Danika Lorèn and co. aka Collectìf were back today with a lunctime show in the RBA. Like their previous shows this was a themed, more or less staged, series of art songs. This program was inspired by Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes and featured all French texts set by a range of composers. Most of it was pretty typical chansons of the fin de siècle; material I find pleasant enough but not especially compelling. The surprise, and a very welcome one, was four pieces by Reynaldo Hahn setting texts by Charles, duc d’Orléans and Faullin de Banville. Here Hahn turned his flair for vocal and pianistic colour to great effect producing pieces strangely evocative of the Renaissance. Fancifully perhaps, I could imagine these being sung at the court of Philip the Good (assuming of course that he had a piano…)
On the face of it the idea of reorganising Schubert’s Winterreise for three female voices and staging it as a kind of allegory isn’t an obvious one but Collectìf’s As a Stranger worked remarkably well. The arrangement and distribution of the numbers was judicious; most of the songs went to a single singer, some were split and occasional and effective use was made of two or three voices in unison. The idea behind the split being to make mezzo Whitney O’Hearne the narrator/traveller while sopranos Jennifer Krabbe and Danika Lorèn embodied the malign and benign aspects/characters of the story. Heliconian Hall doesn’t offer a lot in the way of staging possibilities but well thought out costumes, a few props and a considerable, and quite sophisticated, video element added up to a pretty satisfying experience. In the last number Jennifer relieved Tom King at the piano to allow the Leierman to stagger off into the wintry night. All well thought out and well executed.
There was something about Collectìf’s cabaret show, Do Over, last night that reminded me of a folk club in the 70s or 80s (as in when I was their age!). It was in a pub. The room was full of young(ish) people. It was loud. It was irreverent. And people were having fun. Shocking! An opera related event that was irreverent and fun. No solemn “palaces of culture” here. No AMOP style “in my day” grumbling. Just three rather good singers, a pianist and a thoroughly eclectic, not to say at times filthy (there were more double entendres than an eight hour episode of The Two Ronnies), selection of music drawn from four and a half centuries. The AMOP crowd should probably prohibit their daughters and servants from seeing this show.
Le Rossignol et la Rose is Collectif’s first show. It’s another take on how to make art song more interesting and attract a new audience. The formula this time is to stage a series of songs with an implied linking narrative in a funky space. It worked pretty well. The B Lounge is a basement lounge/club next door to a boxing gym. It’s scruffy but comfortable with enough space for performance in and around the audience. There’s a bar.
My acquaintance with Korngold’s Die tote Stadt has been pretty much limited to recital and competition performances of Glück, das mir verlieb, better known as Marietta’s Lied and, apparently, the last opera aria to become a hit single and Fritz’ act 2 piece Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen. So, I was quite glad to get my hands on a complete recording of this lushly lyrical and rather weird piece. The “dead city” of the title is Brugge and the story concerns a wealthy man, Paul, who has turned his house, and his life, into a shrine to his dead wife Marie. He encounters a dancer, Marietta, who very closely resembles his late wife. What follows is wild and chaotic and is, ultimately, revealed to be a dream. Paul realises that only in the next world can he be reunited with Marie.
In this next episode of our wallow in Met nostalgia we are looking at the 1988 production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. It’s a starry affair with James Levine conducting, Jessye Norman in the title role, James King as Bacchus, Kathleen Battle as Zerbinetta and Tatiana Troyanos as the Komponist. There’s even a bit of luxury casting in the minor roles with Barbara Bonney and Dawn Upshaw among the nymphs. It’s also as old fashioned as one could possibly imagine, being a revival of a production that premiered in 1962. Continue reading