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Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

An Interview with Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa sings Eurydice in Los Angeles Opera’s French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice that can currently be seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

The operatic tradition is not as old in the Netherlands as in other European countries, yet opera is a vital part of the Dutch classical landscape. Both Dutch National Opera & Ballet and the Concertgebouw are in Amsterdam, so the capital gets the lion’s share of the opera on offer.

Lyric Opera of Chicago to Premiere Fellow Travelers—A Preview

On 17 March 2018 Lyric Opera of Chicago will premiere the 2016 opera Fellow Travelers by Gregory Spears (with a libretto by Greg Pierce, based on the novel by Thomas Mallon. Mallon’s 2007 novel offered fresh perspectives on the paranoiac investigations of McCarthy-era Washington, DC, through the lens of a gay relationship.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.



Lisette Oropesa [Photo © Jason Homa]
21 Mar 2018

An Interview with Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa sings Eurydice in Los Angeles Opera’s French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice that can currently be seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  »

Recently in Commentary

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21 Mar 2005

James Levine on Opera in Concert

CAMBRIDGE—James Levine doesn’t like pushy producers and stage directors any more than most opera lovers do. In a panel discussion at Harvard last Monday centered on the BSO’s recent performances of Wagner’s ‘’The Flying Dutchman,” the music director spoke about the advantages of opera in concert. »

20 Mar 2005

The Opera That Changed a Career

He was the toast of the new Russian Communist regime, a young composer who had captivated audiences under the banner of the emerging cultural revolution. But in 1936, Dmitry Shostakovich’s reputation plummeted after Stalin attended his immensely popular opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsenk, at the Bolshoi Theater. »

05 Mar 2005

Celebrating Lorin Maazel

Wien ist zwar Stätte vieler seiner künstlerischen Triumphe – und doch auch des vielleicht bitters ten Wermutstropfens in einer formidablen Karriere: Lorin Maazel, der am Sonntag 75 Jahre alt wird, war einer der kürzestdienenden Direktoren der Staatsoper, kapitulierte nach nur zwei Spielzeiten, weil die Angriffe gegen ihn unerträglich geworden waren und die Kulturpolitik, verbündet mit den Angreifern, versagte. Immerhin: Das so genannte “Blocksystem”, eine Spielplangestaltung in “kleinen Serien”, wie sie der Nachfolger Maazels dann nannte, gab zwar den Ausschlag für eine Kampagne gegen den dirigierenden Direktor, doch pflegt die Staatsoper es bis heute. »

04 Mar 2005

A Profile of Brenda Harris

Singing offbeat, nontraditional roles can be a path to oblivion for an opera singer. For Brenda Harris, that road has led to fame, fortune and as much work as she can handle. It also means that Harris often is learning new roles. »

03 Mar 2005

Mozart? Maybe Not.

01. März 2005 Ein Rokokoherr mittleren Alters, Frack, Spitzenjabot, gepudertes Haar – könnte das nicht Mozart sein? Niemand weiß, wie der Komponist wirklich ausgesehen hat. So galt es denn als „Weltsensation”, als die Berliner Gemäldegalerie ihren bisherigen „Herrn im grünen Frack” vor wenigen Wochen aufgrund einer computergestützten Analyse des Musikliebhabers Wolfgang Seiller als neu entdecktes Mozart-Porträt präsentierte. Gemalt hatte es der seinerzeit renommierte Münchner Porträtist Johann Georg Edlinger „vor 1790”, was aber nun auf „um 1790” umfunktioniert wurde. »

02 Mar 2005

James Levine and the 21st Century

We’re undeniably in the era of James Levine. The Cincinnati-born, 61-year-old conductor is right now art music’s Great Enabler. As music director of the Metropolitan Opera for nearly the last 30 years and in the home stretch of his first season as chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, his potential for goosing the possibilities of 21st-century classical music performance is unique. »

26 Feb 2005

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at Berlin Cathedral's 100 Year Jubilee

Der Berliner Bariton Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau gehörte über Jahrzehnte hinweg zu den weltweit gefeierten Liedsängern. Der fast 80jährige ist nach wie vor als Dirigent, Maler, Buchautor, Ehrengast aktiv – und wird heute im Konzert des Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchesters Berlin zum 100jährigen Jubiläum des Berliner Doms als Sprecher auftreten. Volker Blech sprach mit Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. »

