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Elsewhere

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Bampton Classical Opera 2017
23 Dec 2016

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press. »

Recently in Commentary

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29 Oct 2005

The Paris Opera Scene

The city-funded Théâtre du Châtelet, an operatic David to Paris Opera’s Goliath, managed to make the biggest artistic splash of the new season. Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre, which opened October 21, following Das Rheingold by two days, was generally well cast, surely conducted and, as staged by Robert Wilson, brimming with theatrical interest. The two final operas will follow in November/December with two complete cycles offered in April. »

27 Oct 2005

“La Muette de Portici” : a small revolt in Ghent

No opera history is complete without mentioning that Auber’s La Muette de Portici caused Belgium’s revolution against Holland in 1830. As a historian I know there are three falsehoods in that one small sentence. »

23 Oct 2005

The twists and trysts of Tosca

A few years ago, I had the rare experience of attending a performance of Tosca in a small farm community where opera was a fairly new commodity. After the second act ended, with Scarpia's corpse lying center stage, I happened to overhear a young, wide-eyed woman say to her companion, "I knew she was upset, but I didn't think she'd KILL him!" »

17 Oct 2005

Alex Ross on City Opera’s fall season

New York City Opera opened in February, 1944, at the height of the battles of Anzio and Truk. If skeptics thought it frivolous to start an opera company in the middle of a world war, Fiorello LaGuardia straightened them out: the music-loving Mayor believed that opera was essential to city life, and he wanted lower- and middle-class New Yorkers to have it at affordable prices, without pretension. »

10 Oct 2005

The Operatic Pushkin

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837) is generally considered Russia’s greatest poet. According to Andrew Kahn, his contemporaries held him “above all the master of the lyric poem, verse that is famous for its formal perfection and its reticent lyric persona, and infamous for its resistance to translation.” [Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades and Other Stories, trans. Alan Myers, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997] »

05 Oct 2005

Abbé Prévost's Manon Lescaut

The Story of the Chevalier Des Grieux and Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost stands as one of the great works of French literature. It first appeared in 1731 as an appendix to the series, Memoirs and Adventures of a Man of Quality. It was later revised in 1753 for independent publication under the title Les Aventures du chevalier Des Grieux et Manon Lescaut with illustrations by Pasquier and Gravelot. »

29 Sep 2005

New World Symphony

By Russell Platt [The Nation, 3 October 2005] Classical music in America, we are frequently told, is in its death throes: its orchestras bled dry by expensive guest soloists and greedy musicians unions, its media presence shrinking, its prestige diminished,... »

24 Sep 2005

SOUNDS FROM THE STUDIO

The EMI label’s new version of “Tristan und Isolde,” starring Plácido Domingo, has received weirdly apocalyptic advance publicity: it has been described as the final large-scale opera recording in history. »

22 Sep 2005

Tom Sutcliffe - Behind the scenes

Sheridan Morley, impressed with Michael Grandage's staging of Schiller's Don Carlos last February, turned to a fellow critic at the Gielgud Theatre and asked if they had known that it was such a terrific piece, adding jocularly that somebody ought to make an opera of it. »

16 Sep 2005

Myth, Muzak and Mozart

As the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth approaches, Proms director Nicholas Kenyon offers a personal guide to enjoying his work »

15 Sep 2005

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE

The bittersweet life of Harold Arlen. The composer Harold Arlen, a dapper man whose songs brought something both dashing and deep to the Republic, liked to tell a story about the time he danced with Marilyn Monroe. »

15 Sep 2005

Paul Kellogg to retire as New York City Opera’s General and Artistic Director at the end of the 2006-07 Season

Paul Kellogg, General and Artistic Director of City Opera, today announced that he will retire from the Company in June, 2007 at the end of the 2006-2007 season, his 12th with the company. »

14 Sep 2005

View from the Top — David Daniels, ten years on

The life of an opera singer is not for the faint-hearted. It’s one of dizzying highs and lows, a crazy roundabout of heart-warming praise and soul-piercing criticism. No-one gets off lightly — even the best in the world — and to survive just a decade of this madness is an achievement in itself. I’ve been following the progress of American star countertenor David Daniels for a while now, so when I was asked to write a ten year retrospective on his career it seemed to me that, with a lot written already about that career, the “how” would be more interesting to discuss than the “what” or “when”. And the viewpoint that would give the most insight into how this exceptional singer came to be where he was would be: his own. »

08 Sep 2005

The Met Broadcasts Have a New Sponsor

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Joseph Volpe announced today that Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder™, will be the corporate sponsor for the Metropolitan Opera Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts which will celebrate their 75th anniversary this season. The twenty-one radio broadcasts will run from December 17 of this year to May 6, 2006, and will be heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network, which comprises over 300 stations in the United States and reaches eleven million people in forty-two countries around the globe. The Annenberg Foundation and the Vincent A. Stabile Foundation will continue to provide generous support for this season’s broadcasts as part of their long-term commitments to the future of this program. -------- »

