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Krossover – Opera revisited
Reyn OUWEHAND (b. 1973) Marinus de GOEDEREN (b. 1974)
Mea culpa [5:51]
Martin FONDSE (b. 1967)
O mar [3:19]
Reyn OUWEHAND, Odilo GIROD (b. 1972)
Golden leaves [3:26]
Ruben HEIN (b. 1982)
Undyed [3:05]
Lucky FONZ III (b. 1981)
Rebibá [5:21]
Martin KONIJNENBURG (b. 1982)
Nichts macht mehr Sinn [3:08]
To the end of the world [3:56]
Robert Jan STIPS (b. 1950)
Not a some time thing [4:13]
Martijn van AGT (b. 1967)
Go slow [3:57]
Huub van der LUBBE (b. 1953)
Voor geen goud [3:46]
Vivo [5:18]
SPINVIS (b. 1961)
Nocturne [3:41]
Ruben HEIN
The wedding night [3:33]
Tania Kross (mezzo)
Netherlands Symphony Orchestra/Jurjen Hempel
rec. Muziekcentrum Enschede, Netherlands, 16 – 20 September 2013
Arrangements by Bob Zimmerman
Sung texts with English translations enclosed

The Dutch opera singer Tania Kross, born in Curaçao, decided for her latest album not to pick another dozen of the arias that every singer of distinction has sung over and over again. Instead she commissioned songs by some of today’s composers of popular music. The idea was that once upon a time the difference between the popular songs and the world of opera wasn’t that distant. Over the years the gap has widened and Ms Kross wanted to bridge that gap. The idea is fascinating but in a way irrelevant to her statement in the liner-notes: “Wouldn’t it be great to create a cultural environment in which going to the opera would be an understandable alternative to a new James Bond movie?” The traditional recital albums contain arias from existing operas, solos and scenes taken out of context but still created as part of a drama and thus in one way or other reflecting the story, the emotions, the dramatic situation in the opera. Heard out of context the arias can be enjoyed as beautiful music. Just a short summary in the liner-notes can be enough to explain the background: why is the soprano sad, why is the baritone angry …? Operatic ‘numbers’ are created out of necessity. For this disc composers created ‘numbers’ out of non-existing dramas. Is that bad?
I thought so initially, the idea works against the nature of opera. On the other hand there are numerous examples of arias from bygone days that were created out of context. Mozart’s concert arias for instance, or his ‘insert arias’ for other composers’ works, written with a specific singer in mind. Rossini, short of time, ‘borrowed’ arias from earlier operas. With that in mind I see the point, and the texts no doubt paint a story, or at least an emotional or dramatic situation. One can easily imagine what has gone before. The next step would be even more interesting: to ask these composers to write a full-length opera. Knowing the development of opera during the last couple of decades, where composers return to melodious material and at the same time writers of musicals like Andrew Lloyd Webber embrace traditional opera - The Phantom of the Opera is through-composed, no spoken dialogue. I shouldn’t be too surprised at the results. We are already moving in the direction of West End Opera.
Some of the numbers here are just agreeable but a little bland: they lack the nerve, the intensity, the feeling of drama. They are too ironed out. Both O mar (tr. 2) and Golden leaves (tr. 3) belong in that category. They are well sung, Tania Kross has a beautiful and expressive voice and both arias nod in the direction of Michael Nyman’s special kind of minimalism. The temperature is heightened in Ruben Hein’s Undyed (tr. 4) where the orchestra is more active and there is a rather thrilling crescendo. After that inspiration flows more freely. Ribibá (tr. 5) – the text is by Tania Kross – has both temperament and a catchy melody. In Nichts macht mehr Sinn (tr. 6) the drama is truly in the foreground and text and music is organically woven. Odilo Girod delivered both lyrics and music for To the end of the world (tr. 7) and this is another strong aria.
Robert Jan Stips (text and music) Not a some time thing (tr. 8) refers to an existing opera – and an early crossover work as well – Porgy and Bess. This is an approach to ‘what happened when the curtain went down?’ A long time after in fact; here they are in Heaven and after the turmoil in the Gershwin opera things have settled: “me and my man / we’re still blessed with eternal romance / up here it’s always summertime and spring”. There are even references to Gershwin’s music. This is a winner.
Voor geen goud (tr. 10) is powerful, Vivo (tr. 11) is beautiful and sensitive: “I don’t write / about my heaven / I’m living on it / and I won’t come down”. The wordless Nocturne (tr. 12) is very beautiful — one of my favourites. Finally Ruben Hein treats us to a sensitive, seductive and beautiful The wedding night (tr. 13) but with a contrasting section filled with unfulfilled wishes.
Bob Zimmerman’s professional arrangements contribute to the overall attractive result and Tania Kross invests all the music with strong feeling, intensity – and beauty.
Some of the music seemed too ironed out but there is so much that lives up to the expectations and I hope Tania Kross will continue exploring the possibilities for crossover in the future.
Göran Forsling