Sunday, 2 October 2011

Opera North at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park: Autumn

Four Seasons Autumn Concert at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Saturday 1st October 2011 19.30 performance

On an unseasonably warm Saturday evening, as the sun was fading and the magnificent sculptures of Jaume Plensa were coming to light, the Opera North’s programme of seasonal concerts at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield continued with their autumn offering. The walk down from the Visitors Centre towards St. Bartholomew’s Chapel, now converted into an exhibition space, as the light faded, was assisted by a series of lanterns which helped bring about a sense of expectancy, particularly as we discovered the chapel itself was illuminated on the outer surface by a projection of moving flames. Inside the chapel itself the mood was further enhanced by a series of well placed branches and leaves, which, under the subdued candle light, left audience members mesmerized for what was to be tonight’s performance. Due to the intimate surroundings, and the relatively small audience space available, the mood was one of being engaged with the performers, to the extent that both the audience and musicians were integral to the occasion.

Under the direction of Matthew Sharp, David La Page (violin), Nicola Sweeney (violin), Lisanne Melchior (viola), Oliver Wilson (viola) and Clare O’Connell (cello) performed a series of pieces, interspersed with readings that did nothing to dispel the ambience created. The theme for the evening was clearly “autumn” and the first piece, “Autumn” by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla was the ideal soundtrack to set the pace. Sometimes unfairly compared to Vivaldi’s “Le Quattro Stagioni”, Piazzolla’s piece is part of his “The Four “Buenos Aires” Seasons” and proved tonight to be lively, but with a bleakness that reflects the season perfectly. Mathew Sharp’s reading of a recipe for pumpkin and Claire Lilley’s interpretation of Pablo Neruda’s poem “Ode to Wine” bridged the gap between Piazzolla’s “Autumn” and Vivaldi’s familiar “Autumn-2nd Movement, Adagio Molto”. A remarkable inclusion to the programme were Sharp’s poignant versions of Kurt Weill’s “September Song” and Jacques Brel’s “Chanson des Vieux Amants”, sung with fervour and sentiment, they shone clearly and showed Sharp’s effusiveness and passion for the pieces. Tchaikovsky’s “November-Troika”, part of the composers selection “The Seasons”, is often seen as the most demanding due it’s swiftly moving flow and strident outbursts, and tonight appeared mischievous, amongst it’s multitude of emotions.

The centre piece for the evening could be argued to have been Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night” and the poem by Richard Dehmel of the same name. Dehmel’s poem describes a man and a woman walking through a dark forest at night, and the woman’s revelation to her lover that she is carrying another man’s child. Schoenberg’s score equates closely to the poems narrative and discourse, and is comprised of an assortment of musical phrases, which in this performance were executed elegantly, and led us into the final two pieces of the evening, a reading of “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves” from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and Sharp again in regal voice on Freidrich Ruckert and Gustav Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (I am Lost to the World) from their Ruckert-Lieder song cycle.
The long march back up the slope to the Visitors Centre was scattered with lanterns, a fire and a more intensely lit Plensa sculpture to help illuminate the way. Despite the stumbling and muttered protestations over the uneven ground, Opera North at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park again proved to the participants that art in unusual places is to be celebrated. 

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