23 Aug 2005

SANTA FE — Second Thoughts

For an opera company that boasts a $30-million endowment, and has scheduled funding efforts expected to bring that largesse to $50-million by 2007, its fiftieth anniversary of summer opera performances, plus $10-million more for capital improvements, the question comes up: Santa Fe Opera can afford top quality, but are they providing it? The answer seems to be, sometimes. »

11 Aug 2005

Unearthed Vivaldi Aria Premiered in Australia

Today at the University of Melbourne, an excerpt from Vivaldi's newly discovered choral setting of Psalm 110 ("Dixit Dominus") received its modern premiere, marking an historic occasion not only for musicologists but for the field in general. »

11 Jul 2005

High Noon in Düsseldorf

Barely a month ago, Rotterdam and the music world generally celebrated the first performance of Vivaldi’s Motezuma since those held in Venice in 1733. Musicologist Steffen Voss reconstructed the opera’s score in large part from a manuscript he found while examining documents recently returned to the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin by the government of Ukraine. Kees Vlaardingerbroeck, the artistic director of Rotterdam’s De Doelen, declared, “This is the most important Vivaldi discovery in 75 years.” »

09 Jul 2005

On Art and Politics

You see a lot of plays when you’re a drama critic, and you don’t always get to pick them. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have a way of sinking deeper into the velvet-lined ruts of our own well-established tastes when left exclusively to our own devices. To be a working drama critic, on the other hand, is to engage with what’s out there, good and bad alike. Just because I expect to be exasperated by a show, or bored silly, doesn’t mean I can afford to pass it by. Besides, I’ve been a critic long enough to know that only a fool writes his review on the way to the show. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been surprised at the theater – both ways. »

01 Jul 2005

An die Musik

In 1817, Franz Schubert set these words of the poet Franz von Schober to music in his song “An die Musik”: O gracious Art, in how many gray hours When life’s fierce orbit encompassed me, Hast thou kindled my heart to warm love, Hast charmed me into a better world. Oft has a sigh, issuing from thy harp, A sweet, blest chord of thine, Thrown open the heaven of better times; O gracious Art, for that I thank thee! Schubert’s song may well be the most beautiful thank-you note anyone has ever written, but it’s also something else. It’s a credo, a statement of faith in the wondrous powers of music, and by its very nature an affirmation of those powers. We may view it as a statement of expectations as well. The poet thanks Music for what it has done for him, but there is nothing in his words that would make us think that Music’s powers are exhausted, and indeed the noble, exalted character of Schubert’s music would lead us to believe that Music’s powers are, if anything, eternal, and eternally dependable. »

30 Jun 2005

When Copyright Law Gets It Wrong

When great music is silenced by law, who is truly wrong? Such is the nasty issue arising repeatedly in the low-stakes classical recording industry. So ephemeral is music that passionate minorities who appreciate it can't believe their luck when lesser-known... »

02 Jun 2005

Alex Ross: THE RECORD EFFECT — How technology has transformed the sound of music

Ninety-nine years ago, John Philip Sousa predicted that recordings would lead to the demise of music. »

21 May 2005

On Vanity Productions

On Sept. 29, 1855, the Brooklyn Daily Times ran an unsigned and startlingly exuberant review of a thoroughly obscure book of poetry. The anonymous critic quivered with admiration for the poet, as well as the verse. “Of pure American breed, of reckless health, his body perfect, free from taint top to toe,” he wrote. »

18 May 2005

On The Rise and Fall of Comic Opera

La ópera propiamente dicha nació seria, muy seria. Al fin y al cabo, a finales del siglo XVI, los selectos miembros de la aristocrática Camerata dei Bardi, en Florencia, imaginaban estar recreando nada más y nada menos que la tragedia griega. Pero, de forma paralela, y en el mismo contexto cultural, el madrigal dramático italiano estaba alcanzando su madurez con obras abiertamente cómicas. »

16 Apr 2005

The Diminishing Relevance of Critics

In the popular imagination, the art critic seems a commanding figure, making and breaking careers at will, but one hard look at today’s contemporary art system reveals this notion to be delusional.“When I entered the art world, famous critics had an aura of power”, recalls ArtBasel director Samuel Keller. “Now they’re more like philosophers—respected, but not as powerful as collectors, dealers or curators. Nobody fears critics any more, which is a real danger sign for the profession.” »

12 Apr 2005

An Interview With Michael Maniaci

Michael Maniaci has a fight on his hands. In the world of baroque opera he’s a young singer who seems to have it all: he’s intelligent, immensely talented, well-trained, committed and surprisingly wise for his 29 years. On top of that he’s already been successful in the USA winning prestigious competitions, and recently gaining significant roles at such proving grounds as Glimmerglass, New York City Opera and Santa Fe. »

10 Apr 2005

Thinking About Wagner

THERE are moments in “Die Walküre,” Wagner’s most humane opera, that never fail to dissolve me, even though I know they are coming. One occurs fairly early in the first act. »