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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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20 Jul 2009

Munich's Re-constructed Lohengrin

Were someone looking to assemble a musical Dream Team to thrill us to the core with Wagner’s Lohengrin, one would need look no further than the assembled forces currently on stage at Munich's Bavarian State Opera. »

19 Jul 2009

Alice Coote stars in the First Night of the BBC Proms 2009

The Proms reach people all over the world, bringing them together for a kind of international street party, celebrating a shared love of music. If the arts make us more human and humane, then the BBC Proms are a force for good.  »

19 Jul 2009

Festival Aix-en-Provence by Stéphan Lissner

The Aix Festival imagines itself one of Europe’s great festivals, defining itself as the crossroads of European culture.  »

19 Jul 2009

Götterdämmerung at Aix-en-Provence — A Human Symphony

This year’s program at the Aix-en-Provence Festival includes Götterdämmerung, the much-anticipated final installment of the Ring co-sponsored by Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Osterfestspiele Salzburg.  »

19 Jul 2009

Mozart Mistreated at Aix-en-Provence Festival

At the festival of Aix-en-Provence, now in its sixty-first year, the final installment of Wagner’s “Ring,” with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, has hogged the spotlight.  »

19 Jul 2009

Prom 2 — Haydn: The Creation

‘I never left a theatre more contented, and all night I dreamed of The Creation of the world.’ — the view of one of those at the first performance of The Creation in 1799. »

19 Jul 2009

Amsterdam: Old Wine in New Bull Rings

A roster of exciting young artists supported by the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the pit, ensured that Amsterdam’s Carmen worked its usual spell. »

15 Jul 2009

Magic Flutes & Enchanted Forests: The Supernatural in Eighteenth-Century Musical Theater

Readers may recognize the author of this book, David J. Buch, a specialist on the origins of the libretto to Mozart’s Magic Flute.  »

14 Jul 2009

Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Covent Garden

Music-masters, singing lessons and serenading bands all abound in Rossini’s comic masterpiece, Il Barbiere di Sivilglia, but at this performance it was the medical rather than the musical puns which drew the loudest laughs.  »

12 Jul 2009

Tosca at Royal Opera House

This revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production of Tosca brings to an end the ROH’s ‘Italian Season’ in fine style. »

09 Jul 2009

DONIZETTI: Don Gregorio

Like a baseball player with a low batting average but a propensity for home runs, Gaetano Donizetti composed dozens of operas, among which only a very few get frequent performances today.  »

09 Jul 2009

DVOŘÁK: Král a uhlíř (The King and the Charcoal Burner)

Years before Antonin Dvořák composed his most famous opera Rusalka (1900), he completed a series of works in the genre which contributed to his reputation and skill in this genre.  »

07 Jul 2009

Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was. . .

With its’ title taken from the composer’s Suite of English Folk Tunes, Op. 90, Tony Palmer’s film Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was… is a solid documentary assembled from interviews, rehearsal clips, photographs and other audio-visual materials to create a vivid portrait of the composer.  »

07 Jul 2009

Saariaho’s sumptuous L’amour de loin at the ENO, London

Absence of plot is by no means an impediment in opera.  »

04 Jul 2009

The Ravenna Festival: La scuola napoletana

Ravenna once served as the capital of the Roman Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.  »

03 Jul 2009

Porgy and Bess in San Francisco

For Americans of older generations Porgy and Bess is surely a primal experience, formed by the 1959 Otto Preminger film with Sammy Davis Jr. as Sportin’ Life, the audio recording derived from the 1952 London production with Leontyne Price as Bess, and a first encounter with Porgy and Bess as an opera in the artistically satisfying, and well traveled 1976 Houston production (was it twenty-five performances in the War Memorial Opera House?).  »

03 Jul 2009

Summer Nights with the Stars — OTSL’s 2009 Season Shines

The success of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 2009 festival season reflects the intelligent leadership of both the previous triumvirate (Charles MacKay, Colin Graham, and Stephen Lord) and the new recruits Timothy O’Leary and James Robinson.  »

02 Jul 2009

Carmen Triumphs (Again) at the Opéra Comique

Bizet’s famed heroine Carmen returned this June to the place where it all began, in a critically-heralded new production by Adrian Noble. Frank Cadenhead was on hand to experience the staging held at the opulent newly-renovated Opéra Comique. »

29 Jun 2009

Antonio Pappano and Friends — Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

It’s not often that the accompanist is given top billing in a vocal recital, even when he’s the venue’s musical director.  »

29 Jun 2009

Glyndebourne : a spectacular Purcell The Fairy Queen

Glyndebourne is the epitome of British opera festivals. Seventy-five years ago, John Christie founded the tradition of “country house opera”, where opera can be enjoyed in beautiful settings.  »

29 Jun 2009

Un ballo in maschera at Royal Opera House

On the whole, I’d prefer the conspirators to be sitting on toilets… »

26 Jun 2009

Gőtterdämmerung in Venice and Kőln — Sex and Politics Behind the Berlin Wall

With Götterdämmerung, a co-production with the Köln Opera House created by Robert Carsen (stage direction), Patrick Kinmonth (sets and costumes) and Jeffrey Tate (conductor), La Fenice approaches completion of the Ring cycle.  »

26 Jun 2009

La Traviata at Royal Opera House

Four years have passed since the most celebrated American soprano of recent times, Renée Fleming, graced the stage at Covent Garden, in Elijah Moshinsky’s classic production of Otello.  »

