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Elsewhere

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.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Alexandra LoBianco (Aida). Jacob Lucas photo
21 May 2018

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. »

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02 Apr 2012

Rigoletto, Royal Opera House

How would a period instrument specialist like John Eliot Gardiner approach Rigoletto, Verdi’s sordid tale? This was his first Rigoletto (though not his first Verdi); but he created it with great insight. »

31 Mar 2012

Elmer Gantry the Opera

The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.  »

28 Mar 2012

Historical Performances from Covent Garden: Barbiere, La traviata and Tosca

Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.  »

27 Mar 2012

La forza del destino by Chelsea Opera Group

For sixty years, the Chelsea Opera Group has adorned London opera life. It doesn’t do mass market, but focuses on unusual and obscure repertoire. This audience comes for the music!  »

24 Mar 2012

Lucia and the glass harmonica

Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.  »

24 Mar 2012

Florian Boesch at Wigmore Hall

The performance at the Wigmore Hall of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin by Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau was outstanding. Over several decades, I’ve heard hundreds of performances, but this was exceptionally perceptive. »

24 Mar 2012

A Child of Our Time, Barbican Hall

The Barbican’s English oratorio series now reaches the twentieth century, with Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, though it will step back to The Dream of Gerontius next month.  »

22 Mar 2012

Albert Herring, LA

The Los Angeles Opera, anticipating Benjamin Britten’s centennial gave the composer, as well as its patrons, an early birthday present of performances of his charming comic opera, Albert Herring.  »

19 Mar 2012

Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Concert

A major part of the rejuvenation of opera in the 21st century is the cultivation of young singers.  »

19 Mar 2012

Levine conducts at the Metropolitan Opera: 1978 to 2006

Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.  »

19 Mar 2012

Don Pasquale, San Diego

You can’t keep a good opera buffa down. And Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is about as good as opera buffa gets.  »

19 Mar 2012

Aida in Arizona

Two live camels with trainers in Egyptian garb were stationed in front of Phoenix’s Symphony Hall to publicize the opening of Arizona Opera’s new production of Aida.  »

13 Mar 2012

Miss Fortune mis-fires, Royal Opera House

An absurd plot has never stood in the way of a good opera. Unfortunately, Judith Weir’s Miss Fortune at the Royal Opera House isn’t much of an opera. »

12 Mar 2012

Netrebko and Garanča in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena

The cinema world has given us “star vehicle,” a term used to describe a movie that may not have the best script or direction but which suits a popular actor’s persona so well the film can fairly be called a successful entertainment.  »

12 Mar 2012

A Physical Barber by ETO

For an operatic masterpiece The Barber of Seville is surprisingly tricky to do well, it is not one of those pieces which plays itself.  »

09 Mar 2012

Byrd: The Englishman

In this stimulating and uplifting performance, The Cardinall’s Musick, led by director Andrew Carwood, continued their comprehensive project to examine the works of one of England’s greatest composers — William Byrd (c.1540—1623).  »

08 Mar 2012

Elijah, Barbican Hall, London

The Barbican’s six-month series celebrating the English oratorio, has now reached Mendelssohn’s Elijah — or perhaps we should follow the Victorians and refer to it as ‘the Elijah’, given that it was performed in English, in William Bartholomew’s translation.  »

06 Mar 2012

Abduction from the Seraglio, Philadelphia

Abduction from the Seraglio contains not a single ironic or cynical moment. Enlightened mercy and sincere love triumph totally over revenge, slavery and tyranny.  »

05 Mar 2012

Paris: Tenors Trump Befuddled Productions

Two recent outings at the Paris Opéra might have been subtitled: “Max Bialystock is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” »

05 Mar 2012

Zurich’s Magnificent ‘Other’ Moor

Right to the musical ‘score’ board: Zurich Opera stared down the mighty challenge posed by Rossini’s Otello ossia il moro di Venezia, and knocked it out of the ballpark. »

04 Mar 2012

Mazeppa in Monte-Carlo

Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa is not everyday repertory, nonetheless here in the south of France the Monaco production follows fairly closely (a couple of years) on the heels of the Peter Stein Mazeppa in Lyon. »

04 Mar 2012

Previn conducts the LSO in the 1970s

André Previn’s leadership of the London Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970s resulted in some highly regarded recordings, including one of the classic accounts of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony.  »

01 Mar 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, GSMD

There were high hopes for the 2012 debut production of A Midummer Night’s Dream by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Opera programme . »

01 Mar 2012

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

A perennial favorite among opera enthusiasts since its 1871 premiere in Cairo, Aida remains a popular work, and its strengths are apparent in the recent Decca DVD from the Metropolitan Opera, New York.  »

29 Feb 2012

Simon Boccanegra, LA

Sometime everything seems to go right. Just as the Los Angeles Opera Company did last fall, it opened its spring season with a baritonal eponymous opera; this time, Giuseppe Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.  »

