Sumptuous Strauss from Louise Alder in Wigmore jump-in

Louise Alder & Gary Matthewman ****

Wigmore Hall, 22nd July 2017

We anticipated a Ukrainian barihunk singing Tchaikovsky, but ended up with an English rose singing Strauss. “Travel problems” detained Andrei Bondarenko from making his Wigmore Hall recital, his place taken at very short notice by Louise Alder, whom I last saw here in February. During the intervening months, Alder has been busy: a deserved finalist in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, winning the Audience Prize; releasing her first solo recording; singing a divine Sophie in WNO’sRosenkavalier. On Friday, she sang Marzelline at the Proms. Not a soprano to let the grass grow under her feet.

Louise Alder
© Gerard Collett

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A love letter from Berlin as Barenboim and the Staatskapelle make Elgar their own

Prom 2: Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin ****

Nobilmente (It.). Nobly, in a noble style. As a musical term, it’s almost exclusively associated with the works of Sir Edward Elgar, who first employed it in his piano transcription of the Enigma Variations. The score to his Symphony no. 1 in A flat major is headed Nobilmente e semplice, Elgar’s musical equivalent of the English stiff upper lip, a restrained march initially played as but a distant memory. There was little stiff upper lip though about Daniel Barenboim’s heart-on-sleeve account with the Staatskapelle Berlin, the highlight of a splendid Prom concert.

Daniel Barenboim
© BBC | Chris Christodoulou

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From Auber to Halévy: El-Khoury and Spyres celebrate a pair of French stars in style

Opera Rara: Joyce El-Khoury & Michael Spyres ****

Cadogan Hall, 14th July 2017

Opera Rara celebrated Bastille Day with a tribute to two great French singers, Julie Dorus-Gras and Gilbert Duprez. Dorus-Gras was a leading soprano in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, creating key roles in operas by Meyerbeer, Halévy and Berlioz. Duprez changed the course of tenor history, famed for being the first such singer to employ powerful chest voice for top Cs in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. Stepping into their shoes at Cadogan Hall were two singers with remarkably individual voices, Joyce El-Khoury and Michael Spyres, for a toothsome programme of arias and duets.

Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury
© Russell Duncan (2014)

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Tangled plot, sensuous score: Cavalli’s Erismena illuminates the Jeu de Paume

Cavalli: Erismena ***

Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, Aix-en-Provence

You know you’re attending Baroque opera when the names of most of the characters (a) begin with a vowel and (b) are near anagrams of each other. With Erimante, Erismena, Orimeno and Aldimira all on the bill, making headway through the synopsis of Cavalli’s 1655 opera Erismena was like wading through treacle. Giving up at the third attempt, I happily settled back in the 500-seat Théâtre du Jeu de Paume and allowed Jean Bellorini’s spartan staging to lead me gently by the hand through the plot’s myriad twists and turns.

rancesca Aspromonte (Erismena)
© Pascal Victor

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A rake’s progress: Mozart’s Don Giovanni let loose in Aix

Mozart: Don Giovanni *****

Théâtre de l’Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence

Less than 24 hours after Stravinsky’s Rake bounded his way across the stage of the Théâtre de l’Archevêché, it was the turn of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (whose complete title is The Rake Punished, or Don Giovanni) to face his comeuppance. Jean-François Sivadier’s pulsating new production propels The Don through his lusty adventures at a whirlwind pace, pursued by those he has wronged, seeking vengeance. Behind a bare stage, the word “Liberta” is scrawled in red on a distressed wall, but can Don Giovanni’s victims ever be free of him? Sivadier suggests not.

David Leigh (The Commendatore) and Philippe Sly (Don Giovanni)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

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