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Elsewhere

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall.

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.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork perform Purcell and Nyman at Milton Court Theatre, 28th May 2018
22 May 2018

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall. »

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26 Apr 2009

Il Piccolo Marat

Try to imagine the scenario: You’re an opera company, giving concert performances of neglected, indeed forgotten, hundred-year-old scores (no sets, no costumes, at least you don’t have those headaches), and you give young singers a chance to do their stuff once a year before a paying New York crowd actually eager to hear music they do not know, and you’ve lit on a genuine obscurity, even in the ranks of the obscure; Mascagni’s penultimate stage work, a huge success at the premiere (as his operas usually were), utterly forgotten nowadays (as, but for Cavalleria Rusticana and, on rare occasion, L’Amico Fritz, they pretty much are), and it’s never been performed in North America ever. »

24 Apr 2009

Prokofiev’s Semën Kotko Lands in Sardinia

The Teatro Lirico di Cagliari is a sparkling comparatively new building in what used to be a blighted area near to the city center.  »

22 Apr 2009

Jenůfa at the Bavarian State Opera

The Bavarian State Opera’s new production of Leos Janacek’s Jenufa is a feather in the cap of intendant Nikolaus Bachler.  »

19 Apr 2009

Pfitzner and Strauss by Staatskapelle Dresden

In the continuing series of releases to document the recorded legacy of the Staatskapelle Dresden, vol. 13 collects music by Hans Pfitzner and Richard Strauss with performances from 1939 through 1944.  »

19 Apr 2009

Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Chicago Lyric

In its new production of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) Lyric Opera of Chicago has achieved a fusion of eighteenth-century sensibilities with a modern adaptation of traditional dramatic and stage techniques.  »

19 Apr 2009

Cavalli’s La Didone at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn

Perhaps I’d better just describe what I experienced, Captain.  »

19 Apr 2009

Die Walküre at Los Angeles Opera

The Los Angeles Opera audiences seem to have decided that no matter how they may really feel about Achim Freyer’s “performance art” staging of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, the singers and musicians are giving them at long last a chance to hear these monumental works at the Dorothy Chandler. »

19 Apr 2009

Die tote Stadt: The Dead City Livens Up Palermo

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s music drama Die tote Stadt has had a rather erratic life in major opera houses.  »

19 Apr 2009

Shagimuratova steals show in HGO’s Rigoletto

On a stormy evening in Houston (both in and outside of the house), Houston Grand Opera’s opening night production of Verdi’s Rigoletto went off with a thunderous bang.  »

19 Apr 2009

John Mark Ainsley Sings Schubert at Jerwood Hall, London

Schubert’s music ‘suggests a rippling movement and by the side of the rippling a flowering: it has the variety and unsurprising naturalness of moving water and springing herb’ (Capell) and this same naturalness and sense of flowing ease are the very qualities which make John Mark Ainsley such a special interpreter of this composer. »

19 Apr 2009

Iphigénie en Aulide at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma

Rome’s opera house was built in 1880, in the explosion of building that followed the unification of Italy with Rome as its capital.  »

10 Apr 2009

Rigoletto at the MET with Diana Damrau as Gilda

Rigoletto is the ideal first opera: a taut tale, comprehensible characters, terrific tunes, and not an ounce of fat anywhere.  »

10 Apr 2009

Angels in Frankfurt

Was Tony Kushner’s monumental play Angels in America in need of being musicalized? »

08 Apr 2009

Domingo sings Wagner

This two-CD budget series collection brings together two Placido Domingo Wagner recitals, the first from 2000, with Deborah Voigt receiving co-billing, and the second from 2002. »

07 Apr 2009

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Originally directed by Brooks Riley for German television, this updated staging of Engelbert Humperdinck’s familiar opera Hänsel und Gretel is based on a production created by Johannes Felsenstein, the son of the well-known director of the Komische Oper Berlin, Walter Felsenstein.  »

07 Apr 2009

Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci at the MET

The current revival of Cav and Pag at the Met went off like clockwork, with all the comfort and reliability that implies for a repertory house and all the success these tried and true verismo stalwarts merit.  »

07 Apr 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful

London: Sue Loder reviews Alessandro and the Handel Singing Final »

06 Apr 2009

Paris: As Good As It Gets

I cursed myself for not having turned on the television sooner. »

06 Apr 2009

Benjamin Britten: Owen Wingrave

In the parlance of a Hollywood film pitch, Britten's penultimate opera might be described as "War Requiem" meets "Turn of the Screw."  »

06 Apr 2009

Nadja Michael as Salome and Tosca

Like Violetta Urmana, Nadja Michael had a substantial career as a mezzo before deciding to venture into soprano territory.  »

02 Apr 2009

Return of Ulysses in San Francisco

William Kentridge is a South African artist who works in charcoal and eraser (smudges) on paper, in small animated film and video segments (black and white), in theater, and now in opera. Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses was his first operatic project that took place in 1998 in collaboration with South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Theater.  »

01 Apr 2009

Rigoletto at San Diego Opera

In the current weak economy many an opera company has retrenched its programming to present primarily the most popular operas. »

01 Apr 2009

Handel & Purcell on Special Offer at Covent Garden

If combining the anniversaries of both Purcell and Handel in one production at the Royal Opera was something of a master-stroke, then getting the Royal Ballet in on the act must have seemed to be verging on the brilliant from a commercial point of view.  »

