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Elsewhere

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Der Rosenkavalier: Welsh National Opera in Cardiff

Olivia Fuchs' new production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. The production debuted in Magdeburg last year and now Welsh National Opera is presenting the production as part of its Summer season, the company's first Der Rosenkavalier since 1990 (when the cast included Rita Cullis as the Marschallin and Amanda Roocroft making her role debut as Sophie).

Don Giovanni takes to the waves at Investec Opera Holland Park

There’s no reason why Oliver Platt’s imaginative ‘concept’ for this new production of Don Giovanni at Investec Opera Holland Park shouldn’t work very well. Designer Neil Irish has reconstructed a deck of RMS Queen Mary - the Cunard-White Star Line’s flag-ship cruiser during the 1930s, that golden age of trans-Atlantic cruising. Spanning the entire width of the OHP stage, the deck is lined with port-holed cabin doors - perfect hideaways for one of the Don’s hasty romantic dalliances.

"Recreated" Figaro at Garsington delights

After the preceding evening’s presentation of Annilese Miskimmon’s sparkling production of Handel’s Semele - an account of marital infidelity in immortal realms - the second opera of Garsington Opera’s 2017 season brought us down to earth for more mundane disloyalties and deceptions amongst the moneyed aristocracy of the eighteenth-century, as presented by John Cox in his 2005 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

Semele: star-dust and sparkle at Garsington Opera

To open the 2017 season at Garsington Opera, director Annilese Miskimmon and designer Nicky Shaw offer a visually beautifully new production of Handel's Semele in which comic ribaldry and celestial feuding converge and are transfigured into star-dust.

La rondine at Investec Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park's 2017 season opened on 1 June 2017 with Martin Lloyd-Evans's new production of Puccini's La Rondine, designed by takis, with lighting by Mark Howland and choreography by Steve Elias. Elizabeth Llewellyn was Magda with Matteo Lippi as Ruggero, Tereza Gevorgyan as Lisette, Stephen Aviss as Prunier and David Stephenson as Rambaldo, Matthew Kofi Waldren conducted the City of London Sinfonia.


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Reviews

22 Jun 2017

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.  »

Recently in Reviews

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21 Feb 2007

Victoria de los Angeles performs Ravel, Debussy & Duparc

Carmen was one of Victoria de los Angeles’ favorite roles and she brought to it much that we hear on this recording of French songs: a winsome voice without heavy vibrato, a close attention to musical detail, and an evident understanding of the French words that she conveys, if not with an impeccable accent, at least with a convincingly understandable pronunciation. »

20 Feb 2007

MOZART: Die Hochzeit des Figaro

Yes, the German title must be employed for this filmed Nozze en Deutsch from 1967. »

20 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

Recorded on 28 March 1970 in Rome, this recording of Parsifal makes available a live performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the foremost interpreters of Wagner’s works in his day. »

18 Feb 2007

HAYDN: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words is well known, both as a familiar part of modern Lenten devotions and also as something of a stylistic oddity, I suspect. »

18 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

From the 2005 season of the “reborn” La Fenice comes this Dynamic DVD of Wagner’s Parsifal. »

18 Feb 2007

Opera North: Breathing new life into “Orfeo”

Friday night in Leeds, in the North of England, at the city’s marvellously restored Grand Theatre, with the pavements outside shining wet and a tidal wave of umbrellas surging past, was an exciting place to be. »

16 Feb 2007

BRAHMS: Ein deutsches Requiem

In dedicating much of his creative life to the Thomaskirche, the German musician Günther Ramin left his mark on the musical life of Leipzig, and his legacy includes a fine recording of Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45. »

16 Feb 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

Perhaps the best-known of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies, the Fourth also benefits from a number of fine recordings. »

16 Feb 2007

Jean-Baptiste Lully, Armide (Opera Lafayette)

The Opera Lafayette of Washington DC has been engaged in a new project this season – the Armide Project, as the group dubbed its ambitious plan, in collaboration with the University of Maryland Opera Studio, to present two great operas set to the same celebrated Philippe Quinault libretto. »

14 Feb 2007

SAMMARTINI: Della Passione di Gesú Cristo; L'addolorata Divina Madre.

Giovanni Battista Sammartini (c.1700-1775) belongs to that shadowy generation of Italian composers who no longer composed in the high Baroque style, but had adopted the clarity, simplicity and regularity that would serve as the building blocks for the Viennese masters of the late eighteenth century, and thus were tagged with the rather pejorative label “pre-classic” (a plague on all those music historians who can only see musical style in terms of progress leading to their particular figure of veneration!). »

13 Feb 2007

Dust-bowl opera overwhelming at Minnesota premiere

The great American opera? Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Grapes of Wrath” might be it. »

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. »