Aldeburgh, Snape Maltings, Macbeth – English Touring Opera, IOCO Kritik, 18.04.2019

Aldeburgh Festival / Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Philip Vile

Aldeburgh Festival / Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Philip Vile

Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Festival

 Benjamin Britten Gedenkmuschel am Meeresufer von Snape © IOCO

Benjamin Britten Gedenkmuschel am Meeresufer von Snape © IOCO

Snape Maltings ist eine bedeutende Kulturstätte in Suffolk, England, in der Nähe der kleinen Orte Snape und Aldeburgh gelegen. Bereits vor 2000 errichteten die Römer erste Siedlungen in Snape und bauten Salzfertigungen. Snape und Aldeburgh erreichten durch auffällige kulturelle Aktivitäten überregionale Bedeutung. Benjamin Britten (*1913 – 1976) gründete dort 1948 das jährlich stattfindende international geschätzte Aldeburgh Festival und errichtete in der Folge Konzerthaus (Foto).  Eine übergroße ins Meeresufer vor Snape errichtete Muschel erinnert auffällig an Benjamin Britten, den großen Sohn der Region Snape und Aldeburgh. Hier eine weitere IOCO Rezeption aus Snape Maltings, link:  Dardanus von Jean-Philippe Rameau

IOCO – Korrespondentin Janet Banks besuchte die Macbeth Produktion der English Touring Opera (see video) in der Concert Hall von Snape Maltings: Privat betriebene Touring Opera Companies sind erneut eine britische Besonderheit: im deutschen Sprachraum nahezu unbekannt, in England jedoch häufig anzutreffen.


Macbeth – Giuseppe Verdi

 Produziert von – English Touring Opera

by Janet Banks

English Touring Opera was about halfway through touring the UK with three early works by great operatic composers, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Rossini’s Elizabeth I and Verdi’s Macbeth, when I witnessed this gripping production at Snape Maltings, home of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Tristan und Verdi’s Macbeth | Production Trailer
Youtube Trailer  English Touring Opera
[ Mit erweitertem Datenschutz eingebettet ]

James Dacre’s production was dramatically engrossing, hitting home time and again, largely thanks to excellent performances by the two lead singers, Madeleine Pierard as Lady Macbeth and Grant Doyle as Macbeth. Pierard had a strong stage presence and powerful body language – everything seemed more intense when she was on stage – and her full-throated soprano was more than a match for Giuseppe Verdi’s vocal acrobatics in Act I Scene 2. Her restless writhings before her suicide in the final act made a powerful contrast to her aggressive confidence in the party which closes Act 2.

The scenes between Pierard and Doyle as Macbeth were particularly intense. Doyle brought a lurking sense of foreboding into his voice from early in the opera and his Act 4 Scene 3 final aria showed impressive dramatic range. Sung in English in a good translation by Andrew Porter, any words which were not audible (and they were very few) were still not lost, thanks to TV screens either side of the stage which relayed the libretto, plus the setting for each act.

English Touring Opera / Machbeth © Richard Hubert Smith

English Touring Opera / Machbeth © Richard Hubert Smith

Designer Frankie Bradshaw’s constumes set the production in the present day: Macbeth politician-like in suit and tie, Lady Macbeth either in silky night attire or a short, smart party dress, the rest of the male characters in military uniform or fatigues. Staging was bare but effective – a chaise longue doubling as a throne, concrete bunker-type walls for the castle, and a nice modern touch when Banquo’s assassins climb up to unplug a security camera before his murder. It’s always a challenge to know what to do with the witches, especially with their far from haunting music. However the green-clad nursing nuns (see foto above) with their Florence Nightingale-like lamps and choreographed movements failed to spook me.

Andrew Slater was a deep-toned and noble Banquo and Amar Muchhala a moving Macduff in his beautiful lyric tenor aria lamenting his failure to protect his wife and children. There was much well-disciplined singing from the chorus, particularly in their a cappella chorale after Duncan’s murder.

—| IOCO Kritik Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Festival |—

Saffron Walden, New Sussex Opera, The Travelling Companion – Charles V. Stanford, IOCO Review, 08.12.2018

Dezember 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Handel Opera Company, Hervorheben, Kritiken, Oper

Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden, Essex © Saffron Hall

Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden, Essex © Saffron Hall

New Sussex Opera

The Travelling Companion  – by –  Charles Villiers Stanford

– Based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen –

By Janet Banks

Irish-born Charles Villiers Stanford, *1852-1924, successful as a choral and orchestral composer and influential in British musical life, nevertheless struggled to make an impact in the genre he most cared about, opera.

The Travelling Companion, Stanford’s last opera, sets a tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It was written in 1916, and first performed in 1925 in Liverpool. Although it met with a better reception than most of his nine other operas, it has not been performed since the 1930s. This performance by New Sussex Opera (NSO) at Saffron Hall, Essex’s newest concert hall, was recorded live for a CD on the SOMM label, in what will be the first ever recording of one of Stanford’s opera.

