Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sad Day for Opera

I received my Opera News yesterday and as usual I read it through from cover to cover in one sitting. The shocking information was contained on the last couple pages. Two great artists have died within the last 2 months. The magnificent Philip Langridge and the brilliant John Reed.

Philip Langridge, tenor, was one of the great artists of the 20th/21st century. His musicianship was fantastic. All you need to do is listen to the links below of the two movements from the Britten Horn Serenade to see what I mean. His mastery of Britten in particular, but contemporary music in general was amazing. On the stage he was a thoughtful, but effective singing actor. See the clip below from the Met's "Hansel und Gretel." It is ironic that this role, in this production was his last appearance on stage - January 2. A performance I listened to and enjoyed. He plays the Witch, by the way. But for me his Captain Vere, from Britten's "Billy Budd" was his most enduring and powerful performance. I have seen this opera on many occasions - I saw it at the Met with Peter Pears, at LOC with Kim Begley and then a couple different productions on video with Philip Langridge and there was a depth and intensity and power to his portrayal of this role that I have never experienced with anyone else. Find a recording of him singing "I Accept Their Verdict" and watch him become progressively more lost and frantic until he disappears into the cabin to meet with Billy accompanied by Britten's amazing series of triads. I have also seen, hear and enjoyed his performances of Loge (Rheingold), Aron (Moses & Aron), Basilio (Nozze), Idomineo, Laca (Jenufa) - to name a few of his great roles. I will miss his artistry and musicianship and the depth of his dramatic performances. He was only 70 when he died.  Requiescat in Pacem...
YouTube videos - From Britten's Horn Serenade - Elegy and Hymn (the other movements are also available at YouTube).
Serenade - Elegy
Serenade - Hymn
As the Witch in Hansel & Gretel - The Witch's Ride:

Humperdinck - Witch's Ride

John Reed was the last of the great commedian / patter artists with the D'Oyly Carte Company in London which for over a hundred years specialized in performing Gilbert and Sullivan.  With this company he played all of the patter roles: The Judge, Sir Joseph Porter, John Wellington Wells, Major-General Stanley, Reginald Bunthorne, The Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, King Gama, Jack Pointe, The Duke of Plaza-Toro and Robin Oakapple (I think I got all the major ones - leaving out Thespis and the Grand Duke).  He was funny, great timing and performed the patter songs deftly.  But he was also capable of moments of great tenderness - see the clip of him below as Ko-Ko singing "Tit-willow" from "Mikado."  I actually had the opportunity to see him live in Wilmington, Delaware (of all places) when I was much, much younger in a performance of "Mikado."  D'Oyly Carte was on tour.  Many of the principal artists did not come on tour - understudies covered those roles.  But John Reed was there and he was great.  I thought he stole the show and his "Little List" brought down the house.  He was 94 when he died.  Requiescat in Pacem.
Enjoy this wonderful clip which is posted on YouTube:
Tit-Willow from "Mikado"