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Elsewhere

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall.

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

Garsington's Douglas Boyd on Strauss and Skating Rinks

‘On August 3, 1941, the day that Capriccio was finished, 682 Jews were killed in Chernovtsy, Romania; 1,500 in Jelgava, Latvia; and several hundred in Stanisławów, Ukraine. On October 28, 1942, the day of the opera’s premiere in Munich, the first convoy of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 90 percent of them went to the gas chamber.’

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

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.


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Reviews

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork perform Purcell and Nyman at Milton Court Theatre, 28th May 2018
22 May 2018

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall. »

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27 Feb 2005

Rossini's La Cenerentola in Milwaukee

Vivica Genaux hasn’t been singing long enough for the whole world to recognize it, but she is one of the greatest singers of our day. Genaux returned Friday to the Florentine Opera, to sing the title role in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola.” Her voice was huge, and as dark and rich as a profound red wine. Rarely do voices with such weight come to roles such as this, which are loaded with quick, tricky ornaments and aerobatic coloratura tangents. For all its power, Genaux’s singing seems effortless, and her voice is incredibly agile. She articulated every note with utter clarity and accuracy, even in the fastest runs and at the extremes of her range. »

27 Feb 2005

Chicago Opera Theater to Present Handel's La Resurrezione

From an artistic standpoint, Chicago Opera Theater’s inaugural season last year in the new Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park couldn’t have been more successful. Productions of Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea,’’ the haunting Chicago staged premiere of Benjamin Britten’s “Death in Venice’’ and a version of Rossini’s whimsical “Il viaggio a Reims’’ set in the American Wild West were outstanding on both musical and theatrical levels. »

27 Feb 2005

Fledermaus at Opera Australia

This is the triumph of style over content certainly, but in Fledermaus everything triumphs over content. The director, Lindy Hume, with designers Richard Roberts and Angus Strathie, has transposed 19th-century Austro-Hungarian imperial decadence onto 20th-century American imperial decadence, marrying brash New York energy with creaking Viennese charm. »

26 Feb 2005

Salome at the Semperoper

Sie inszenieren die sechste „Salome“ seit der Dresdner Uraufführung 1905 – empfanden Sie die Tradition des Stücks als Last? Da ich die Oper zum ersten Mal anfasse, dominierte die Lust. Eigentlich habe ich ja für „Salome“ Regie-Verbot, welches mir Mitte der 70er Jahre die Strauss-Erben aussprachen. Seinerzeit hatte ich vor Gericht mit der Frankfurter Oper um Urheberrechte an einer Inszenierung von Wagners „Götterdämmerung“ gestritten – und den Prozess gewonnen. Aufgehoben ist das Verbot nicht. Die Erben haben aber auch nicht interveniert. »

26 Feb 2005

Thomas Hampson in Vienna

Kurzweilig und mit pointierten persönlichen Anmerkungen verfeinert eröffnete Bariton Thomas Hampson seinen vierteiligen Amerika-Zyklus: Er ließ das Publikum im Neuen Saal an seiner Spurensuche nach dem “amerikanischen Lied” teilhaben, zog verbindende Fäden von der Alten in die Neue Welt. So sprach etwa der Mahler-Zeitgenosse Edward MacDowell fließend deutsch und wurde von Franz Liszt hoch geschätzt. Seine wonnig-traurige Seefahrer- “Ballade” brachte Hampson dann im Großen Saal darstellerisch raffiniert zur Geltung. Auch Charles Griffes (1884-1920) europäische Wurzeln – er war mit Engelbert Humperdinck befreundet – wurden nachvollziehbar, so in “Des Müden Abendlied”. »

26 Feb 2005

John Blow's Venus & Adonis at the Wiener Kammeroper

“Master of the famous Mr. H. Purcell”: Die Gedenktafel in der Westminster Abbey zeigt deutlich, dass John Blow, geboren 1649, schon für Zeitgenossen ein wenig im Schatten seines um zehn Jahre jüngeren Kollegen im Hofdienst und mutmaßlichen Schülers Henry Purcell stand. Dabei war Blows Karriere als Organist, Komponist und Chorleiter vielfältig und verantwortungsvoll. 1683 schrieb er “Venus und Adonis”, eine “Masque for the entertainment of the King”. Eine Oper im Taschenformat sozusagen, aus der Tradition des höfischen Maskenspiels emporgewachsen zum musikdramatischen Meisterwerk – nur mehr ein Schritt trennt es von Purcells “Dido and Aeneas” (1689). »

