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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 Jul 2010

Meistersinger at the Proms

The BBC Proms brought the Welsh National Opera’s hit Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg to the Royal Albert Hall and to the world, via international broadcast. »

18 Jul 2010

Mahler’s 8th at Royal Albert Hall

A performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony could only ever be relatively underwhelming; even a car crash of a performance would impress in some sense, indeed most likely in quite a few.  »

18 Jul 2010

Darkness Visible: Dowland and beyond

This was a recital of concentrated intensity — a remarkable dialogue between texts, timbres and idioms, across ages and among performers.  »

18 Jul 2010

Stars Sizzle, Productions Fizzle in Paris

So when did you last shout “bravissima”? »

18 Jul 2010

Tosca at Orange

There was a time when the likes of Luc Bondy and Francesca Zambello staged operas for the Chorégies d’Orange in its famed Théâtre Antique.  »

18 Jul 2010

Star Power in Zürich’s Rosenkavalier

The annual Zürcher Festspiel banked on a heavy hitter to generate excitement for its revival of Der Rosenkavalier. »

15 Jul 2010

Dialogues des Carmélites from Hamburg

Poulenc’s only full-length opera is widely admired and not infrequently performed, but its claustral nature makes it tricky to stage. »

14 Jul 2010

The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne on Blu-Ray

This Glyndebourne production is, as far as I know, the first recording of any semi-opera that manages to impart a strong sense of what this peculiar, and peculiarly British, genre is like.  »

13 Jul 2010

Parsifal on Blu-Ray

In 1881 Wagner and his wife were discussing the myth of Eros and Anteros, and Wagner remarked, “Anteros is Parsifal.” Wagner considered Parsifal a figure opposed to sexual love, Eros’s opposite.  »

13 Jul 2010

Don Giovanni, Alceste, Le Rossignol at the Aix Festival

The Aix Festival was known not so very long ago for pretentious productions. Perhaps now it will become known for good productions. »

12 Jul 2010

Handel’s Serse (Xerxes) at Iford Manor

Something rather extraordinary happened to opera seria in 1738. The acknowledged master of that time, London’s George Frideric Handel, presented two new operas at the King’s Theatre: Faramondo and Serse.  »

12 Jul 2010

Three Decembers at Central City

CENTRAL CITY — The story is banal: a single mother, an aging actress, is alienated from her grown-up children. »

12 Jul 2010

A Magnificent Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne

Don Giovanni isn't new and most of the cast at Glyndebourne (led by Gerald Finley) are familiar.  »

11 Jul 2010

Semele, Paris

The Parisian press was plastered with photos of Daniele de Niese. The glamorous 31-year old Sri Lankan-Australian mega-star is everywhere these days: a new TV series (“Diva Diaries”), a Decca greatest hits CD (“Diva”), and, with her marriage to Guy Christie of the Glyndebourne ruling clan, a secure position as the first lady of English opera. »

11 Jul 2010

Terfel’s Towering Hans Sachs Debuts at WNO

We have Welsh National Opera to thank not only for providing the occasion for an auspicious role debut, but also for showcasing their world star in a wholly brilliant new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. »

09 Jul 2010

La Traviata, Royal Opera

This was my first Verdi performance in the theatre for thirteen years or so I must have been the least jaded of critics for the opening night of the revival of Sir Richard Eyre’s La Traviata.  »

08 Jul 2010

Salome, London

David McVicar’s production of Salome received its first revival at Covent Garden, though McVicar left its revival in the capable hands of Justin Way.  »

08 Jul 2010

Out in a blaze of glory — Garsington, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Garsington Opera is moving to Wormsley Park. in 2011, but it marked its last production at Garsington Manor with a glorious coda, that augurs well for the future. As a friend remarked “We'll be talking about this for years to come”. »

07 Jul 2010

Central City stages Butterfly with a bite

CENTRAL CITY — No matter how much verismo you heap onto Madama Butterfly, the opera — the favorite of American companies — remains a threadbare — if tragic — tale of a love that failed. »

04 Jul 2010

London’s Manon: Diva and Divo Deliver

The Royal Opera's intriguingly staged Manon had all the trappings of success including a soprano at the top of her game, and a tenor on the brink of his fame.  »

02 Jul 2010

Picture Perfect — Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera

Plácido Domingo isn’t a tenor, a baritone or even a singer. He’s a phenomenon. Dozens stood by the stage door at the Royal Opera House to greet him with bouquets.  »

28 Jun 2010

Die Walküre in San Francisco

Ring fever rages on. San Francisco has just unveiled its Walküre the completed cycle to take place next June. Gratefully the price of the SFO effort has not become a topic of conversation, as has the cost of the just completed L.A. Ring  »

27 Jun 2010

Massenet's Thaïs at Teatro Regio Torino

What sort of production would be optimal for an opera that with more style than content? »

23 Jun 2010

Leipzig Opera to stage Gluck Ring

Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday is just around the corner in 2013 — and the composer was, after all, born in Leipzig. »

22 Jun 2010

La fanciulla del West in San Francisco

A bizarre rock cliff attributed in the program booklet to one Antonio Nigro was the sole background for San Francisco Opera’s production of Puccini’s version of a play named The Girl of the Golden West by San Francisco born David Belasco (1853-1931).  »

22 Jun 2010

Idomeneo at ENO

Mozart was reputedly more attached to this musical drama of hubris and honour set during the Trojan War than to any other of his stage works. »

