Showing posts with label Bryn Terfel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bryn Terfel. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Top ten happy things about the BBC Music Magazine Awards

1. It was a great honour that this year I was asked to be on the jury. I was only able to emerge around Christmas from underneath the biggest heap of CDs that has ever colonised my study (dividing brooms syndrome) - but there could be many worse things in life than listening to c250 five-star discs in quick succession and exploring them over copious quantities of tea with respected colleagues. We had a ball, really. Best, in most categories we pick three and it is you, the readers, who vote for the one you want to win.

2. Alisa Weilerstein's Elgar and Elliott Carter cello concertos - with the Berlin Staatskapelle conducted by Daniel Barenboim - won Recording of the Year. Very wonderful it is. Here's an introduction to it. (And here's an introduction to Alisa herself over at Sinfini.)



3. At lunch I "was sat" next to Igor Levit, who was voted Newcomer of the Year. Perhaps paradoxically, he is already jolly well known: his debut CD of late Beethoven sonatas for Sony Classical sparked the sort of superlatives you don't see too often. Last year I interviewed him for the cover feature of International Piano. He is one of a remarkable bunch of pianists currently zooming to fame in their twenties: youngsters who already know their own minds and musicianship so well that they play with the assurance of seasoned masters. It's arguably the most interesting crop of young pianists we've seen in a long time, also including Grosvenor and Trifonov - all very heartening. Presenting yourself on the recording scene for the first time with with Beethoven's last five sonatas indicates no small ambition, and in Igor's case gambling on this repertoire was clearly the right choice. He will soon be recording some Bach. And incidentally he has a very natty way with ties.

4. Plenty of accolades for Jonas Kaufmann, whose Wagner album won the vocal category, despite powerful competition from an amazing CD of Hanns Eisler by Matthias Goerne. JK wasn't there in person, but recorded a touching video message for us from somewhere on his Winterreise tour, in which he added that the fact that the choice comes from listeners rather than critics makes this the biggest prize of all. I was on Easyjet from Moscow while he was singing Winterreise here the other night, and am I sick as a parrot about missing it or what. (Below: spotted outside the Moscow Conservatoire the other day. Missed him there too.)

5. Additionally, that Tosca from the ROH starring Angela Gheorghiu, JK and Bryn Terfel, with Tony Pappano conducting, grabbed the Performance DVD category. Bryn, who's currently starring in Faust at Covent Garden, was there to collect the award and told us fulsomely about their week of rehearsals for the performances at the ROH at which it was filmed. Angela, he said, moved everyone to tears in the studio when she sang 'Vissi d'art'. Jonas had flown in from New York and promptly got sick, so Bryn didn't hear him sing out until they were on stage. We were treated to an extract of film from Act II, when Cavaradossi sings 'Vittoria!' and Jonas emitted the kind of long, high, off-the-leash note that can flatten the entire music business at a stroke. At that point, said Bryn, even his threatening Scarpia-stare turned into "a small, wry smile," which he was glad the cameras didn't pick up.

6. Chamber category winner: the Ebene Quartet's gorgeous, impassioned, searingly intense recording of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. You couldn't hope for a more convincing advocacy of the neglected sister in this family duo than this from the lovely chamber-music boy-band of Paris; besides, the F minor Quartet comes leaping off the page as Felix's musical mid-life crisis that should not have been his swan-song, but was. With my Mendelssohnian hat on, this was my Record of the Year.



7. Rachel Podger's fascinating and velvety solo album of baroque violin rarities, Guardian Angel, scooped the Instrumental category. The first time I encountered Rachel was nearly 20 years ago in a festival in Australia, when she and her ensemble played their way valiantly through more than three hours of Telemann in high heat... Since then we've been watching her growth as an artist and now she is in her prime and flowering. This is the album of hers I have enjoyed the most, ever; sophisticated performing filled with sensitivity, intuition, character and insight. Brava! I'd also like to put in a good plug for another shortlisted disc, Richard Egarr's Bach English Suites, which I adored (yes, you read aright: I loved a harpsichord album.)

8. Orchestral went to Riccardo Chailly's Brahms Symphonies with the Leipzig Gewandhaus. They don't come much better than that. Yet for some of us, the surprise wild card of the year was a blistering account of the Strauss Alpine Symphony from...the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra under Frank Shipway. Fair blew my socks off, that one.