25 Feb 2005

BYRD: Consort Songs

This CD collaboration between the early music viol ensemble Fretwork and vocalist Emma Kirkby is devoted to songs of William Byrd composed in the vernacular to be sung with string accompaniment; interspersed with these is a selection of short instrumental pieces in various genres. As a composer whose work was associated especially with the English Catholics, many of Byrd’s compositions from the last quarter of the sixteenth century were based on sacred Latin texts. The less familiar English consort songs chosen for this recording represent a mix of both secular and religious themes. Topics in the song texts include the constancy of Penelope, the narrative of a pet dog who meets an unexpected end, an elegy on Sir Philip Sidney, and the execution of Mary Stuart as bound up with the vicissitudes of Fortune in this world. This selection is further balanced by vernacular songs of an overtly religious character focusing on topics such as the vanity of earthly pleasure and possessions, the Nativity, and a lengthy prayer for divine grace. Finally, some of the song texts draw on a thematic complex of both sacred and profane. »

25 Feb 2005

New York Throws a Party for Handel

Through a felicitous quirk of its touring schedule, Nicholas McGegan and his period instrument ensemble, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, performed a program devoted mostly to music by Handel on Wednesday evening, the 320th anniversary of Handel’s birth. »

25 Feb 2005

Le Nozze di Figaro at the Met

In 1998, New York’s Metropolitan Opera staged a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro with a glorious cast that included Bryn Terfel as Figaro and Cecilia Bartoli as Susanna. The recent revival employed singers who are less well known, but it none the less came close to being a perfect night at the opera. »

25 Feb 2005

Bach's B-Minor Mass at the Musikverein

Die heutzutage gern gepflegte Diskussion über die Frage “Darf man Bach auf ,modernem’ Instrumentarium aufführen?” ist dümmlich. Dass sie überhaupt geführt wird, beweist nur, wie wenig adäquate Bach-Aufführungen es heutzutage gibt. Wer die von Franz Welser-Möst geleitete Wiedergabe der Hohen Messe im Musikverein hörte, hat sich garantiert keinen Augenblick lang mit solchen Lappalien beschäftigt. Er hatte keine Zeit, denn da wurde Musik gemacht, auf jenem Niveau, mit jener Dringlichkeit, die von Takt zu Takt signalisiert, welche inneren wie äußeren Höhenflüge des Geistes sich in dieser Partitur vereinigen. »

24 Feb 2005

Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin at Wigmore Hall

A decade ago, Ian Bostridge’s recording of Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, with Graham Johnson, played a major part in boosting his nascent career. These days, though, the tenor is more often found collaborating with pianists who are soloists in their own right. His second recording of the song cycle has seen him developing a partnership with Mitsuko Uchida – and it might be his most fruitful so far. »

24 Feb 2005

Tan Dun's Water Passion at Perth

IN pursuing its theme of transcendence, the Perth Festival has brokered some imaginative collaborations, such as the Tura New Music concert at the Art Gallery of WA, featuring Morton Feldman’s music inspired by the paintings at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. . . . »

24 Feb 2005

A Bad Day at the Staatsoper

The apes have landed. The Duke of Mantua is a gorilla. Monterone is an orang utan, surrounded by hairy baboons. The cult film director Doris Dörrie is monkeying with Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Bavarian State Opera. »

24 Feb 2005

A Full House at Royal Albert Hall

It is strange how easily Raymond Gubbay manages to fill the Royal Albert Hall for opera, when less than a year ago his Savoy Opera company collapsed because he could not sell enough seats in a theatre a fraction of the size. How irrelevant that ill-starred venture and its demise seem now. »

23 Feb 2005

Samson et Dalila at the Met

Though a sizable contingent of opera connoisseurs and critics have long considered Saint-Saëns’ “Samson et Dalila” a musically tepid melodrama, this 1877 opera has been an enduring favorite with audiences. It’s not hard to understand why. »

