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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.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

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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02 Dec 2011

Antwerp’s Puzzling Tchaikovsky Rarity

From the moment the curtain rose to reveal a loony bin instead of the 15th Century Inn of the libretto, it seemed likely the Flemish Opera was going to raise more questions than it answered about Tchaikovsky’s rarely performed The Enchantress.  »

02 Dec 2011

Perceptive La Traviata, Royal Opera House

Richard Eyre’s 1994 staging of Verdi’s La Traviata may have been revived many times, but this production reveals striking new depths of interpretation.  »

01 Dec 2011

Salome, Manitoba Opera

Opera has never been an art form to hold anything back. But even within the genre itself, Salome is — literally — one tough, depraved act to follow. »

28 Nov 2011

François Couperin by Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

Although François Couperin won his reputation as an esteemed composer at the ostentatious and vainglorious court of Versailles, under the patronage of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, his work is often surprisingly discreet and intimate.  »

27 Nov 2011

Tosca, ENO

The swift return to the Coliseum of Catherine Malfitano’s production of Tosca, premiered in 2010, contrasts strongly with the increasingly disposable nature of many recent ENO productions.  »

25 Nov 2011

Saul, Barbican Hall

Handel’s oratorio Saul was the first dramatic oratorio that he wrote with a strong libretto.  »

25 Nov 2011

Xerxes in San Francisco

No cuts, not a single one, nearly four hours of non-stop arias, and its only hit tune happens within the first five minutes. »

23 Nov 2011

The Queen of Spades, Opera North

Opera North holds a special place in my affections: my first full opera in the theatre was the company’s Wozzeck, which I saw as a schoolboy at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield.  »

22 Nov 2011

Hugh the Drover Over the Pub

Imagine a tuneful eighteenth-century “ballad opera” of country life, say Stephen Storace’s enduringly popular No Song No Supper, cross it with Cavalleria Rusticana, throw in a bit of Rocky for good measure, and you have some idea of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s first opera, Hugh the Drover, a “Romantic Ballad Opera.” »

20 Nov 2011

Turandot in San Francisco

The magnificent David Hockney Turandot production burst again onto the War Memorial stage with a new cast and conductor that recaptured its potential to make this fairytale into great opera. »

18 Nov 2011

Lucia di Lammermoor, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor as its second production of the current season with Susanna Phillips taking on the role of the heroine torn between romantic love and familial pressures.  »

17 Nov 2011

Tricks and Treats, New World Symphony

If this generation were to stake a claim to its own classical vocal music “Golden Age,” Christine Brewer presents a strong case.  »

15 Nov 2011

Eugene Onegin, ENO

Deborah Warner’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is an evocative and lyrical depiction of elegiac passion.  »

14 Nov 2011

Dark Sisters, New York

They’re no longer just door-to-door missionaries with a science fiction theology and strange underwear! What with a presidential candidacy and a hit Broadway musical, the Mormons are having their breakout season in New York.  »

14 Nov 2011

Carmen in San Francisco

Déja vu. Well, sort of. Last time around (2006) there was a Carmen and then another who canceled leaving San Francisco Opera in the lurch.  »

13 Nov 2011

Jonas Kaufmann as Werther and Cavaradossi

For some years now the opera world has reveled in the appearance of many fine lyric tenors, with Juan Diego Florez leading the charge.  »

13 Nov 2011

Adriana Lecouvreur, Carnegie Hall

What could be more appropriate for the Samhain season than a return from near-death?  »

09 Nov 2011

Tales of Hoffmann, Chicago

For its first production of the new season, Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled a distinguished roster of soloists with the Lyric Opera Orchestra under the direction of Emmanuel Villaume.  »

09 Nov 2011

David Alden directs Cavalli’s Ercole Amante for Amsterdam, 2009

The operas of a composer born before the settlement of Jamestown face dim prospects of getting staged at the larger American houses.  »

09 Nov 2011

Roméo et Juliette, LA

Love and gloom at the Los Angeles Opera.  »

05 Nov 2011

Lieberson’s Neruda Songs and Theofandis’s Symphony No. 1

In 2006 classical music lost one of its great singers — American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, taken at the height of her career.  »

05 Nov 2011

La sonnambula, Royal Opera

Bellini’s La sonnambula does not have the most gripping or convincing of opera plots: a young girl sleepwalks into a stranger’s room, where she is discovered by her fiancé; disbelieving her pleas of innocence, he jilts her and plans to wed another; but, she is vindicated when she is spied on a nocturnal wander, and the lovers are reconciled.  »

05 Nov 2011

Bluebeard’s Castle, Royal Festival Hall

Bartók’s only opera, a masterpiece to rank with other sole works in the genre such as Fidelio and Pelléas et Mélisande, was chosen for the climax of the Philharmonia’s year-long series, ‘Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók’.  »

05 Nov 2011

Wily Wexford Stays the Course

Wexford Festival Opera made a boldly calculated choice sixty years ago when it eschewed bread-and-butter titles, and instead raided the dusty closet where forgotten pieces by some famous (and mostly non-) composers were (at best) consigned to history. »

04 Nov 2011

Heart of Darkness, Royal Opera

There are some literary texts which, by dint of their intense compression of incident, their creators’ firm control of structure, and the precision of linguistic nuance, do not naturally seem to lend themselves to operatic treatment.  »