28 Feb 2012

Rusalka, Royal Opera

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an interesting opera production will be met with incomprehension and lazy, philistine hostility by vast swathes of the audience in many, perhaps most, of the world’s ‘major’ houses, a truth that renders one all the more grateful for the Royal Opera showing the courage to stage this new — to London — production of Rusalka. »

28 Feb 2012

Beatrice and Benedict at the Wales Millennium Centre

Welsh National Opera presented a rather undercooked account of Berlioz’s tricky opera, in a revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s classic production »

27 Feb 2012

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Based on performances given on 2 and 3 March 2011 (at the Barbican, London), Valery Gergiev’s recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is an engaging and persuasive reading of the score.  »

27 Feb 2012

John Adams — Death of Klinghoffer, London

John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer is on at the English National Opera, London. »

27 Feb 2012

“Figures from the Antique”, Wigmore Hall

Modern and historic responses to classical tragedy and myth formed the unifying focus for this latest stage of Ian Bostridge’s year-long ‘Ancient and Modern’ project at the Wigmore Hall.  »

24 Feb 2012

Moby-Dick, San Diego

When Captain Ahab sailed the Pequod into San Diego this week, he brought a new American opera with him. Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick is a stunning work likely to have universal appeal.  »

24 Feb 2012

Fleming in Strauss’s Capriccio

Is there somewhere in Italian opera repertory where, as a comic interlude, the portentous clichés of German opera come in for a skewering amid the luscious sunshine of Italianate lyricism?  »

24 Feb 2012

Michael Spyres — A Fool for Love

Tenor Michael Spyres’ star is on the rise and his highly enjoyable debut recital disc offers ample proof as to why. »

24 Feb 2012

La clemenza di Tito — Barbican

The last opera seria — Mozart’s late, austere masterpiece, and vividly brought it to life. »

24 Feb 2012

Amsterdam’s Invisible, Risible Kitezh

A breath-taking stage picture at curtain rise of Netherlands Opera's The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia indeed made us involuntarily gasp as one.  »

20 Feb 2012

The Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition: Showcase Concert

Inaugurated in 1995, the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition is a triennial competition, held in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, which takes place over a week in January.  »

20 Feb 2012

Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette — Opera with few words

Mark Elder and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment brought Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette to the Royal Festrival Hall. »

20 Feb 2012

La Traviata, NYCO

In his memoirs, Five Thousand Nights at the Opera, Sir Rudolph Bing, general manager of the Met from 1950 to 1972, discusses the Met’s move from 39th street to its current home at Lincoln Center.  »

20 Feb 2012

Erwin Schrott’s Don Giovanni, ROH

Erwin Schrott triumphed as Don Giovanni in the Mozart/da Ponte series at the Royal Opera House, overcoming the limitations of the staging.  »

17 Feb 2012

Don Pasquale at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées

Critics. Can you get along without us? It is possible to reflect on this when the production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is shown on television tonight. »

17 Feb 2012

The Charterhouse of Parma in Marseille

Henri Sauguet is not entirely unknown in opera circles — divas Regine Crespin, Felicity Lott, Nathalie Dessay and Leontyne Price have included his arias in their solo albums. Plus there is a recording of his 1954 opera-comique Les Caprices de Marianne. »

17 Feb 2012

Verdi’s Aida at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In its current revival of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida Lyric Opera of Chicago approaches the challenges of the ambitious score with a cast well suited to the music and to the drama.  »

16 Feb 2012

The Barber of Seville, Metropolitan Opera

It was a performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in the late 90’s that marked my first visit to the Met.  »

16 Feb 2012

Pountney directs Verdi’s Forza for Vienna

One of the guiding principles of the revisionist (if not intervisionist) school of opera directing commonly called “regie-theater” is that certain outdated dramatic conventions in the librettos of many great operas can actually interfere with a contemporary audience’s ability to perceive the true artistic worth of the work of art.  »

15 Feb 2012

Le nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera

David McVicar’s production of The Marriage of Figaro, previously staged in 2006 (twice), »

13 Feb 2012

Ernani, Metropolitan Opera

Ernani accosts us with the charm and the gaucherie of a provincial youth without much experience as the host of a classy party.  »

11 Feb 2012

The Tales of Hoffmann, ENO

In many respects, The Tales of Hoffmann and Richard Jones would seem a good fit.  »

10 Feb 2012

Dido and Aeneas, Manitoba

Winnipeg music lovers were willingly transported back several centuries as Daniel Taylor and Montreal-based Theatre of Early Music graced Westminster United Church with a program of infrequently heard music.  »

08 Feb 2012

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Recorded on 14 June 1964 at the Großer Saal of the Musikverein, Vienna, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, this legendary performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was released in 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon.  »

08 Feb 2012

Il trittico in Lyon

All the important directors pass through Lyon, so it was just a matter of time before British director David Pountney would be invited to stage a production. It was Puccini’s triptych. »

08 Feb 2012

Dvořák’s The Jacobin, London

In advance of the new Rusalka at the Royal Opera House, the Barbican and the BBC Symphony Orchestra brought an electrifying performance of Dvořák's The Jacobin to London.  »