9. Other highlights included a gargantuan quantity of Britten wins, a Premiere award for George Benjamin's opera Written on Skin, a vast film about Cavaillé-Coll and his organs, and the first-ever App Award, which went to the Touchpress/DG exploration of the Beethoven Symphony No.9. You can see the full list of winners on the magazine's website, here.

10. Last but not least, two dear friends and colleagues whom I've known separately for years told me that they're an item. This was the news of the whole day that made me happiest. Cheers, chaps!

Monday, May 27, 2013

New Perryman portrait for Symphony Hall...


This is Norman Perryman's brand-new watercolour portrait of Bryn Terfel as The Flying Dutchman. It is due to join the substantial gallery of this unique music-focused artist's work at Symphony Hall in his native Birmingham, where it will be unveiled on 7 June.

Norman writes on his blog:
"This painting is inspired by fragments of the Dutchman’s role that Bryn sang to me in our portrait “sitting” (actually standing) in a Milan apartment. He chose parts of the famous monologue “Die Frist ist um” (“The term is up…once more”) when the Dutch captain is pleading with the angel in heaven and wrestling with his fate. The mariner is condemned to roam the seas, allowed to go ashore after every seven years. But if he can find someone who will be faithful to him unto death, he will be released from his curse. Since then, I’ve been playing this opera continuously in my studio (and every other recording Bryn has made!). My paintings are always driven by the music and I delved deep into the intense emotions of the plot, from depression to disappointment, ecstasy and tragedy. It gets quite exhausting!

"Rejecting idiosyncratic images from various opera productions, I put together my own impressions of Bryn as the Dutchman, with a seaman’s hands, tanned complexion, long hair and leather long-coat and with a somewhat ambiguous expression, somewhere between desperation and a glimpse of hope. The background and brushwork suggest not only the stormy atmosphere, but the emotional drama of the surging music. Bryn’s phenomenally expressive voice and his dramatic stage presence made the creation of this painting a very intense experience." ...
Read the rest of his post about the painting here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A solution to vocal problems? Oh yes! Oh yes!

Argy-bargy at the Royal Opera House press conference yesterday: in the course of a highly operatic morning, Tony Pappano had a go at everyone about the misinformation and conspiracy theories that circulated around the Robert le Diable cast changes a few months back.

Leaving aside the possibility that the work itself is jinxed and should just be quietly buried...what happened, Pappano said, was this: first Florez decided against moving into heavier repertoire, following an unhappy experience with the Duke of Mantua; next, Diana Damrau got pregnant; and though Maria Poplavskaya was ill, she then recovered and went back into the show because her doctor said she was was well enough to do so. The saga with Jennifer Rowley is another issue altogether...

Apart from that, there's plenty good stuff next season including a recital on the main stage by Jonas Kaufmann, who'll also be singing in Puccini's Manon Lescaut; three Strauss operas for the composer's anniversary year, including Karita Mattila in Ariadne auf Naxos; Faust with Calleja and Terfel; Les Dialogues des Carmelites with Magdalena Kozena on stage and Simon Rattle in the pit; a new production of Parsifal; and a lavish, expensive staging together with the Royal Ballet of The Sicilian Vespers. In ballet, there'll be a full-length creation by Christopher Wheeldon based on Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, with a new score by Joby Talbot, and Carlos Acosta will be in charge of a new staging of Don Quixote. Sales are up, with ballet reaching 98% of box office and opera hot on its heels (so to speak). More opera 13-14 news here. More ballet 13-14 news here.

Still, it was clear that TP is fairly fed up with singers who cancel, and that it does happen more than it used to.

What to do? Maybe the ROH needs to invest in some vibrators.

This is not a joke. (At least, I don't think it is.) Just look at this news from the University of Alberta:
Vibrators are being used by researchers at the University of Alberta to help give actors a little bit more vocal power. The team of researchers found that pressing the sex toys against the throats of actors helps to give them improved projection and range – vocally, of course.
“You can actually watch on a spectrograph how vocal energy grows,” said David Ley, who worked on the project. “Even when you take the vibrator off, the frequencies are greater than when first applied.
He said he has used this method with singers, schoolteachers and actors, and so far the vibrator technique has always worked...
Ley headed over to a local love shop in search of some hand-held vibrators in order to test out whether they could help release various forms of muscular tension. He was looking for a vibrator with a frequency somewhere between 100 and 120 hertz, which is close to the range of the human voice. Once he applied the vibrator to an actress’ neck over the vocal cords, she was able to produce striking results.
(As reported on RedOrbit - Your Universe Online - read the whole thing here.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

A last-minute trip to Valhalla

Where do you sit for Die Walküre? In the Gods, of course. And the single best thing about going to Wagner? No queue in the Ladies' Room. Though apparently there was a massive queue in the Gents. Now they know what it's like for us at almost everything else.

