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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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08 Feb 2012

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 4

If Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is arguably one of his more familiar pieces, live performances of the work can vary depending on the abilities of the performers to meet the various challenges of the piece.  »

08 Feb 2012

Der Rosenkavalier, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Richard Strauss’s fin de siècle Figaro is a heart-warming treat for a cold winter’s night. »

08 Feb 2012

Weill: Die sieben Todsünden

I failed to discern any rationale behind programming the Brecht-Weill ballet chanté with various works by Debussy, one orchestrated by Robin Holloway.  »

06 Feb 2012

L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and La Navarraise in Monte-Carlo

The magic was in the pit, not that all Monaco was not magical — on January 25 a yellow Lamborghini, a red Ferrari, a vintage Jaguar among other magnificent machines stood before the entrance to Monte-Carlo’s resplendent Casino cum transplendent 500-seat opera house. »

03 Feb 2012

Werner Güra Sings Schubert, Wigmore Hall

Each year, the Wigmore Hall commemorates Franz Schubert’s birthday with a high profile recital. This year, Werner Güra and Roger Vignoles presented a recital which was a timely reminder of what Lieder performance should be. »

02 Feb 2012

Salome, San Diego

The San Diego Opera Company opened its 47th season on Saturday, January 26th with Richard Strauss’ Salome, a work that has something in it for everyone: lust, love, lasciviousness, homosexuality, heterosexuality, homicide, suicide, a voluptuous dance and quickie nudity.  »

02 Feb 2012

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Released in 2011, this disc reproduces a performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde that was recorded on 10 November 1989 at the Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice [Poland].  »

02 Feb 2012

Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent revival of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte offered a production with vocal pairs carefully matched and dramatic representation expressing the varying shades of Mozart’s score. »

02 Feb 2012

Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream

British composer Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream came to London four years after its premieres at the Holland Festival and in Luxembourg.  »

31 Jan 2012

Rienzi, OONY

For the first hour or so of the latest Opera Orchestra of New York venture, a concert performance of Wagner’s Rienzi, I often said to myself, This…isn’t so terrible.  »

31 Jan 2012

Così fan tutte, Royal Opera

Repeatedly revived since its final appearance in 1995, Jonathan Miller’s Così fan tutte returned yet again to the Covent Garden stage as the second part of the ‘Olympic’ cycle of Mozart-Da Ponte collaborations. »

31 Jan 2012

Le Roi et le Fermier

A year or two back, Opera Lafayette, the Washington-based company that specializes in eighteenth-century obscurités françaises, presented Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny’s Le Magnifique, an opéra-comique about a race horse.  »

27 Jan 2012

Don Giovanni, Royal Opera

Introducing the winter-spring season, ROH Chief Executive Tony Hall explains the (perhaps a tad spurious) Olympic ‘concept’ which has inspired the season’s programming, the five interlocking rings of the Olympic insignia motivating the performance of a series of works staged in ‘cycle form’. »

27 Jan 2012

Basel Chamber Orchestra, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1984, the Basel Chamber Orchestra has developed a penchant for programmes which combine the modern and unfamiliar with the traditional and renowned. »

27 Jan 2012

La Bohème in Toulon, Marseille and Genoa

Three La Bohèmes in ten days, a critic’s nightmare that was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. »

25 Jan 2012

The Enchanted Island, Metropolitan Opera

This year is a big year for the Met. Of the seven new productions on the roster, two are the last two installments of a much-anticipated Robert Lepage Ring.  »

25 Jan 2012

Haydn’s The Seasons at Barbican Hall

This buoyant, refreshing performance of Haydn’s late oratorio, The Seasons, by Paul McCreesh’s superb Gabrieli Consort and Players conjured a calendric kaleidoscope of seasonal climes, from the warm bucolic breezes of spring to summer’s fierce suns and flashing storms, from autumnal harvests and hunts to the frozen mists and fiery hearth-sides of winter.  »

25 Jan 2012

Charpentier and Purcell by Early Opera Company

Composed during the spring hunting season of 1684, for a patron and performance venue unknown, Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s brief six-scene Opera de Chasse (‘Hunting Opera’), Actéon, has remained seldom performed and something of a mystery.  »

25 Jan 2012

Otello in Zürich

War and destruction is everywhere these days, not least in Pesaro where Graham Vick staged a lethal Mosé in Egitto last August, nor less so in San Francisco where baritone Thomas Hampson perished as Rick Rescorla in Heart of a Soldier last September. »

25 Jan 2012

Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall

Hugo Wolf is a hard sell. Technical expertise isn't enough. The secret to singing Wolf is expressing the unique personality in each song. Wolf, perhaps more than any other composer, creates miniatures that open out into mini-operas when performed well.  »

23 Jan 2012

A Noteworthy Ariadne auf Naxos, Chicago

Richard Strauss’s opera Ariadne auf Naxos presents challenges in casting not only because of the vocal line and identity associated with individual characters but also because of its nature as a self-comment on the musical stage and the requisite dramatic skills thus needed.  »

23 Jan 2012

Five Boroughs Songbook

What does it say about New York that, in the songs of the city commissioned by the Five Boroughs Music Festival and given performances in Brooklyn, Queens and, now, Manhattan, the poets (often the composers themselves) rarely refer to life in that central part of the city, Rodgers and Hart’s “isle of joy”?  »

05 Jan 2012

La Traviata: The 454th Performance at the Royal Opera House

This performance of La Traviata was the 454th at the Royal Opera House, and the first performance in the 3rd revival this season of Richard Eyre’s production.  »