25 Jun 2009

Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre shocks Rome but only mildly

Le Grand Macabre is the only opera of György Ligéti, one of the major composers of the 20th century.  »

25 Jun 2009

SCHUBERT: Alfonso und Estrella

What is the worst opera with the best music?  »

24 Jun 2009

La Traviata in San Francisco

Much ink has been spilled over the failed Marta Domingo production of La Traviata that San Francisco Opera inexplicably imported for its blatantly audience baiting summer season (Traviata, Tosca, Porgy and Bess). »

24 Jun 2009

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

The Gala release of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony from Hamburg performances on 29 and 30 November 1954 serves to document further the composer’s presence in the concerto hall prior to the well-known Mahler-renewal in 1960.  »

24 Jun 2009

A Masked Ball by Brooklyn Repertory Opera

Amato Opera went to the netherworld of expired extravaganzas this spring, a one-man operation whose one man was weary. As New York’s oldest down-the-block and semi-pro company, it’s loss was regrettable — though it’s many years since Amato gave up doing interesting repertory. »

24 Jun 2009

Saint Louis: Reliably Excellent

It is quite possible that Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the leading summer opera destination in the United States. »

22 Jun 2009

Schwanengesang at Wigmore Hall

A performance of sublime authority from Goerne and Eschenbach »

21 Jun 2009

Madam Butterfly - English National Opera, London Coliseum

Following the death of the American film director Anthony Minghella, ENO were left with a gap in the season vacated by the new production which he had been engaged to direct, and what better way to do so than by bringing back his immensely popular 2005 staging of Madam Butterfly? Minghella’s widow, Carolyn Choa (who has worked on the production from its original conception) was charged with resurrecting the production in tribute. »

21 Jun 2009

Madame Says Farewell

Last week (May 27), “without further a-don’t,” as she adorably puts it, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh, the world’s reigning traumatic soprano — lately, she says, more of a soprano “spento” — bade a last, lingering, loving farewell to her adoring public in a sold-out concert at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  »

21 Jun 2009

Alceste by The Collegiate Chorale

The Collegiate Chorale (ably supported by the orchestra of the New York City Opera under George Manahan) chose Gluck’s Alceste, last heard in New York at the City Opera in 1982, for its annual spring concert opera — an excellent choice for a chorus eager to show its stuff. »

21 Jun 2009

Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Charms La Scala

Robert Carsen’s production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not new, as the La Scala playbill suggests.  »

21 Jun 2009

La Cenerentola at the MET

La Cenerentola runs third in popularity among Rossini’s comic operas — the Met didn’t get around to it at all until the present staging was created for Cecilia Bartoli.  »

21 Jun 2009

Claudio Abbado Introduces the Complete Pergolesi

Very little is known about Giovanni Battista Draghi (or Drago, according to certain sources), known as Pergolesi.  »

20 Jun 2009

Bach's St. Matthew Passion at BAM

To the sorrow of all lovers of baroque opera, J.S. Bach never composed for the stage.  »

19 Jun 2009

Goerne and Eschenbach : Winterreise

When Matthias Goerne was six, he heard Winterreise and was captivated.  »

19 Jun 2009

No Redemption for Munich’s Dutchman

Although there was considerable theatrical imagination on display, redemption was in critically short supply in Peter Konwitschny's production of The Flying Dutchman at Munich’s estimable Bavarian State Opera. »

18 Jun 2009

Martinů’s cheerful Mirandolina, Garsington Opera

“Life is too important to be taken seriously” goes the motto. That could describe this cheerful production, just the right good humored tonic for these difficult times. »

18 Jun 2009

Aldeburgh Festival — New Buildings, New Birtwistle Operas

Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s early opera, Punch and Judy, premiered at Aldeburgh in 1968. Benjamin Britten reportedly walked out. Now Birtwistle is himself the pre-eminent British composer, whose work has long since become part of the Aldeburgh tradition. This year’s Festival opened with two Birtwistle premieres, The Corridor and Semper Dowland, simper dolens. »

17 Jun 2009

Ian Bostridge at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

In a recent Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert featuring twentieth-century instrumental and vocal compositions Ian Bostridge sang Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations under the direction of principal conductor Bernard Haitink.  »

17 Jun 2009

Bostridge trades fey for Kray

Bostridge traded his fey haircut for slicked back Kray brothers look, complete with wrap round dark glasses in this Dreigroschenoper at the Barbican, London.  »

17 Jun 2009

Andreas Scholl at Wigmore Hall

Strikes on the London Underground system may have made this a particularly exhausting and exasperating week for Londoners, but despite these wearing adversities Friday evening saw an eager crowd flock to the Wigmore Hall, in excited anticipation of an inspiring and invigorating blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar — and they were not disappointed. »

17 Jun 2009

Die schöne Müllerin at Wigmore Hall

Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach unite in a Schöne Müllerin of searing intensity. »

17 Jun 2009

Mozart: Idomeneo

“Mozart's first mature masterpiece,” Sophie Becker calls Idomeneo in the booklet essay of this DVD set of a June 2008 Bayerische Staatsoper staging.  »

15 Jun 2009

Haydn’s Bicentenary : 20 Capitals Salute “The Creation” With Standing Ovations

The Austrian Ministry of Culture and the Committee for the Celebrations of Haydn’s Bicentenary had a brilliant idea: on May 31st , the day of the composer’s death, 20 symphony orchestras and/or opera houses performed one of his greatest and best known oratorios Die Schöpfung (The Creation) .  »