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Elsewhere

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

17 Mar 2019

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas. »

Recently in Reviews

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21 Sep 2011

Turandot in San Francisco

Los Angeles has been good to Turandot. The gritty 1984 Andre Serban production inaugurated an opera company in Los Angeles where a mere eight years later L.A. Opera bestowed the splendid Luciano Berio ending upon the world in an uber-pompous Gian-Carlo del Monaco production. »

21 Sep 2011

La tragedia di Tosca at the Washington National Opera

Whether or not one agrees with Joseph Kerman’s immortal definition of Tosca as a “shabby little shocker,” Puccini’s melodramma, the inaugural production of the Washington National Opera’s 2011-12 season, is intense, “blood-and-guts” kind of entertainment.  »

21 Sep 2011

Il Trittico, Covent Garden

What do a ferociously violent melodrama, an ecstatic spiritual revelation and an ironic black farce have in common?  »

21 Sep 2011

The Elixir of Love, ENO

It’s easy to dismiss the undoubted charms of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love with a wry smile and a dash of condescension.  »

21 Sep 2011

The Italian Girl in London, Bampton Classical Opera

As one of the most successful Italian opera composers of the late-eighteenth century, Domenico Cimarosa’s reputation lasted well into the following century during which his operas were staple repertoire in all the major European opera houses.  »

21 Sep 2011

Paris: A Thrilling Leap and Then a Stumble

Stylish, spirited vocalism that rang convincingly through the Palais Garnier was the hallmark of Paris Opera’s thrilling revival of one of Mozart's least appreciated mature operas.  »

21 Sep 2011

Willy Decker’s staging of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron

As a rule the celebrated incomplete operas of the repertory eluded completion due to the untimely death of the composer.  »

21 Sep 2011

Schiller: Ein Leben in Liedern, Wigmore Hall

While the music industry seems to be spiralling dementedly downmarket, the Wigmore Hall keeps standards extremely high.  »

21 Sep 2011

Heart of a Soldier, San Francisco

The house lights dimmed, SFO General Director David Gockley instructed us to stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner. This crucial moment revealed the intentions and complexities of this fine production at San Francisco Opera. »

19 Sep 2011

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011

The Wigmore Hall is the most respected centre of art song excellence in Britain and its Song Competition attracts interest from all over the world.  »

15 Sep 2011

Bruckner: Symphony no. 9

Recorded on 31 October 2007 in the Großer Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, this performance of the Cleveland Orchestra offers a compelling interpretation of the three completed movements of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.  »

15 Sep 2011

L’Amour des trois oranges on CD and DVD

Opera companies around the world — though relatively few in the United States — cannot resist the temptation to stage Sergei Prokofiev’s first major opera.  »

13 Sep 2011

BBC Prom 73: Der Freischütz

Why would a French composer take an opera which epitomises German Romanticism and Nationalism and adapt it to the conventions of the French grand opera tradition?  »

12 Sep 2011

Munich’s Dialogues des Carmélites

Dialogues des Carmélites is a magnificently anti-operatic opera. »

10 Sep 2011

Santa Fe Faust — Revisited

The distinguished soprano Patricia Racette once advised this observer, “If you are coming to the opera to review me, please attend the latest performance you can.” I knew what she meant.  »

09 Sep 2011

Les Troyens by La Fura dels Baus

When the opera opens, a chorus of Trojan is rejoicing that the Greeks have abandoned the war and gone home.  »

08 Sep 2011

Prom 67: Beethoven, Mass in D major, op.123

I shall not beat about the bush: this was a great performance.  »

08 Sep 2011

Glyndebourne’s Billy Budd

Hermann Melville wrote a poem called “Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century”: »

06 Sep 2011

Ruhrtriennale’s Luminous Tristan

Bochum’s Jahrhunderthalle, a massive, re-purposed industrial building, seemed an unlikely location to contain and frame the transcendent, unbounded spiritual journey of Wagner’s masterpiece Tristan und Isolde. »

06 Sep 2011

Macbeth from Paris and Parma

Superstitions surround theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy.  »

01 Sep 2011

Verdi’s Requiem Closes Grant Park Festival

In its final performances of the Summer 2011 season the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus along with guest soloists gave two performances of Verdi’s Requiem.  »

30 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 58: Mendelssohn’s Elijah

Droughts, deserts, false gods, angels, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and a firestorm. Plenty of drama in the Bible. In BBC Prom 58, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players made a good case for period performance of Mendelssohn’s magnificent Elijah op 70.  »

30 Aug 2011

Bayreuth’s Tannhäuser: Recycled Trash

Newsflash: Wartburg is a world-wide recycling company, at one with the universe, wherein everything and everyone exists in a perfectly sustainable environment.  »

30 Aug 2011

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

Film biographies of great musicians notoriously exhibit a preference for talking heads nattering on over any music passages.  »

29 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 55: Rinaldo

It’s becoming rather a fashion to set operas in English public schools.  »

29 Aug 2011

Don Giovanni, Salzburg

When discussing the evolution of opera as a genre, the towering figure of Richard Wagner cannot be ignored.  »

29 Aug 2011

L’elisir d’amore, Miami

“The number of recordings testify to the continuing popularity of Donizetti’s melodrama in two acts [L’elisir d’amore], which rivals Don Pasquale among his comic operas and is often rated the better on account of its superior libretto by Felice Romani.”  »

28 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 50

In 2008, the late Richard Hickox, founder and then music director of the City of London Sinfonia, commissioned a work from composer Colin Matthews to celebrate the orchestra’s 40th anniversary, which takes place this year. »