31 Mar 2009

Rolando Villazón — Handel

When considering his next recording project, notes Rolando Villazón, the idea of working on a set of Handel arias with Paul McCreesh was “not an obvious choice.”  »

30 Mar 2009

Bloch’s Macbeth by UC Opera, London

Mention Macbeth — The Opera and most think of Verdi. Ernest Bloch took on the subject more than half a century later, in Paris in 1910, when Verdi’s version was almost as obscure as Bloch’s is today. »

30 Mar 2009

Magdalena Kožená shines in Martinů’s Juliette at the Barbican, London

Many works by Martinů will be performed in this year’s commemoration of the anniversary of his death, but it would be hard to equal the impact of this performance. Much of its success was due to Kožená, whose presence illuminated the whole opera, even though her moments on stage were fleeting. »

29 Mar 2009

Farinelli — Il Castrato

Naïve re-releases the soundtrack to the film Farinelli here in a handsome “book” casing, appending a second disc of highlights from the discography of Christophe Rousset’s recordings with Les Talens Lyriques, the artists also responsible for the soundtrack. »

27 Mar 2009

In Sarasota the composer is king

In the world of opera it’s now the director who is the top banana.  »

25 Mar 2009

Jenůfa — English National Opera, London Coliseum

Janáček enthusiasts in London have been spoiled this month: opening the day before English Touring Opera’s Katya Kabanova, David Alden’s staging of Jenůfa made a welcome return to the Coliseum following its original double Olivier Award-winning run in 2006. »

25 Mar 2009

Paul Robeson: The Complete EMI Sessions 1928-1939

Seven discs, of 170 tracks, amounting to over eight hours of music - this EMI set somehow manages to be both voluminous and narrow in its portrait of Paul Robeson. »

25 Mar 2009

Venice's Variable “War Requiem”

I had been looking forward to it for weeks — really, for years. »

25 Mar 2009

La Sonnambula at the MET

In 1831, when Vincenzo Bellini composed this pastorale full of characters who never express any but sincere emotions (with the exception of Lisa, the calculating flirt), he certainly intended them, and their feelings, and therefore their story, to be taken seriously – or he would not have given them such seriously lovely music.  »

25 Mar 2009

Il Trovatore at the MET

For nearly a decade after its premiere, in 1853, Il Trovatore was the most popular opera, perhaps the most popular stage work on the planet — even more than Rigoletto or Ernani, and far more than Traviata, which had its premiere the following autumn.  »

24 Mar 2009

Franz Schubert: The Conspirators (Die Verschworenen)

Schubert was desperate to be an opera composer — or so one might surmise from the many (at least 18) attempts he made to make a name for himself as a man of the theatre.  »

24 Mar 2009

Katya Kabanova/The Magic Flute — English Touring Opera, Hackney Empire Theatre

English Touring Opera is 30 years old this year, and has never been more adventurous.  »

22 Mar 2009

Songs by Samuel Barber

Among the impressive contributions to the American song literature of the twentieth century are works by Samuel Barber (1910-81), whose efforts in this genre reflect his own musical training as a singer, as well as the influence of his aunt, Louise Homer, whose professional relationships put her nephew in contact with other vocalists of the day.  »

19 Mar 2009

TELEMANN: Brockes-Passion

Heinrich Brockes’s famous poetic setting of the Passion, Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (1712), was one of the most significant devotional texts of its day in Germany.  »

15 Mar 2009

Don Giovanni — Victorian Opera

Each Australia state maintains its own opera company. The dominant company is Opera Australia, a permanent ensemble based at the Sydney Opera House but which originated in the Melbourne based National Theatre Opera Company in the 1940s.  »

15 Mar 2009

LA “Ring” up and running

LOS ANGELES: On February 21 the capacity audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was overwhelmed by the staging of Das Rheingold that launched the Los Angeles Opera’s new production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. So was Wagner. »

15 Mar 2009

Haydn’s L’Isola Disabitata by Gotham Chamber Opera

Had a misunderstanding with your truelove lately? Tough job straightening things out?  »

15 Mar 2009

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Soprano

This DVD contains the contents of four televised recitals of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, with no way of telling from the information provided whether the recitals are presented complete or not.  »

15 Mar 2009

Henze: Der junge Lord

Hey man, you wanna take a trip? Groovy!  »

15 Mar 2009

Domenico Sarro: Achille in Sciro

The birth and death dates of Domenico Sarro (1679 and 1744) are very close to those of his more illustrious contemporary, Antonio Vivaldi.  »

15 Mar 2009

Mayr Rediscovered

Apparently Opera Rara “discovered” Giovanni Simone Mayr some years ago when it included several excerpts from his operas in their multi-volume series, “A Hundred Years of Italian Opera.” »

15 Mar 2009

Tippett: A Child of Our Time

Although an ineffable aura of the 1960s emanates from Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time, its composition came at the start of WWII in Europe.  »

15 Mar 2009

Luciano Pavarotti: The EMI Recordings

A Decca recording artist for most of his career, Luciano Pavarotti did do a very few items with EMI, probably as part of those “artist-swapping” arrangements recording labels sometime arrange.  »

15 Mar 2009

Wagner’s Das Rheingold at Los Angeles Opera

There is some slim irony to an opera company pursuing the complicated business of staging Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in the current economy — it entails the very sort of dubious compromises that get Wotan and crew into such hot water (if one assumes the cataclysmic fire at the end of Götterdämmerung heated the Rhine).  »