I managed, with the help of an eagle-eyed and quick-moused pal, to get a last-minute return for the Wagner at Covent Garden last night. Amid all our yadda yesterday about dressing-down, seat prices et al, I can report that a) the amphitheatre of the Royal Opera House was very dressed-down indeed - Wagner is a long haul flight and you need to go for comfort rather than style; b) the rest of the audience didn't look excessively flash either; and c) you can see nearly six hours of opera with a world-beating cast like this one, a clear view of the complete stage and an excellent take on the house acoustic, for £61. I don't think that is overpriced, under the circumstances. Most people I spoke to had booked a year in advance. Everyone up there was a total Wagner nut, and the hush and stillness through the performance was something to marvel at.

Highlights of the evening appeared in unusual places. First of all, Sarah Connolly's Fricka: a nuanced, heart-rending, ruby-toned performance, exceptionally sophisticated and classy. Another call for someone, please, to award a recording contract, scandalously absent at present. Come on, people - Connolly is a national treasure. She's on disc. But not enough. [Connolly, left, not in character.] 

This, too, was the production's one real masterstroke: the tortured relationship between her and Bryn Terfel's Wotan is the heart of the story. Often Fricka is portrayed as little more than a backroom bully, a fundamental ideologist forcing Wotan's hand over a point of malign principle (it's a common enough problem) and you always wonder why he's weak enough to cave in (a common enough problem too). Here, though, there is still a great love between this long-married couple, on both sides. Connolly made you feel every twist of Fricka's shredded heart as the faithless Wotan cradles her with tremendous tenderness. Wotan lets her win because his love for her ultimately overrides his other amours. It makes sense out of the whole story.

It was more or less the only sense we got out of Keith Warner's production, which I have not attended before. It's cluttered, fussy and occasionally worrying: there's a distinct tendency for characters to trip over the red rope that is doing goodness knows what across the stage, and over the metal thingummyjig that rears up in the middle of the set, and then there's the ladder, from which Susan Bullock apparently had to be unhooked by a stage-hand on the first night - and will something elsewhere in the cycle make sense of the three-pronged fan under which Brunnhilde falls asleep? What's it for - repelling mosquitoes? On the top of a mountain? Most of the action appears to take place in a disused storeroom or perhaps a very messy study (a bit like mine) with a black office table, a leather chaise-longue and a huge heap of discarded books. I was constantly alarmed in case someone decided to do a Nazi-reference thing by setting light to it, though fortunately they didn't. If you're going to offer a concept Walküre, then clarity of that concept helps. This one, if it exists, eludes me. And according to Fiona Maddocks, the production has actually been streamlined since last time. [Above, Bullock & Terfel, pic by Clive Barda.]

The other unforgettable performance was Sir John Tomlinson's Hunding, who could dominate the stage with his first swing of the axe and the auditorium with his first note and all thereafter. A marvellous moment when he and Terfel's Wotan come face to face - these two legends together are not something you see every day. Marvels too from Terfel himself, of course, a Wotan incarnate; and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde, creamy-toned, all-giving and ultimately transcendental as she blesses Brunnhilde. As the latter, a feisty Susan Bullock, tiny and ferocious. Simon O'Neill as Siegmund started strong, but threatened to fade out as Act 1 wrestled him and nearly won. Luxury singing from the Valkyrie gang and, below, Tony Pappano presided over a rich-toned and rhapsodic orchestra augmented by six harps plucking away in the stalls circle. 

At the risk of sounding heretical, though, I'm not convinced Wagner is Pappano's finest six hours. He has become incomparable in Italian repertoire - Il Trittico a year ago was one of the greatest evenings I've ever had in the ROH, and I mean it. But this was rather gentle Wagner: an interpretation that roused and glowed but didn't transfigure. It needs an extra hard-edge of ecstasy that simply wasn't there, despite the glories of the singing. 

Let's face it: we go to Wagner to get high. That's why people get addicted. And if you don't get the high, something isn't quite working. And the place it needs to be generated is in the pit. It's legal. But it shouldn't necessarily sound it.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top tweets for Tosca

In case you missed the fun, Tosca trended on Twitter yesterday when the Royal Opera House's production by Jonathan Kent hit BBC2, starring Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel, with Tony Pappano conducting. Experience the power and the glory of this singular Christmas treat by reading a selection of the verdicts, commentaries, quips, observations and much more that spurred the stars on their way, from living rooms up and down the country... (BTW, this timeline goes backwards, so we start at the end.)

