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Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.



Violeta Urmana as Azucena with chorus [Photo © Dutch National Opera, Photographer Ruth Walz]
09 Oct 2015

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.  »

Recently in Reviews

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06 Jul 2008

Two Aida’s from TDK

At one time, Verdi’s Aida figured as the most performed opera. »

23 Jun 2008

Don Carlo at Royal Opera House

In the latter part of last year, the casting for Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Don Carlo — in the five-act Italian version — looked to be on shaky ground. »

23 Jun 2008

Don Giovanni. No, the other one

No one has ever called Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni an overlooked masterpiece. »

22 Jun 2008

MEYERBEER: Semiramide

This Dynamic recording of Meyerbeer's Semiramide, an opera title more familiar with Rossini's name appended, mixes the pleasure of a modestly appealing surprise with regret at key aspects of the performance. »

22 Jun 2008

A rare treasure in Saint Louis. . .

Pink flamingos, sheep on wheels, and a queen crowned with giant antlers all inhabit the zany world of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s Una cosa rara, where the artificial 18th century pastoral commingles with cutesy country colors and 1950s yard art. »

22 Jun 2008

Choral Music by Dvořák and Brahms

Among the choral music of Anton [Antonin] Dvorak, the familiar Stabat Mater, Op. 58, is known to modern audiences through various live performances and recordings. »

19 Jun 2008

Mozart and Lortzing from Hamburg Opera on film

A nostalgic charm permeates these filmed productions from the early 1970s of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, collaborations between the Hamburg State Opera and German TV director Joachim Hess. »

19 Jun 2008

Karajan opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

The opera highlights series from Classics for Pleasure continues its recycling of the EMI catalogue with selections from two of Herbert von Karajan's recordings. »

15 Jun 2008

Plácido Domingo’s miraculous autumn

On the barren stage: a few chairs, a dark-gold hectoplasm projected on the wood panels of the acoustic chamber - nothing more. »

15 Jun 2008

See Venice and then die

For the belated Spanish premiere of Britten’s Death in Venice, 35 years after its creation in Aldeburgh, Barcelona seems a felicitous choice. »

09 Jun 2008

Songs by Henry & William Lawes

With this recording of songs by Henry & William Lawes, musical brothers who flourished in Caroline England, countertenor Robin Blaze with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny continue their exploration of early English song for Hyperion, and the results are stunning. »

09 Jun 2008

Star Power in Paris “Capuleti”

For Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” Paris Opera peopled its revival with plenty of star power. »

09 Jun 2008

Opera with a human heart

When the Ringling Brothers folded their tents, opera took over. Aïda with elephants, and Walküre with real horses. »

09 Jun 2008

St. Francis in Amsterdam

It is a bit hard to know what to make of Olivier Messiaen’s colossal piece “Saint François d’Assise,” beautifully mounted by Netherlands Opera. »

08 Jun 2008

Zurich Has Malibran to Thank

If you are going to produce Jacques Fromental Halevy’s forgotten opera “Clari,” I urge you to first make sure you have a signature on the contact from a superstar with the firepower of Cecilia Bartoli. »

04 Jun 2008

Joye: Les plaintes de Gilles de Bins dit Binchois

The title of this recording “Joy: the Laments of Gilles Binchois” introduces a seeming contradiction, one that plays on a contemporaneous description of the composer as "pére de joyeusetè"—the father of joy—in tension with an affinity for melancholy in his works. »

04 Jun 2008

SCHOENBERG: Moses und Aron

Even though it is one of the important operas of the twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron is, perhaps, more esteemed than performed. »

04 Jun 2008

Der Rosenkavalier at ENO

It is worth remembering that prior to the première of Strauss’s opera in 1911, the working title was ‘Ochs auf Lerchenau’. »

04 Jun 2008

Il Matrimonio Segreto in Brooklyn

Opera producers in quest of headlines, unable to make them from the limited number of Mozart operas available (all of them far too familiar) but equipped with the flood of attractive young singers trained to sing Mozart in conservatories (because singing Mozart does not harm young voices, and singing Verdi and Wagner before 30 — better yet, 40 — often will), sometimes turn to Mozart’s contemporary, Cimarosa, and his Il Matrimonio Segreto, to get attention. »

04 Jun 2008

Handel's Rodrigo — Ensemble San Felice, St John’s Smith Square, London

Handel’s Rodrigo, subtitled ‘Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria’ (Self-conquest is the greater victory) is one of the composer’s earliest operatic works, and rarely heard. »

28 May 2008

Tree-mendous in Chicago

Chicago Opera Theater scored a resounding success with its area premiere of John Adams’ newest stage piece, “A Flowering Tree.” »

28 May 2008

Revised Amistad makes its mark

Upon its premiere at Chicago’s Lyric Opera in 1997 Anthony Davis’ Amistad found little critical favor. Its undisciplined excesses led one writer to compare it to a high-school pageant. »

27 May 2008

Books 'n Things

Two excellent books on opera have come to hand, providing many hours of entertaining reading. I combine notice of them with a few thoughts about composer Paul Moravec’s CDs, and his forthcoming opera premiere at Santa Fe Opera in 2009.  »

27 May 2008

Merry Widow at ENO

In these days of 'concept' productions, it is rare that the curtain goes up on the first act of an opera and it looks exactly as one might reasonably expect it to. »

27 May 2008

Masterpiece Masterfully Rendered in Toronto

I can still remember my first ever “Pelleas et Melisande” in my first ever outing at San Francisco Opera during my first ever visit to that beautiful town. »

25 May 2008

A Berlin Sampler

A recent visit to Berlin’s three opera houses yielded decidedly, nay wildly varying outcomes. »

25 May 2008

HINDEMITH: Cardillac

Premiered in 1926, Paul Hindemith’s opera Cardillac is a three-act work based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story Das Fräulein von Scuderi. »

25 May 2008

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

In the 1983 production designed, staged, and directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, this recording of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde is a solid and well-thought performance that has much to offer. »

15 May 2008

STRAUSS: Opernszenen | Scenes of Operas.

