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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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22 Feb 2005

Anne Sofie von Otter at Göteborg

Yesterday [19 February 2005], I went to the concert hall in Göteborg, where Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg held a recital. It was the first time I actually heard them live, and I must confess that I was apprehensive! I have listened to them so much on recordings and taken so much influence from them, especially when it comes to my repertoire — what if I didn’t like them in concert? The concert hall was full — 1200 seats, imagine that for a recital… I have a hard time getting jobs at all because it is so hard to attract audiences to recitals. But, they are world famous and that, of course, attracts a large audience. »

21 Feb 2005

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operettas by Lehár, Suppé, and Strauss

This new disc, from Hänssler’s “Living Voices” series, divides essentially into two parts. The first four tracks are “Potpourris” from Léhar’s Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns, Suppé’s Bocaccio, and Johann Strauss’s Wiener Blut. Recorded in 1939 and 1940, these “Potpourris” feature tenor Rupert Glawitsch and a very young Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (b. 1915). The remaining eight tracks include excerpts from Schwarzkopf’s early-50s EMI complete mono recordings of Die Lustige Witwe and Land das Lächelns. »

21 Feb 2005

CANTELOUBE: Chants d’Auvergne

In the mountains of the vast Auvergne country near the south of France lays the inspiration of Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergne. Marie-Joseph Canteloube, born in 1879 at Annonay, spent his childhood in the countryside of Malaret in the south of Auvergne. It was these roots that instilled his love for folk-music, consuming much of his compositional output and research. He wrote Les chants paysan s’élève bien souvent au niveau de l’art le plus pur, par le sentiment et l’expression, sinon par la forme. (The songs of peasants very often reach the level of the purest art in feeling and expression, if not in form.) »

21 Feb 2005

Michael Bohnen: At the Metropolitan Opera, New York

The title of this most worthwhile CD is, I’m afraid, somewhat misleading. The charismatic German bass-baritone, Michael Bohnen, sang at the Metropolitan Opera from 1923-1932. One might expect this CD to only document roles that Bohnen sang there, if not provide transcriptions of actual Met performances. In fact, the disc includes excerpts from several roles that Bohnen never sang at the Met. Of the twenty tracks on this CD, twelve, by my count, are souvenirs of Bohnen Met roles (Tonio, Rocco, Caspar, Mephistopheles, Wotan, Wolfram, Sachs, and Francesco in Schilling’s Mona Lisa). »

21 Feb 2005

Wozzeck at WNO

FIRST nights of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck are not traditionally sellouts, but then this was anything but a traditional first night. As the main event of Welsh National Opera’s inaugural weekend in its new home, the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay, Saturday night’s performance sent out a volley of positive signals that will stand the company in good stead as it builds new audiences. There are more seats to fill than in WNO’s old house, but a strong forthcoming season combined with adventurous pricing policy should prolong the buzz. »

21 Feb 2005

Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer in Philadelphia

Time stands quite still in John Adams’ opera The Death of Klinghoffer. The pulsing orchestra, the explanatory choruses, the shifting viewpoints, and, above all, the tacit understanding that the events of 20 years ago are being replicated now with no measurable change give the work the feeling of complete stasis. »

21 Feb 2005

WNO Triumphs With La Traviata

Welsh National Opera’s first performance in its new home could so easily have been a disaster. But nowhere was the return of its former musical director Carlo Rizzi more crucial than in this revival, as he transformed the shoddy Traviata of last May into an emphatic restatement of the musical values that have traditionally been at the core of the WNO. Rizzi conducted with authority and passion, and with such care for his singers that where terminal decline had beckoned, he seemed to have effected a miracle cure. »

21 Feb 2005

Handel's Semele at Scottish Opera

A tale of everyday mortals and gods entranced a nearly full house at beleaguered Scottish Opera last night with the same clever mix of pathos, wit, drama and humour that has kept nations’ favourite soaps at the top of the viewing and listening schedules for decades. And it was the visual elements as much as the vocal and musical that clinched the success of this premiere performance last night. Director John la Bouchardiere (of “The Full Monteverdi” fame) worked with a light touch that engagingly mixed some pretty unusual elements into a confection that finally had the audience calling its approval. Likewise, young Christian Curnyn on the podium brought his Early Opera Company experience and love of truly modern stagings of Handel to bear, and managed to persuade the SCO orchestra to eschew both vibrato and swooping lines without adding any extra period instrumentalists, save a harpsichord. Apart from a slightly unconvincing first 10 minutes (of more later) they played with increasing verve and apparent conviction throughout. »

21 Feb 2005

Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas

If you had to name an opera you thought Seattle music lovers were dying to see and hear, what would be your guess? “Carmen”? “Madame Butterfly”? Maybe the ever-beloved story of ill-fated young lovers, “La Boheme”? »

21 Feb 2005

SALGADO: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo

During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso. »

19 Feb 2005

Verdi's Otello at Opéra-Bastille

Ce ne sont pas des notes qui jaillissent de la baguette de Valery Gergiev, c’est un foudroiement : une tempête d’air, d’eau, de feu qui déchire l’espace et fige d’horreur le chœur des Chypriotes massés au port pour le retour vainqueur d’Otello. Une puissance dévastatrice, métaphysique. »

