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Elsewhere

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Soprano Nadine Sierra Wins the 2018 Beverly Sills Artist Award

Soprano Nadine Sierra has been named the winner of the 13 th annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera.

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

The Grand Tour: A European Journey in Song

The seventeenth Oxford Lieder Festival (12-27 October 2018) will celebrate a rich tapestry of music, words and performance in European song and will showcase the pinnacles of the repertoire while exploring wider cultural influences.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Nadine Sierra as Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo. Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
24 Apr 2018

Soprano Nadine Sierra Wins the 2018 Beverly Sills Artist Award

Soprano Nadine Sierra has been named the winner of the 13 th annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera.  »

Recently in Commentary

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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. »

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. »