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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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01 Feb 2011

Maria Stuarda, Minnesota Opera

The 2010-2011 season for Minnesota Opera is steeped in Bel Canto opera selections, starting with Rossini’s Cenerentola this fall, currently featuring Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, and for the spring, a production of Verdi’s La Traviata with acclaimed Violetta, Elizabeth Futral.  »

01 Feb 2011

Simon Boccanegra, New York

A few years ago, a certain major newspaper boasted a music critic who could not bring himself either to take opera seriously or to deny himself the opportunity to review it.  »

01 Feb 2011

Gustav Mahler: Symphonies nos. 1 & 9

Issued together, this set includes recordings from two different times, with Mahler’s First Symphony based on performances from 10, 11, and 23 March 2003, and the Ninth from performances between 1 and 3 June 2006.  »

31 Jan 2011

Mark Adamo, Little Women

Mark Adamo’s opera, based on the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott, contains one extraordinary scene, a model of how to adapt fiction into opera. »

28 Jan 2011

Mehta conducts Verdi’s La Forza del Destino on Blu-Ray

A recent news report on entertainment technology noted that sales of “regular” DVDs had plummeted in recent years, while the newer Blu-Ray format has seen substantial increases.  »

24 Jan 2011

Nabucco, Palm Beach Opera

Appearing on Palm Beach Opera’s website video player General Director Daniel Biaggi points out among the reasons to attend the first show of the company’s 2010-2011 season, “fantastic artists whose voices will blow you away.”  »

24 Jan 2011

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Covent Garden

In my July 2009 review of the first revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2005 production of Il barbiere di Siviglia I commented that the directors, aided by conductor, Antonio Pappano, had reinvigorated this operatic ‘old friend’, injecting freshness and spontaneity into familiar material.  »

19 Jan 2011

Mahler: Symphony no. 7

Based on performances give between 3 and 5 November 2005 at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, the recent release of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.  »

19 Jan 2011

La Bohème at Covent Garden, 2009

The Royal Opera at Covent Garden has hit on a way to revitalize a vintage production — hire a fresh cast of virtually unknown singers.  »

19 Jan 2011

James Gilchrist, Wigmore Hall

Arms swinging loosely at his side, a relaxed smile and bright eyes conveying his confident ease, James Gilchrist’s young wanderer bounded nimbly onto the stage at the Wigmore Hall, radiating and embodying the fresh optimism of spring, at the start of this technically assured and dramatically coherent performance of Schubert’s song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin. »

18 Jan 2011

Mahler: Symphony No. 3.

A recent addition to Valery Gergiev’s Mahler cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra, the SACD recording of the Third Symphony has much to recommend.  »

16 Jan 2011

The Magic Flute and La Traviata, New York

The dust on 65th Street is clearing up and the reviews for the renovated Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts are in — the piazza is being hailed as newly “inviting” by architects and arts critics alike, and rightly so.  »

16 Jan 2011

Tosca, Metropolitan Opera

They have been fiddling with Luc Bondy’s staging of Tosca. Scarpia doesn’t masturbate on the Madonna; he just sort of pinches her erotically.  »

16 Jan 2011

The Art of the Countertenor

Since he first came to notice a few years ago — in Messiah in this very hall, as Creonte at Covent Garden, and as Arsace in Partenope at New York City Opera, to name by a few recently acclaimed performances — many a starry accolade has been heaped upon young Welsh countertenor, Iestyn Davies: “achingly beautiful tone”,“unforgettable focus and poignancy” and “compelling sense of rhetoric” are typical of the bountiful superlatives.  »

11 Jan 2011

Simon Boccanegra, Bologna 2007

This beautifully realized production of Verdi’s somber masterpiece of political intrigue and father/daughter reconciliation could be a complete success except for one missing element — memorable singing.  »

11 Jan 2011

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Montpellier

There is more than one way to skin a cat.  »

09 Jan 2011

King Roger at Bregenz Festival 2009

Long-dormant operas sometimes rise to meet a new dawn only to then slink away like the creatures of the night they were doomed to be — seductive but dangerous to approach.  »

09 Jan 2011

Operatic Advice and Counsel…A Welcome New Reference Book

Vincent Giroud’s valuable new French Opera, a Short History, is in hand and very welcome it is.  »

07 Jan 2011

Rienzi on DVD

Wagner and Verdi were born within 6 months of each other. Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen comes from 1840, and could in some ways be Wagner’s Simon Boccanegra. »

05 Jan 2011

Un ballo in maschera at its roots

In its production this season of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged the work in its original locale at the royal court of Sweden.  »

31 Dec 2010

Aida at Bregenz Festival 2009

Some years ago a witty soul coined the term “jumping the shark” to identify the point at which any long-running television program had exploited all its innate story/character development possibilities and had to resort to ridiculous plot contrivances and spectacle to keep the episodes — and paychecks — coming.  »

31 Dec 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro Regio Torino 2009

The Royal Opera at Covent Garden just made something of a splash in international opera news with a star-encrusted revival of an opera once quite popular and yet in recent years — Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur.  »

31 Dec 2010

December at Los Angeles Opera: Lohengrin and Rigoletto

At the end of November Los Angeles Opera brought two productions to the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  »

