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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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19 Nov 2010

Il Viaggio a Sicilia

As I strolled around the corner into Piazza Verdi, my first view of Palermo’s Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele stopped me dead in my tracks and damn near took my breath away.  »

18 Nov 2010

Karita Mattila: Helsinki Recital

Ondine provides a nice bonus for fans of Karita Mattila in its recent DVD release of a 2006 Helsinki recital with accompanist Martin Katz.  »

18 Nov 2010

György Kurtág — Kafka Fragments, London

Can Haiku be improved by staging? György Kurtág's Kafka-Fragmente (op. 24), is a masterpiece of zen-like purity.  »

11 Nov 2010

El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas

Our modern globalized perspective makes us alert to the cultural richness of difference, much as it ironically also seems to blur distinctions with ease of access.  »

10 Nov 2010

Mahler: The Complete Works

The commemorate the sesquicentennial of Mahler’s birth in 1860, EMI has released an exceptional set of its recordings in a single box.  »

08 Nov 2010

Jessye Norman — Roots: My Life, My Song

A career of the highest stature earns the professional the right to do as she or he pleases, after decades of dedicated achievement.  »

08 Nov 2010

Don Giovanni, ENO

There’s nothing wrong with updating an opera as long as the director, designer and conductor share an understanding of the work’s principal ideas and motivations, conflicts and contexts, and have a clear vision of how they intend to communicate these in a new setting. »

08 Nov 2010

Il Trovatore, Metropolitan Opera

It’s difficult to be reasonable about Il Trovatore. Reason is the last quality we expect from any of its characters or situations.  »

07 Nov 2010

La Cenerentola, Minnesota Opera

Minnesota Opera’s recent production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola certainly is a fantastical, comical portrayal of the classical fairy tale.  »

07 Nov 2010

Intermezzo, New York City Opera

Pace Tolstoy, happy marriages are not all alike, but they require a lot of work.  »

07 Nov 2010

Angelika Kirchschlager, German Lieder 1830-40 Wigmore Hall

Angelika Kirchschlager and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall showed what real Lieder singing should be.  »

03 Nov 2010

Overture to London’s Handel Festival 2011

The small but perfectly formed Grosvenor Chapel in London’s exclusive Mayfair was the venue last Monday night for a programme of Handel vocal and instrumental music of considerable quality — if minimal quantity.  »

03 Nov 2010

A Carmen Cast to Strength: Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Revival

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged a modified revival of its Carmen under the direction of Harvey Silverstein.  »

02 Nov 2010

Wexford Festival Opera 2010

After a rather lean 2009, the 59th Wexford Festival Opera season almost felt like a return to generous days of old.  »

02 Nov 2010

Cyrano de Bergerac in San Francisco

Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac at the San Francisco Opera has little chance of measuring up to a Cyrano standard once set here in Fog City.  »

02 Nov 2010

Haydn: L’isola disabitata, London

Haydn’s L’isola disabitata is ideally suited to the modern taste for chamber opera. This is Haydn for those who think they don’t like his operas or even baroque form.  »

01 Nov 2010

Cervantino stages rare Graun opera — The Mexican national opera?

Clearly, there isn’t one. Yet, Carl Heinrich Graun’s 1755 rarely-performed Montezuma is of special importance in a country celebrating 200 years of Independence from Spanish rule and 100 years since the Revolution that ultimately toppled dictator Porfirio Díaz. »

29 Oct 2010

Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder, Preludes and Overtures

A great vintage Mercury album of Antal Dorati conducting Wagner overtures and preludes featured as a cover a close-up of a medieval chalice, undoubtedly meant to reference the Parsifal excerpt on the enclosed disc.  »

29 Oct 2010

New York Festival of Song

“Don’t I have the coolest job in the world?” said Steven Blier.  »

28 Oct 2010

Kafka at the Opera: Bartlett Sher’s Production of Hoffmann at the Met

We all come to the opera for different things. To escape, to elevate, to laugh, to cry, or perhaps because someone else bought the tickets.  »

27 Oct 2010

Piotr Beczala: Roméo et Juliette, Royal Opera

Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette is almost more musical than opera. Everyone knows the story, and it would be hard to compete with Shakespeare. Gounod wisely focused on music, rather than drama. »

24 Oct 2010

Boris Godunov, Metropolitan Opera

The last curtain call at the opera usually goes to the title character, the star of the work just performed. At the end of the Met’s new Boris Godunov, the calls begin with a solo call for the title character, René Pape as Boris, and conclude with one for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus all by themselves.  »

24 Oct 2010

Gilbert and Sullivan opens Arizona Opera

On 16 October 2010 in Tucson, Arizona Opera opened it’s 2010-2011 season with an operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.  »

24 Oct 2010

Divas and Divos Concert, Manitoba

It’s every opera director’s nightmare.  »

24 Oct 2010

Jerry Springer, The Opera in San Francisco

The fall opera season in San Francisco has been dealt a wild card — Jerry Springer, The Opera! Not exactly material for SF’s august opera company . . . »

24 Oct 2010

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991

The 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center is just a few years away, so, with something less than dispatch, a DVD of the 25th anniversary Gala appears.  »