23 Feb 2005

Verdi's Requiem Tours France

A qui s’adresse le compositeur d’un Requiem ? Au défunt, que sa musique doit accompagner dans une ultime transcendance, ou à la communauté endeuillée, qui se voit ainsi rappeler son état de mortel ? Dans le cas de Verdi, agnostique déclaré mais chantre du sacré à l’opéra, la réponse ne fait aucun doute. La Messa da Requiem, créée en 1874 à la mémoire du compositeur Rossini et de l’écrivain Manzoni, est destinée à tout être humain sensible au pouvoir des sons. »

23 Feb 2005

The Controversy Continues in Munich

Eine groß angelegte, staatstheaternde Rettungsaktion sollte es sein. Und dass Doris Dörrie jene Verweigerer, die Oper doof statt dufte finden, an die Hand nehmen will, um sie heim in die Hochkultur zu holen, ist ja prinzipiell in Ordnung. Dabei pflegt die Filmregisseurin nur zu gern mit ihrem Nichtwissen in Sachen Musiktheater zu kokettieren, um augenzwinkernd nach Kumpanen zu suchen: Oper, die mischen wir mal so richtig zeitgeistig auf. »

23 Feb 2005

Aida in Philadelphia

Like picking a growth stock, the Opera Company of Philadelphia showed shrewd judgment by engaging sopranos (for two of its four 2004/05 productions) who promptly became media darlings. »

22 Feb 2005

CAVALLI: Arias and Duets from 5 operas

Some years ago, those of us who are aficionados of pre-1750 repertory – and all the more so, those of us who are privileged to be able to teach it – were happy to have any recording of the music we hold so dear. We were happy to excuse wooden-ness or sloppiness of performance because, well, some idea of the sound of pre-Classical repertories was better than none at all. Over the last couple of decades, with the proliferation of phenomenal performers and ensembles who specialize in early music, this resignation faded: we now are spoiled by having our choice of many polished performances, and the privilege of comparing their relative merits. »

22 Feb 2005

Poppea in Zurich

The early music movement has come a long way since the 1970s. Or has it? Zurich Opera’s new L’incoronazione di Poppea invites comparisons. This opera house’s Monteverdi cycle three decades ago changed the way the world thought about the composer. Now it’s time for the remake. Same conductor, different directors. Klaus-Michael Grüber staged a spare, emotional Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria three years ago. For Poppea, it’s Jürgen Flimm’s turn. »

22 Feb 2005

Rigoletto in Munich

München – Idee ungewöhnlich, Experiment gescheitert: Unter dieser Kurzformel könnte man Doris Dörries erste und von großem Medieninteresse begleitete Münchner Opern-Inszenierung zusammenfassen. Giuseppe Verdis 1851 in Venedig uraufgeführten Opernklassiker «Rigoletto» auf dem «Planeten der Affen» anzusiedeln, diese Vorstellung fand bei der Premiere im Münchner Nationaltheater wenig Freunde. »

22 Feb 2005

Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Linz

Es ist eine der kürzesten Sterbesze nen der Operngeschichte: Ein schnoddrig verkündetes Todesur teil, jemand wuselt mit einem Strick herum, dann ist die intrigante Königs-Nichte auch schon tot. In Prokofieffs Märchen-Oper “Die Liebe zu den drei Orangen” wird schnell gestorben: Auch die den ersten beiden Zitrus-Früchten entsprungenen Prinzessinnen verdursten rasch, wenn auch klagend – eines der Details, mit denen sich der Komponist/Librettist Prokofieff vom Verismo abgrenzt. Keine naturalistische Darstellung, keine opulent auskomponierten Szenen voller Gefühlsüberschwang; statt dessen: Märchen und absurdes Theater, kurze Sequenzen, die einander fast überholen. »

22 Feb 2005

Massenet's Werther at the Wiener Staatsoper

Zuweilen begnügt man sich auch mit Details. Wenn das Ganze so gar nicht stimmen mag, gelingt es viel leicht dem einen oder anderen der beteiligten Künstler sozusagen gegen den Strom schwimmend, eine herausragende Leistung zu modellieren. Im Falle der “Werther”-Premiere darf Elina Garanca das künstlerische Freischärlertum für sich in Anspruch nehmen. Sie sollte die Charlotte singen, wurde von Regisseur Andrei Serban jedoch gezwungen, eine Art Grace-Kelly-Parodie abzuliefern, denn das Stück spielt von Inszenierungs-Gnaden in den fünfziger Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts. »