Category Archives: wigmore hall

How to be cheerful about love and death in Venice (Wigmore Hall, 26 February 2018)

This was the first performance I attended in 3 weeks and that musical starvation added quite a bit to my enjoyment. If you look at the programme you can see it’s very attractive and interesting, though my favourite bit was, predictibly, the Poppea part. As we reached the interval I thought to myself “I could listen to the Poppea duets for hours!”

Love and death in Venice
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset director, harpsichord
Gilone Gaubert-Jacques violin
Gabriel Grosbard violin
Emmanuel Jacques cello

Jodie Devos soprano
Judith van Wanroij soprano

This is the pared down team Rousset usually brings along to recitals and, also as usual, it did a great job. The violins stepped in and out, showing virtousity when taking centre stage, with Rousset himself and Jacques carrying most of the voice-supporting work. Rousset can, on occasion, come off a bit lacklustre in opera, but his very laid-back, rhythmically solid but non-intrusive keyboard style is always strong in recitals. His singers have room to shine and they did here, too.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Madrigals, Book 7
Chiome d’oro
O come sei gentile
Ahi sciocco mondo e cieco

Dario Castello (c.1600)
Sonate Concertate in Stil Moderno, Libro I
Seconda Sonata

Claudio Monteverdi
L’incoronazione di Poppea
Prologue and Sinfonia
Signor, deh, non partire
Signor oggi rinasco
Pur ti miro, pur ti godo


Luigi Rossi (c.1597-1653)
A che tanto spavento
Che può far Citherea
Vi renda Amor mercè
Lasciate, Averno

Johann Rosenmüller (c.1619-1684)
Sonata Sesta a3

Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Lamento di Cassandra
Lamento di Didone

The singers took a bit to achieve optimal blend, what with Devos’ very bright top occasionally covering Wanroij more middle placed voice but as far as aural mix they worked very well and they looked like they were having fun singing together. Seeing two women in dresses (pink and bright red) sing the Poppea-Nerone duets also brought on a smile for yours truly.

As you know, I’m not exactly a fan of laments, and I learned Leander shares this feeling. Baroque Bird pointed out that Cassandra’s lament was rather interesting (quite chromatic, I guess? my vocabulary is a bit iffy – angular and “stabby” is what I felt) and while I agree it was memorable writing it was still a lament… Anyway, they did encore with another duet, and although Rousset mentioned its title/composer, they now completely escape me (but Leander got it, as well as Damigella and Valletto’s duet which I, uh, didn’t know was there 😉 d’oh!).

The performance was very well attended and the laidback feel permeated the hall, though London has been going through a most peculiar weather moment (dark clouds and snow/clear sky and bright sun chasing each other several times a day). Leander and Baroque Bird mentioned mezzo Emilie Renard was in attendence but sadly I spotted her at the opposite end of the hall so no hello from me though I would have liked to chat a bit. Hope to see her on stage at some point in the near future 🙂


Schubert with Angelika Kirchschlager (Wigmore Hall, 31 January 2018)

Angelika Kirchschlager is someone I’ve been aware of for what counts as forever but her contemporaries always appeared more interesting especially at a time when I was exclusively interested in opera and saw recitals as second best. As a result this was the first time I properly listened to her. It was a very pleasant semi-surprise.

Final concert in Schubert: The Complete Songs series
Angelika Kirchschlager mezzo-soprano
Julius Drake piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Namenstagslied D695
Frühlingsglaube D686
Geheimes D719
Im Frühling D882
Bei dir allein D866 No. 2
Lambertine D301
Am Bach im Frühling D361
Ganymed D544
Wiegenlied D498
In der Mitternacht D464
Erlkönig D328


Gesang der Norna D831
Der liebliche Stern D861
Romanze zum Drama Rosamunde D797 No. 3b
Suleika I D720
Suleika II D717
An den Mond D193
Der Jüngling an der Quelle D300
Der Wanderer an den Mond D870
Der Unglückliche D713
Lied des Florio D857 No. 2
Abschied von der Erde D829



I went because I can be a bit of a completist and because I kept remembering her from that Mozart docu (that shows the gaudy pink wallpaper from his house in all its splendor – I think) where she made singing Mozart sound like the bees knees. She can’t be all bad if she likes Mozart that much, can she? Then again, she’s from his hometown so I guess it’s the law to love Wolfie.

