Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Coliseum, London Penny Woolcock’s staging of Bizet’s opera – revived here for the second time – is visually striking but not strong enough musically This second revival of Penny Woolcock’s 2010 production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers for English National Opera made a strong visual impression but left much else to be desired. Its opening tableau of pearl divers in action is striking – and gorgeously lit, in Jennifer Schriever’s designs. Dick Bird’s sets conjure an exotic backdrop of quaintly dilapidated shacks and creaking boats. Kevin Pollard’s costumes have the women in saris and the men in a sartorial mishmash: suits for managerial fishermen, harem pants or priest smocks for the rest. The dreadlocks, headscarves and face paint might once have been described as “tribal”.In the production’s only real show of self-consciousness about its own reheated Orientalism, act one’s shantytown sports a large billboard, riffing on the cliches of mid-market perfume ads to promote the location’s “inspiration from the deep”. There wasn’t, alas, much of that in evidence in this performance. Continue reading...
Florent Schmitt's Antony and Cleopatra (Suites no 1 and 2, Op 69, 1920) with Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with movements re-ordered and interspersed with excerpts from Shakespeare, adapted by Bill Barclay of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, at the Barbican Hall, London. Lurid colours lit the stage, saturated washes of red and gold. Aquamarine lights shone on the platform floor, spotlights glowed on the sheets the musicians were playing from. The music was equally lurid, beginning with a wildly exuberant fanfare Not a military display so much as statecraft as theatre. Perhaps Cleopatra, like many rulers since, knew you can dazzle others even if you don't have much in the way of firepower. So spoke Enobarbus, describing Cleopatra to his fellow Romans : "The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold " No wonder Ida Rubinstein - another extravagant diva - wanted to portray her and asked André Gide to create a spectacular showcase. Stravinsky was asked to provide the incidental music since he, Diaghilev and Rubinstein has worked together since the early days of the Ballets Russe, For various reasons he demurred. Florent Schmitt's Antony and Cleopatra quotes so explicitly from The Rite of Spring that one wonders what Stravinsky might have thought, particularly as the angular "primitivism" of the Rite is overlaid with elaborate decorative ornamentation. Barely seven years before, the Rite of Spring had scandalized Paris, causing a near riot. In Schmitt's Antony and Cleopatra, the fierce chords depict the Battle of Actium so graphically that you can almost visualize ships battling on the open ocean. Swashbuckling stuff! Consider Erich Korngold's infinitely more original Die tote Stadt which also premiered in 1920, with great success, pretty much inventing a new musical genre. In the 1920's movies were silent, but spectacular. Consider Jacques Feyder's L'Atlantide (1921) where the Queen of Atlantis lives in North Africa. But what we now call film music had its roots in popular music for the stage. Orientalism in France has a long pedigree, dating back to Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt , bearing fruit in an enduring fascination with different exotic locales, which manifested itself in painting, literature and music. Berlioz La mort de Cléopatre, and Les Troyens, Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, Délibes Lakmé. Massenet Le roi de Lahore, and the songs of Maurce Delage and Jaubert. Ida Rubinstein's Cleopatra was part of a huge surge of public interest in things Egyptian which influenced fashion, decorative arts and popular culture, which still prevails today. The French Shakespeare tradition goes back to Charles Kemble, and carried no cultural baggage. Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette, for example, is very much an original work, not a setting of the play Thus Rubinstein's Cleopatra, via Gide, is part of a much wider cultural theme. This Antony and Cleopatra was part of a year-long celebration of Shakespeare all over Britain. Hence the high-profile production, with the BBC SO, the flagship of the BBC stable of orchestras. Schmitt probably doesn't get luxury performances like this too often. Sakari Oramo conducted with panache, he and his orchestra clearly enjoying the big brass effects and theatricality. At one point, the actors "spoke" to Oramo, who is noted for his good-natured geniality. He beamed and acknowledged them without missing a beat. "Purple the sails, and so perfumèd that The winds were lovesick with them. The oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made The water which they beat to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes" The actors were Janie Dee (Cleopatra), Simon Paisley Day (Antony), Brendan O'Hea , Cassie Layton and Tom Kanji. The Director was Iqbal Khan. Shakepeare's Globe isn't Stratford but earthier. there's not much you can do about staging at the Barbican, but then Shakespeare's own productions seem to have been closer to Greek ideas than to Hollywood. The concert was recorded for broadcast at a later date, but I'm glad I saw it live.
