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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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07 Apr 2016

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.  »

06 Apr 2016

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration. »

05 Apr 2016

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838. »

02 Apr 2016

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.  »

02 Apr 2016

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).  »

02 Apr 2016

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi. »

31 Mar 2016

The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal Opera

‘All men become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.’ ‘Is that clever?’ ‘It is perfectly phrased!’ »

26 Mar 2016

Mahler’s Third, Concertgebouw

Evolving in Mahler’s Third: Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic’s impressive adaption to the Concertgebouw »

22 Mar 2016

La Juive in Lyon

Though all big opera is called grand opera, French grand opera itself is a very specific genre. It is an ephemeral style not at all easy to bring to life. For example . . . »

21 Mar 2016

Benjamin, Dernière Nuit in Lyon

That’s Walter Benjamin of the Frankfort School [philosophers in the interwar period (WW’s I and II) who were at home neither with capitalism, fascism or communism]. »

21 Mar 2016

Handel’s Berenice, London

1737 was Handel’s annus horribilis. His finances were in disarray and his opera company was struggling in the face of the challenge presented by the rival Opera of the Nobility. The strain and over-work led to a stroke, as the Earl of Shaftesbury reported: »

20 Mar 2016

Nocturnal Visions and Reveries at the Barbican

Nocturnal visions and reveries dominated this concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Hall, part of a two-day celebration of the music of George Benjamin which also includes a concert performance of the composer’s opera Written on Skin.  »

18 Mar 2016

Ferruccio Furlanetto at San Diego

On March 5, 2016, San Diego Opera presented it’s star bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, in a concert of arias with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra at the orchestra’s home, Copley Symphony Hall. »

18 Mar 2016

Madama Butterfly, LA Opera

On March 12, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented the local premiere of Lee Blakeley’s staging of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly which had been seen in 2010 at Santa Fe Opera. When Blakeley’s Geisha, played magnificently by Ana Maria Martinez, forsakes her traditional religion and breaks the rules of her culture, she eventually faces a choice between total loss of honor and suicide. Everything that happened on the stage Saturday night pointed toward the tragedy. Puccini’s unforgettable music and exquisite singing by Los Angeles Opera’s top-notch cast kept audience members on the edges of their seats all evening. »

16 Mar 2016

Boris Godunov, Covent Garden

‘And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ John Donne’s metaphysical meditation might have made a fitting sub-title for Richard Jones’s new production of Musorgky’s Boris Godunov at the Royal Opera House — the first performance in the house of the original 1869 score. »

14 Mar 2016

Ariodante, London Handel Festival

By the time that he composed Ariodante, which was first performed in January 1735, Handel had more than three decades of opera-composing experience behind him. It’s surely one of his greatest music dramas not least because, adapted from Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso, it is a very ‘human’ drama, telling of love and lust, betrayal and healing. »

14 Mar 2016

AZ Opera Presents Young Singers in Memorable Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni is Mozart at his mature zenith. He makes his musical statements directly with optimum economy and, even after more than two centuries, the dramatic scope of his work remains a source of wonder to operagoers. Charles Gounod called Don Giovanni “an unequalled and immortal masterpiece, the pinnacle of lyrical drama.” »

10 Mar 2016

Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night, London

Descending into the concrete cavern that is Ambika P3, at the University of Westminster, I reflected that the bunker-like milieu was a fitting venue for Royal Academy Opera’s production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night, which updated the original early-19th century locale to the beginning of the Soviet era. »

10 Mar 2016

Entrancing Orlando at the Concertgebouw

The English Concert’s travelling Orlando has been collecting rave reviews. Here’s another one from Amsterdam, the last stop on their tour before Carnegie Hall. »

03 Mar 2016

Orlando at the Barbican

In 1728 Handel was down on his luck, following the demise of his ‘Royal Academy’. Ever the entrepreneur, the following year he made a scouting tour of Italy in search of the best singing talent and, returning with seven new virtuosos — including the castrato Senesino.  »

02 Mar 2016

Heroique flashes at Wigmore Hall

Bryan Hymel, Irene Roberts & Julius Drake at Rosenblatt Recitals »

02 Mar 2016

Il trittico, Royal Opera

Strong revival for Richard Jones 2011 production with cast mixing returnees and débutantes »