Two first things first: 1. Hair. That’s some hair she’s (still) got going! It’s like Galou’s nose (which I managed not to mention all this time 😉 ); there is hair and then there is Kirchschlager hair. I’m sure it’s boring for her and other well-maned people to hear about it but wow. I’m saying that appreciatively, even though I’m not particularly into hair (or noses – still Galou’s: ❤ ). 2. Mezzo? I know these fachs are approximative and at this point in her career it probably doesn’t matter anymore, plus her tone is very pleasant. But: mezzo?

Whatever her exact voice bracket, she can spin a phrase and sing lieder non-operatically and still have enough dynamic variation to hear comfortably anywhere in the hall (her excellent diction helps as well). A very interesting experience – somewhat like Antonacci in the sense of filling the hall without any apparent effort and definitely without shouting. She’s very different from Antonacci, though, so don’t get the wrong impression. It’s a very gentle/congenial sound, even when she steps on the pedal in something like Erlkönig – it’s still not commanding. It’s so delicate it feels a bit old skool girlie, especially hearing her so soon after Boni, who has that quintessential boyish mezzo tone, with a bit of kick to it. I was thinking it would be interesting to hear them together, also I should give her Octavian another try. I’m more ready for a very girlie Octavian nowadays.

In any case, this was exquisitely sung lieder, a mix of well used experience and enough spontaneity and youthfulness. Sometimes something done in the simplest manner can have a strong effect.

Florid Gluck with Daniel Behle (Wigmore Hall, 4 February 2018)

Daniel Behle first came to my attention in Cosi fan tutte, with his Aur’amorosa, which was the best thing of that night. I was a bit surprised to see him bring a whole Gluck programme because I had this idea that tenors always sing stuff like Una furtiva lagrima in recital, regardless of their usual rep. Then again, as soon as he started I thought to myself  “he even looks like a bureaucratic Tito!”. So he sounds and looks like this rep, he might as well make the most of it.

Daniel Behle tenor
Armonia Atenea
Markellos Chryssicos director, harpsichord

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
La contesa de’ numi
Qual ira intempestiva … Oggi per me non sudi

Le cinesi
Son lungi e non mi brami

Suite of excerpts from Orphée, Don Juan and Iphigénie en Aulide

La Semiramide riconosciuta
Bel piacer saria d’un core

Non hai cor per un’impresa


Christoph Willibald Gluck
La Semiramide riconosciuta
Io veggo in lontananza

Quercia annosa sull’erte pendici

Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Concerto a quattro No.1 in G minor a different concert was played but don’t ask me details

Christoph Willibald Gluck

Iphigénie en Aulide
Cruelle, non, jamais

Orphée et Eurydice
J’ai perdu mon Eurydice


Oggi per me non sudi

I’m always on the lookout for the next crop of Titi. He seems like a strong contender though I don’t know if he’ll ever get to the level of vocal agility + expressivity someone like Croft showed us is possible in this repertoire. I hope I’m wrong because I’d like to hear more high quality Titi and Idomenei in the years to come. Perhaps he had a slight cold as the very top proved rather stiff, though he navigated around that and everything else worked very well, with a good to very good command of dynamics. He’s convincing when he’s actively involved in music making, he’s not afraid of jumping head first into aggressive bounts of coloratura and his timing is ace (my favourite thing of the evening; his entrances were all spot on, even when the rhythm was akin to a ship tossed by tempestuous winds). I venture to say, though, that he needs to work a bit on his charisma in between numbers; that bureaucratic feel should be left with Tito.

