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Elsewhere

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.


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Reviews

Classical Opera Company: MOZART 250
18 Jan 2017

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’. »

Recently in Reviews

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09 Feb 2007

HANDEL: Agrippina

An expressionist portrait of the Roman she-wolf was the first, striking image of this production, originally devised for Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, by the fashionable British director David McVicar. »

09 Feb 2007

The Devil’s Dream

The duo of gambist Vittorio Ghielmi and lutenist Luca Pianca even has its own domain name (www.pianca-ghielmi.com), as well as several previous releases, of which the first has perhaps my favorite CD title ever (Bagpipes from Hell). »

09 Feb 2007

ARNE: Six cantatas for a voice and instruments; Advice to Cloe

The English, though fundamental to the early music revival of the last half-century, have been rather remiss in exploring their native music dating from after the death of Purcell, and particularly that produced after the death of Handel. »

08 Feb 2007

VERDI: Rigoletto

Sorry my friends, but this rich-looking DVD has a feature that disqualifies it for me. »

08 Feb 2007

Houston stages a provocative “Faust”

A literary critic once recalled the day when a German could not clear his throat “without finding pithy precedent in Goethe.” »

08 Feb 2007

Houston takes fresh approach to Cenerentola

In opera, Rossini, born in 1892- the year after Mozart died, is the successor of the great master and, when performed as perceptively as in the “Cenerentola” that debuted at the Houston Grand Opera on January 27, his rightful heir. »

07 Feb 2007

Jaume Aragall en Vivo

During any recital by an aging divo there comes a moment of truth when he sings an operatic aria (usually E lucevan le stelle , as the highest note is an A). That is the defining moment when he no longer can hide behind idiosyncratic interpretation, expressive breathing and a lot of clever transpositions. »

07 Feb 2007

PURCELL: Dido and Aeneas

This disc is a reissue of a 1993 recording made at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, California, but new to me. »

06 Feb 2007

PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf

I suppose you will find this quite an addition to the Melchior legacy if you are a collector of every sound Melchior ever uttered. »

06 Feb 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District (Kirov Opera)

The Kirov Opera and Orchestra concluded their annual residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last week with a Sunday matinee concert performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1932 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. »

06 Feb 2007

CHARPENTIER: Judicium Salomonis, H. 422; Motet pour une longue offrande, H. 434

Neither of these late works (the Judicium Salomonis is from 1702) is new to disc – the former has two recent recordings, from ten and from twenty years ago, and the latter one, by Herreweghe, released in 1985. »

06 Feb 2007

Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki

The title Walewska i przjaciele, “Walewska and friends,” reflects the intention of the mezzo soprano Małgorzata Walewska, one of the foremost contemporary Polish singers to present herself and some of her colleagues in recording of various kinds of music. »

05 Feb 2007

BERLIOZ: La damnation de Faust

Why do some conductors make it and others don’t? »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Rossini’s last Italian opera, staged in 1825 as a part of Charles X’s coronation festivities, is a bizarre creation — a sassy little farce capped with a coronation cantata in the best traditions of staged court entertainment, from 16th-century Italian intermedi through their Baroque and Classic operatic progeny. »

28 Jan 2007

EDER: Musik für die Felsenreitschule

While many associate it with traditional music, the Salzburg Festival is also a venue for new productions and, to a degree, new compositions. »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Semiramide

The reason for being of this set is Gruberova’s wish to record as much as possible of her repertory (on her own label as most of the majors were either not interested in recording belcanto operas or had their own stars like Decca’s Joan Sutherland). »

28 Jan 2007

VERDI: Aida

Who is the potential consumer for this DVD release of a 1953 Italian film version of Verdi's Aida, featuring Sophia Loren's stunning physical presence and Renata Tebaldi's stunning vocalism in the title role? »

24 Jan 2007

RAMEAU: In Convertendo Dominus

Let it be said at the outset that, at least to my eyes, the packaging and marketing of this DVD is somewhat misleading. »

24 Jan 2007

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D

A welcome addition to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s own line of releases, this CD is a compilation of two works by Gustav Mahler that the late Klaus Tennstedt performed with the ensemble and which have not been issued previously. »

24 Jan 2007

JANACEK: Káťa Kabanová

I saw my first Káťa 37 years ago during the Flanders Festival. At the time it was still an almost complete novelty on the scene and the Czech company performed it according to the composer’s intentions. »

23 Jan 2007

BROSSARD: Grands Motets

Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730) was, until recently, known to the musical world (if he was known at all) as a lexicographer (he prepared the first French musical dictionary, published in 1703) and collector, whose collection went entire, together with a catalogue he prepared, to the National Library in Paris, something which must have been almost unheard of in early eighteenth-century Europe, though commonplace today (imagine if Bach had managed to do the same with his scores!). »

23 Jan 2007

OONY Gives Rare Performance of Rossini's Otello

There are three reasons often cited for the paucity of performances of Rossini’s Otello: the horrible hack job of the Shakespearean drama by librettist Francesco Maria Berio, the difficulties in casting an opera requiring at least three top-rate tenor voices, and comparisons with Verdi’s popular opera of the same title. »

23 Jan 2007

Gustav Mahler. Letters to His Wife

True to the title of this collection, the present volume of correspondence edited by Henry-Louis de La Grange and Günther Weiss — here translated, revised , and supplemented by Antony Beaumont — offers, to date, the most complete body of letters of Gustav Mahler to his wife Alma. »

