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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.


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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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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. »

28 Sep 2010

Orpheo ed Eurydice in Minnesota

Minnesota Opera pulled out all the stops for its 2010-2011 season with its production of Gluck’s Orpheo ed Eurydice.  »

27 Sep 2010

Tristan und Isolde at Royal Festival Hall

Almost irrespective of the results, it was quite a statement to open the Philharmonia’s London concert season with a performance of Nietzsche’s ‘opus metaphysicum of all true art,’ Tristan und Isolde.  »

26 Sep 2010

Niobe, Regina di Tebe, Royal Opera

The Royal Opera is hardly renowned for its commitment to baroque opera, and even the great Handel still gets short shrift in his adopted city’s major house.  »

24 Sep 2010

Werther in San Francisco

It has been twenty-five years since San Francisco Opera has staged a Werther. so it was high time that Massenet’s whiney, weepy masterpiece be given another chance.  »

23 Sep 2010

The Makropulos Case at ENO

In their programme note, Christopher Alden and Peter Littlefield explain the concept which informs this dark, dystopian production of Janáček’s penultimate opera, The Makropulos Case — a production first seen at ENO in 2004: »

21 Sep 2010

Aida in San Francisco

Opera as circus. The current San Francisco Aida comes from the English National Opera where an inspired and probably very excited administrator proposed a production by aging London fashionista Zandra Rhodes. »

20 Sep 2010

An experience In the Penal Colony

Kafka's In the Penal Colony set as an opera by Philip Glass? Against all expectations, it was a powerful and deeply moving experience.  »

19 Sep 2010

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Vocally impressive, Michael Tilson Thomas’s new recording of Gustav Mahler’s symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde merits attention for various reasons.  »

19 Sep 2010

Un ballo in maschera at the Washington National Opera

Verdi’s 1859 hit Un ballo in maschera is an inspired choice to open an operatic season.  »