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The Orchestra of Welsh Nationwide Opera’s Czech Mates in Cardiff – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United Kingdom Britten, Dvořák, Wagner, Janáček: Jana Kuruvová (mezzo-soprano), Orchestra of Welsh Nationwide Opera / Tomáš Hanus (conductor). St David’s Corridor, Cardiff, 4.11.2022. (PCG)

Tomáš Hanus © Petra Hajská

BrittenPeter Grimes: 4 Sea Interludes
DvořákBiblical Songs
WagnerTristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod
Janáček – Sinfonietta

The title Czech Mates sounds no higher in Welsh: Clasuron Tsiecaidd! The live performance coupled items taken from two staples of the operatic repertoire with two works by Czech composers whose opera-writing careers of their lifetimes had been nearly completely restricted to their homeland. The conductor, briefly introducing the live performance, apologised for the absence of his costume go well with which apparently had been delivered to Birmingham by mistake, and that received the night off to a good-humoured begin. The efficiency was wonderful regardless of any perceived sartorial shortcomings; do many conductors these days put on the normal ‘full fig’ anyway?

The opening of the primary sea interlude from Britten’s Peter Grimes is among the cruellest assessments within the repertory for any physique of orchestral violins, uncovered of their highest register with only a solitary flute to supply any background. The Welsh Nationwide Opera forces surmounted any issues triumphantly, and certainly the enjoying all through these atmospheric items was exceptionally achieved. One often received the impression that the stability in an orchestra pit may need been barely completely different. The timpani initially of the Storm interlude are usually recessed considerably beneath the stage. Right here they sounded nearly as if delivering a concerto, albeit with very thrilling outcomes. It’s about time that WNO provided us Peter Grimes as soon as once more within the opera home. Given this customary of dedication within the enjoying, I can’t wait; and the WNO refrain stay unrivalled on this music.

Dvořák’s ten Biblical Songs had been initially written for voice and piano, and the composer himself orchestrated the primary 5. The programme observe prompt that we had been to listen to orchestral variations of all ten, together with the latter 5 as accomplished in 1955 by Jarmil Burghauser and Jan Hanuš. It’s a pity that we solely received the primary 5, as a result of Jana Kuruvová’s richly inflected singing left us wishing for extra. Additionally, the predominantly gradual settings of the primary 5 songs lack the perfect sense of distinction given by the cycle as a complete. At the least, the woodwind enjoying, so necessary in Dvořák’s late works from his American interval, was a delight, and WNO are to be congratulated for offering a handout full with texts and translations.

The programme notes promised the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in a model through which he mixed the 2 right into a seamless complete. Ernest Newman in Wagner Nights described it as ubiquitous earlier than WWII, but it surely has since grow to be an excessive rarity; I first encountered it in a BBC Proms efficiency within the final decade. What we truly heard was the usual format established since 1945: the Prelude at full size, full with the dying fade in double-basses as within the full opera, adopted by the Liebestod, equally at full size however omitting the vocal line. I are likely to really feel that Wagner’s personal synthesis works higher, however then we’d have been disadvantaged of the prospect to listen to the ravishing enjoying of the divided strings within the opening sections of the Liebestod. The climax on the finish was as overwhelming accurately, regardless of Wagner’s unusually and startlingly reticent dynamic of a single forte for this second of ‘cosmic totality’. This music positively exults in its liberation from the constriction of the orchestra pit, and the complicated orchestration advantages from the extra open acoustic of the live performance stage.

If Tomáš Hanus’s conducting had been fantastically nicely dedicated within the earlier elements of the programme, it was merely superlative in Janáček’s music, which he understands and is aware of so nicely. (He’s off to Brno later this month to conduct his personal version of The Makropoulos Case; we heard it at Welsh Nationwide Opera in September.) From the very opening intonation of the Wagnerian tenor tubas (the extra brass lined up, standing, throughout the again of the stage), this efficiency of the Sinfonietta had an unmistakable air of authenticity. The various excruciatingly troublesome woodwind solos had been all dealt with with whole safety and aplomb. The clarinets of their prime register squealed together with the piccolos with actual gusto, and the scattering of strings maintained their strenuous ostinati with assured panache. The top of the ultimate motion, when the additional brass re-entered with their opening materials over the long-extended cadences of the rest of the orchestra, made the hair on the again of the neck rise because it actually ought to; this is among the nice cathartic moments in all music. The viewers cheered everybody to the rafters.

All that was disappointing on this superlative night was the dismally small dimension of that viewers; from the place I used to be seated it regarded as if the corridor was significantly lower than 1 / 4 full. This will have been due to public transport difficulties (a prepare strike was threatened), but it surely was nonetheless stunning given WNO’s capacity to draw substantial audiences in Cardiff. Those that missed the live performance missed one thing actually particular. One hopes that they may try to make it for the following solo outing by this orchestra right here on 29 January subsequent, with a uncommon full rendition of Smetana’s cycle of symphonic poems Ma vlast. Given the standard of this efficiency, that ought to actually be one thing to anticipate.

Paul Corfield Godfrey



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