31 Dec 2010

Pelléas et Mélisande, New York

Pelléas et Mélisande, Debussy’s impressionist drama closely based on Maeterlinck’s eerie, symbolist play, is not a terribly vocal opera; it calls more for the subtlety of art song style than the belting of great divas and divos. »

28 Dec 2010

Mozart at Salzburg Festival: Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte

Once a preserve of opulent traditional productions, the summer Salzburg Festival has become a destination for viewing more cutting edge stagings.  »

27 Dec 2010

100 Best Verdi from EMI Classics

New recordings of classical music don’t appear from the “big labels” very often these days, but those companies have enormous libraries from which to extract selections for compilation discs.  »

19 Dec 2010

Susan Bullock, Wigmore Hall

It may have been five years since Susan Bullock last performed at the Wigmore Hall, as her prominence on the world operatic stage has taken her away from the recital hall, but she wasted no time getting into her stride in this charming and musically varied concert.  »

19 Dec 2010

La Fanciulla del West, New York

La Fanciulla del West is Puccini’s love letter to an America that had acclaimed him joyously on his triumphant visit of 1907 to attend the Met premieres of Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly.  »

15 Dec 2010

Karlsruhe Tosca: Guns ‘n’ Jesus

Badisches Staastheater’s production of Tosca starts off with a bang.  »

14 Dec 2010

Paris: ‘Maler’ or ‘Malheur’?

No one could accuse the Paris Opera of pinching pennies (or Euro cents) in their lavishly expansive (and expensive) staging of Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler.  »

14 Dec 2010

Wagner Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

The Royal Opera House itself is the star of this new production of Richard Wagner Tannhäuser. An intriguing twist on an opera that pits orgiastic excess against purity, pleasure against morality.  »

12 Dec 2010

Johann Adolph Hasse: Antonio e Cleopatra

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) was arguably the most successful opera composer of the 18th century. Together with his favourite librettist, Pietro Metastasio, Hasse defined the genre of opera seria for an entire generation. »

11 Dec 2010

La Bohème, New York

Perhaps the most unexpected occurrence of the evening was the malfunction of the Act I-Act II set change.  »

11 Dec 2010

Die Walküre at La Scala

The opening night of the new season at Teatro alla Scala Milan is a gala event, the most glamorous in the entire Italian opera year.  »

11 Dec 2010

Magic Flute, Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Schikaneder had known each other for some time before they wrote The Magic Flute. »

11 Dec 2010

Cecilia Bartoli at the Barbican Centre, London

Cecilia Bartoli is something of a phenomenon, capable of attracting an enthusiastic capacity crowd.  »

06 Dec 2010

Handel’s Alcina at Barbican Centre, London

The Barbican’s Great Performers season often acts as a receiving house for continental opera productions, thus giving us in London a chance to hear interesting performances without actually having to travel.  »

06 Dec 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opera Australia

Transplanting Britten’s Shakespeare opera to an Indian setting seems at first an illogical step by Hollywood director Baz Luhrmann.  »

03 Dec 2010

Die Entführung aus den Serail, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

With its tricky ‘orientalist’ connotations, Singspiel-originating spoken dialogue, not to mention the problem of finding five outstanding singers who can cope with the considerable demands of the solo roles (and the commercial challenge presented by the need to pay a chorus who sing barely a few bars of music), Mozart’s Die Entführung aus den Serail does not receive as many stagings as it deserves. »

03 Dec 2010

Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lyric Opera of Chicago

In a seamless realization with an ideal cast Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrates the magical antics and foibles of both human and fairy in its premiere production of Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  »

03 Dec 2010

Don Carlo, Metropolitan Opera

It may be as well to put matters in context by saying that Don Carlo is a favorite opera of mine (and of all Verdi lovers), and that I found the Met’s new staging highly satisfactory, vocally very good if less than top flight, orchestrally thrilling—and that I hope to catch it again this season. (Interesting rumors have been heard about the alternate tenor.) »

01 Dec 2010

Philip Glass: Itaipu and Three Songs for choir a cappella

Philip Glass has achieved a level of success that places him in a very select group of composers of serious music.  »

29 Nov 2010

Rigoletto, Opera Australia

Not revived too frequently this 1991 production by Elijah Moshinsky updates the story to the 1960s and the films of Federico Fellini inspire the sets and costumes.  »

29 Nov 2010

Le nozze di Figaro, Opera Australia

Neil Armfield’s insightful staging of Le nozze di Figaro is making a welcome return in the lead-up to his direction of the Ring Cycle for the Wagner bi-centenary 2013 (the first complete cycle staged in Melbourne in a century). »

23 Nov 2010

A Dog’s Heart, ENO

Three cheers — at the very least — for the English National Opera!  »

23 Nov 2010

Tosca, Manitoba Opera

What some people won’t do for a standing ovation! Saturday night at the opera was a showcase of excesses.  »

21 Nov 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur, Royal Opera

Two months into the current season, after a string of so-so revivals and a curiosity which deserved to be box-office dynamite but wasn’t, the Royal Opera has finally got round to a star-studded new production.  »

20 Nov 2010

The Makropulos Case in San Francisco

Just now in San Francisco Finnish soprano Karita Mattila kicked ass as Janáček’s 337 year old Elina Makropulos.* »

19 Nov 2010

Carmen, Arizona Opera

On Saturday November 13 and Sunday November 14, 2010, Arizona Opera presented Bernard Uzan’s rather different take on Bizet’s Carmen.  »