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Volume 10 Issue 4 - December 2004

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • Theatre
  • January
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  • Musical
  • February

OPERA, CHORAL AND VOCAL

OPERA, CHORAL AND VOCAL MUSIC Rameau - Les Boreades (DVD) Opera National de Paris; William Christie BBC Opus A.rte DVD OA 0899 D continued from page 14 THIS MONTH'S REVIEWS This productioh of Ramei.. 's Les Boreades from the P a r i s Opera is daringly contemporary. Butdirector Roben Carsen. an ex-Torontonian. nt:ver tlistons the music.: or the lihre110 10 Iii his concept. It's not just thoroughly effec1ivt:. but unfailingly 1rue to Rameau's great opera. High tenor Paul Agnew lights up 1he stage wiih an ardent lieux deso/ees and 1he playfully jaunty Jo11i"sso11s. Soprano Barbara Bonney maintains a severe presence, even when she literally lets her hair down. But her light, clear soprano is unfailingly lovely. Baritont: Laurent Naouri brings a charmingly buffoonish t0uch to his complex. brilliant entrance aria. Obiissez. Carsen brings in the innovative choreographer Eduard Lock and his remarkable dancers, La La La Human Steps. from Montreal. Dividing up each beat with their angul11r. hyper-kinetic movements. they provide a tremendously exciting.off-centre connection 10 Rameau's rhythmically intricate dance music. Under the pioneering William Christie. the outstanding period instrument ensemble Les Arts Florissams is exquisitely buoyant. The chorus members manage to sound and look terrilic, even though they are kept busy with umbrellas and hrooms, spreading, then sweeping up, stagefuls of flowers. leaves, snow. and rain. These seasonal props were designed by Torontonian Michael Levine, as were the stylized costumes of exaggerated black business suits and !lowing, rumpled white linen. The generally close camera work catches wiuy detai Is of staging like an angry suitor st-ubbing out his cigareue in the oversize: wedding cake. Pamela Margfes Performance note: Levine is designer of the Canadian Opera Company's complete Ring cycle. His designs for Siegfrie.d will be seen in performances in January and February at the Hummingbird. He will direct Das Rhei11goftl in September 2006 in the new Four Seasons Centre. Haydn - The Seasons RIAS Kammerchor; Freiburger Barockorechester Rene Jacobs Harmonia Mundi HMC 901829.30 Just as Handel's Messiah appears continually at Christmas. Haydn's oratorio The Seasons is perfect for celebrating the New Year. And Rene Jacobs' ne·w recording is the most joyfully celebratory yet on disc. Jacobs puts his distinctive stamp of clear tcxwres and buoyant accents on Haydn's glorious orchestrations, with their innovative use of slide trombones, clarinets, timpani, and tambourine. In Simon's hunting aria Sehr auf. colourfully sung by baritone Dietrich Henschel, Jacobs even adds gunshol. His tempos are brisk, and he happily takes off wildly when Haydn asks for pit( moto. But he is equally inclined to drawn out a slow aria. The Seasons is Haydn's final great work. The three soloists, Simon. a farmer. his daughter Hanne, and Lukas, comment on !he seasons and their effects on people and the countryside. When Hanne and Lukas surprise us by declaring their love in lhr Schone11. soprano Marlis Petersen and tenor Werner Gura perfectly capture the mood of affectionate tenderness. All three singers have engagingly light, flexible voices. They freely add ornaments. as does the busy keyboard continuo, but the effect is natural. Under Jacob's direction the recitatives come alive as integral to the drama unfolding. The energetic period instrument ensemble Freiburger Barockorchester, with its wonderful natural horns and terrific winds. enables Jacobs 10 capture the frozen stillness of the dense fog in the Introd11ctio11 to Winter. a masterpiece of atmospheric writing. The fleeting pleasures from Samson. fresh-sounding choir. the RIAS­ and heart-breaking in lascia from Kammerchor. colours the words Rinaldo. with irrepressible gusto. Handel Pamela Margles Renee Fleming Orchestra of the Age of Enlight-. enment; Harry Bicket DECCA 4755472 Handel Arias Lorraine Hunt" Lieberson Orchestra Age of Enlightenment; Harry Bicket Avie AV 0030 On these two collections of Handel arias, both soprano Renee Fleming and mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson reveal how Handel. as Fleming says in her booklet note, "expresses every possible nuance of the human condition". They share the same orchestra, the remarkable Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the same stylish conducwr, Harry Bicket. But their approaches to this music couldn't be more different. Fleming is not a spontaneous singer. and her voice, heavy for chis repertoire, lacks natural agility. Her much-criticized mannerisms - overworking each syllable, gulping, sliding and swooping into notes - can be intrusive. But there is no more gorgeous voice to be heard today, and Fleming uses every facet of it to produce phrases chat are not just irresistibly beautiful, but deeply moving. Technically peerless, she pulls off exquisite trills and beguilingly soft high notes. And her mannerisms actually work in her favour in this repertoire. In the familiar Ombrn mai fil from Serse, unfortunately sung here without the recitative. she spins oul breathless long lines. Scoglio. from the unfamiliar opera Scipione. shows her magnificent transitions of mood between sections. In Ritoma from Rodeli11- da, which she is singing at the Met throughout December. she shapes each phrase with exquisite delicacy. She is tauntingly cruel in To Loraine Hum Lieberson does not have the most naturally beautiful voice. What makes her one of most thrilling singers around is her direclly personal engagement with the music. With searing intensity she creates a whole character. She does have exciting natural agility and huge range of colours that give a dynamic edge to Handel's coloratura passages. The five sublime arias from Handel's late oratorio Theodora revisit a staging at Glyndebourne, where Lieberson performed under Bicket with this orchestra. In As with rosy steps, one of Handel's most harmonically inspired arias. she subtly but urgently suggests the agitation underlying an apparently serene melody. The rarely heard chamber cantata lucrezia is a highlight, with its lovely continua accompaniment. Lieberson is at her most poignantly dramatic in moments like che cragic final phrase, "la mia vendetta. Like Fleming. she sings the ever-popular Ombra mai fi'.t, but she includes the recitative to provide context. Se bramante, also from Semele, shows her ability to pull off the most elaborate da capo arias with a minimum of ornamentation. Pamela Margles 74° _ _ Www. THEWHOLENOTE.COM DECEMBER 1 2004 - FESRUARY 7 2005

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