19 Feb 2005

PENDERECKI: A Polish Requiem

Krzysztof Penderecki’s A Polish Requiem is a monumental work expressing the struggles of 20th century Poland against oppression. Written over the course of several years in the 1980s and 90s, sections of A Polish Requiem memorialize significant events in Poland’s history. The Lacrimosa was written for Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement as a memorial to Gdansk dock-workers who died in a conflict with authorities. The Agnus Dei was composed as a memorial tribute to the Polish religious leader, Cardinal Wyszynski and the Recordare marks the beatification of Father Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life at Auschwitz so that another man and his family could live. In addition, the Dies Irae was written to mark the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis. In its whole, A Polish Requiem is a work of piety as an expression of Penderecki’s devout Catholicism and a conviction of the human ability to triumph over evil. »

19 Feb 2005

Renée Fleming in Boston

Renée Fleming sang the Boston leg of her current recital tour last night at Symphony Hall accompanied by the distinguished German pianist Hartmut Höll. Not only was Ms Fleming in free, shimmering and beautifully controlled voice, but last night’s program of Purcell, Handel, Berg and Schumann was some of her most disciplined work in a very long time. »

18 Feb 2005

KRAMER: Opera and Modern Culture — Wagner and Strauss

"New musicology" is the cultural study, analysis and criticism of music, which proffers the belief that music has societal, religious, political, personal, and sexual agendas. Consequently, new musicology, much like the discussion of such topics at social gatherings, can be polarizing. »

17 Feb 2005

Nabucco at the Met — Another View

NABUCCO. Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Temistocle Solera. Metropolitan Opera, James Levine conducting. Through March 8 at Lincoln Center. Call 212-362-6000 or visit www.metopera.org. Biography can be a distorting lens through which to view art. A case in point is Verdi’s “Nabucco” (1842), his first great success, which followed the deaths of his children and wife between 1838 and 1840 and the humiliating failure of his second opera. »

17 Feb 2005

Cosi fan tutte at San Diego

For San Diego Opera conductor Karen Keltner, returning to the score of Mozart’s opera “Cosi fan tutte” is like slipping on a pair of well-worn leather gloves. The music fits snugly with the vocal parts, and the luxurious feel of the piece improves with each wearing. »

17 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland — Another View

In Scottish Opera’s early days, Handel was not a high priority. Debussy, Verdi, Mozart and Mussorgsky were the composers with whom the company made its name. As a Handel conductor, Alexander Gibson – like Pierre Boulez – went no further than the Water Music. In his role as administrator, Peter Hemmings was forthright and forbidding. Handel’s operas, he declared, were the kiss of death. »

16 Feb 2005

Tristan und Isolde at Geneva — Other Views

Faced with Wagner’s marathon symphonic poem with voices, it is easy to see why producers are panicked into hyperactivity. Olivier Py’s new staging does just that. Wagner whittled down the characters to the bare minimum, to present an unadulterated account of doomed passion. Py, a promising, provocative talent in France but on this evidence short on maturity and focus, elects to flood the stage, literally in act three, with supernumeraries and hackneyed symbolism that feeds on Shakespeare and Arthurian legend. »

16 Feb 2005

Verdi's Nabucco at the Met

There is an honesty to Elijah Moshinsky’s four-year-old production of Verdi’s “Nabucco,” which returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night. No excuses are made for the opera’s creaky theatrical state, no attempts to bring up-to-date relevance to what became a symbol of revolution and national unity for Italians 160 years ago. »

16 Feb 2005

Die Zauberflöte at ROH

AN ODD thing about David McVicar’s productions is the way they improve with time. When this show first appeared it was too po-faced by half, full of regard for the pomposities of the piece but hardly at ease with its lightness, enchantment and childish simplicity. »

16 Feb 2005

Julius Caesar in Hamburg

Hamburg – These. Antithese. Synthese. So einfach ist das manchmal. Anstatt ein sehr abstraktes, gern auch sehr allegorisches Genre wie die Barock-Oper in ein um Wirklichkeit bemühtes Regie-Korsett zwingen zu wollen, das ihren schillernden Typen das Entrückte, Allgemeingültige nehmen würde, geht Karoline Gruber bei “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” einen ganz eigenen, ganz cleveren Regie-Weg: Zuerst wird auf Pointe komm raus gealbert und überdreht. Dann auf Gedeih und Verderb geliebt. Im dritten Akt ohne Wenn und Aber geläutert. Die Katharsis kommt spät, aber gewaltig. »

15 Feb 2005

Gounod's Faust in Cleveland

“Making a pact with the devil’’ is one of those expressions that have gotten diluted with overuse. Nobody really means it when they say it, unless maybe they happen to be talking about Charles Gounod’s opera Faust, where the music is as transcendently lovely as the story line is dark. »

15 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland

WHY IS IT we feel so comfortable with the Handel who wrote such pot-boilers as the Hallelujah Chorus, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Music for the Royal Fireworks or Water Music, yet dread the thought of sitting through one of his many operas? »