It’s also unusual for me to hear so much stormy stuff from a tenor though of course I know composers occasionally give them such (Fuor del mar, Tu vivi etc.). There wasn’t that much bravura, just of very good quality, chief among them a strong oak aria – Quercia annosa sull’erte pendici – and the very first number, Oggi per me non sudi, which kicked things off in high gear. Pre-reform Gluck can be a lot of fun!

You all know my feelings about AA so I won’t reiterate (quick reminder = my Sabata writeup) but in their favour I quite appreciated Chryssicos’ cembalo skills. I welcomed the toning down of frenzy he brought along. I can see there is a schtick they go for regardless of who’s conducting (ie, fast’n’choppy) but here it was less mad with the rock’n’roll and more with the legato.

Golda Schultz recital on BBC3’s Lunchtime Concert 5 February 2018

If you, like me, enjoyed Schultz’s turn as Vitellia in last Summer’s new Salzburg Tito production – I mean as much as one could, given the new and improved context – here’s a chance to tune in to BBC3 tomorrow at 1pm GMT for some song. I’m sure we’ll all miss the riveting choreography from Sellars’ team but we’ll still have the voice.

Anna Bonitatibus and friends (Wigmore Hall, 25 January 2018)

This was part I of a two part event where Boni (with and without co.) introduced some of us to lirica italiana.

Anna Bonitatibus mezzo-soprano
Serena Farnocchia soprano
Paul Nilon tenor
Rocco Cavalluzzi bass
Margaret Campbell flute
Vincenzo Scalera piano

Girolamo Crescentini (1762-1846)
Il primo amore

Giovanni Battista Perucchini (1784-1870)
Taci, invan mia cara lole
Vieni, t’appressa all’urna
Se i sospiri degli amanti
Odi d’un uom che muore

Luigi Gordigiani (1806-1860)
Il Trovatore
La notte
La lacrima

Alberto Mazzucato (1813-1877)
Il lago
Il bacio
Il pensiero della sera
Il canto d’amore

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Notturno (Guarda che bianca luna)


Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870)
Virginia: Cantata for soprano and piano

Giuseppe Verdi
Cupo è il sepolcro e mutolo

Vincenzo Gabussi (1800-1846)
La luna

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Il giuramento

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
L’ultimo ricordo

Sir Michael Costa (1808-1884)
Ecco quel fiero istante

Maria Malibran (1808-1836)
Nel cor più non mi sento

Gioachino Rossini
I gondolieri


The cat quartet (Rossini)

Though Wiggy has of recent been making a habit of getting together singers, orchestras and instrumental soloists, here is no doubt that managing any number of people larger than two is no easy feat. Originally the performance was supposed to include Jeremy Ovenden (last heard by me in that not quite Tamerlano from Brussels) and Riccardo Novarro (whom you might remember from last year’s Dario and Giulio Cesare) but they had to cancel.

Due to people changing into higher gears on their own time and also perhaps due to the choice of songs, the first part of the evening was rather mixed. As one would expect, our host Boni, in what I already called a pink gelato dress (with very nice pink floral embroidery), held her own from the getgo and had a heartwarmingly gentle moment with one of the songs (don’t ask me which, sorry, I’m really not versed in lirica italiana) ending in something I translated as “don’t worry, I’m right here”. And indeed, she let her friends take centre stage through the night, popping in and out to let us know just that.

The turning point for me was the Mercadante cantata, which I did not know, but had the easiest time following the voice-piano dialogue. I was quite stunned, in fact, given that usually when I hear a new piece I’m left with a soup of feelings and maybe the main tune, rather than being able to clearly “read” along with the people on stage. Great job Farnocchia and Scalera, for the mutual communication and ability to impart to us some vintage belcanto writing. We should hear more Mercadante, shouldn’t we? We should also hear more of Scalera, who I have heard before but I’ve started to rate very highly as accompanist since this concert, where he generally seemed to be having a ball.