01 Nov 2011

Anna Bolena, Metropolitan Opera

It’s very unusual for the Met these days—or any major opera house, in any era—to present a glossy new production with two different stars in the leading role.  »

01 Nov 2011

Castor & Pollux, ENO

Daring dramas which probe dark psychological depths; music that embodies visceral emotional conflicts, and stirs heated, often contradictory, passions; the text and score shaped into radical musico-dramatic structures, employing shockingly inventive harmonic language and orchestral timbres.  »

27 Oct 2011

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Exactly what makes this entertaining, handsome video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming in concert an “odyssey”?  »

27 Oct 2011

Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera

Luciano Pavarotti died in September 2007, just short of his 72nd birthday and only a few years after his last performance at the Metropolitan Opera, in Tosca.  »

27 Oct 2011

Carmen returns to the Opéra Comique

“Historically Informed Performance” sure has a nice ring — not only does the acronym capture the trendiness of the movement (“HIP”), but one has to admire the subtle put-down the term encapsulates. »

27 Oct 2011

Béatrice et Bénédict, Opera Boston

How is one to write a Romantic opera?  »

26 Oct 2011

Don Giovanni, Metropolitan Opera

According to legend, when composing Don Giovanni, Mozart completed the overture last. It was written the night before the opera’s premiere, while his wife Constanze, a fervent taskmaster, plied him with food and drink to make sure he stayed awake.  »

26 Oct 2011

A Portrait of Manon — Young Artrists at the Royal Opera House

Without young artists, no art form will thrive or grow. The Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists scheme nurtures the best from its young artists that their performances attract thoughtful audiences.  »

26 Oct 2011

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

Ossia Maestro Watching in Fog City. Ten years ago it was German provincialism, now it is the Italian sort wanting to take root in the War Memorial Opera House.  »

24 Oct 2011

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

Wagner’s Flying Dutchman returns to the Royal Opera House, London. »

23 Oct 2011

Renata Pokupić, Wigmore Hall

In this appealing lunchtime recital programme, Croatian soprano Renata Pokupić demonstrated a rich, varied tonal palette and strong communicative skills as she spanned one hundred years of European song.  »

23 Oct 2011

Intertwining facets of Italian High Baroque

‘Erotic oratorio’ is the odd-sounding definition devised by modern scholars, such as Howard E. Smither, for those pious music dramas employing sex-laden plots from the Bible, the Apocrypha or the lives of Saints in order to give the audience moral instruction in a quasi-operatic, if generally unstaged, form.  »

12 Oct 2011

Britten’s War Requiem, London

‘Requiescant in pace. Amen.’  »

12 Oct 2011

Threepenny Opera, Brooklyn

Should I wait until the end of this review to tell you how much fun, how much of a theatrical whoopee cushion Robert Wilson’s production of Die Dreigroschenoper has been at BAM last week?  »

12 Oct 2011

Simon Rattle’s Mahler 9

Recorded between 24 and 27 October 2008 at the Philhamonie in Berlin, this release offers the dynamism of a concert performance with the sound quality associated with EMI’s fine recordings.  »

12 Oct 2011

Sallinen’s The Red Line at Finnish National Opera, 2008

Some opera masterworks are admirable more than lovable — a distinction usually best revealed by the number of performances the work gets.  »

12 Oct 2011

La Traviata and the Credit Crunch

One way of thinking about La Traviata is to consider it as a portrayal of bubble wealth that makes artistic capital from the shimmering, rainbow hues of the surface rather than showing any interest in what sustains the bubble.  »

12 Oct 2011

Mahler 8, Royal Festival Hall

Following Lorin Maazel’s lifeless first movement from Mahler’s Tenth Symphony  »

10 Oct 2011

Così fan tutte, Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Opera Company’s charmingly understated new production of Così fan tutte will please your eyes and delight your ears, but its story might grieve your romantic soul. »

07 Oct 2011

Carmen, Philadelphia

There are two ways to sing the role of Carmen: as a “grand opera” heroine and as a character from opéra-comique.  »

05 Oct 2011

Menotti in German

As long as one keeps in mind that historical value is not the same as aesthetic quality, this DVD of early 1960’s live German TV performances of two short Gian Carlo Menotti operas makes for fascinating viewing. »

03 Oct 2011

The Inaugural Cambridge Handel Festival: a rosy dawn?

The haughty beauties that are the ancient colleges of Cambridge were definitely feeling the heat this past weekend, and not even the cooling streams of the Cam and its tributaries could assuage the heat of an Indian summer in the Fens of Eastern England.  »

02 Oct 2011

Eugene Onegin, Los Angeles

Kudos to the Los Angeles Opera Company for expanding its heretofore limited Russian repertoire and opening its 26th season with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The romantic work based on the novel in verse of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, is likely everyone’s favorite Tchaikovsky opera. »

30 Sep 2011

The music of Donnacha Dennehy

Love and Death is the name of one of Woody Allen’s earlier films, one built around parodies of Tolstoy and other Russian 19th century literary giants.  »

30 Sep 2011

Mahler, Royal Festival Hall

My response to much of this and last year’s Mahler anniversary bonanza has been to stay away: certainly not out of antipathy, nor out of boredom, nor on account of any other negative reaction to the music of a composer whom I admire as greatly as ever, but simply because there are too many unnecessary performances of that music on offer.  »

28 Sep 2011

Faust, Royal Opera House

When the Royal Opera House London does things well, it does them very well indeed. This Gounod’s Faust was a sizzler!  »