MERRY CHRISTMAS A TUTTI!


@richardwjones As good as Angela Gheorgiu was as Tosca, nobody will ever be quite as good as Maria Callas.   

@talopine Being made VERY jealous by all the people in my timeline who are raving over  on the BBC with Kaufman and Terfel.  

@Random_Opera After brilliance of  earlier, why are we being given repeats of f***ing Morecambe & Wise on BBC2 (and equal shit on other channels...)

@jonathanclinch Sooo true.... RT   is trending, c'mon  don't just put decent opera on the tele at Xmas, people WANT to watch it!!!!!

@sanathaash1993 was awesome!

@Operazzi : Is this really suitable viewing for a Saturday afternoon - torture, attempted rape, murder, execution, suicide? ” ALWAYS!

@itsmao  and now .T when am I going to stop crying?

  is trending, OPERA ISN'T DEAD!!

@DrPiffle It was amazing, wasn't it? Sublime leads, spec JK. Orchestra in fine form too.  

@BlueBaby  was frightening enough from the amphitheatre.On TV he was terrifying  'thavenightmares

@stu_melling Tosca over: tears dried and the excitement of my first visit to on Feb 11th kicks in now.  

@amzenon It was amazing.. stunning.. captivating.. even on television.. I hope you can hear and see it sometime... 

@kittywhately Overwhelmed by  at . Terrifyingly good and incredibly moving. And Kaufmann and  made it a total hunk fest!

  an excellent production thank you More please

@marcodemag Mario Cavaradossi's quite hot shirtless 

@Gert Shabby little shocker 

@theviciouspixie Dear Santa, in my stocking I would like Jonas Kaufmann please. 

@redragwork Wow - that  was heart-stopping

: Ah Jonas, that was quite some Christmas treat.  

@Popher Thank you BBC.  was brilliant, a delightful change from the normal Xmas tv

@leboyfriend For me that was entirely satisfying and fulfilling. Bravi tutti!! 

@Mark_Pullinger Ah, a Spoletta who milks the final moments! Excellent performance of  - so sorry I didn't get a ticket, but thanks Beeb for the relay.

@glittrgirl Gosh I feel knackered after watching that 

@Irma0316 Magnificent! Fantastic! Stunning! Amazing! *stands up and applauds*  

@David_CAA That  bloke can sing a bit, but I couldn't understand a word he said

@amzenon .. Grandiose !!! above all Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel.. Pappano & Orch. fantastic.. tremendous broadcast.. 

@hannahmmay pahaha, just watched Puccini's  from the Royal Opera House on BBC2! 

@ivisbohlen Horrible, but great acting! RT : It's horrible that we know that he knows......

@glittrgirl I had goosepimples through nearly all of that  *blows noes* *dabs eyes*

@tonyhatfield tears- end of  

@John_Denny Anyone else think Scarpia looks like Ed Balls? 

@clavdivs1 That was SUPERB! We need more opera on the telly! 

@_Joliffe FINALLY. Needn't of jumped, I'd happily of pushed. 

@danny_blue2004 I've always had this image of her popping back up again 

@MahlerMad I HAVE NO MORE TEARS 

@goldenavenger1 Only slight downside of watching opera on the telly is I can see Cavaradossi breathing when he's meant to be dead. 

@MahlerMad SCARPIA! AVANTI A DIO! 

@railtonrailton Don't worry, he's still breathing 

@RuthElleson Yikes, I never like watching this bit... ...

@MahlerMad Presto, su. Mario! Mario! MARIO!!!! AAAAAAAH! 

@glittrgirl The good thing about watching opera at home is being able to bawl audibly. 

@flumpmistress If he'd done that lip curl, I'd have probably fainted! 

@MahlerMad WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH 

@greeboblackcat Humans yowling on tellybox. Staff bawling her eyes out. *nuzzles staff*  

@MahlerMad *hugs cushion* 

@TimSim85 I'll call you by a thousand loving names. 

@Irma0316 I'm in absolute BITS. God, how I love Puccini :) 

@MelJD46 'Together in harmony our souls fly to the ecstasy of love' 

@lynnmb25  ..everything that's beautiful will find its voice in you...breaking my heart!