Recorded between 1938 and 1942, the excerpts from performances of Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Arabella, and Daphne at the Dresden Staatsoper are all conducted by Karl Böhm. »

15 May 2008

Gotham Chamber Opera: Ariadne Unhinged

The Gotham Chamber Opera has been delighting opera fans on the Lower East Side for seven years now, one small audience at a time. »

13 May 2008

Les Troyens in Boston

Thirty-six years after Sarah Caldwell and the Opera Company of Boston presented the first complete staged performances in the United States, Hector Berlioz’ Les Troyens returned to Boston in triumph in a series of concert performances presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of James Levine to close the BSO’s 2007-2008 season. »

13 May 2008

Ponnelle Clemenza remains a masterpiece

Opera companies should practice historic preservation, keeping certain productions forever in the repertory because of their quality and aesthetic value. »

13 May 2008

Nono's Prometeo at Royal Festival Hall

Prometeo is so radically different that it’s almost incomprehensible heard from preconceived assumptions of what music “ought” to be. »

13 May 2008

On Venetian Opera: a new edition of Monteverdi's Ritorno, and Eleanor Selfridge-Field on Time and Opera in Venice.

Claudio Monteverdi. Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Edited by Rinaldo Alessandrini. Urtext. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007. BA 8791. A vocal score is available as 8791a. »

12 May 2008

John Brown lives again in Kansas City

John Brown might have been a’mouldering in his grave since he was hanged in 1859, but he was resurrected — in body and spirit — on May 3, when the Lyric Opera of Kansas City staged the world premiere of Kirke Mechem’s John Brown. »

09 May 2008

Canada’s Brueggergosman makes the most of Mozart

When Toronto’s Opera Atelier asked her to sing Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo Measha Brueggergosman hesitated. »

09 May 2008

Fort Worth Opera Festival features “Angels in America”

In 2007 it was an experiment; now it’s a new summer festival firmly rooted in fertile Texas turf with a bright view of its second season and of the more distant future as well. »

09 May 2008

Spoleto USA revives opera, hall

Operas do not often get a second chance. A new work is premiered and — if it’s a co-commission — it moves on to another company or two. »

07 May 2008

Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Die Entführung aus dem Serail is too light to be a grand opera, but it makes rather grander demands of its singers than operetta could possibly bear. »

06 May 2008

Karajan: The Music, the Legend.

At the centenary of the birth of the conductor Herbert von Karajan various commemorations are occurring, an among them is the concise CD and DVD release by Deutsche Grammophon, with both discs bound into a booklet that includes a short prose tribute to the man illustrated with some well-chosen photographs from various parts of his career. »

06 May 2008

Punch & Judy at ENO

English National Opera’s production of Harrison Birtwistle’s ‘Punch and Judy’ is the company’s second collaboration with the Young Vic Theatre — following the premiere of Neuwirth’s ‘Lost Highway’ a few weeks earlier — and remarkably, also the second London production of this early Birtwistle work within a month, the previous one having been at the Linbury Studio Theatre, a collaboration between Music Theatre Wales and the Royal Opera. »

06 May 2008

The Collegiate Chorale: Jupiter in Argos

Over the years, one tried and true method of packing audiences in to the concerts of Robert Bass’s Collegiate Chorale has been to present concert opera with impressive soloists. »

06 May 2008

French Opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

Consumers might opt for a highlights set instead of a full recording of an opera for many reasons. »

06 May 2008

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains

Naxos's DVD division has already released the performances on this disc of Virgil Thomson's scores for The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, as soundtracks for a re-release of the original films. That DVD (Naxos 2.110521) contained, as... »

04 May 2008

Ned Rorem's Our Town

Martha Graham used to say, “In order for there to be dance, there must be something that needs to be danced.” »

04 May 2008

La Fille du Régiment at the Met

When the Met presented La Fille du Régiment for Lily Pons during World War II, she sought permission to wave the Cross of Lorraine, symbol of Charles de Gaulle’s Free French, during the Salut à la France in Act II. »

04 May 2008

Minnesota Opera makes strong case for Rusalka’s greatness

Why does one so seldom encounter Dvořák’s Rusalka on stage? »

27 Apr 2008

Bruckner: Symphony no. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1890 [Second Version])

As difficult as it is to identify a single score as representative of its composer, Symphony no. 8 in C minor by Anton Bruckner is an essential work that may be regarded as the quintessence of his accomplishments in the form. »

25 Apr 2008

Satyagraha at the MET

Satyagraha is an odd duck to encounter if you are seeking a traditional opera-going experience or anything like it. »

23 Apr 2008

Sarasota rises above the regional

Victor DeRenzi is a man of convictions — and of courage. Given his commitment to tradition, you might call DeRenzi, artistic director of Sarasota Opera since 1982, conservative. »