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Elsewhere

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Pavarotti: a touching, yet not dispassionate, account of the legendary Italian tenor

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

An interview with composer Dani Howard

The young Hong Kong-born British composer Dani Howard is having quite a busy year.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.


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Reviews

Luciano Pavarotti [Photo by Terry O'Neill/Decca Records]
18 Jul 2019

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Pavarotti: a touching, yet not dispassionate, account of the legendary Italian tenor »

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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.  »

15 Feb 2016

Die Zauberflöte , ENO

Whilst the Arts Council has been doing its best to destroy the English National Opera, ENO has fought back in the best way possible: in the theatre. »

15 Feb 2016

Jamie Barton and Amber Wagner in recital at Tucson

On Saturday, January 23, 2016, at the University of Arizona’s Crowder Hall, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and soprano Amber Wagner gave a delightful recital entitled From Baroque to Broadway. The Baroque was Benjamin Britten’s realization of three Henry Purcell songs: Music for a While, Lost is my Quiet, and What Can We Poor Females Do?  »

15 Feb 2016

The Devil Inside, Scottish Opera

The route that Stuart MacRae and Louse Welsh have taken for their first full-length opera is reassuringly traditional in terms of getting experience of the genre, whilst the resulting work shows itself to be admirably anything but. »

08 Feb 2016

Cold Mountain, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia deserves congratulations on yet another coup. The company co-commissioned Cold Mountain, an opera by Jennifer Higdon based on Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Charles Frazier’s celebrated Civil War epic.  »

08 Feb 2016

Christian Gerhaher Wolfgang Rihm Wigmore Hall

For their first of two recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber devised an interesting programme - popular Schubert mixed with songs by Wolfgang Rihm and by Huber himself.  »

08 Feb 2016

Götterdämmerung in Palermo

There are not many opera productions that you would cross oceans to see. Graham Vick’s Götterdämmerung in Sicily however compelled such a voyage. »

05 Feb 2016

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.  »

02 Feb 2016

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience »

01 Feb 2016

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year). »