28 Dec 2011

Leoncavallo’s I Medici

Ruggero Leoncavallo’s name is forever tied to that of Pietro Mascagni.  »

28 Dec 2011

“‘I Heard a Voice’: the Music of the Golden Age”

In contrast to much music-making on the continent, English composers born in the last quarter of the sixteenth century seem to have embraced a notable degree of stylistic continuity.  »

28 Dec 2011

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina e la Compagnia dei Musici di Roma, Messa di Santa Cecilia

Homage could take diverse forms in Counter-Reformation Rome, and this excellent recording by ensemble officium, Messa di Santa Cecilia, focuses on a particular instance that was interestingly polyvalent.  »

23 Dec 2011

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Royal Opera House

Perhaps it’s no accident that Graham Vick’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg returns to the Royal Opera House for the Christmas season. Red, green, gold, sumptuous colours that warm a long, grey evening. »

23 Dec 2011

The Bostridge Project: ‘Ancient and Modern’

This latest instalment of Ian Bostridge’s ‘Ancient and Modern’ series juxtaposed the tender melancholy of the Elizabethan age with the modernist anxieties of the early twentieth century, revealing both a sensitivity to textual nuance and profound human sensibilities which transcend temporal epochs. »

22 Dec 2011

Jonathan McGovern, Wigmore Hall

2011 has been a good year for baritone Jonathan McGovern: 2nd prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, the Karaviotis Prise at the Les Azuriales Ozone Young Artists Competition, and the John Meikle Duo Prize at the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition are just some of the awards he has garnered.  »

22 Dec 2011

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Cantatas

In Wilhelm Weitsch’s well-known painting of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the eldest son of Johann Sebastian seems far distant from the cantorial world of his father.  »

19 Dec 2011

Operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau, an organist and music theoretician, was active for much of his life in musical centers distant from the cultural juggernaut of Paris.  »

19 Dec 2011

San Marco in Hamburg: Motets by Hieronymus Praetorius

In the first part of the seventeenth century, the north German city of Hamburg spawned an unusually rich organ culture, with Jacob Praetorius, the younger, and Heinrich Scheidemann both pupils of the famous Dutch organist, Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, as leading figures.  »

18 Dec 2011

“A Year at King’s”

This recent recording of the men and boys from King’s College, Cambridge, is an anthology organized around the texts and themes of the liturgical year, a scheme that offers ample opportunity for diverse works—in that sense the recording feels something like a “sampler”—but a scheme that also reflects the real experience of the daily life of the choir which sings demanding choral services six days of the week in term time.  »

16 Dec 2011

Bernarda Fink, Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Maurice Ravel with a series of concerts that run through to June 2012. »

16 Dec 2011

Randal Turner Sings the Songs of Living American Composers

A self-published recording, baritone Randal Turner’s traversal of contemporary songs in English, Living American Composers, makes for a fine vocal calling card.  »

16 Dec 2011

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

Combining innate musicianship and superb technique, Anne Schwanewilms showed once again that she can run the emotional gamut from light-hearted joy to deep anguish in this flawless performance with pianist, Charles Spencer. »

16 Dec 2011

Karita Mattila at Carnegie Hall

In 1983, Karita Mattila was the first singer to win the Cardiff Singer of the World competition.  »

13 Dec 2011

Kurt Weill’s Magical Night, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Buzz Lightyear Meets Hansel and Gretel! Most children who have grown up in the Toy Story era know that toys come alive when left to their own devices.  »

13 Dec 2011

Belshazzar’s Feast, London

The English Oratorio season at the Barbican Hall, London continued with Gerald Finley and two very different approaches to Belshazzar’s Feast — William Walton and Jean Sibelius.  »

13 Dec 2011

Drapes ‘n’ Drops in Paris Forza

Paris Opera has lavished quite a monumental staging on Verdi’s musically rich (and Piave’s dramatically vapid) La Forza del Destino. »

13 Dec 2011

Call Her Flott — Felicity Lott sings in English

Soprano Felicity Lott has concentrated her career in her UK homeland and in Europe, although she certainly has had her share of US appearances.  »

13 Dec 2011

Colossal Hercules in Essen

Apparently the Aalto Theater didn’t get the memo that oratorios often make weak theatre pieces, since the company presented such a gripping dramatic case for Handel’s Hercules.  »

13 Dec 2011

Amsterdam’s Adventurous Idomeneo

Straight to the point: Netherlands Opera has mounted as luminous and emotionally engaging an Idomeneo as is imaginable. »

13 Dec 2011

Grand Don Giovanni, La Scala, Milan

More than a gala for Milan and for Italy, this wonderful Don Giovanni at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, was a gala for all the world, broadcast live internationally. »

09 Dec 2011

Berlioz: L’Enfance du Christ, London

I have somehow managed to miss Sir Colin Davis’s London performances of L’Enfance du Christ, making it one of the final major Berlioz works I have heard in the flesh.  »

06 Dec 2011

Silent Night, Minnesota Opera

At the November 12, 2011 world premiere of Silent Night at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, a buzz of energy filled the audience.  »

05 Dec 2011

Anne Sofie von Otter and Brad Mehldau: Love Songs

Brad Mehldau seems to be the “go to” jazz pianist for classically trained singers who want to venture into other musical territory than opera and lieder.  »

02 Dec 2011

Faust, Metropolitan Opera

At one point in The Met’s history, Faust was performed so frequently that one critic in mocking reference to Wagner’s opera house at Bayreuth coined the theater Faustophilhaus.  »