By now the annual Ars Ballet Galas at the Coliseo are as much a fixture as the rival Gala of the Colón, which will be seen eight days later. Ars is a society formed by Martín Boschet, Liana Vinacur and Diego Radivoy. From the start they have striven to give a balance between the traditional ballets and the contemporary dances, and have invited for the first time many artists of value coming from widely spread companies and aesthetics. And they have always included some Argentine dancers either living here or abroad. Each Gala has left some outstanding memories. This year two Momix dancers and a free-lance artist with the pseudonym of Lil Buck were the most stimulating, plus the inventive multimedia choreographies of David Middendorp. Decades ago our city received visits of a fascinating group called Pilobolus. Its founder and choreographer was Moses Pendleton, and he concocted exhilarating shows of great speed and precision as well as healthy humor. In 1980 he created Momix, a company of illusionist dance (it is thus defined in the hand programme), and it is still going strong. Apparently Momix holds a special attraction for its dancers, as they tend to stay for many years. Such is the case of the two that came here: Steven Ezra Marshall entered the company at 18 in 2003; and Rebecca Joy Rasmussen is there since 2006. Both are exceptional artists, as they revealed in duets from"Tuu" and "Dream Catcher". Pendleton works with other choreographers: Tin Acito and Solveig Olsen in the first, Craig Berman and Brian Sanders in the second. Pop music accompanies both. In "Tuu" both bodies are in close contact for several minutes and assume different shapes giving the illusion of abstract forms; the millimetric coordination and physical condition were astonishing. In "Dream Catcher" they mimetize with a geometrically complex sculpture (by Alan Boeding); they constantly interact with it with perilous climbs, at the end throwing it from one end of the stage to another with uncanny exactitude. Beautiful and intriguing. Lil Buck is really Charles Riley, a 28-year-old Chicagoan who has created a sui generis sort of street dancing. He doesn´t belong to any group. He has an incredible muscular control and his whole body seems to ripple. And he uses big white sneakers with which he performs prodigies of feet elasticity. Naturally he is his own choreographer (no one else does what he does). I don´t know what "Brostjour" means but that´s the name of his solo in the First Part, with completely monotonous cello music by Olafur Arnalds. In the Second Part we saw a strange hybrid: the famous Saint-Saëns "Death of the Swan" where one sees the (uncredited) Fokin choreography (with some changes) by Carolina Basualdo (from Bahía Blanca´s Ballet del Sur) interspersed with Lil Buck´s own version; the final thirty seconds are danced by both, each with a different choreography. I felt it was more a curiosity than a viable alternative, but it isn´t a parody, like last year´s Trockadero spoof. Good dancing by Basualdo, and in the only live performance of the evening, fine playing by cellist Lucas Caballero, accompanied by pianist Joaquín Panisse. And now, the Middendorp choreographies, both danced well by Violet Broersma and Antonino Milazzo: on unattractive pop music, the intense duets "Blue Journey" and "Flyland 2" got an extra dimension with admirable multimedia projections combining aerial dancing with imaginative elements from nature or geometrical forms , giving dynamism to the images. Lucio Vidal is an Argentine dancer who worked with Nacho Duato in Madrid, and now the choreographer has invited him to be a member of Duato´s new post, the Staatsballett Berlin. Vidal´s personality has no affinity with traditional ballet, as he showed in Duato´s "Herrumbre" ("Rust"), a tense duet with Japanese dancer Kayoko Everhart (from the Compañía Nacional de España, run by Duato during a long period, 1990 to 2010). Although I disliked the music (Pedro Alcalde, Sergio Caballero and David Darling), the piece has impact and the dancers responded with solid command and contemporary awareness (though the presumed connexion with the Atocha massacre escaped me). Vidal is his own choreographer on a solo, "Alien", on grating music by Mikey Woodbridge, with video projections. Unremittingly harsh, the dancer is strongly expressive and reflects the current disconcerted Europe. Two Colón artists, Gabriela Alberti, danced (in inverted order of what the hand programme said; no one announced it) the adagio Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake" (the Prince merely assists the Swan, interpreted with