This recording of Ravel’s second (and last) one-act opera was made during a concert, and -somewhat daringly – with rather close microphone placement. As it turns out, everything went smoothly.
In this BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall, soprano Roberta Invernizzi presented Italian songs from the first half of seventeenth-century, exploring love and loyalty, loss and lies, and demonstrating consummate declamatory mastery.
“The best music to listen to in a great Gothic church is the polyphony which was written for it, and was calculated for its resonance: this was my approach in the War Requiem – I calculated it for a big, reverberant acoustic and that is where it sounds best.”
Halévy’s La reine de Chypre (The Queen of Cyprus) is the 17th opera to be released in the impressively prolific “French Opera” series of recordings produced by the Center for French Romantic Music, a scholarly organization located at the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice. (Other recent offerings have included Saint-Saëns’s richly characterized Proserpine, Benjamin Godard’s fascinating Dante–which contains scenes set in Heaven and Hell–and Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs, an opéra-comique that had a particularly long life in the international operatic repertoire.)
Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.
Self-adoring ‘celebrities’ beware. That smart-phone which feeds your narcissism might just prove your nemesis.
Although this concert was ostensibly, and in some respects a little tenuously, linked to the centenary of the Armistice, it did create some challenging assumptions about the nature of war. It was certainly the case in Magnus Lindberg’s new work, Triumf att finnas till… (‘Triumph to Exist…’) that he felt able to dislocate from the horror of the trenches and slaughter by using a text by the wartime poet Edith Sˆdergran which gravitates towards a more sympathetic, even revisionist, expectation of this period.
For the second of my armistice anniversary concerts, I moved across town from the Royal Festival Hall to the Barbican.
‘Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.’ The words of George Orwell, expressed in a Tribune article, ‘The Sporting Spirit’, published in 1945.
The Barbican Centre’s For the Fallen commemorations continued with this varied and thought-provoking programme, The Last Letter, which interweaved vocal and instrumental music with poems and prose, and focused on relationships – between husband and wife, fellow soldiers, young men and their homelands – disrupted by war.