Nathalie Stutzmann really is an impressive conductor. The sheer elegance she brings to her formidable technique, the effortless drive towards making much of the music she conducts sound so passionate and the ability to shock us into hearing something quite new in music we think we know is really rather refreshing. Why then did this Prom sometimes feel weary, even disappointing at times?
Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.
Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have become an indispensable presence in the contemporary opera world, and their latest premiere, If I Were You, found the duo at the very top of their game.
Santa Fe Opera continues its remarkable record for producing World (and American) Premieres with The Thirteenth Child, music by Poul Ruders, libretto by Becky and David Starobin.
Among classical music lovers, Wagner inspires equal measures of devotion and disdain. Some travel far and sit for hours to hear his operas live. Others eschew them completely.
And still they come. The opera world’s obsession with Handel’s operas shows no sign of abating. The Bavarian State Opera has, since Peter Jonas’s Intendancy, stood at the forefront of Handel staging; this new production of Agrippina was dedicated to him. As ever, I was pleased to see one of these operas for the first time in the theatre – how could I not be pleased to see almost anything in Munich’s wonderful Prinzregententheater – but again, as ever, I was left unable ever quite to put to one side the dramaturgical difficulties/problems/flaws/inadequacies. (Call them what you will.)
Benjamin Britten’s early, brilliant Piano Concerto and Gustav Mahler’s late symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde might seem strange concert partners, but there are links between the two works. Both have an uncertainty of form, Britten’s concerto is almost a suite, whilst Mahler’s song-cycle is effectively a symphony. Also, both works were introduced into the UK by Sir Henry Wood. It is this latter connection which drew Britten’s Piano Concerto and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde into Thursday night’s Prom as part of this year’s celebration the 150th anniversary of Sir Henry Wood’s birth.
Graham Vick and Jonathan Dove’s adaptation of Wagner’s Ring was created in the early 1990s for Vick’s City of Birmingham Touring Opera, reducing the four evenings and 15 hours music of the cycle down to just two evenings. Dove’s orchestration skilfully reduced Wagner’s demands down to just 18 instrumentalists, thus allowing a touring version of the Ring (done by Vick in an imaginative production which remarkably followed most of Wagner’s stage directions) sung by younger voices.
‘Es klang so neu und war doch ein biﬂchen alt’?