 New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and John © Robert Knights

New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and John © Robert Knights

Andersen’s tale tells of a lonely traveller, John, who protects a corpse from defilement and is then protected by the spirit of the dead man in the form of a companion, his first friend. John aspires to the hand of a princess and is enabled to solve the riddle required to win it with the help of his mysterious friend. The fairtytale-like nature of the plot means the characters at first seem more archetypal than human. However as the story moves on, by Act 3 the princess is showing a much more complex character, reflected in the music.

This production, directed by Paul Higgins, boasted a sizeable chorus and an excellent 34-strong orchestra under the baton of Toby Purser. It set the action in 1916, the year of the opera’s composition, rather than in 15th century of Andersen’s story. The set was bare, the main props being large coffins, but with no hint of the First World War.

The three main roles, John, his companion and the princess were taken by David Horton, Julien Van Mallaerts and Kate Valentine. Horton’s lyrical tenor was well suited to the simple but aspiring character of John, and he rose well to the demands of the role, though perhaps spreading his arms wide on high notes a few times too often. Baritone Van Mallaerts’ beautiful and mysterious music reflected his supernatural origins and his voice blended well with Horton’s. The extremes of human emotion were not really felt until Act 4, when the Princess shows the torture of her Turandot-like predicament, pleading with John not to risk his life by attempting to solve the riddle. Valentine really showed off the power of her full soprano here, with a voice full of passion.

New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and the Princess © Robert Knights

New Sussex Opera / The Travelling Companion and the Princess © Robert Knights

Supporting roles were taken by Paul Putnins as the King and Ian Beadle and Felix Kemp as the two ruffians and later the herald and the wizard. The chorus also play an important part in the opera, commenting on the action and sometimes very effectively interacting with the main characters.

But for me the biggest among The Travelling Companion’s many delights was in fact the orchestral music – the prelude and postlude, the atmospheric interludes between scenes, and the ballet music in Act 3. It was sobering to think there must be a lot of similarly strikingly orchestrated and beautifully written music by Stanford that has not been heard for nearly a century. Let us hope that as a result of New Sussex Opera’s initiative, other companies will be inspired to resurrect more of Stanford’s forgotten operas.


  NEW SUSSEX OPERA – NSO Ltd.

The NEW SUSSEX OPERA company (NSO Ltd) is a privately operated, Community based, nationally acclaimed English opera company aiming

– to stage brilliant performances of hidden gems
– to bring the delight and excitement of opera to new audiences
– to create opportunities for performers and back-stage specialists
– to hone their talents and advance their careers,
– to nurture new creative talent of any age.

Despite its name, the NSO reputation extends way beyond its home territory: national newspapers and IOCO review the innovative productions and comment favourably on them. While chorus-led productions play to capacity houses around Sussex and Essex, London’s prestigious Cadogan Hall regularly hosts its major productions. and you can get an idea of their musical and theatrical quality and impact by looking at our past productions and reviews. The list of NSO past productions stretches back decades and includes 5 UK premieres. The Travelling Companion performed at Saffron Hall, Essex and reviewed by IOCO had not been produced anywhere since 1930.

—| IOCO Kritik New Sussex Opera |—

Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Rodelinda by George Frederick Handel, IOCO Kritik, 12.04.2018

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Handel Opera Company, Hervorheben, Kritiken, Oper

Great Hall, The Leys School, Cambridge © The Leys School

Great Hall, The Leys School, Cambridge © The Leys School

Cambridge Handel Opera Company

Rodelinda  by George Frederick Handel

Cambridge, Great Hall, The Leys

 George Frederick Handel tomb at Westminster Abbey © IOCO

George Frederick Handel tomb at Westminster Abbey © IOCO

Cambridge Handel Opera Company puts on Baroque operas that celebrate the fusion of music and the stage with performances that are not just ‘historically informed’, but ‘historically inspired’. There is meaningful integrity between what happens in the music and what happens on stage. Baroque stagecraft is incorporated into our productions in a manner that speaks directly to audiences. Cambridge Handel Opera Company staged Handel’s Rodelinda, HWV 19 in Cambridge at a new theatre, the ‘Great Hall’, at The Leys. The dress rehearsal and performances took place in the week of 3 – 7 April 2018.

—————————

Rodelinda – Review by Janet Banks

Hats off to talented artistic director Julian Perkins for resurrecting the Cambridge Handel Opera Company, which had staged annual Handel productions from 1985 to 2013 in the historic university city. He plans to alternate operas by Handel with those of his contemporaries, and if this production of Rodelinda is anything to go by, audiences can look forward to historically informed and artistically rewarding productions in the coming years.

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

Simon Bejer has designed the production simply but effectively, entirely in blood red, black and white. Costumes are loosely early 17th-century – ruffs, doublet and hose, the staging minimal, but hung with red draperies. Sung in English, it is expertly accompanied from the pit by period instruments laid out as an 18th-century opera orchestra, with a harpsichord and bass instrument on each side of the pit, and conducted by Julian Perkins.

Alice Privett never disappoints as the faithful wife Rodelinda. Her opening lament for her, supposedly, dead husband Bertarido, is impressive in its rich, deep colours, and she excels both in the passionate anger required when resisting the advances of the usurper Grimoaldo  and in the more calm set-piece arias.