27 Aug 2011

Santa Fe: Best of Show 2011

As this is written, the third week of August, the Santa Fe music season is winding down.  »

27 Aug 2011

Caractacus,Three Choirs Festival, Worcester

Superb performance of Elgar’s epic oratorio Caractacus at the The Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral. »

27 Aug 2011

Santa Fe Musical Delights

Musical excellence was the centerpiece of three of Santa Fe Opera’s annual offerings. »

27 Aug 2011

Nino Machaidze: Romantic Arias

The back cover of soprano Nino Machiadze’s debut solo recital from Sony Classical quotes her as describing the disc’s selection of arias as “my world, my successes to date and my hopes for the future.”  »

27 Aug 2011

Franz Schmidt’s The Book with Seven Seals at Grant Park

In keeping with the festival nature of the piece, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, along with guest soloists and a guest chorus director, gave two performances of Franz Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln on recent weekend evenings.  »

27 Aug 2011

Two one-act comic operas from New York Festival of Song

The New York Festival of Song, created and run by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, dedicates itself to what one might call “American lieder” — art songs by top American composers, classic Broadway, and operatic numbers. »

27 Aug 2011

Mosé in Egitto and Adelaide di Borgogna in Pesaro

It was a no-brainer. The Old Testament Egyptians had to become today’s Palestinians. »

25 Aug 2011

Rossini’s Armida from the Met HD Live

What is to be done about Armida?  »

20 Aug 2011

Donizetti’s Marino Faliero at the 2008 Bergamo Music Festival

Gaetano Donizetti is arguably the established opera composer with the highest ratio of failures to successes.  »

19 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 41

This concert of three substantial choral and orchestral works by Benjamin Britten recreated the ‘50th birthday’ Promenade concert which Britten himself conducted on 12 September 1963.  »

19 Aug 2011

Glimmer, Glamour Back in Cooperstown

A breath of fresh air is making its way through the Glimmerglass Opera festival, and her name is Francesca Zambello. »

19 Aug 2011

Previn and Caird’s Brief Encounter

The chief classical music and opera critic for the Los Angeles Times often criticizes any new operas based on familiar films or classic novels, on the basis of artistic timidity and conservatism.  »

19 Aug 2011

La Bohème at Torre del Lago

This is where Puccini composed many of his operas until the lake got so polluted he had to move to nearby Viareggio.  »

14 Aug 2011

Ariadne auf Naxos, Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble

Today’s general public labors under the unfortunate misconception that in order to enjoy opera, one needs to be educated and at ease with mobility in social circles largely consisting of decrepit old rich people.  »

14 Aug 2011

Opera at Grant Park Music Festival

For its seventh program of the Summer 2011 season the Grant Park Music Festival presented concert ensembles performed by members of the Ryan Opera Center of Lyric Opera of Chicago.  »

14 Aug 2011

Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Wolf Trap

For opera lovers who are serious enough to even think of a performing career, the path is an arduous one.  »

14 Aug 2011

Prom 32: Brahms and Mahler

Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Mahler’s Das klagende Lied did not seem to be the most obvious bedfellows — there has been some rather peculiar programming at this year’s Proms — and even after further consideration, the only real connection I could muster was that they were written at the same time: the concerto in 1878, the cantata between 1878 and 1880.  »

14 Aug 2011

Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini

It seems very appropriate that a record company called Naïve should elect to release a solo recital for a soprano in her very early 20s.  »

14 Aug 2011

Starry-Crossed Lovers in Bavaria

In the waning days of the annual summer festival, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera fielded enough star power to fire up a minor galaxy with its wholly absorbing production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi. »

13 Aug 2011

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi

Great characters are at the center of all operatic masterpieces, yet opera almost never treads into “operatic biography” territory.  »

13 Aug 2011

Théodore Gouvy’s Iphigénie en Tauride

Gounod you know, but how about Gouvy?  »

12 Aug 2011

Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila in Antwerp

Bonus features on opera DVDs usually get generic names, such as “Interview” or “Backstage with…”  »

12 Aug 2011

Gergiev conducts Wagner’s Parsifal

A handsome black steed bows its head, eyes open, peering into the darkness around it. »

12 Aug 2011

Risorgimento 150 years after

How the saga of Italian unification in 1861 is being (half-heartedly) celebrated by opera composers. »

02 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 21

From the bombastic sweeps of Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, to the blissful rhapsodies of Walton’s Violin Concerto, and through the rhythmic surges of Prokofiev’s choral manifesto of socialist realism, conductor Andris Nelsons fizzed — indeed, almost exploded with energy and zest — and inspired clarity, control and freshness from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, on this their only visit to the Proms this season. »

01 Aug 2011

La traviata at the Aix Festival

An appreciation of La traviata plus La clemenza di Tito and Le Nez/The Nose at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. »

01 Aug 2011

La Wally, Opera Holland Park, London

Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally is known for its arias, but the full opera is rarely performed. Expectations were high for this production at Opera Holland Park, London. »

31 Jul 2011

Die Liebe der Danae, Bard Summerstage

In the modern operatic world, respect for the oeuvre of any given composer, as well as his stylistic development and placement in operatic history, is sacrosanct.  »

31 Jul 2011

Rodelinda Triumphs at Iford Opera

Rodelinda is about as serious an opera as any that Handel wrote: attempted regicide and infanticide, violent death, betrayal and a marriage sorely tried.  »