24 Oct 2010

Il Postino at Los Angeles Opera

An American opera house premieres a new work by a Mexico-born composer, to his own libretto in Spanish based on a film in Italian by an English director about an unlikely friendship the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda found when in exile on a small Italian island. »

24 Oct 2010

La Bohème, ENO

ENO clearly expect high returns from Jonathan Miller’s La Bohème.  »

24 Oct 2010

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

“One of the most beautiful sets I have ever seen,” crows San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley over the airwaves, “directed by Broadway legend Hal Prince.” »

24 Oct 2010

Paris: La Saison a Commencé

Paris Opéra’s L’Italiana in Algeri had a lot going for it, including a star mezzo in her local debut, so why was I resistant to its merits?  »

24 Oct 2010

Kirsten Flagstad sings Wagner & Strauss

Kirsten Flagstad’s voice remains connected to the music of Richard Wagner through the recordings that continue to bring her performances to new audiences.  »

21 Oct 2010

Rameau’s Zéphyre, New York

In sports they say, “Winning isn’t the most important thing—it’s the only thing.” In the theater, getting the show on the boards out front is the key.  »

17 Oct 2010

Haendel: Water Music; Music for The Royal Fireworks

The “popular” Handel is firmly entrenched in the collective culture with a handful of pieces: the Christmas portion of Messiah, the “Largo” from Serse (in fact, “Larghetto,” but collective culture is hard to convince), and instrumental suites of the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks come immediately to mind.  »

16 Oct 2010

Jephtha, New York

Jephtha was Handel’s last work — he went blind while composing it, noting this on the manuscript, and though he lived another seven years, did not deign to dictate new music.  »

16 Oct 2010

Rigoletto at Covent Garden

Dame Joan Sutherland, ‘La Stupenda’, sang her first Gilda at Covent Garden in 1957 under the baton of Sir Edward Downes, and sang the role many times and to great acclaim on the ROH stage.  »

13 Oct 2010

Verdi’s Macbeth in a New Production at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A successful production of Verdi’s Macbeth relies not only on incisive vocal characterization as projected by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth but also on the interaction of these lead figures in order to vivify their descent into a world of destruction.  »

13 Oct 2010

Salome at the Washington National Opera

With its playbill half-empty, its general director Placido Domingo resigning, and the talk of a takeover by the Kennedy Center, Washington National Opera is in a dire need of good news this season. »

12 Oct 2010

Promised End — English Touring Opera

In the final scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear, faced with the dreadful sight of the distraught Lear cradling in his arms the body of his dead daughter Cordelia, the Earl of Kent asks: “Is this the promised end?”  »

11 Oct 2010

Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco (and Los Angeles)

No question that Nicola Luisotti is a conducting genius, and no question that genius runs amuck from time to time. In the case of Mo. Luisotti fairly often. »

11 Oct 2010

The Other ‘Marriage of Figaro’

The opening night of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, in Rome in 1816, was violently disrupted by vociferous protests from supporters loyal to Paisiello, whose own comic interpretation of Beaumarchais’ politically-charged play had appeared in 1782.  »

10 Oct 2010

Anonymous 4: The Cherry Tree

In the popular view, the modern celebration of Christmas seems to have begun with Charles Dickens’s revivifying A Christmas Carol (1843). »

10 Oct 2010

Rossini’s Otello at Rossini in Wildbad Festival, 2008

As good a performance of Rossini’s opera as this disc provides, for some equal entertainment value may potentially arise from the booklet essay by one Bernd-Rüdiger Kern (as translated into English by David Stevens).  »

10 Oct 2010

Schumann: The Complete Symphonies, Mahler Edition

Mahler’s well-known revisions of music he conducted include the four symphonies by Robert Schumann, and while these Retuschen have been performed from time to time, a recording of all four of them is now available from Decca.  »

10 Oct 2010

Technicolour Radamisto at ENO

Handel’s Radamisto came to the ENO at the Coliseum in glorious technicolour.  »

08 Oct 2010

El Gato con Botas: Gotham Chamber Opera

Haven’t you always secretly felt that singers who reach for high notes (and make them) ought to levitate and maintain themselves in mid-air when they do it?  »

08 Oct 2010

Das Rheingold, Metropolitan Opera

It will be no surprise to me, a year or five from now, when someone falls to her or his death from the guy-wires that configure so much of Robert Lepage’s new state-of-the-art (ah! But which art?) production of Der Ring des Nibelung.  »

07 Oct 2010

Bizet Les Pêcheurs de Perles - Royal Opera House

Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles is notoriously hard to stage. Because the plot’s so grandiose, the imagination works overtime, dwarfing the music, making it seem puny in comparison. There’s a lot to be said in favour of concert performances because they shift the balance back to Bizet. »

06 Oct 2010

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 5

Based on performances given on 18 and 21 October 2008 and 16 and 17 January 2009, this recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra offers its latest release of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a work associated with the group since the composer’s lifetime.  »

29 Sep 2010

Faust by ENO

Perhaps because the rather stolidly Victorian character of both its music and its morality, Gounod’s Faust has been out of fashion in the UK in recent decades, and owes a debt to David McVicar and his darkly Gothic production for the Royal Opera in 2004 (now, at last, available on DVD) for the restoration of its footing in the standard repertoire. »