26 Feb 2005

Nikolaus Harnoncourt at Zurich Opera

It is the day before the opening night. Zurich is agog for the new production of Monteverdi’s opera L’incoronazione di Poppea, but there is a snag. The Poppea has gone sick. A new one has had to be flown in from Frankfurt, and in only a matter of hours has had to be acclimatised to the radical staging and familiarised with the edition of the score that Zurich Opera is using. »

23 Feb 2005

Die Welt Interviews Rolando Villazón

Der 32-jährige Mexikaner Rolando Villazón hat sich in seinen wenigen Karrierejahren bereits als eine der größten Tenor-Hoffnungen erwiesen. Ein Interview mit dem nie stillsitzenden Lockenkopf ist wie eine Bühnenvorstellung. Manuel Brug hat es erfahren. »

18 Feb 2005

A Star Is Born

Phumzile Sojola got the call less than 36 hours before the concert. University of Kentucky alum Gregory Turay, who was set to be the featured soloist on the Lexington Philharmonic’s Feb. 4 concert, was sick and might not be able to sing. The orchestra needed a tenor in the wings. OK, Sojola thought. He knew the scheduled arias. »

18 Feb 2005

Le Figaro Profiles Valery Gergiev

Pas facile à coincer, Valery Gergiev. Le chef russe le plus charismatique de sa génération a voué sa vie au Kirov de Saint-Pétersbourg, dont il a fait l’un des théâtres lyriques les plus recherchés du monde. Mais il anime aussi trois festivals : les Nuits blanches de Saint-Pétersbourg, le Festival de Pâques de Moscou et celui de Mikkeli en Finlande. N’oublions pas non plus qu’il est directeur musical de l’Orchestre philharmonique de Rotterdam, premier chef invité du Metropolitan Opera de New York, et l’un des maestros préférés du Philharmonique de Vienne, qu’il dirige tant au Musikverein qu’au Festival de Salzbourg et en tournée. Avec un tel calendrier, guère de place pour des invitations à droite et à gauche, et s’il a fait récemment ses débuts aux «Proms» de Londres avec l’Orchestre symphonique de la BBC, c’était une exception dont on se demande si elle va se généraliser, donnant un nouveau tour à une carrière jusqu’ici focalisée sur quatre orchestres. »

17 Feb 2005

Marcello Viotti Has Died

BERLIN – Marcello Viotti, the music director of Venice’s famed La Fenice Theater who also conducted at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and other leading houses, died at a German hospital after falling into a coma. He was 50. Viotti died Wednesday night after being in a coma for several days at a clinic in Munich, Germany, his agent, Paul Steinhauser, said by telephone from Vienna, Austria. »

15 Feb 2005

L'Express Interviews Natalie Dessay

Il y a un miracle Natalie Dessay. Sa Reine de la Nuit (dans La Flûte enchantée, de Mozart) ou son Olympia (des Contes d’Hoffmann, d’Offenbach), irrésistibles de présence et de drôlerie, ont déjà marqué l’histoire de l’opéra. On se régale de sa présence sur scène, de son tempérament explosif, on admire sa voix de soprano léger à la virtuosité sans limites, et on respecte la femme, diva humble et sincère. On aime Natalie, on croit la connaître, mais elle reste un mystère. Après une saison triomphale, couronnée par un enregistrement (Amor, consacré à la musique de Richard Strauss, chez Virgin Classics) et une victoire de la musique, soudain, patatras! Comme il y a deux ans, une opération des cordes vocales oblige la chanteuse à annuler des représentations. Le doute et la peur viennent ébranler ce petit bout de femme d’ordinaire débordant d’énergie. Pourquoi? Natalie Dessay s’en explique ici »

11 Feb 2005

A Profile of Rolando Villazon

Rolando Villazon has the opera world on a string. The young Mexican tenor has just completed a fairy tale year, with acclaimed debuts at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden in London and the Staatsoper in Berlin. He released his first CD, a collection of Italian arias; several critics ranked it among the best classical recordings of 2004. And his face graced the covers of a number of opera periodicals. »

