text and music are lost. The only solution in such cases is for new music to be added – as Robert Orledge did for Debussy’s La Chute de la maison Usher , composing from scratch more than half the score. Critics praised Orledge for capturing Debussy’s idiom – but others have been less fortunate. Philipp Jarnach ’s conclusion to his teacher Busoni ’s Doktor Faust was criticized for its brevity, and has periodically been replaced by Antony Beaumont ’s more expansive one. When Rimsky-Korsakov completed his friend Musorgsky ’s Khovanshchina , his fellow musicians criticized him for over-lush orchestration and for softening Musorgsky’s distinctive harmonic style. Shostakovich ’s bleaker 1959 completion, based on Musorgsky’s vocal score, has now become the standard version. Fortunately, Rimsky-Korsakov and his pupil Glazunov had greater success completing and orchestrating Borodin ’s epic Prince Igor – perhaps because they found his idiom easier to imitate. Turandot must have been a particularly terrifying project, as Puccini had invested so much in the Act III finale left unfinished at his death – he intended it to have the intensity of Tristan und Isolde ’s love duet. No wonder Franco Alfano found finishing Turandot a struggle! His version is more than competent, but lacks Puccini’s striking harmonic language. By contrast, Luciano Berio ’s longer alternative ending experiments with daring modernist harmonies and colourful scoring, and has a pensive rather than festive conclusion. Time will tell if audiences come to prefer one version over another. Operas left closer to completion can also cause headaches. Offenbach had finished most of Les Contes d’Hoffmann (bar sections of the ‘Giulietta’ act) at his death four months before the premiere. But he left no definite performing instructions, so Hoffmann has been performed in various versions, particularly since missing manuscript sources have been re-discovered. Friedrich Cerha had a relatively easy task to complete Berg ’s Lulu – Berg had finished Acts I and II, and most of Act III in short score – but Berg’s widow remained adamant that it was unfinishable, even claiming her dead husband had told her so from beyond the grave. The completed three-act Lulu was only performed in 1979, after her death. And although it was much praised, the fact that two recent productions (Welsh National Opera’s in 2013; Hamburg State Opera’s in 2017) use new versions of Act III suggests that Cerha’s expert completion has still not been universally accepted. Even a completed score doesn’t mean the end of the story. Bizet ’s Carmen exists in several versions, as Bizet died too soon after the premiere to make a clear performing edition. And Janáček ’s pupils Břetislav Bakala and Osvald Chlubna filled out the stark, chamber-like orchestration of From the House of the Dead and even tacked on an up-beat choral finale, as they believed these would have been Janáček’s intentions had he survived to rehearse the opera’s premiere. In this case, however, musicians found they preferred Janáček’s original, which was definitively restored through Charles Mackerras and John Tyrrell ’s 1980 edition and recording. In the contentious history of incomplete – and allegedly incomplete – operas, this is a rare example where a composer’s intentions can (almost) definitely be said to have been honoured. Turandot runs 5–16 July 2017. Tickets are still available.

Classical music and opera by Classissima



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