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Elsewhere

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.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Alexandra LoBianco (Aida). Jacob Lucas photo
21 May 2018

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. »

Recently in Reviews

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27 Nov 2007

Johann Pachelbel. Arien & Concerti

Although few composers have been so closely associated with a single work, Johann Pachelbel, whose canon for three violins has achieved canonical ubiquity, was a prolific composer with a number of vocal works to his credit. »

19 Nov 2007

Verismo Rarities, Teatro Grattacielo

Part of the fun of visiting the many companies that specialize in unearthing forgotten operas lies precisely in not knowing what you’re going to get. »

19 Nov 2007

Norma returns to the Met

The bel canto era, insofar as the contemporary public considers it at all, is usually thought of as the golden age of vocal beauty for its own sake. »

19 Nov 2007

Pascoe comes to grips with the Don

Mozart made it easy for the Philistines. They see Don Giovanni thrown into the flaming jaws of Hell and hiss: “Two thousand women seduced and abandoned! “ »

18 Nov 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphonie no. 7

Released as part of Orfeo’s series entitled Festspiel Dokumente, this recording makes available on CD the concert performance at the Salzburg Festival of Anton Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic that Hans Knappertsbusch conducted on 30 August 1949. »

18 Nov 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Released Reissues and Historicals

The first opera performance I consciously attended while being definitely hooked to the genre due to records, was Guillaume Tell more than 40 years ago. »

18 Nov 2007

Bryn Terfel: Tutto Mozart!

Released in celebration of the recent Mozart year, Tutto Mozart! is a collection of nineteen arias, duets and other ensembles from the composer’s operas that feature the baritone Bryn Terfel. »

18 Nov 2007

The Oxford Psalms

Founded in Oxford in the early 1990’s, the ensemble Charivari Agréable looks to seventeenth-century composers with Oxford connections as the basis for their recent recording, “The Oxford Psalms.” »

18 Nov 2007

Karlsruhe‘s Don Gets Down

The Badisches Staatstheater seems to have borrowed with a vengeance the catch-phrase from John Waters’ recent “A Dirty Shame,” namely: “Let’s go sexin’!” I can’t recall ever seeing a “Don Giovanni” with more lip-locks, grinding torsos, leg-wraps, and groping embraces. »

16 Nov 2007

Gruberova on Nightingale Classics

Edita Gruberova’s North American fans, who can only hold onto dim hopes that someday the European superstar will return to these shores, can always seek to sate their desire for her artistry by picking up the latest CD from Nightingale Classics. »

14 Nov 2007

Libera — Angel Voices

"They are boys, and they sing, but don't call them choirboys. 'Libera' prefer to be called a vocal group — a real boy band, if you like." »

14 Nov 2007

ROSSINI: Torvaldo e Dorliska

Between the efforts of recording companies Naxos and Opera Rara, Rossini-philes have been living in a golden age. »

14 Nov 2007

Portraits of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Olga Borodina

Philips decided some time ago that it no longer needed to be the audio representative for two fine contemporary singers of Russian origin, mezzo Olga Borodina and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. »

14 Nov 2007

Aida at ENO

After the marketing gimmickry of Sally Potter’s production of Carmen, and a dance-based Poppea set at the bottom of the sea, it did not bode well when the advertising for ENO’s latest production included an interactive dress-up doll circulated by email. »

14 Nov 2007

Macbeth in Istanbul

Attending the opera may not be the first thing you think of when visiting Istanbul, but opera is to be found (if less well advertised than the local Bach Festival) at the Ataturk Cultural Center on Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul. »

14 Nov 2007

“The Sacrifice” – Welsh National World Premiere Tour

Welsh National Opera’s new opera “The Sacrifice”, composed by James MacMillan with libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts, and directed by Katie Mitchell, is an emotionally raw and compelling study of the nature of conflict, and how humans are changed by it. »

13 Nov 2007

Macbeth at the Met

Verdi, a born skeptic where the supernatural is concerned, did not seem to know quite what to do with the witches in Macbeth and was far too loyal to Shakespeare to reduce their role – he knew how closely the play was bound to them, famous for them. »

12 Nov 2007

Le Nozze di Figaro – Metropolitan Opera

Le Nozze di Figaro, in 1786, was the longest and most elaborate opera buffa ever composed and (though it is seldom given complete) is still the longest you are likely to see in the regular repertory. »

12 Nov 2007

Armida

As its name suggests, the selections on this wonderful new CD are all excerpted from five different versions of the tale of the beautiful enchantress “Armida.” »

11 Nov 2007

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

Recorded on 29 January 1978, this performance preserves a classic production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, which involved a gifted cast. »

11 Nov 2007

Houston pays homage to opera’s living legends

Although seriously ill, Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti were still very much alive when general director Anthony Freud in his second year in this position planned the 53rd season of the Houston Grand Opera. »

11 Nov 2007

Verdiland Revisited

Since his appointment as general manager of Parma’s Teatro Regio in August 2005, Mauro Meli didn’t conceal his ambitious plans for growth. »

11 Nov 2007

Preparing G.B. Pergolesi’s tercentenary — with a fair advance

A notice for organizers: it’s relatively easy to produce a vocal recital and sell out a large house for two nights in a row. »

11 Nov 2007

This “Swallow” Makes November Summery

It’s somewhat of a mystery why Puccini’s 1917 “La Rondine” is such a neglected, rarely-performed opera. »

