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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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16 Nov 2012

Alagna sings Nemorino - L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House, London,

One of the main reasons for interest in the Royal Opera’s latest revival of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore was that tenor Roberto Alagna had chosen to return to the role of Nemorino. Though he had sung Nemorino earlier in his career, he had never sung the role at Covent Garden. The other cast members were of a high order too, with Alexandra Kurzak as Adina, Ambrogio Maestri as Dulcamara and Fabio Capitanucci as Belcore. So plenty of reasons for seeing the revival, which I caught on opening night 13 November 2012.  »

16 Nov 2012

A Celebration of Mendelssohn Song

The Wigmore Hall Celebration of Mendelssohn Song series culminated in a recital of works by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn and by Robert and Clara Schumann. The programme was very well chosen because Felix, Fanny, Robert and Clara knew each other.. »

14 Nov 2012

Wozzeck at UC Berkeley

At this famous bastion of intellect the biggest drama was the parking. Though the football stadium may have been stuffed, Zellerbach Hall was not. »

13 Nov 2012

Simon Boccanegra at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In its current production of Simon Boccanegra Lyric Opera of Chicago draws on vocal strengths as well as musical and stage direction that do honor to Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece of political and emotional intrigue in fourteenth-century Genoa.  »

10 Nov 2012

Kathleen Ferrier: A Film by Diane Perelsztejn

Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.  »

10 Nov 2012

Wexford Festival Opera 2012

Wexford Opera’s 2012 trio of rarities, seen on the opening three nights of the Festival, spanned a mere twenty years but offered operatic idioms ranging from verismo to pantomime, operetta to Wagnerian love-death apotheosis. »

10 Nov 2012

1612 Italian Vespers

Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.  »

10 Nov 2012

The Resurrection of Italo Montemezzi’s Epic La Nave

Italo Montemezzi’s great “lost” epic opera, La Nave, was heard on 31 October for the first time since 1938, leaving an enthusiastic New York audience wondering why on earth it had been neglected for so long. »

10 Nov 2012

Oliver Knussen: Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!

Marking Oliver Knussen’s sixtieth birthday came a BBC Total Immersion weekend at the Barbican: a double-bill of Knussen’s two operas written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are and Higgledy Piggledy Pop! on Saturday, followed by a day of two chamber concerts, a film, and an orchestral concert conducted by the composer himself on Sunday.  »

10 Nov 2012

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Pilgrim’s Progress

After a slow, long period of gestation, commencing with a short dramatization at Reigate Priory in 1906 and spanning more than 40 years, the first performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress took place at Covent Garden on 26 April 1951, as part of the Festival of Britain. »

01 Nov 2012

Exaudi, Wigmore Hall

An intriguing blend of old and new marked the tenth anniversary of the British vocal group, Exaudi, juxtaposing the adventurous intricacies and affectations of the late-sixteenth century with the virtuosic refinements of today’s avant garde. »

28 Oct 2012

La bohème on Tour, WNO, Oxford

Every major opera company needs a production of La bohème. It is one of the operas which has the potential to attract everyone, the work which will tempt the occasional opera goer into the theatre.  »

27 Oct 2012

A New Production of Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

The opening images of Richard Strauss’s Elektra in its new production at Lyric Opera of Chicago establish a tension persisting until the final chords of the score indeed signal a resolution of this familial tragedy. »

27 Oct 2012

Amsterdam’s Skin Show

Netherlands Opera is surely to be numbered among the world’s most adventurous international companies. »

27 Oct 2012

Lohengrin in San Francisco

Exquisite pianissimos, sumptuous climaxes, gigantic fortes, insistent horns, sugary winds, tremulous brass, blasting trumpets, whispering strings, pulsating oboes, more gigantic fortes, even more sumptuous climaxes. »

24 Oct 2012

Parsifal bears its own Cross

Parsifal, with its heavy dose of religiosity and strains of racial supremacy, remains at once the most mystical and historically burdened of Wagner’s operas.  »

23 Oct 2012

Don Giovanni at ENO

Some especially puerile, needlessly irritating, marketing, involving pictures of condom packets — oddly chosen in so many ways, since few people find contraceptive especially erotic, and Don Giovanni would seem an unlikely candidate to have employed them — had attended the run-up to this revival of Rufus Norris’s production of Don Giovanni.  »

21 Oct 2012

Mozart and Salieri — Young Artists at the Royal Opera House

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Mozart and Salieri (1897) received its first ever performance at the Royal Opera House as the highlight of Meet The Young Artists Week at the Linbury Studio Theatre.  »

20 Oct 2012

Where the Wild Things Are, LA Philharmonic

An opera called Where the Wild Things Are based on a libretto by Maurice Sendak may sound like a mere treat for children, but when paired with the music of Oliver Knussen, as performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in a new and unique production by Netia Jones, it makes for a forty minute joy ride into fantasy land for adults as well.  »

19 Oct 2012

To Rome With Love: A Woody Allen film

What might a Woody Allen treatment involving opera read like? Tosca, third act — the firing squad lets loose shrapnel from a malfunctioning prop carbine, verily cutting into the Cavaradossi.  »