The first best moment of the night was Boni and Farnocchia’s duet in Donizetti’s Il giuramento – their voices work so well together. You could tell they’ve sung together a lot, too, but their tones are wonderfully suited to each other. Farnocchia, though billed as a soprano and in possession of some piercing high notes, has a very fetching middle, quite related to Boni’s, though brighter. I would not say no to hearing her in some high mezzo roles.

The second high point was Boni’s rendition of Malibran’s Nel cor più non mi sento, which, for those who don’t know, is an excuse for the singer to show off their versatility, as each return of the main tune is done in a different style, from contained pathos to operetta silliness, through trills and octave jumps. Boni had no qualms about taking the piss out of herself as much as of the text, when attempting to reach the highest highs.

Cavalluzzi has a very opaque bass which sounded to me – at least at the beginning – like a Korean-type bass, very dark and rather large and not particularly subtle. I was then very surprised to hear how comfortable he sounded in I gondolieri.

Nilon has the smallest voice of the bunch and not particularly colourful but Italianate all right. He had the least effect on me (I napped through some of his efforts during the first part, having misjudged my energy levels the night before) but then I’m not the biggest tenor fan.

The night ended on an ensemble high with a really well balanced I gondolieri, where we got to hear some of Rossini’s strengths normally reserved for opera act finales done justice by Boni and Co. Lastly, they put decorum aside and regaled us with the Cat quartet.

The night took a bit of warming up and perhaps the selections presented during the first part could’ve been thought over a little but the second part was certainly well worth it. Boni proved a very gracious and generous host and with a hilarious knack for comedy. She can do the dramatic bits no problem, but I think zany comedy is her true calling.

The Mozartists (1768) (Wigmore Hall, 23 January 2018)

Classical Opera/The Mozartists
Ian Page conductor
Katy Bircher flute
Chiara Skerath soprano

Classical Opera does, as the name suggests, specialise in music of the Classical period and does it very well. You might remember my and thadieu‘s enthusiastic accounts (as well as Leander‘s) of a Cadogan Hall 2016 performance of Jommelli’s Il Vologeso – it was them that done it.

They’re also going through Mozart’s oeuvre, one year at a time. This time it’s the year 1768, when Wolfie was 12 and, opera-wise, wrote La finta semplice, here presented via its not too shabby overture and the Amoretti aria. It’s not just Mozart but a wider look at his time period as well, with works by other composers from the mid to late 18th century.

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 26 in D minor HI:26 ‘Lamentatione’

Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774)
Fetonte Ombre che tacite qui sede

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Flute Concerto in D major WC79

Joseph Haydn
Lo speziale HXXVIII:3
Amore nel mio petto
Salamelica, Semprugna cara

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
La finta semplice K51
Amoretti, che ascosi qui siete

Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783)
Piramo e Tisbe Perderò l’amato bene

Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739-1813)
Symphony in D minor

As expected, Classical Opera were excellent and Ian Page got a very “surround sound” from them, with a deft merging of the different sections of the orchestra whilst at the same time allowing them space to breathe and make themselves heard (quite muscular at times). In other words, the opposite of the porridge-sound.

This was one of the best attended shows at Wiggy, though the troops thinned a bit after the intermission (luckily, the tall chap in front of me was among them). Skerath excelled, I thought, at Hasse’s Perderò l’amato bene, where she used some superb light weight trilling and the aria seemed a perfect fit for her gentle soprano voice.

Ian Page chose his soloists well, the both of them in possession of particularly fine ways with the trills. Being primarily a fan of vocal music I admit I don’t always “get” solo instrumentals but in Bircher’s case something clicked. It is perhaps that all winds are up my alley as opposed to, say, the piano, but I could follow very well, in a similar way to how I would the voice.

A lovely evening that invited the listener to further explore this engaging period of Western classical music, with the last piece hinting at the things to come in further decades.