31 Oct 2007

Oper als Geschäft

This book is in German, which may make it of limited interest to people who are not sufficiently familiar with the language. »

31 Oct 2007

The 17th Bienal of Contemporary Brazilian Music

The 17th Bienal of Contemporary Brazilian Music [XVII Bienal de Música Brasileira Contemporânea] began on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007 at the Sala Cecilia Meireles, Rio's leading concert hall, with a lengthy program divided between six orchestral works, entrusted to the National Symphony Orchestra of the Universidade Federal Fluminense, based in Niteroi, RJ and three works for percussion, interpreted by the Dynamo Percussion Quartet. »

30 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 3

When performances remain in the aural memory of the audience long after the final wave of applause, the event merits attention. »

30 Oct 2007

Hamburg's Tales Told

I recently made a special trip to Hamburg with one real goal in mind: to hear one of my most favorite young singers, bass Kyle Ketelsen in the Staatsoper’s new production of “Tales of Hoffmann.” »

29 Oct 2007

Jean Sibelius: A Film in Two Parts

The two short films about the composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), The Early Years and Maturity & Silence comprise a video biography of Finnish artist. »

28 Oct 2007

DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

For the final HD moviecast of the 2007-08 season, the Metropolitan Opera will present two stars in a production that has already earned rave reviews at Covent Garden: Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez starring in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. »

28 Oct 2007

The Magic Flute — English National Opera

Despite rumours to the contrary, English National Opera’s advertising material claims that this 12th revival of Nicholas Hytner’s popular production of ‘ The Magic Flute’ will be the last. Though it’s arguably better to get rid of a production in... »

28 Oct 2007

“Apollo e Dafne” — the English Concert at St. Georges, Bristol.

Someone once called Handel’s Italian cantata Apollo e Dafne a “proto-opera” and it’s easy to see why. »

28 Oct 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Among the signal operas of the twentieth century, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is a powerful transformation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, based on the 1865 short story by Nicolai Leskov. »

28 Oct 2007

The Coronation of Poppea — English National Opera

For some seasons now, ENO has expressed a commitment to reinforce the role of dance within opera. »

24 Oct 2007

Der Freischütz at Oper Köln

Do you remember a moment when a piece, new to you, so engaged you that you immediately wanted to know more. . .or all about it? »

24 Oct 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals

I doubt many admirers of Leontyne Price will be tempted to buy this issue. »

22 Oct 2007

La Nilsson: My Life in Opera

Birgit Nilsson probably never heard of “the Protestant work ethic,” but she didn’t need to know it. »

22 Oct 2007

MAZZOCCHI: Madrigali e Dialoghi

The Roman composer Mazzocchi is one of those figures known only to musicologists, and it is a pity, for this disc contains first-rate music. »

22 Oct 2007

Biondi’s Labors Won, or Unearthing The Lost Vivaldi

An expedition against the famed warring women, the Amazons, ranking as Hercules’ ninth labor out the canonic twelve, provided the subject for the libretto by Antonio Salvi (not Giacomo Francesco Bussani, as hitherto misattributed) that Vivaldi set to music in 1723 as his own sixteenth operatic labor. »

22 Oct 2007

Opera at the BBC Proms 2007

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s guest appearance is an annual fixture at the Proms, and this year the work of choice was Verdi’s Macbeth, in a semi-staged performance on July 24th based on Richard Jones’s new production for this year’s Festival. »

16 Oct 2007

San Francisco stages triumphant Tannhäuser

At this point in his career David Gockley has no need to prove himself. He did that with awesome success as general director of Houston Grand Opera for 33 years, during which he made that company a front runner both on the American and international opera scenes. »

16 Oct 2007

GIORDANO: Fedora

Mirella Freni’s 1993 triumph in the lead of Umberto Giordani’s Fedora at La Scala has made it to DVD. In his booklet essay, Werner Pfister (translated by Stewart Spencer) admits the opera “does not enjoy the best of reputations.” »

16 Oct 2007

“Dein ist mein ganzes Herz”

Okay, okay, I freely admit this up front: I am not inordinately fond of operetta. Just thought you should know. All the more remarkable then that I found myself listening to this new recording several times over. »

15 Oct 2007

STRAUSS : Elektra

Whatever you do, don't give this DVD as a gift to people you don't want to alienate. »

15 Oct 2007

Philip Glass celebrates 70th with compelling new opera

SAN FRANCISCO — “My subject is war and the pity of war, and the poetry is in the pity.” »

15 Oct 2007

Handel’s “Radamisto” revisited with mixed results in Hamburg

A remarkably quick turnaround from only last May when the first run of Handel’s “Radamisto” was blessed with a consistently high level of vocal performance may have been the reason for sparser houses this time round at the Hamburg Staatsoper (October 6th). »

09 Oct 2007

The Met’s New Lucia

Of Donizetti’s fifty or so “serious” operas, Lucia di Lammermoor was the only one to survive his heyday almost unscathed by change of fashion; today, when a dozen of his other worthy works have been restored to the repertory, Lucia easily hangs on. »

09 Oct 2007

I Hear American Singing

Recorded in August 2001 at the Salzburg Festival, less than a month before the tragic events of 11 September, the presentation of songs and readings of music by American composers and texts by American authors seems aimed at a different world. Without venturing into political or social dimensions of the event, the concept of America in August 2001 suggested at times a sense of being impermeable, if not invincible. »