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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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09 Oct 2007

Thomas Stoltzer. Psalm Motets.

Thomas Stoltzer represents German composition in the wake of the Reformation yet still immersed in the contrapuntal richness of the Josquin tradition. »

09 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6 / Piano Quartet

With its fine engineering, the rich score of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and the superb playing of the Philadelpha Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach emerge well in this recently released recording. »

09 Oct 2007

The Yves Becko Collection

This must be one of the most interesting collectors’ collections to have appeared in many a year. Personally I’ve always liked any singer from Fernando De Lucia to Rolando Villazon but I never was tempted to collect shellac and therefore didn’t have to contact Yves Becko. »

08 Oct 2007

CAVALLI: La Calisto

René Jacobs’s beautiful 1996 production of Francesco Cavalli’s Calisto has garnered many enthusiastic fans over the years. »

04 Oct 2007

HAYNES: The End of Early Music — A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century

Once upon a time, there was something known as early music. This was not so much a repertoire, a musico-historical epoch, as an attitude, a counter-cultural group. »

02 Oct 2007

Carmen at ENO

There is a certain onerous responsibility in developing a new production of Carmen at a major house. »

01 Oct 2007

JANÁČEK: Jenůfa

Across the country from Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Opera has opened its 2007-08 season with big stars (Netrebko, Alagna, Dessay, Giordani) in juicy, melodic operas by Donizetti and Gounod. »

28 Sep 2007

Allegri “Miserere”; Palestrina “Missa Papae Marcelli”

This is a recording that glories in iconicity. »

28 Sep 2007

Dusting off a Masterpiece… “The Fortunes of King Croesus” by Reinhard Keiser, coming to Opera North, Leeds and Minnesota Opera soon.

Masterpiece? The term rather depends on whether the artist in question was indeed a master and it might come as a surprise to learn that this little-known composer of the brief, but significant, German Baroque Opera period is regarded by many as just that. »

26 Sep 2007

Margaret Garner at NYCO

The New York City Opera’s production of Richard Danielpour’s and Toni Morrison’s opera, Margaret Garner, boldly faces the ugly history of slavery in the United States, and the racism inherent in the institution of opera. »

23 Sep 2007

Hear the Voice and Prayer

There are a number of signs of the popularity of the King’s Singers—their longevity as an ensemble, the huge success of their public concerts, and their sizable discography all come immediately to mind. »

23 Sep 2007

The Feast of St. Edward, King and Confessor at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is surely many things to many people. »

23 Sep 2007

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune

The 2004 DVD "Playing Elizabeth’s Tune," originating in a BBC television production, features concert performances of Byrd’s sacred music sung by the Tallis Scholars along with documentary material treating the composer and his time. »

23 Sep 2007

Brewer at her best in live “Fidelio”

It is not surprising that it was Beethoven’s Fidelio that was chosen to reconsecrate rebuilt opera houses in Vienna and Berlin in the years after World War Two. »

23 Sep 2007

Italian Sunshine Sweeps Away Gloomy Operatic Forecast

If the swift downpour that hit Pesaro, moments before the Prima of G. Rossini’s Otello on August 8th, seemed like a bad omen, that was nothing compared to the two major cast changes that could have weakened the foundation of the Rossini Opera Festival’s new production of the opera and washed it away. »

23 Sep 2007

PENDERECKI: Die Teufel von Loudon

Of the operas composed in the latter half of the twentieth century, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Die Teufel von Loudon is a significant contribution to the repertoire. »

19 Sep 2007

Music Triumphs in S.F. Tannhauser

For those who can’t (or won’t) see the forest of an opera for the trees of performance minutiae, here’s the word about the San Francisco Opera’s new production of Wagner’s “Tannhauser” that opened tonight: »

19 Sep 2007

Music for Compline

The liturgy of Compline marks the end of the monastic day, as the community seeks peaceful repose for the night ahead. »

19 Sep 2007

Psalms for the Spirit

Psalmody, be it in the form of chanted recitations or anthem settings, lies close to the heart of liturgical singing, and this collection, “Psalms for the Spirit” brings together an engaging variety of both long familiar and recent psalms that celebrates the traditions and explores new directions. »

19 Sep 2007

WAGNER : Lohengrin

What’s outstanding about this Lohengrin is the orchestral playing. »

18 Sep 2007

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue and Capriccio in Paris

Name this stage piece if you can: »

18 Sep 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

Before the age of computers, CDs. DVDs and Apple i-Phones, there was television. »

18 Sep 2007

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

Los Angeles Opera opened its 2007 season with Fidelio on September 8th, and on the following day held a gala performance of Verdi’s Requiem. »

16 Sep 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre

One of the glories of a well-executed performance of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle is the sonic dimension of the work, with the dramatic contrasts between the larger musical canvasses and the more intimate ensembles that occur between several voices and within the orchestra itself. »

16 Sep 2007

Hector Berlioz: Te Deum, op. 22

Often overshadowed by its composer's Requiem, the Te Deum, Op. 22 (1849) by Hector Berlioz deserves attention for its own merits, and this recent release by Hänssler in its series of live recordings of the Staatskapelle Dresden is a solid reading of this work. »

16 Sep 2007

SCHEIDT: Ludi Musici

The courtly instrumental music of the Halle composer, Samuel Scheidt, is preserved in the printed collection "Ludi musici" (1620), giving congenial suggestion of both the richness of the court practice and the virtuosic abilities of the ensemble players there, including the cornettist, Zacharias Härtel. »