21 Jan 2007

CUYÁS: La Fattucchiera

The sleeve notes of this interesting issue state that “ any comparison between La Fattucchiera and Italian bel canto models by Bellini or Donizetti would be too easy though it became commonplace to describe him (= Cuyàs) as the continuator of the school of Bellini. »

21 Jan 2007

MARTIN Y SOLER: La Madrilena

Although the name of Vicente Martin y Soler is no longer obscure, most opera lovers still know him best due to Mozart quoting his opera ‘Una cosa rara’ during the Don’s last meal in Don Giovanni. »

21 Jan 2007

DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Melissande

I was impressed by Karajan’s intense conducting, which seems so right in the wake of the unavoidable tragedy that is going to happen. »

21 Jan 2007

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Record companies are dominated by accountants and short term cost structure seems to be more important than artistic results or even sale figures. This is a prime example. »

21 Jan 2007

DITTERSDORF: Il barone di rocca antica

For those OperaToday readers prone to fantasies about being a member of royalty with one's own cozy opera house tucked away on the hereditary estate, this Hungaroton DVD will enable that desire. Filmed in August 2005 at the royal palace at Gödölló, Il barone di rocca antica, an operetta giocosa from Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, requires only four singers. »

21 Jan 2007

Montserrat Caballé: Französische Opernarien

There is a (no doubt apocryphal) story that if one listens carefully to Caballé’s recordings there is a slight sshhh-sound in the background; the sound of the knife she uses to cut open her scores while recording. »

21 Jan 2007

Giuseppe di Stefano: Opera Recital

This issue from DG’s own classic recital series is a copy of the 1963 LP. »

21 Jan 2007

Die Göttliche Liturgie

Serge Jaroff and his Don Cossacks Choir were for many decades legendary performers of Russian choral music, ranging from the liturgical works of Orthodoxy to beloved regional folk melodies. »

21 Jan 2007

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare

This Sellars production had its origins at the 1985 Pepsico Summerfare Festival in Purchase NY. »

19 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

These recordings prove decisively a well-known thesis: more or less realistic productions always age better than so called innovative modern productions which often only aggrandize the clichés of the time of their conception if one views them a few decades after their première. »

17 Jan 2007

SILVER: The Thief of Love

If the audience for new American art music seems small and is (supposedly) shrinking, then the audience for new American operas is even more exclusive. »

17 Jan 2007

Opera Night

Some interesting repertory choices and the participation of some of today's most attractive singers make this particular "gala" evening of "walk on-sing-walk off" entertainment more consistently enjoyable than these affairs often are. »

16 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

The ever-busy Brian Large directed the 1989 filming (for TV) of a Wolfgang Wagner Tannhäuser production which had debuted at Bayreuth in 1985. »

16 Jan 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Complete Symphonies

Recording a Shostakovich cycle has become de rigueur in recent years — a conductor’s mandatory right of passage, like recording a Beethoven or a Mahler cycle. »

15 Jan 2007

Era La Notte

“Era la notte” presents four highly emotional, seventeenth-century Italian works, sung with commanding theatricality by Anna Caterina Antonacci. »

12 Jan 2007

WAGNER: The Ring Cycle

It is a mystery as complex as the Kirov’s Ring Cycle staging and equally inexplicable. »

12 Jan 2007

ARBOS: El Centro de la Tierra

Most heroes in costume drama movies speak lines directly from our own time. I’ve yet to see a cinematic Roman general, being a serious hero, look at an animal’s liver and says: “ this smells bad; no battle today”. »

12 Jan 2007

Le Donne di Puccini

The recording date is given as November the 12th 1994. Since recording sessions usually last more than one day, and as a radio orchestra is playing, we may safely assume this CD to be derived from a public broadcasted concert by the ‘4 sopranos’ capitalizing on the concept made popular by Domingo, Carreras, and Pavarotti. »

10 Jan 2007

MOZART: Così fan tutte

The booklet essay by Gottfried Kraus (translated from the German by Stewart Spencer) for this TDK release of the 1983 Salzburg Così fan tutte presents an intriguing history of the opera, with the Austrian festival taking in a central role in the work’s return to the standard repertory. »

10 Jan 2007

MARTINŮ: Peach Blossom; The Orphan and Other Songs

The artsong in the twentieth century benefits from the efforts of national composers, like Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959), who stimulated the genre by incorporating regional folk elements into their music. »

07 Jan 2007

PUCCINI: Tosca

Decca loves to repackage this set. Your reviewer first acquired it as a low-price "Double Decca" release, with no libretto. Just a couple years ago saw another incarnation, with a great cover pic of Price and Karajan locked in an embrace - Karajan as Scarpia? Or Cavaradossi - take one's pick. »

07 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Siegfried

The cover art for the Opus Arts DVD of Wagner's Siegfried, from the Nederlandse Opera in 1999, features Mime, as impersonated by Graham Clark, in amazing make-up and costume: a bald, bulging head almost split down the middle by a furrow of anxiety, and clad in a ghastly green insect-like carapace, including wire-like hair and a bobbing tail-sack. »

07 Jan 2007

NIELSEN: Complete Symphonies

Notable among recent releases, the set of the Complete Symphonies by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) on DVD makes available some fine performances of the composer’s important contributions to the genre. »