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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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10 Mar 2011

Two Troubled Girls in Paris

Commanding soprano performances of put-upon heroines securely anchored two recent evenings at the Bastille Opera House.  »

09 Mar 2011

Déodat De Séverac: Le Coeur du Moulin

Interesting recordings continue to be produced in the classical music business by smaller labels with particular niche markets. For the label Timpani, their specialty tends to be rarer French repertoire.  »

09 Mar 2011

Luca Pisaroni at the Wigmore Hall, London

After hearing his stunning Leporello at Glyndebourne and his Figaro at Salzburg, there was no way I was going to miss Luca Pisaroni’s concert with Wolfram Rieger at the Wigmore Hall, London. But I was delighted by how wonderful he sounded close up in recital. »

06 Mar 2011

Dialogues des Carmélites, Guildhall, London

Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is an unusual opera, but much sensitive musical thinking has gone into this production at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. »

06 Mar 2011

L’Africaine, OONY

Eugène Scribe and Giacomo Meyerbeer were in the business of creating proto-cinematic spectacles of drama and music, the formula being to take a historical incident in some exotic country or era, put in a tormented love story to hold our attention, and resolve the whole in catastrophe. »

06 Mar 2011

Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado

The front leg of the grand piano may rest at a rather precarious angle, and the out-sized martini glass lean a trifle askew, but Jonathan Miller’s 1986 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado wears its twenty-five years lightly — as do Stefanos Lazaridis’ eye-wateringly white, gleaming sets.  »

06 Mar 2011

Roderick Williams, Wigmore Hall

Relaxed, confident and composed, baritone Roderick Williams, accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch, gave a polished and performance before a warmly appreciative Wigmore Hall audience, performing an interesting selection of songs by Wolf, Korngold, Mahler and Schumann. »

06 Mar 2011

Così fan tutte, Palm Beach

Little is known about the extent to which Mozart and Da Ponte collaborated on the libretto for Così fan tutte.  »

06 Mar 2011

Schubert Transcribed, Wigmore Hall

Schubert, but not quite as we know him. You can always rely on the Wigmore Hall to promote adventurous recitals.  »

06 Mar 2011

Ariadne auf Naxos, Bordeaux

Ariadne on Naxos, or you could call it Bacchus á Bordeaux. It was an orgy of art. »

05 Mar 2011

Roméo et Juliette, Philadelphia

Neither the music nor the libretto of Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette is quite compelling enough to have made it a popular standard. »

27 Feb 2011

Iphigénie en Tauride, New York

Gluck’s operas are part of a continuum, a tradition of French vocal declamation (as opposed to the Italian school of flights of elegant, open-throated vocal fantasy) that can be traced to him from Lully and Rameau, and then from Gluck through certain works of Mozart and Gluck’s pupil, Salieri to the operas of Spontini, Berlioz and Wagner. »

23 Feb 2011

György Kurtág Kafka Fragments, Banse and Keller

György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments, op 24, is a masterpiece, one of the seminal works of the late 20th century. »

22 Feb 2011

The Bartered Bride, New York

In the mid-nineteenth century, every nationality that did not possess a national state felt a need to prove itself, to square its shoulders and claim nationhood with all the identifying marks of a nation: a language with a literature, a tricolor flag, a national anthem extolling the people’s stalwart character and the country’s landscape (inevitably the loveliest in the world), a national theater and a national opera to be performed there. »

21 Feb 2011

Der zerbrochene Krug / Der Zwerg

Der zerbrochene Krug is a very short opera by Viktor Ullmann, based on a comedy by Kleist, concerning the fall of man. »

20 Feb 2011

Thomas Arne, Bampton Classical Opera

The first performance of Thomas Arne’s masque Alfred took place at Clivedon House on the Thames near Maidenhead, in August 1740. »

20 Feb 2011

Parsifal, ENO

This production retains a special place in my heart: its first outing in 1999 was my first Parsifal in the theatre. Saving up my student pennies, I made the journey not once but twice from Cambridge to London, was mightily impressed the first time and a little irritated the second.  »

18 Feb 2011

Anna Nicole, London

From the sublime (Parsifal, the night before) to the not-even-ridiculous.  »

17 Feb 2011

Opera Colorado’s ‘mermaid’ tremendous

The story is ages old, and every culture has a version of it: the mythic princess of an underwater realm longs for the love of a mortal man. »

15 Feb 2011

Werther in Lyon

Massenet tells us that his Werther is 23 years old, that Charlotte is 20 years old. Albert is 25 and Sophie is but 15. Just now the Lyon Opera assembled just such a cast. »

