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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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05 Mar 2009

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)

Recorded on 9 November 1959 at Symphony Hall (now Symphony Center), this recent issue of a classic performed of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde translates the then state-of-the-art RCA “Living Stereo” sound for the LP vinyl medium to the enhanced sound currently available in SACD format.  »

05 Mar 2009

Janáček's Šárka at Dicapo Opera

There is a visceral pleasure in hearing so many healthy sets of young lungs tearing into this music, and they do sing, they do not bellow. »

27 Feb 2009

A restrained Flying Dutchman at the Royal Opera House, London

This Der fliegende Holländer was eagerly awaited as it hasn’t been heard at the Royal Opera House, London, since 2000. With Bryn Terfel’s return to Covent Garden as the Dutchman guaranteed a full house. »

27 Feb 2009

Lucrezia Borgia at Munich

Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, his 30th opera, is based on Victor Hugo’s play of the same name, and had its premiere at La Scala in 1833.  »

25 Feb 2009

Rigoletto at the MET

The Plague of Beautiful Sounds: Has Bel Canto gone too far? »

25 Feb 2009

Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe from Semperoper Dresden

Jérôme Savary, director of this December 2007 Semperoper Dresden production of Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe, expresses a view in the booklet essay that many others will probably share: "What I like most of all about The Merry Widow is its music, which is literally bursting with colours, gyrating movements and sensuality..." »

25 Feb 2009

Adriana Lecouvreur at the MET

There come nights in the opera season where gesamtkunstwerke won’t do — enough of epic masterpieces and supreme lyric outpourings of the human spirit!  »

25 Feb 2009

Frankfurt: Thinking Inside the Box

My heart didn't exactly leap in joyful anticipation as I entered the Frankfurt Opera and saw the Arabella pre-set on stage: a big, shallow, white box.  »

24 Feb 2009

No Home for Heroes at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna — Pierre Audi’s new production of Handel’s Partenope.

Handel operas are like London buses — you wait for ages and then 3 come along together.  »

22 Feb 2009

Massenet's Don Quichotte at San Diego Opera

Ferrucio Furlanetto apparently loves the temperate climes of San Diego in California's equivalent of late winter.  »

15 Feb 2009

Kurt Weill’s Der Kuhhandel at Volks Oper Wien

The Kurt Weill-composed operetta Arms and the Cow premiered in 1935 under the title A Kingdom for a Cow, according to Erwin Berger’s booklet essay for this DVD of a 2007 VolksOper Vien staging of David Pountney’s production. »

13 Feb 2009

Fritz Wunderlich — The Legend

Some opera aficionados who take a look at the contents of this two-CD Fritz Wunderlich collection from Profil might shake their heads in bemused wonder: the German lyric tenor as Turridu, let alone Pinkerton and Rodolfo? »

13 Feb 2009

Donizetti's Don Pasquale from the Ravenna Festival

The CEO of the Ravenna Festival, one Cristina Mazzavillano Muti, understandably takes top billing at the top of this DVD booklet's three - count 'em, 3! - pages of credits for the Festival, not counting the single page of credits for the production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale itself. »

10 Feb 2009

Chicago’s Lyric brings life to Tristan

Superlatives were in short supply when the curtain fell on Tristan und Isolde at Chicago Lyric Opera on January 27.  »

08 Feb 2009

Magic Flute at ENO

‘Back by popular demand’ claimed ENO’s publicity material for the 21-year-old production which had its supposed swan-song last season – though it remains questionable whether the company ever really intended to get rid of it.  »

08 Feb 2009

Die tote Stadt, Royal Opera House

Die tote Stadt is Korngold’s masterpiece in the old sense of the word, when a craftsman would produce a dazzling work to show the world what he could do. This is Korngold’s manifesto, so to speak.  »

08 Feb 2009

The Beggar’s Opera at Covent Garden

Entering the Linbury Studio for this production of The Beggar’s Opera, one might have been forgiven for thinking that one had wandered into the main house by mistake.  »

08 Feb 2009

Liber Evangeliorum: Verse and Music From the Age of Charlemagne

The emergence of a standardized western liturgy with a uniform chant repertory, while to a significant degree realized, neither completely silenced regional liturgies nor extinguished the additions to liturgical practice that comprise much medieval creativity.  »

08 Feb 2009

Eugene Onegin at the MET

Pushkin’s poem Eugene Onegin is the first of the great line of Russian novels, passionately loved by all the literate of that most literary nation.  »

08 Feb 2009

Poaching in Cologne

One definition of “poach” is “to take or appropriate something unfairly.” »

08 Feb 2009

Brussels’ Definitive Death

Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie / De Munt started 2009 by serving up a real New Year's treat for the Belgian capital's opera enthusiasts: a near-perfect staging of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice. »