excellent technique) and a curious tango by Piazzolla, "Quicho", where the star is the bass (homage to Quicho Díaz); the artists did well in the adequate Julio López choreography. The "Carmen" Pas de Deux (Bizet arranged by Shchedrin) comes from the famous Alberto Alonso choreography in which Plisetskaya shone; based on the Flower Aria, it isn´t the best fragment and was routinely danced by Adiarys Almeida (from the Cuban Alicia Alonso technique) and Joseph Gatti (from the Orlando Ballet). Finally, two hoary and celebrated Petipa items: the lovely Second Act Pas de Deux from Adam´s "Giselle", poetically danced by Julieta Paul (of the Teatro Argentino) and Matthew Golding, a tall Canadian of the Royal Ballet. And the spectacular Trio from "The Corsair" (music by Adam and Drigo), where Almeida and Gatti were very good and Golding a bit less. A Gala with plenty of renovation. For Buenos Aires Herald
If you love music, this new DVD is for you: Grafenegg is celebrating its 10th birthday. Past, present and future come together in the Midsummer Night’s Gala jubilee. Having won over the audience at the very first Gala with his deeply resonant voice, Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel is joined this year by the young Russian coloratura soprano Olga Peretyatko. Selections played are as follows: Bizet: Vasco da Gama: Ouvre ton coeur, with Olga Peretyatko (soprano) Donizetti: OAh! tardai troppo…O luce di quest’anima (from Linda di Chamounix) Quanto amore (from L’elisir d’amore), with Olga Peretyatko (soprano), Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone) Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major, Op. 39 No. 1 Gounod: Mireille: Overture Ö légère hirondelle (from Mireille), with Olga Peretyatko (soprano) Le veau d’or est toujours debout (from Faust), with Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone) Lehár: Lippen schweigen (from Die Lustige Witwe Leigh, M: Man of La Mancha: The Impossible Dream Offenbach: La Vie Parisienne: Overture Verdi: Vanne, la tua meta gia vedo…Credo in un Dio crudel (from Otello) Weber: Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65 Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79 for piano & orchestra, with Rudolf Buchbinder (piano) All supported by the Tonkunstler-Orchester, Yutaka Sado conducting Pianist and Artistic Director of Grafenegg, Rudolf Buchbinder, joins the celebrations at the piano. As is tradition, this atmospheric evening concludes with a fireworks display accompanied by Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” March. Here is the performance from Junee, 2016:
The Deutsche Oper Berlin presents Georges Bizet’s ‘Carmen’, a work that scandalised the audience at its premiere at the Paris Opéra Comique in 1875, but is now among the most performed and best loved operas in the repertoire. In the lead role is Clémentine Margaine, mezzo soprano. Venue and Dates: Deutsche Oper Berlin, Berlin – Main stage Address: Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin, Germany Performance dates: FRI, SEP 09 2016, 19:30 SUN, SEP 11 2016, 19:30 SAT, SEP 17 2016, 19:30
I won´t mince words: the most important tenor chamber recital in more than four decades. Jonas Kaufmann, a week after the ill-planned ending of the Barenboim Festival, came back for a song session (mainly Lieder) with his longtime accompanist, Helmut Deutsch. And this time he sang a perfect programme with groups of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Duparc, Liszt and Richard Strauss. This was at the Colón on last Sunday´s afternoon and for the Abono Verde. He had the support from the beginning of an anxious, knowledgeable and packed audience, who grew more and more enthusiastic. What happened after the last note of Strauss was an euphoric delirium as an incredible string of seven encores, proof not only of generosity but also of joy and gratitude, allowed us to hear him in opera and operetta. Kaufmann had conquered Buenos Aires with the highest vocal art; he demonstrated that, here as in Europe, the audience discriminates and not only reacts to tenors with splendid high Cs. Kaufmann is a linguist: Munich-born, his Italian is quite good and his French admirable. His memory is faultless: I followed with a score the majority of the songs and his always clear diction never missed a syllable; and, like that ideal baritone, the young Fischer-Dieskau, he gives dramatic sense to all he sings without ever going overboard, and the musical values are exact, following carefully every nuance indicated by the composer. By the way, if you are intrigued by who sang an impeccable recital more than