09 Feb 2005

Il Gazzettino Interviews Claudio Scimone

Maestro Scimone, cosa rappresenta per lei questo riconoscimento del consiglio regionale che la indica come come ambasciatore della cultura veneta nel mondo? «In un primo momento, oltre che commosso, sono rimasto anche un po’ stupito soprattutto considerando il libro d’oro molto ristretto di questo premio, assegnato sinora solo a un Patriarca di Venezia e a un eroe. Poi ho pensato che il significato di questa scelta del consiglio regionale è il riconoscere come sia importante per la nostra regione l’arte e la cultura che sono l’elemento di identificazione più importante del Veneto». »

06 Feb 2005

Roll Over Stockhausen

When did the music die? And why? It will be 30 years in August since the death of Dmitri Shostakovitch. Next year also marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Benjamin Britten. Aaron Copland, older than both of them, lived on until 1990 and Olivier Messiaen until 1992. But apart from these? I can see them already. The protestations on behalf of the half-forgotten and semi-famous, the advocates of Henze and Berio, the followers of Tavener and Adès. Perhaps there will be a good word for Golijov or Gubaidulina, for Piazzola or Saariaho (enthusiasms I share). And maybe, even now, there remains someone who believes that Stockhausen should be mentioned in the same breath as Bach, the last of the true believers clinging to the shipwreck of modernism. »

02 Feb 2005

Jirí Belohlávek Named to Head BBCSO

The BBC Symphony Orchestra confirmed yesterday that its new chief conductor from the first night of the 2006 Proms will be the Czech maestro Jirí Belohlávek. It was known two and a half years ago that Leonard Slatkin would be standing down from the job at the end of last season’s Proms, so the announcement about his successor has been a long time coming, but the welcome news of Belohlávek’s appointment is not a surprise. I floated him as the most likely choice in an article on these pages back in July last year. It was a hunch, but one based on a reasoned study of the form book, since he seemed to have precisely the qualities that the BBC should be looking for. »

01 Feb 2005

Teresa Berganza — Two Interviews

Le coeur des amoureux de bel canto va battre plus fort, mardi soir au Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. La série «Les Grandes Voix» de Jean-Pierre Le Pavec accueille l’une des plus grandes dames de l’histoire de l’opéra au dernier demi-siècle. A un mois de son soixante-et-onzième anniversaire, Teresa Berganza précise qu’il ne faut pas espérer entendre le Chérubin ou la Rosine des années 50 : avec sa voix d’aujourd’hui, elle se consacre maintenant au récital, faisant la part belle au répertoire ibérique, qu’il soit espagnol (de Falla) ou argentin (Piazzolla). Mais elle a toujours la même discipline, la même élégance, le même pétillement : un petit bout de femme vif-argent et intarissable, qui vous donne l’impression qu’on s’est toujours connus. Rencontre avec une immense artiste, qui a participé à l’âge d’or de l’opéra. »

30 Jan 2005

Mozart Here, Mozart There, Mozart Everywhere

Mozart-Tage in Wien, Mozartwoche in Salzburg. Und das alles 2005, wo doch das Mozartjahr erst 2006 droht. Vor lauter Ankündigungen und Vorausschauen, was die Welt, was Österreich im Besonderen im Jubiläumsjahr an Plänen ventiliert, droht Mozarts Musik zur Nebensache zu werden. Das ist ihr Glück. Denn so bleibt sie, während wohlbestallte Koordinatoren und Intendanten über Aktionen von hoch bezahlten Kasperln diskutieren, doch die Hauptsache. »

28 Jan 2005

Encountering David Daniels

``I’m Tom Brady’s best friend,’’ joked David Daniels. ``I’m sure he’d love to read that!’’ OK, the world’s leading countertenor isn’t really Brady’s bud. ``But I did meet him,’’ Daniels continued. ``It was when I sang (Handel’s) `Messiah’ in Ann Arbor.’’ Brady was quarterback for the University of Michigan football team when Daniels, now 38, was a graduate student there. ``A lot of times the football players would come to concerts – they were always trying to enlighten them to the music world, arts and culture – and he came backstage and I got to shake his hand,’’ Daniels recalled. ``If you asked him, he might remember me as this guy who sang like a woman.’‘ »

28 Jan 2005

Denyce Graves Goes to the Treasure Coast

With a voice as strong and clear as the winter wind through the cherry trees, Denyce Graves sang for all America last week at President Bush’s inaugural ceremony. Graves, who was born and raised in Washington, D.C., is something of a musical emissary — she’s had the lead roles in opera houses all over the globe, and is considered one of the most dynamic mezzo-sopranos on the world stage. »