Sonia Prina (Wigmore Hall, 11 January 2018)

Sonia Prina contralto
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Concerto Grosso in F major

Giovanni Ferrandini (1710-1791)
Cantata: Il pianto di Maria


This was a very well attended concert but in contrast to the JDD estravaganza, the mood was mostly relaxed. There was a certain buzz in the air, as if people had just started to catch on to Prina. Without a doubt her recent excursions in London have raised her status among Wiggy regulars.

A bit strangely, then, Prina showed up in a dress. I was caught unawares – she can dress however she wants but I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen her dressed so formally. But, you may say, how appropriate is it to sing Mary’s lament other than formally dressed?

Perhaps to fit that mood and the fact that the show was broadcast live on BBC3, the Akademie sounded on the formal side of excellent. No doubt about their technical prowess and Baroque-ness.

Ferrandini’s Pianto di Maria seems popular among mezzos and contraltos but not so much with me. Prina decided on a very operatic take, with the dramatic turns energetically emphasised and the recit parts done with lots of fervour. I felt a bit of sameness of sound on the low end in spite of it all, so I think I prefer a higher or brighter tone if I have to listen to this piece at all.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Cantata: Widerstehe doch der Sünde BWV54

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764)
Concerto Grosso in E flat ‘Il Pianto d’Arianna’ Op. 7 No. 6

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Longe mala, umbrae, terrores RV629


But who may abide (Messiah)
Longe mala, umbrae, terrores RV629

After the interval we had the rather unusual chance to hear Prina sing in German. At least to my ears she did a very good job and I finally perked up.

Unsurprisingly my favourite moment of the night was Vivaldi’s Longe mala…, where I think Prina sounded most comfortable. Perhaps that was the reason why she also capped the night with it, much to my delight. The Akademie let their hair down a bit and matched her to perfection in the endless runs, which she of course took with much gusto. During the intermission I overheard a wry attendee do an uncanny and amusing impression of Prina’s very personal way with coloratura, so the above-mentioned runs brought a smile to my face in spite of the rough patch I went through the week before.

She returned to much applause with a “belated Christmas gift”, which turned out ot be But who may abide. It once again gave her the opportunity to shake the stage up during the energetic b-section. So a more sober encounter than usual but a Prina show is always warm and full of life and the public feels it and responds accordingly.

Sonia Prina on BBC 3 tonight (11 january 2018)

In contralto news, you can tune in tonight (and most likely listen to later on as well) for some Baroque from Prina and Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin at 19:30 GMT. This is, of course, from Wiggy.

Good times at the opera in 2017

2017 was a busy opera year for yours truly, with plenty local outings as well as opera trips to Italy, Austria and Germany, and a return to Glyndebourne in style (3 out of 4 dates = sunny). I met old and new friends and even ran into a certain contralto on the street 😉 And then there was the Summer of Tito. Plus a couple of duds and misses… 😉

Read the rest of this entry

Joyce DiDonato and Brentano String Quartet (Wigmore Hall, 21 December 2017)

Or the perils and joys of (contemporary) opera superstardom

Though I have seen JDD several times in staged operas and concert performances, this is the first time I’ve been to one of her recitals. She is nowadays one of the biggest opera stars under 70 but because she has such an engaging personality and is very switched on to what’s happening in the world I always forget just how well the marketting machine is working for her. Reality check:

I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by more music snobs in my life.

Posh Gent: I’ve told you before, it’s the way Wigmore Hall has gone these days. Everything is sold out and the only thing one can do is go to their seat and listen to music.
Lady wearing Chanel #5: This is supposed to be a very popular concert.

As the first song of the Heggie song cycle ended, someone at the front enunciated very earnestly and audibly, in a beautiful baritenor voice: bravissima!