15 Feb 2011

The Chill of Grace: A Winter Weekend at COC

At the moment, it seems inevitable that John Adams’ 1987 opera Nixon in China will become a fixture in the repertoire.  »

12 Feb 2011

Parsifal in Brussels

Romeo Castellucci is the cat’s whisker of current avant-garde theater directors. Thus it has simply been a matter of time before he would be invited to the Monnaie to stage an opera.  »

11 Feb 2011

Egyptian Queen in Parisian Rubble

Although Paris Opéra's Dream Team of soprano Natalie Dessay and director Laurent Pelly promised much for the SRO run of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, for the moment we will have to keep dreaming of what might have been.  »

08 Feb 2011

Don Pasquale, New York

Witty and airy as an after-dinner anecdote over biscuits and cognac, Don Pasquale (1844) is, unlikely as it may seem, almost the last opera Donizetti completed before his descent into the madness of tertiary syphilis. »

07 Feb 2011

Turandot, Florida Grand Opera

In 2010, Florida Grand Opera held a gala to honor Robert Heuer on his 25th anniversary as general director. »

07 Feb 2011

Nixon in China, New York

Preparing for the Met premier of Nixon in China, I resolved to forget—or place on hold—everything I remembered, or thought I remembered, about the real persons who are characters in this opera,  »

07 Feb 2011

Turandot, San Diego

The original story that formed the basis for the libretto of Puccini’s opera Turandot told of a Mongolian princess who insisted that any prospective husband endeavor to win a wrestling match with her.  »

06 Feb 2011

Magdalena Kozená, Wigmore Hall

It’s a rare recital that can be at one and the same time intensely intimate and extravagantly exuberant, but that’s just what Magdalena Kozená and the eight-piece Austrian ensemble Private Musicke achieved in this fascinating and exhilarating concert, which brought a thrill of passion, spontaneity and excitement to the usually more restrained and rarified atmosphere of the Wigmore Hall. »

06 Feb 2011

Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Florida Grand Opera

If you are ever lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch a great exponent of just one of two major roles — the heroines or villains — in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, you should secure a seat maintenant.  »

06 Feb 2011

Randy Rossini Romp in Z-Town

If proof were needed, the Swiss capital’s heady new Le Comte Ory cements the notion that super-star Cecelia Bartoli certainly seems to have found an ideal home at Zurich Opera. »

06 Feb 2011

Jurowski, Das klagende Lied

Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic have repeated their success with Mahler’s Das klagende Lied at the Royal Festival Hall.  »

06 Feb 2011

Die Zauberflöte, Covent Garden

Premiered in 2003, and aired again in 2005 and 2008, this current revival of David McVicar’s Die Zauberflöte brings many ‘old hands’ back together to re-visit oft-frequented roles on familiar ground. »

06 Feb 2011

Heggie’s Dead Man Walking triumphs at HGO

The production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking currently on stage at the Houston Grand Opera is marvelously celebratory in its success. »

06 Feb 2011

Der Freischütz, Toulon

Carl Marie von Weber’s magical masterpiece has had a hard time of it in France.  »

04 Feb 2011

Lucrezia Borgia, ENO

Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at the English National Opera, London, is an interesting hybrid. The opera is performed “straight” so to speak, but encased in a frame of short filmed passages that add background and depth. These films don’t intrude, but enhance. »

03 Feb 2011

Mosheh, a VideOpera

Yoav Gal, an Israeli-born composer-in-residence at the HERE arts complex in Manhattan’s South Village, calls Mosheh a “VideOpera,” rightly giving as much place to what is seen (electronic projections) as to what is heard (from four sopranos playing the women in the prophet’s life and an orchestra of nine musicians). »

02 Feb 2011

Bérénice, Carnegie Hall

Albéric Magnard, inspired to abandon the law for music by a visit to Bayreuth in 1886, was wealthy enough to ignore the public and go off on his own to compose.  »

02 Feb 2011

I Puritani, Glyndebourne 1960

It’s a joy to watch an athlete finding her legs, especially when you know she’ll achieve her feat superbly, matchlessly, with supreme grace. I first heard Sutherland sing I Puritani (three times) during the famous Met run of 1976. »

02 Feb 2011

Jurowski conducts Zemlinsky

This looked an enticing programme before Vladimir Jurowski, in conversation with the Southbank Centre’s Head of Music, Marshall Marcus, divulged its secrets.  »

02 Feb 2011

La Fanciulla in its Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its current production of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrates the centenary of the first performances of the opera.  »

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.  »