21 Jun 2010

Anne Schwanewilms in Recital at Wigmore Hall

This recital was the last in a series of five put together by Roger Vignoles to celebrate the lieder of Richard Strauss — a series which, comprising 85 of Strauss’ songs, has highlighted the composer’s role as heir to the nineteenth-century German lieder masters and reminded us of the ravishing beauty and varied emotional range of these unjustly neglected songs. »

21 Jun 2010

Night Music Magic 'n' More in St. Louis

With Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ stunning A Little Night Music, at long last we have been treated to a multi-faceted production that not only equals, but in many ways surpasses the dazzling original. »

21 Jun 2010

Der Ring des Nibelungen in Los Angeles

$32,000,000, and it would have been a bargain at $50,000,000. Los Angeles Opera went for broke, and it paid off with a Ring that has raised the worldwide Ring bar to a dizzying height. »

19 Jun 2010

Orpheus & Euridice at Long Beach Opera

Early Greek writings say that Orpheus was the son of the muse Calliope and either Apollo, the god of prophecy and music or Oeagrus, the river god.  »

18 Jun 2010

Revivals Sparkle in the City of Lights

Paris Opéra recently served up two past productions in vibrant performances that were fresh-as-new. »

18 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Götterdämmerung

Recorded in May and June 2008, this new Unitel Classica Blu-Ray disc of Götterdämmerung is the final opera in the staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen staged at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, by La Fura dels Baus, Valencia, conducted by Zubin Mehta, and directed by Carlus Padrissa.  »

18 Jun 2010

Verdi's Falstaff at The Metropolitan Opera, 1992

A Franco Zeffirelli production for The Metropolitan Opera typically prompts the use of adjectives such as “grandiose,” or “gorgeous” on the positive end or “gaudy” and “gratuitous” on the negative.  »

10 Jun 2010

Musically Astute Armida, Garsington

Garsington has become a distinctive part of the English summer opera season. »

09 Jun 2010

Le Grand Macabre, Avery Fisher Hall, NY

György Ligeti (1923-2006) was a naughty boy, and he reveled in it.  »

09 Jun 2010

Pearl Fishers, ENO

The opening tableau of Penny Woolcock’s new production depicts deep waters with rays of sun hitting the surface; in the murky blue depths, three harnessed acrobats glide down to the sea bed and back up again.  »

09 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Siegfried.

Siegfried is a challenging opera to stage effectively, and the presentation by La Fura dels Baus in Zubin Mehta’s new Ring cycle merits attention on various counts.  »

08 Jun 2010

Festive Concert with Jessye Norman

It was more the ruins than the remnants of a once-great voice that Jessye Norman brought to Israel’s new, 6500-seat outdoor opera theater at the foot of historic Masada Mountain.  »

08 Jun 2010

Nabucco at Masada

Israel Opera Nabucco includes three Va pensiero’s It’s apocrypha, of course, but legend has it that since its 1843 premiere at La Scala audiences have wanted an encore of the chorus Va pensiero when Verdi’s Nabucco is on stage.  »

08 Jun 2010

Faust in San Francisco

Faust has long since left the French repertory to enter the international repertory, meaning that, like Disneyland, it has been absorbed into diverse cultures where it discovers new resonances.  »

08 Jun 2010

Le Nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera House

Detailed and precise, but never fussy, David McVicar’s thought-provoking production of Le Nozze di Figaro is ‘busy’ from the opening rushing semi-quavers of the overture.  »

07 Jun 2010

I Gioielli della Madonna, New York

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, son of an Italian mother and a German father, was born in Venice but acclaimed only when he took his operas to Germany, where he became quite popular during the first decades of the twentieth century.  »

07 Jun 2010

Bliss, Tosca and La Sonnambula at Opera Australia

Opera Australia regularly commission new work. Usually serious subjects drawn from notable Australian literature or dealing with an event or hero from Australian history. »

07 Jun 2010

La Damnation de Faust in Modern Guise at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During its recently concluded season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented two musical pieces based on the theme of “Faust.”  »

07 Jun 2010

First Opera in 3D — Carmen, Royal Opera House

Everyone knows the tunes from Bizet's Carmen even if they don't know it's an opera. Now the Royal Opera House, London, is making the world's best known opera into the world's first 3D opera film. »

07 Jun 2010

Tchaikowsky Trilogy in Lyon

In Europe only a few theater stage directors are operatically more famous than Peter Stein (pronounced Pay-tear), to mention Sir Peter Hall, Patrice Chereau and Giorgio Strehler as examples.  »

07 Jun 2010

Tosca, ENO

Seeing Tosca at the Coliseum brings back happy memories, as it was a performance of Tosca (in a revival of the Keith Warner production in the 1990s) which occasioned my very first trip to the ENO. That also happens to have been the first time I ever saw Tosca. »

06 Jun 2010

Bostridge and Pappano at Wigmore Hall

Bringing their recent recording of Schubert’s late songs to the concert stage, Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano swept through a sequence which ranged from bitter-sweet regret to angry self-reproach, from hesitant hope to turbulent despair, in this the second of two performances at the Wigmore Hall. »

05 Jun 2010

Lulu, New York

Alban Berg died in 1935, but his music was generations ahead of his time – as one could not help but conclude during the recent revival of Lulu at the Met whenever the vibraphone played “doorbell” music, reminding us of the intrusion of cell phones into theaters.  »