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The seventy fifth version of the Aldeburgh Pageant will get off to , spirited and proud begin

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Messiaen: Hawari - Gweneth Ann Rand, Simon Lepper - Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Festival (Photo Britten Pears Arts)
Messiaen: Hawari – Gweneth Ann Rand, Simon Lepper – Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Pageant (Photograph Britten Pears Arts)

Judith Weir: Blond Eckbert; English Touring Opera, dir. Robin Norton-Hale, cond. Gerry Cornelius
Messiaen song-cycles; Gweneth Ann Rand, Simon Lepper
Brtitten, Elgar, Shostakovich; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Alban Gerhardt, cond. Edward Gardner
Schumann and Larcher: André Schuen, Julius Drake
Henry Purcell: The Fairy Queen; Vox Luminis, Tuomo Suni, creative director, Lionel Meunier
Reviewed by Tony Cooper (12 June 2024)

The Aldeburgh Pageant’s opening weekend included highlights equivalent to British soprano, Gweneth Ann Rand, singing three Messiaen song-cycles over three live shows within the Britten Studio accompanied by pianist, Simon Lepper

Based by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier in 1948, the Aldeburgh Pageant (now celebrating its seventy fifth version) received off to a spirited and provoking begin with a brand new manufacturing of Judith Weir’s chamber opera Blond Eckbert in Snape Maltings Live performance Corridor carried out by Gerry Cornelius. 

Based mostly on a supernatural brief story by the German-born author, Ludwig Tieck, one of many founding fathers of the Romantic motion of the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries, the opera was directed by Robin Norton-Hale and produced by English Touring Opera in affiliation with Britten Pears Arts with the composer – now in her seventieth 12 months and one among this 12 months’s artists-in-residence – answerable for the libretto.  

A haunting story of isolation and enigma, the situation surrounds Eckbert (sung by baritone Simon Wallfisch) and his spouse Berthe (mezzo-soprano Flora McIntosh) residing a lifetime of quiet solitude of their cosy forest residence within the Harz Mountains till Walther, an previous good friend of Eckbert, sung by tenor William Morgan, arrives at their doorstep on a tough and hard stormy night time thereby setting in movement a collection of revelations, mysteries and intrigue. 

Judith Weir: Blond Eckbert - English Touring Opera - Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Festival (Photo copyright Richard Hubert Smith)
Judith Weir: Blond Eckbert – English Touring Opera – Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Pageant (Photograph copyright Richard Hubert Smith)

As darkish secrets and techniques unfold, Eckbert suspects his world is much stranger than it first seems and that the previous is most likely finest left untouched. A really intense work, the situation’s not too dissimilar to that of Wagner’s Die Walküre inasmuch because the story has a bird-like character sung by soprano Aoife Miskelly. Nonetheless, Chicken accompanies Eckbert, neurotically charged and suspicious of his previous good friend, on a journey of discovery, jealousy and, in the end, loss of life versus the Woodbird who leads Siegfried on a journey of discovery and happiness to Brünnhilde his bride-to-be. 

Within the intimacy and vivid acoustics of the Britten Studio, Northampton-born soprano, Gweneth Ann Rand, at present an affiliate artist on the Wigmore Corridor, was seen on ravishing type singing to a packed home Messiaen’s song-cycle, Harawi: Chant d’amour et de mort, relationship from 1945, accompanied by her common collaborator/pianist, Simon Lepper. They made an ideal crew! With out a shadow of doubt, Ms Rand’s ‘a grande soprano dramatique’ as Messiaen demanded for Harawi. The vitality she put into her efficiency was really magnificent whereas her voice management, phrasing and method spoke volumes of her coaching and, certainly, her pure potential as a singer. In actual fact, this was the primary of three Messiaen recitals that she’s endeavor at this 12 months’s competition – a giant deal with for me being such a Messiaen fan. Nonetheless, including an additional dimension and, certainly, attraction to the general staging, a bunch of gorgeous multi-coloured summary artworks, created by Rachel Jones, have been often flashed on to a backcloth highlighted by brief, sharp, blasts of video photos conjured up by Ben Smalley. 

Following on from Ms Rand’s charming and intimate recital, a battalion of musicians descended upon the agricultural Suffolk countryside, particularly members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, to offer the seventy fifth anniversary of Aldeburgh Pageant its first ‘huge blow’ in a live performance in Snape Maltings Live performance Corridor that proved a winner all the way in which to one more packed and enthusiastic home. Nonetheless, earlier than Shostakovich’s Pageant Overture received proceedings off to a rousing and spirited begin, Edward Gardner took to the rostrum singing the praises of Roger Wright, CBE, Chief Government, Britten Pears Arts, who retires this 12 months after an excellent decade on the helm.  