@findo I am in awe of JK right now 

@millymelon Angela Gheorgiu's nipples: I can't understand why I can't see them in that dress 

@chiller Guys, just get in the carriage and go. If you hang about like this it's not going to end well. 

@Clavdivs1 No good plan starts with the line "You will be shot" 

@brendadada Jonas Kauffman's e lucevan is the most emotional I've ever heard. Domingo would be proud. 

@AngharadLee 'I die in despair and I have never loved life so much' - Jonas Kauffman u have brought me 2 tears. Stunning performance 

@Cairnspolitics if you only watch 1 opera in your life then it should be Tosca. Terrific performances on BBC Two now 

@EmilyOnsloe  just... WOW 

@leboyfriend e lucevan was exquisite 

@amzenon Oh...Jonas... 'E lucevan le stelle' ..sigh... sigh... sigh... 

@Erastes  - typical man, going to be shot and all he can talk about is shagging. # lucevanlestelle :D

@manx_maid Beautiful diminuendi - Jonas' trademark 

@dmartw Gibbering wreck after that  

@HorizonVA Jonas Kaufmann *sigh* 

@AngharadLee My 4yr old is loving  on  Not sure I can cope with anymore 'why' or 'what's he doing' questions mind. She's transfixed 

@Gert You go girl! Kill the nasty bastard Scarpia  

@brenbaritone   being taped fr me at home.I saw the cast after queuing 16 hours over night.looking forward to reliving it:-)

@Becky_Todd We approve of . Blooming brilliant on the beeb in as he is in everything. Loved my auditorium shifts when he was on.

@RachelWolseley Oh I do love you Ange, despite everything... 

@flumpmistress I'm not getting anything done, too enthralled! 

@brianbg OMG That  really can play a bad bastard. 

@Clavdivs1 Don't trust the man you daft girl, he's spent the last act lip curling maliciously and squeezing your boyfriend's head in a vice! 

@DiveSciDiva Even though I'm female even I'm finding Angela Gheorghiu's low cut dress distracting 

@rob_f_1  never ever seen an opera before but current showing of  is absolutely fantastic. Amazed. Thank you!

@raethepain Visi D'arte time! Unfortunate boob slippage there though. 

@AngharadLeeThank God 4  .Relief fromXmas 4 a wee while.Terfel just head butted him  Not classified as a fair fight in th valleys

@_widdershins Headbutt in an opera! Nicely done Bryn.  

@sensisuperstar It's all kicking off on BBC2, Bryn Terfel has just butted some bloke... 

@malatrope Doesn't Bryn Terfel look like Meatloaf  

@Paul_Anater There's hope! RT : RT :  is trending :D This restores my faith in humanity

@cazponty For all the ladies drooling at Jonas...good....all the more Bryn for me!

@CharlSkidmore Watching the same production of  I camped outside the for. SO EXCITED. BBC 2 you've made my day.

@patrickxwest Can't help wondering if Meatloaf wouldn't make a good Scarpia 

@Gert Take your dirty hands off Jonas, you brutes! 

@JackSullivan2 Right that's it I'm going to write an opera so I can marry Jonas Kaufmann 

@leboyfriend I'm a wreck already - and I have seen this more than any other opera so it's not like it's full of surprises. 

@yourPollyanna Mother's just come into the room and asked if she's "chucked herself off the turrets yet?" 

@billybothwell68  is even trending lol wow is this what happens when the x-factor finishes ? BBC HD folks its even better :)

@SophieBellaWiz Current trending topics are ridiculous. What is this fuckery? The only decent one is , which I hope is in referrence to Meerkat Manor.

@lucy_arch LOVELOVELOVE 

@sbuttsoprano no queueing for interval g&t! Shuddering at  's evil Scarpia.

@quentinrayner Opera singers must go deaf, bellowing at such close range into each others faces   

@ivisbohlen I'll keep an ear out for this. RT : Here comes one of his best bits: diminuendo through the key change in same breath 

@bubblesmoloney I wonder if 33 is too old to become an Opera singer? I have the 'lungs'. 

@manx_maid Lady tweeps who don't think they're into opera may like to look at Mr Jonas Kaufmann on BBC2 NOW. That is all. 

@thestorti I wish my life was narrated by the lead singer in  would mean making toast would be so epic.

@RuthElleson Only  could wear THAT waistcoat and look hot. 

@JackyTarlton Watching Antonio Pappano's  on  now. Thrilling start to Christmas. Great to have opera on tv:)