02 Mar 2016

A trip with Captain Haitink into Bruckner’s Cosmos

Last year for his 60th anniversary as conductor, Bernard Haitink celebrated with one of his first orchestra’s the Dutch Radio Philharmonic. That performance of Mahler’s Fourth turned out such a success, he returned for another round at the NTR Saturday Matinee at the Concertgebouw.  »

02 Mar 2016

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.  »

01 Mar 2016

Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart

In Musical Exoticism (Cambridge 2011) Ralph P. Locke undertook an extensive appraisal of the portrayal of the ‘Other’ in works dating from 1700 to the present day, an enquiry that embraced a wide range of genres from Baroque opera to Algerian rap, and which was at once musical, cultural, historical, political and ethical.  »

29 Feb 2016

Khovanshchina at Dutch National Opera convinces musically, less so theatrically

Dutch National Opera’s Khovanshchina’s finest asset was Anita Rachvelishvili’s vocally ravishing Marfa. The darkly opalescent Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra came in a close second. »

29 Feb 2016

Sophie Bevan, Wigmore Hall

The meaning of the term cantata (literally, ‘sung’ from the Italian verb, cantare) may have changed over time, but whether sacred or secular, the form — with its combination of declamatory narration and emotive arias — is undoubtedly a dramatic one, as this performance by Dunedin at the Wigmore Hall of cantatas by J.S. Bach and Handel confirmed. »

29 Feb 2016

Extraordinary Pelléas et Mélisande

With its City of Light presentations, honoring Paris and French inspired music, the Los Angeles Philharmonic offered its public an extraordinary concert performance of a unique opera — Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy. »

29 Feb 2016

Fascinating Magic Flute in Los Angeles

Barrie Kosky, intendant of the Komische Oper in Berlin, initially thought of combining live performance with animation when he saw British theater company 1927’s production of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. For that presentation, Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt mixed the worlds of silent film and music hall theater, a combination that Kosky wanted for his production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  »

24 Feb 2016

Theatre of the Ayre, Wigmore Hall

In the 17th century, sacred vocal music was not just for public worship in church but also for private devotion within a secular setting, and this concert at the Wigmore Hall by Theatre of the Ayre under its director Elizabeth Kenny transported us from Chapel Royal to domestic chamber. »

22 Feb 2016

HOT Dream in Honolulu

In a world opera schedule packed with safe bread-and-butter warhorses, Hawaii Opera Theatre gambled on a Britten rarity and came up smelling as sweet as a tuberose lei. »

19 Feb 2016

Arizona Opera Presents an Interesting Carmen

Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based their libretto for Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. On March 3, 1875, Carmen was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.  »

19 Feb 2016

L'Aiglon in Marseille

Napoleon I (Bonaparte) was known as the Aigle (eagle), his son by Marie Louise (of the Hapsburgs) later became called the Aiglon (eaglet). At birth he was dubbed the King of Rome by his father. Unofficially and very briefly he was Napoleon II. Exiled in Austria he was officially titled the Duke of Reichstadt and the Prince of Parma. »

18 Feb 2016

Norma , ENO

Notable first performance of Bellini's opera by ENO, with a striking assumption of the title role from the young American soprano »

18 Feb 2016

Schubert: The Complete Songs

The Wigmore Hall’s chronological journey through the complete lieder of Franz Schubert continued with this recital by tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Graham Johnson. The duo gave a thought-provoking performance which was notable for the searching dialectic between simplicity and complexity which it illuminated. »

17 Feb 2016

M is for Man, Music and Mystery

Peter Greenaway’s short film M is for Man, Music and Mozart, for which the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen composed the score, was commissioned to mark the bicentenary anniversary of Mozart’s death in 1791. »

17 Feb 2016

San Diego Opera Presents an Exciting Tosca

Together with fellow playwrights Émile Augier and Alexandre Dumas fils, Victorien Sardou dominated the French stage in the late nineteenth century. Although Sardou was an excellent craftsman who was elected to the Académie Francaise in 1877, his reliance on theatrical devices caused his plays to go out of style after the turn of the twentieth century.  »

15 Feb 2016

Nabucco with a Rare Cast at Lyric Opera of Chicago

The background of Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco, currently being presented at Lyric Opera of Chicago, draws on the struggle between Babylonian and Hebrew forces, emphasized in this production graphically by alternating scripts in cuneiform and Hebrew projections.  »