Recent Classical & Opera Reviews from The Arts Desk

by:NUTAKE     2020-06-26
In this week's classical coverage on The Arts Desk, Beethoven is the big draw as Riccardo Chailly's much-anticipated symphony cycle kicks off. Meanwhile Donizetti and Rameau battle it out for supremacy in the opera houses. The English National Opera have tackled the tricky 1754 version of Rameau's tragic grand opera 'Castor and Pollux', and in a daring move have set the production in a stark wooden box, where all the complex tangled relationships between the two pairs of siblings in the story are magnified. Director Barrie Kosky, however, marred all this powerful clarity a little with too many arty, pretentious touches, but still, Rameau's music was finely, sensitively played by the orchestra, thought Igor Toronyi-Lalic, and all four singers - Sophie Bevan, Laura Tatulescu, Roderick Williams and Allan Clayton - emerged as nothing short of extraordinary. The odd hiccup from conductor Christian Curnyn and the unbalanced choir did not signify - he was left wanting more. Meanwhile in Mariame Clement's backdated Donizetti opera 'Don Pasquale' for Glyndebourne on Tour, it was the conductor Enrique Mazzola who stole the show, according to David Nice, keeping things brisk, sharp and always interesting. Though not a perfect production, there was plenty more to recommend from it, most notably Jonathan Veira, in his prime in the comic bass baritone role of Don Pasquale, and Enea Scala, providing a perfect, stylish tenor. Stephen Walsh from The Arts Desk was bemused to find that the best piece in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales's concert, Holland Panorama, at the Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, which brought together three living Dutch composers to celebrate contemporary Dutch music, was not actually Dutch. The orchestra was in fine fettle and conductor Jac van Steen kept things well under control in the pit, but still the pieces by Robin de Raaf and Willem Jeths failed to really grab Walsh's attention, proving rather static and lacking in poignancy. Klas Torstensson's noisy boisterous tribute to Sibelius, however, brought things to life, if a little messily. And as he's technically a Swede, Dutch music failed to be the star of its own celebration. And finally, Riccardo Chailly's Beethoven symphony cycle, performed by the Leipzig Gewandhaus, began its residency at the Barbican, and Igor Toronyi-Lalic was first to give his view on the opening night. The programme of the Second and Fifth symphonies complemented by a modern work by Carlo Boccadoro threw up some great surprises. While the Second Symphony was beefed up and the Fifth, though fierce and thrilling, was somewhat left in the dark by Chailly's brash boyish attack, Boccadoro's furious, experimental Modernist piece, 'Ritratto di musici', left this reviewer with the rather shocking thought that Beethoven had been upstaged. While at the second concert, David Nice found the Seventh Symphony had been well polished and fine-tuned, but was disappointed that the conductor seemed to shy away from going all out, while the First Symphony remained a little confined. However, the modern interlude here was less successful than in the previous concert - Steffan Schleiermacher's 'Bann, Bewegung, Mit Beethovens Erster' ended up going nowhere and seemed rather amateurish. Not entirely successful, then, but still Nice left interested in what is yet to come.
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