Her unwelcome suitor, Grimoaldo (tenor William Wallace), white-faced and weak minded, comes into his own in Act 2 when his anger at finding Rodelinda and Bertarido together brings forth vehement coloratura – the only time spontaneous applause was drawn from an otherwise rather reserved audience. His adviser Garibaldo is sung by baritone Nicholas Morris, who from the first has the ability to hold the stage with both his effective acting and his characterful voice. Ida Ränzlöv who sings ‘bad girl’ Eduige, dressed for the part in black vinyl skin-tight trousers and a slashed farthingale, enters into the role with almost comic effect, rolling the „R“ of Rodelinda scornfully and cheekily unlacing Unolfo’s doublet.

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

Cambridge Handel Opera Company / Rodelinda © Jean-Luc Benazet

It is left till Act 1 Scene 2 before we hear a counter-tenor voice – that of Bertarido, in hiding, walking among the tombs. Although initially his voice is not striking, William Towers soon captivates the audience with his beautifully controlled long notes, and his Act 2 aria ‘Nature’s voice replying’, each line echoed from the circle by recorders and flute, is beautifully accomplished. Tom Scott-Cowell, as Unolfo, has the other countertenor role and delights the audience with Act 2 aria ‘Daylight is dawning’ just before the interval.

For me, however, the musical high point of the opera was Rodelinda and Bertarido’s duet at the end of Act 2 ‘I embrace you’, movingly sung in their separate dungeons, with flawless ensemble and both voices blending seamlessly.

Aldeburgh, Snape Maltings, Dardanus by Jean-Philippe Rameau, IOCO Review, 18.11.2017

November 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Hervorheben, Konzert, Kritiken, Oper, Snape Maltings

Aldeburgh Festival / Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Philip Vile

Aldeburgh Festival / Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Philip Vile

Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Festival

Aldeburgh / Snape Maltings – A Place of Energy and Inspiration

Aldeburgh in Suffolk, UK, is known worldwide for its arts festival devoted mainly to classical music. The festival was founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier. To allow a large venue for the festival, Benjamin Britten, 1913 – 1976, who had lived in Snape, a village, just outside of Aldeburgh, converted a large former malthouse (see foto above) into a concert hall. Most of the malting’s original character, such as the square malthouse roof-vents, was retained. This very special ex-malting Concert Hall was opened by  Queen Elizabeth in 1967.

Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Matt Jolly

Snape Maltings Concert Hall © Matt Jolly

Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings have since become a place of energy and inspiration – one of the world’s leading centres of music and a visitor destination of outstanding natural beauty: Located by the sea, 106 miles northeast of London. IOCO visited Aldeburgh and Snape, also for an opera performance there.

 Dardanus by Jean-Philippe Rameau

BY Janet  Banks

 Benjamin Britten's grave in St. Peter and St Paul's Church, Aldeburgh © IOCO

Benjamin Britten’s grave in St. Peter and St Paul’s Church, Aldeburgh © IOCO

When Jean-Philippe Rameau reworked his tragedie lyrique Dardanus he dispensed with the gods altogether and did away with spectacle. The resulting 1744 version, though a lot less exciting visually than its original, admirably suits the needs of a travelling company such as English Touring Opera, who appeared at the concert hall founded by Benjamin Britten from a 19th-century maltings to be the home of his Aldeburgh Festival.

Director Douglas Rintoul sets the opera in a modern-day war zone, with soldiers, including Dardanus and his rival Antenor, in camouflage and the chorus dressed as if they are living on the streets. When the chorus is pressing the king to kill the captive Dardanus, one of them pulls out a can and sprays ‘MORT’ on the back wall. There has obviously been a conscious decision not to include dance in the production, in spite of interludes which would seem to call for it, and the only colour comes from multi-coloured marbled lighting effects representing the magic of the sorcerer Ismenor, and the red flares of off-stage fighting.

Snape Maltings UK / Dardanus by Rameau - Ensemble © Jane Hobson

Snape Maltings UK / Dardanus by Rameau – Ensemble © Jane Hobson

The positive effect of the sparse staging and muted lighting is to throw into greater relief the beauty of Rameau’s music. Anthony Gregory sings the title role of Jupiter’s son Dardanus with a voice capable of moving the listener with very credible emotion, from his ecstasy in love in Act 2, to his despair imprisoned in a cell at the opening of Act 4.The object of his desire, Iphise, the daughter of his enemy, is sung by Galina Averina with a light and flexible soprano, suited to music of the period but nonetheless capable of real richness on the high notes. Frederick Long is authoritative as the sorcerer Ismenor, whose spells bring about a happy outcome, while Timothy Nelson as Iphise’s rejected fiancé, excels in his expressive middle range. Eleanor Penfold steps from the chorus to sing an exquisite aria calling for peace at the end of Act 3, a still point in the action and one of the evening’s most beautiful moments.

The period instrument players of the Old Street Band under the direction of Jonathan Williams play Rameau’s score with crispness and precision.

—| IOCO Kritik Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Festival |—