16 Sep 2007

Le Chant des Templiers

The quarter century of work by the French medieval ensemble, Ensemble Organum, and their director, Marcel Pérès has positioned them as leading interpreters of early liturgical repertories; among interpreters, their renditions assert a high degree of distinctiveness and character. »

12 Sep 2007

La Bohème x3

On stages all over the world, most any night of the year, poor Parisian Mimi hacks her way into oblivion, while her sometime lover cries out her name in hysterical despair. »

11 Sep 2007

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus

In 2005 the Australian musicologist Janice Stockigt made the case that several works attributed to Baldassare Galuppi in the Saxon State and University Library (Dresden) were really the works of Antonio Vivaldi. »

10 Sep 2007

MONTEVERDI: Madrigals (Book 5)

This installment in the ongoing series of Monteverdi madrigal recordings from Marco Longhini and Naxos presents distinctive performances of works that lie close to the heart of the early baroque style. »

10 Sep 2007

BACH: St. Matthew Passion (Excerpts)

There is much to admire in Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach performances with the Bach Collegium Japan, and this recording of excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion will remind the listener of the diverse ways in which this is so. »

07 Sep 2007

SMETANA: The Bartered Bride

As an audio-recording, Supraphon's set of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride conducted by Zdeněk Košler deserves the highest recommendation. »

07 Sep 2007

JANÁČEK: Katja Kabanowa

A series of historic recordings comes from Profil/Edition: Günter Hänssler, and from those a subset of Staatskapelle Dresden performances brings opera fans a remarkable document. »

07 Sep 2007

Teresa Berganza Live in Concert

Here's another in a series of televised recitals from Lugano, Switzerland to have appeared on DVD. »

07 Sep 2007

Kiri Sings Karl: Songs of Mystery & Enchantment

Alban Berg's Wozzeck takes almost two hours to induce a sense of soul-crushing nausea and despondency. Kiri Sings Karl achieved that for your reviewer in a couple minutes, and then went on with terrifying, torturous efficiency for almost another hour. »

07 Sep 2007

VERDI: Otello

Director Willy Decker's outstanding Traviata from Salzburg, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, is one of the great contemporary opera DVDs. »

07 Sep 2007

Aspen premieres forgotten Cavalli work

A husky baritone in Speedos on a motor scooter and a buxom, purple-wigged Dame Edna drag clone — the Aspen Opera Theater Company’s staging of Francesco Cavalli’s 1667 “Eliogabalo” was off to a start that promised to equal the program’s over-the-top staging of the composer’s 1649 “Giasone” two summers ago. (AOTC director Edward Berkeley raised the curtain on that Baroque potboiler to a biker Amor on a Harley.) »

06 Sep 2007

STRAUSS: Elektra

Among the available videos of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the recently released DVD of the live broadcast from 16 February 1980 stands out for capturing the exciting of an all-star international cast that included the famous Birgit Nilsson in the title role. »

05 Sep 2007

Netherlands Opera — New Wine in Old Bottles

The unmistakable fanfare that opens Monteverdi’s seminal L’Orfeo rang out from the top of the crowded foyer of the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam last Friday night to signal not only the start of the opera, but also the opening night of their celebratory 2007 Monteverdi Cycle. »

02 Sep 2007

The Pleasures of Presence — The Small Loudspeakers of Richard Sequerra

In the long ago, when the best source of music reproduction in the home was a handsome piece of furniture, fitted with hidden audio components, and usually called radio-phonographs, my family had one — from Avery Fisher I believe — that had among its controls a switch labeled ‘presence.’ »

28 Aug 2007

DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena

A career-making smash for Donizetti at its 1830 premiere, Anna Bolena eventually faded from the standard repertory. »

28 Aug 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 5

Recorded live at the Stiftsbasilika, St. Florian (Austrian) on 12 and 13 September 2006, this DVD offers a special performance of the famous Cleveland Orchestra outside its home at Severance Hall. »

28 Aug 2007

BERG: Wozzeck

Among the available DVDs of Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck, the recent release of the production Rolf Liebermann made into a film i the late 1960s stands out for various reasons. »

28 Aug 2007

The Dream of Gerontius Opens Elora Summer Festival

Written in 1900, Elgar’s Gerontius expresses the universal and existentialist struggle of death and rebirth. The allegorical significance of the piece touches on a need for faith, self-discovery, and acceptance of the world around us. »

28 Aug 2007

Faustina Bordoni: Faces of a prima donna

Opera singers today have become almost as famous and publicly worshipped as movie-stars; yet this has always been the case in operatic history. »

27 Aug 2007

Menotti’s “Saint” wears a dim halo

CENTRAL CITY, Colo. — A year ago, when the Central City Opera announced plans to conclude its 2007 75th anniversary season with Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Saint of Bleecker Street,” the composer was aged but alive. »

27 Aug 2007

New opera from China crosses national boundaries

It’s clear today that China’s Cultural Revolution has led to a cultural revolution that — in music at least — has made the country’s artists frontrunners on the international scene. »

27 Aug 2007

Glimmerglass Opera 2007 — An Overview

Glimmerglass Opera is in a watershed year. With the departure of Paul Kellogg, who had considerable success developing that annual festival, General and Artistic Director Michael Macleod has chosen to begin his tenure with a variation on the usual four-opera-season, namely a thematic collection of pieces based on the “Orpheus” legend. “Don’t look back” is the marketing catch phrase. »