19 Oct 2012

Lucia di Lammermoor at Arizona Opera

The role of Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor was written for Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani who lived from 1812 to 1867.  »

18 Oct 2012

Schumann: Under the influence

The first of four concerts in Jonathan Biss’s ‘Schumann: Under the influence’ series at the Wigmore Hall was a focused, intelligent and, at times, sensuous and illuminating, evening of music-making. »

17 Oct 2012

Albert Herring at Covent Garden

Labelled a “parable of oppression” by the late musicologist, Philip Brett, Britten’s provincial comedy, Albert Herring, is a tough nut to crack.  »

12 Oct 2012

The Barber of Frankfurt

Frankfurt Opera’s adventurous season had a notable beginning with a luminous staging of Samuel Barber’s seldom heard Vanessa. »

12 Oct 2012

Moby Dick in San Francisco

Forget Herman Melville, forget struggling with deep human complexities. At least those that possessed nineteenth century Americans. »

10 Oct 2012

I Due Foscari, LA Opera

Lucky Angeleno opera lovers! In anticipation of the Giuseppe Verdi’s bicentennial (it will occur in 2013) Los Angeles Opera treated its patrons to a unique and musically thrilling performance of I Due Foscari, the sixth of the composer’s twenty-six operas.  »

10 Oct 2012

Die Zauberflöte, ENO

‘The last-ever performances of Nicholas Hytner’s production of The Magic Flute,’ claims the programme.  »

09 Oct 2012

Don Giovanni, LA Opera

In our era of minimal cultural restraints Don Giovanni has been the opera of choice for presenting dissolution on stage. Rape, oral sex, drug use and urination have been portrayed to Mozart's melodies.  »

09 Oct 2012

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in San Francisco

Give me good verses, I’ll give you good music, said Bellini to his librettist Felice Romani. Give me a good director and I’ll give you good opera surely thought San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley. »

05 Oct 2012

Stockhausen’s Mittwoch, Birmingham Opera Company

The first performances of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch — the world premiere took place on Mittwoch 22 August, the composer’s birthday, whilst I attended the last of four performances on Samstag — could hardly have failed to be an ‘event’ of the highest order: the last of the Licht cycle, in duration roughly twice the length of Wagner’s Ring, to receive its first full performance, though it was the sixth of the seven days to be composed.  »

05 Oct 2012

Blaise le savetier and L’amant jaloux by Bampton Classical Opera

“Two classic French comedies, one wardrobe…” was Bampton Classical Opera’s billing for this amusing double bill and, with typically wry wit, director Jeremy Gray duly placed a shabby-chic armoire centre-stage and made it the location of some Cherubino-Countess-style confusions and Goldoni-esque farce. »

05 Oct 2012

Frank Bridge Song Focus

Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was a professional violinist and violist, a talented conductor, a versatile composer and skilled teacher; yet he remains something of an enigma and his music relatively unknown. »

05 Oct 2012

“Dreamers of Dreams”

During the years from 1890 to 1940, the so-called ‘land without music’ witnessed a remarkable outpouring of chamber and instrumental music.  »

05 Oct 2012

Mozart’s Ghost finds its Way through Das Labyrinth

W.A. Mozart, despite a historically antagonistic relationship with his city of birth, retains an omnipresence in Salzburg that emerges in full force with each iteration of the illustrious summer festival.  »

05 Oct 2012

Cecilia Bartoli Comes, Divides and Conquers

Cleopatra, one of few female seductresses in operatic history to emerge not only alive but empowered in the final act, is a fitting role for Cecilia Bartoli in her first season as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.  »

04 Oct 2012

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall 2012-3 season (see link below) started with a gala of glamour. Dmitri Hvorostovsky attracts patrons in jewels and designer gowns.  »

04 Oct 2012

Martinů : Julietta, ENO

The ENO gave the British premiere of Bohuslav Martinů's Julietta many years ago, so this new production was eagerly awaited. But what will audiences new to Martinů get from this production? It's a myth that the English language makes opera more accessible. That just means audiences focus on words, rather than really listening or understanding.  »

02 Oct 2012

Handel Jephtha, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera have revived Katie Mitchell’s 2003 production of Handel’s Jephtha, with Robert Murray in the title role and a new focus for the drama.  »

28 Sep 2012

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Four Rigolettos in nine days (for this critic), of twelve Rigolettos in 24 days (are these world records?). »

28 Sep 2012

Nixon in China at the BBC Proms

John Adams’s Nixon in China has become one of the most successful operas in the late 20th/early 21st century wave of post-modernist attempts to revitalise the operatic tradition. It has even started its own sub-genre, the so-called CNN opera.  »

28 Sep 2012

Marriage of Figaro at the BBC Proms

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s visit to the Proms has become a much anticipated annual event. This year on 28 August, they brought Michael Grandage’s new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Robin Ticciati, who takes over as musical director at Glyndebourne in 2014. »

28 Sep 2012

Peter Grimes BBC Prom 55

The ghost of Peter Pears may no longer hover in the wings, but in an age when ‘defining’ interpretations by the likes of Jon Vickers and Philip Langridge still linger powerfully in collective audience memories, Stuart Skelton’s interpretation of Crabbe’s problematic fisherman is assuming a striking individuality and impact.  »