forty years ago, he was Nicolai Gedda, but he did it at the Metro, not the Colón. His stance is revealing: he stands close to the piano and he concentrates totally in the song, scarcely moving, giving occasionally emphasis with the hands with sober gestures. His timbre is particular, hardly the typical tenor; it is never totally open. Don´t expect from him the stratospheric highs of Alfredo Kraus, he of the purest bel canto. But Kaufmann is the consumate master of the chiaroscuro, his breath control is amazing, and no other tenor in my experience has his ability to sing "piano-pianissimo" a "normal" high note and grow it to "forte". A special paragraph on the Viennese Helmut Deutsch, the veteran and still wonderful accompanist, whose work throughout was simply ideal. Mind you, he was the accompanist for twelve years of Hermann Prey, the only baritone that could match Fischer-Dieskau. Later, at Munich, he was professor of vocal interpretation for 28 years and taught and accompanied not only Kaufmann but first-rate artists as Diana Damrau and Michael Volle. He has recorded over a hundred CDs. Nobody has told me but I have no doubt that the programme was designed by both singer and pianist. It was unfailingly right. The Schubert started with two joyful pieces: "Der Musensohn" ("The Son of the Muses", on a Goethe text), all merry jumping, and the famous "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). Then, the delightful watery "Der Jüngling an der Quelle" ("The young man at the source"), sung subtly and softly (but his projection is such that you hear him well if you are in the Gallery). And that "Lindenbaum" ( "Linden tree") whose melody seems folkish but is part of the stark "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Voyage"). Then came the Schumann group, a selection of the "Twelve poems by Justinus Kerner" Op.35, very attractive and with the best schumannesque style. Of the chosen five I would single out the dramatic power of "Lust der Sturmnacht" ("Lust of the stormy night") and the Romantic impulse of "Stille Tränen" ("Silent tears"). Kaufmann gave us each mood with moving sensibility. And then, the so special case of Henri Duparc, born in 1848 and by 1885 no longer a composer after having produced some of the most exquisite "chansons d´art"; a strange mental condition cut off his creativity until his death in 1933. The four sung by our tenor are gems: the exquisite "L´invitation au voyage" ("The invitation to travel") on that often quoted text by Baudelaire that includes "order and beauty, luxury, calm and lust"; the dramatic "Le manoir de Rosemonde" ("Rosemonde´s country house"); the "Chanson triste" ("Sad song"), which mirrors that feeling admirably; and "Phidylé", a love song. I have long believed that these songs had their definitive interpretations by baritone Gérard Souzay; now I realize that a German tenor can be just as persuasive. But the best was yet to come. Most know Liszt´s "Petrarch Sonnets" in their piano transcription, but they were born as elaborate, refined songs. You will never hear them in such subjugating interpretations as Kaufmann gave us: with unbelievable feats of subtle vocality he went higher and sweeter, and higher...until you were convinced that this was an unmatched experience. And then, the Strauss group, in which I have my sole complaint: "Ich liebe dich" and "Freundliche vision" were changed and we were not told. Anyway, the expansive writing let him free his voice in "Heimliche Aufforderung" ("Secret Invitation") and the final "Cäcilie", and the composer´s humour came forward on two Von Schack songs, Op.19, where the tenor showed that he had also mastered that style. The encores were a separate recital and destroyed any doubt that might be left. For once in your life you heard the final phrase of Bizet´s "Flower aria" from "Carmen" and the Verdian "Celeste Aida" as they are written, ascending to a pianissimo; but his Radames lacked no power. Then, Verista expression in "L´anima ho stanca" from Cilea´s "Adriana Lecouvreur"; a Refice song, "Ombra di nube". "Nessun dorma" from Puccini´s "Turandot", where the tenor showed the solidity of his means and the audience officiated admirably as choir in the fragment where Calaf doesn´t sing. Then, like a born Neapolitan, "Core ´ngrato" ("Catarí") by Cardillo. And finally, that glorious Lehár aria from "The Land of Smiles", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours is my whole heart"), as beautifully sung as Tauber. Please come back with an operatic recital with the Colón´s Orquesta Estable! For Buenos Aires Herald
Great composers of classical music