And on and on. I swear this audience filled every pause with either coughs or commentary on what had just been performed (too long (Heggie), much better than Birtwistle (Heggie again), too heavy (the string quartet in general) etc.). Considering the median age, the sheer amount and immediacy of engagement she got out of people was remarkable (but exhausting).

However, we all know JDD is using the platform of superstardom to express her personal ideas as well as the music she performs, so (among quite a bit of politically slanted chatting at the very end) she offered this quip:

You know when “I say I love you” I really mean it. [bit where she said how much she enjoyed returning to London for a run] So thank you very much for opening your arms to me, a foreigner!

Hahaha, thanks JDD 🙂

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

All’ mein Gedanken Op. 21
Du meines Herzens Krönelein Op. 21
Die Nacht Op. 10 No. 3
Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden Op. 21
Traum durch die Dämmerung Op. 29 No. 1

Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894)

Molto adagio

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Trois chansons de Bilitis (arr. Jake Heggie)


Jake Heggie (b.1961)

Camille Claudel: Into the Fire


Morgen (R. Strauss)
Silent Night (with audience participation)

I was sandwiched between two overly lively ladies and had behind me Chanel #5 and the posh gent let down by the recent offer of social engagements at Wiggy. One of the lively ladies turned to me about as soon as JDD closed her mouth to announce she thought JDD was better in Rossini. For whatever reason I had started tearing up during the second line of Silent Night and when JDD invited us to sing with her I actually couldn’t mouth more than a few lines before getting choked up but this lady was looking around her with the biggest and most conversational smile. Is this a generational thing or is it just me wanting a bit of privacy during a live performance?

As a matter of fact, I enjoyed this about as much as her Rossini. The string quartet was very good in itself (no pitch/intonation problems and very good interaction with each other and JDD) but I did agree with the chatty ladies that I like my Debussy lighter. I seem to like Debussy a lot so I should listen to some more. I did not mind the quartet in Strauss at all but the Lekeu piece stretched my tolerance for too much string. I’ve never heard of him before but it sounded to me just like what a 17 year old would write in the 1880s (and wouldn’t you know…  😉 ). By which I mean oh, the pathos.

I’d also never heard anything by Heggie before. The ladies around me were powered by some trepidation as to whether this would be another one of those dreaded “world premiere”-like moments and one of them appeared somewhat apologetic for preferring Schubert to most modern composers. The good thing about a song cycle is it’s a lot shorter than a full opera.

In the end everyone let out a sigh of relief, as Into the Fire fit very well with the rest of the program (which was only logical…). I liked it well enough, I wouldn’t mind listening to it again and it’s obvious it was written for JDD, as it showcases her strengths (there are even some not very tricky but finesse requiring trills).

I have come to the conclusion that JDD really likes what she does (and can do what she likes), because her commitment is always top notch. Also, the amount of pressure she must be having to carry now that she is the “popular concert” in town needs to have some other support beside just work ethic. Nearing 50 one can see that she’s cared very well for her voice, as only a technical perfectionist would. Yes, I think Rossini/belcanto might be her true home, but I am always impressed by her versatility. Her opera voice has a good size for large halls but she can sing just as easily/naturally in chamber voice when the rep needs it. Here she even used some vibrato. Then there is the way she controls her instrument, which is impressive as nothing seems forced or a last minute decision but fresh and natural. I also like her timing. I was watching how she traversed instrumental passages, how she communicated with the quartet and how she was easing the voice in, not a moment too soon or too late.

Her interaction with the audience is also interesting. As I was lamenting above, there’s a lot of hysteria and snobbery, but she doesn’t seem particularly affected by it. With other singers who do similar things/elicit diva-worship responses it always feels like “and now I should chum up to my people” but with her the mix of chat and “singer mode” comes off naturally. There is neither mistique nor feigned modesty, just “look, you guys, now that I got the world’s attention I’m going to put on a nice dress (shoulders!), get a cute haircut (tousled), talk about some serious issues and let you into some neat details of stuff composers old a new wrote. Who’s with me?”