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Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese

Strong music values in 1940's setting for Handel's opera examining madness

As part of their Madness season, presenting three very contrasting music theatre treatments of madness (Handel's Orlando, Bellini's I Puritani and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd) Welsh National Opera (WNO) presented Handel's Orlando at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 3 October 2015.

Bostridge, Isserlis, Drake, Wigmore Hall

Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

Falstaff at Forest Lawn

Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare: the two Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Music and Drama Interwoven in Chicago Lyric’s new Le nozze di Figaro

The opening performance of the 2015-2016 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago was the premiere of a new production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro under the direction of Barbara Gaines and featuring the American debut of conductor Henrik Nánási.

La traviata, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia mixes boutique performances of avant-garde opera in a small house with more traditional productions of warhorse operas performed in the Academy of Music, America’s oldest working opera house.

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season



11 Oct 2015

Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.  »

Recently in Commentary

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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. »

07 Apr 2005

Le Figaro Interviews Peter Sellars

C’est l’événement lyrique de l’année à Paris. L’oeuvre, d’abord : le Tristan et Isolde de Wagner, véritable opéra impossible, monument visionnaire où tout est tourné vers l’intériorité, a toujours fasciné. La distribution, ensuite : Ben Heppner et Waltraud Meier sont tout simplement les plus grands. L’équipe artistique, enfin. Le chef finlandais Esa-Pekka Salonen, pour ses débuts à l’Opéra de Paris et son premier Tristan, retrouvera le metteur en scène Peter Sellars, dont la conception scénique s’appuiera sur l’univers visuel du vidéaste Bill Viola. L’occasion d’interroger Sellars sur sa vision de l’oeuvre : surpris en pleine répétition d’orchestre (il y assiste car pour lui la mise en scène procède de la musique), il nous répond avec une générosité, un sens de l’humain, une intelligence pédagogique qui font de lui un être d’exception. »

01 Apr 2005

Merkur Interviews Lawrence Zazzo

Als Nachwuchshoffnung wird der amerikanische Countertenor Lawrence Zazzo weltweit gehandelt. Sein Münchner Debüt ist also fällig. In der Wiederaufnahme der bereits 1997 bejubelten Inszenierung von Claudio Monteverdis “L’incoronazione di Poppea” der Bayerischen Staatsoper – unter der Regie von David Alden und der musikalischen Leitung von Harry Bicket – ist er nun als Ottone zu sehen. »

30 Mar 2005

Philippe Jordan at the Met

On Monday night, the Metropolitan Opera began another run of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” but without music director James Levine in the pit. He was at Carnegie Hall, directing his new band, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Conducting at the Met was Philippe Jordan, the sensational young Swiss. He is the son of the esteemed maestro Armin Jordan; indeed, they are the most noted father-son conducting pair since the Kleibers. But Philippe will far outpace Armin. That is the safe betting, at least. »

29 Mar 2005

Le Monde Profiles Rolando Villazon

Rolando Villazon est un ténor à sang chaud. Ce fils de Mexico est capable de vous attendre sur une place venteuse de Vienne, par une après-midi teigneuse, tête et mains nues, dans le grand froid qui tient encore la capitale autrichienne en cette mi-mars. La veille au soir, il incarnait avec une grâce incroyable un fragile et magnifique Roméo dans le Roméo et Juliette de Gounod, monté à la Wiener Staatsoper. »

28 Mar 2005

Deborah Voigt: The Comeback Kid

When the soprano Deborah Voigt was dropped from a Covent Garden production of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos last year she claimed it was her inability to fit into a sleek black dress that prompted her dismissal. »

26 Mar 2005

The Independent Interviews Angela Gheorghiu

“If Puccini were alive today, I’d be in love with him. I am sure of it. He knew how to write for sopranos: he really loved them,” says Angela Gheorghiu. And this soprano knows Puccini’s heroines well, having most of them in her repertoire or in her plans. On her latest CD, a handsomely packaged set from EMI, she steps into the shoes of all his major soprano characters, with the exception of the adulterous Giorgetta in Puccini’s most impressionistic score, Il Tabarro. »

25 Mar 2005

An Interview with Peter Schreier

“200 oder 300” Matthäus-Passionen hat Peter Schreier (69) schon hinter sich, als Sänger, seit den 80er-Jahren in der Doppelfunktion als dirigierender Evangelist. So auch an diesem Karfreitag im Gasteig, wenn er das Opus mit dem Münchener Bach-Chor aufführt (14.30 Uhr, Live-Übertragung auf Bayern 4). Und damit wohl zum letzten Mal hier zu hören sein wird: Zum Jahresende will Schreier, einer der größten Bach-, Mozart- und Schubert-Interpreten unserer Zeit, seine Gesangskarriere beenden. »

24 Mar 2005

Operatic Detritus

In an introduction to the score for his “Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera,” which will have its premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra tonight, John Harbison calls the piece the remnant of a misguided project, an “unproduceable” opera based on a “famous and infamous” American novel. »

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. »