After which unbeknown to the ‘man-of-the-moment’ the brass and timpani of the LPO led straight right into a Fanfare in his honour penned by Colin Matthews that stamped the credentials and punctuated a superb live performance that featured Berlin-born cellist, Alban Gerhardt (one among this 12 months’s artists-in-residence) providing a pleasant rendering of Elgar’s well-loved Cello Concerto in E minor adopted by Edward Gardner’s association of alternatives from Britten’s The Prince of the Pagodas, a ballet created for The Royal Ballet by choreographer John Cranko receiving its première on 1st January 1957 on the Royal Opera Home with the composer conducting. 

Finishing an exhilarating, fulfilling and totally entertaining live performance fell to Bartók’s suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, a one-act pantomime ballet composed between 1918 and 1924 primarily based on a riveting story by Hungarian author, Melchior Lengyel. The ballet prompted a scandal at its première at Cologne Opera in 1926 because the situation centres upon three thugs who exploit the seductive powers of gorgeous younger girls to lure males into their chamber the place the victims are then robbed. Cologne’s clergy and press prompted town’s mayor, Konrad Adenauer (later changing into the primary chancellor of post-war West Germany) to ban the work on ethical grounds. When the mud finally settled, the work was usually carried out throughout the remainder of Bartók’s life within the type of a live performance suite.  

Returning to the Britten Studio, a shocking and adventurous track recital featured the Austrian baritone André Schuen accompanied by Julius Drake. A few works by Schumann have been wrapped spherical a brand new piece by Austrian composer, Thomas Larcher, who’s no stranger to Aldeburgh as he was composer-in-residence on the 2019 competition. He delivered a superb chamber opera, The Searching Gun, directed with aptitude and creativeness by the acclaimed Austrian actor/movie director, Karl Markovics. A formidable piece, the opera’s primarily based upon the best-selling post-war Japanese novella The Searching Gun by Yasushi Inoue revealed in 1949 telling the story of a secret love-affair by means of the letters of three folks.   

Nonetheless, Larcher’s new piece, Unerzählt, composed between 2018-21, takes its textual content from the extremely acclaimed German-born author, W.G. Sebald, creator of the cult novels Austerlitz and Vertigo, arguably one of the celebrated writers to have studied and taught on the College of East Anglia. Sadly, he died after a collision with a lorry at a bend within the highway close to his residence in Norwich on the age of 57. Professor of European Literature at UEA, he was seen by a lot of his associates and pals of successful the Nobel Prize for Literature. He first got here to prominence when his novel in regards to the Holocaust, The Emigrants, was revealed in English in 1996. The critic Susan Sontag stated it was ‘an astonishing masterpiece’. 

I feel that Larcher’s 20-minute work, scored for ready piano, was astonishing to say the least. A cycle of 13 very brief sections, the work was gracefully and meticulously sung by Schuen with the composer performing because the page-turner for Julius Drake whereas helping him within the complexities of the eccentricities of the rating equivalent to utilizing their fingers both to damp the strings, pluck them or bend their pitch whereas steel rods have been evenly positioned on the strings to attain a propeller-type impact. Even the body of the piano was struck with a deal with of a screwdriver for a few songs. The general impact, nonetheless, labored wonders including drastically to the attraction of the piece with Schuen fully comfy delivering a assured, well-assured, detailed efficiency. 

Opening with Schumann’s Liederkreis, a cycle of 12 musical settings of poems by Joseph von Eichendorff, forming an essential a part of the romantic art-song repertoire, the recital ended with Schumann’s Dichterlibe (A Poet’s Love) relationship from 1840 and the composer’s best-known song-cycle. The texts for its 16 songs come from Lyrisches Intermezzo by Heinrich Heine written in 1822-23. Together with the song-cycles of Schubert (Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise) they type the core of the style in musical literature. 

Purcell: The Fairy Queen - Vox Luminis - Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Festival (Photo: Britten Pears Arts)
Purcell: The Fairy Queen – Vox Luminis – Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Pageant (Photograph: Britten Pears Arts)

Fairies and suchlike have been working riot in Snape Maltings Live performance Corridor with a memorable semi-staged efficiency of Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen set to the unique nameless textual content after Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night time’s Dream however with new materials by Isaline Claeys and extra materials/English translation by actor Simon Robson who acted because the Narrator. Earlier than coming to the stage, Robson studied Philosophy and Social and Political Science at Cambridge College earlier than coaching to be an actor at RADA. He has appeared in Docs, Tom & Viv, Bodywork and Trial and Retribution in addition to EastEnders taking part in Graham Stone.  

And the sturdy, assured, sprightly bunch of remarkable and proficient singers that make up Vox Luminis – producers of the present in affiliation with Concertgebouwe Brugge – acted extraordinarily effectively, too, whereas idea and shadow puppetry was effectively conceived by Emilie Lauwers who together with Mário Melo Costa’s video designs helped enormously the visible affect of the manufacturing. 

So as to add to the general stage image, David Carney’s simplistic set and moody lighting was in line with every of the 5 scenes whereas the choreographed curtain-call was a scene all wrapped up by itself. This Fairy-Queen was delectable and a tasteful present all spherical, dishing out love, promise and intrigue like no different! 

The Aldeburgh Pageant runs to Sunday 23 June. 

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