01 Feb 2009

Partenope in Ferrara

The Greek princes Arsace (alto) and Armindo (alto) are seeking handsome Queen Partenope (soprano), who has just founded the city of Naples, in marriage.  »

27 Jan 2009

Amsterdam Hercules Dazzlingly In Love

I had never personally imagined mythical Hercules as a WWF Wrestler-cum-Caveman but damn if Dutch National Opera's staging of Francesco Cavalli's Ercole Amante didn't almost persuade me it could be so. »

27 Jan 2009

Jessye Norman — A Portrait

A sticker on the cover of the Decca DVD Jessye Norman a portrait describes the contents as "An intimate new film portrait of the great soprano."  »

26 Jan 2009

Orfeo ed Euridice at the MET

I am an ardent fan of Stephanie Blythe, and if you revel in sheer sound, she will delight you, too.  »

26 Jan 2009

Pfitzner's Palestrina at Bavarian State Opera

Writer Jens F. Laurson reports from Munich, where a new staging of Hans Pfitzner's Palestrina opened Jan. 19 at the National Theater. The rarely-performed 1917 three-act opera stars Christopher Ventris in the title role. »

26 Jan 2009

René Pape: Gods, Kings & Demons

The first solo operatic recital from the great German bass René Pape bears a title that serves as an homage to an esteemed predecessor, George London. »

26 Jan 2009

Die Zauberflöte from Opernhaus Zürich

A traditional production of Mozart and Schikaneder's singspiel Die Zauberflöte can go for charm, fantasy, and enjoyable camp. It can also turn trite and cloying. »

26 Jan 2009

Anna Netrebko: Souvenirs

The title of Anna Netrebko's most recent recital disc apparently springs from the musical selections' ability to prompt memories in the singer. »

26 Jan 2009

Dvořák: Kate and the Devil

On this 1955 recording of Dvořák's folk-tale based comic romp Kate and the Devil, conductor Zdenĕk Chalaba offers a lighter, faster approach than that heard on the modern studio version Supraphon released in 1981, under conductor Jiří Pinkas.  »

19 Jan 2009

Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra by NYCO

The two performances of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra given at Carnegie Hall — the New York City Opera’s only performances this year while the State Theater is in rehab and the company is in flux — may or may not prove to be swan song of New York’s gallant number two company, whose succession of identity crises have been so fascinating to observe — and hear — over the decades.  »

14 Jan 2009

MASCAGNI: Zanetto

More than just three letters distinguishes "rarity" from "oddity." In opera, a rarity would be an admired work seldom performed. »

14 Jan 2009

Who Was Mary Lewis?

“Mary Lewis, the golden haired soprano” — does that name mean much to today’s lovers of singing and good music?  »

14 Jan 2009

Walter Felsenstein Edition

Some of the more ingenious opera productions of the twentieth century are the work of Walter Felsenstein, who renowned internationally for his efforts in the genre.  »

14 Jan 2009

DVORÁK: Lieder

Unjustly neglected, Dvorák’s Lieder are among his most engaging works, and this selection of some of his most important contributions to the genre demonstrate the range of emotions and the breadth of expression the composer used in these works.  »

07 Jan 2009

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

This performance of Le Nozze di Figaro, recorded live at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in June 2004, prompts much admiration for René Jacobs, its conductor. »

07 Jan 2009

La Rondine at the MET

The first thing that hits you about the Met’s production of La Rondine is the beauty of the sets and costumes (from the classy team of Ezio Frigerio and Franca Squarciapino, respectively) — especially in contrast to the tawdry glitz of the recent Thaïs.  »

26 Dec 2008

Thaïs at the MET

Everyone who likes Massenet’s Thaïs seems to feel obliged to apologize for it, or to become defensive: it’s not that bad, they all seem to say.  »

23 Dec 2008

The Play of Daniel — A Medieval Music Drama from Beauvais

Can we call The Play of Daniel an opera, or “music drama” (as this performance put it), when such terms did not exist, and would not exist for centuries to come when the piece was devised, around 1200, by the cathedral chapter of Beauvais?  »

22 Dec 2008

PAISIELLO: I Giuochi d'Agrigento

Dynamic offers devotees of classical era opera a rare and quite rewarding opportunity to hear I Giuochi d'Agrigento, a little-known opera by Giovanni Paisiello, best known as the man who composed a popular Barbiere di Siviglia before Rossini came along and eclipsed his predecessor.  »

22 Dec 2008

Best of Neujahrskonzert

An annual event televised around the world, the Vienna Philharmonic's Neujahrskonzert has become a classical music institution, and as such is impervious to criticism. But not beyond it. »

22 Dec 2008

Karita Mattila — Fever

Ondine provides a treasure of a booklet for Fever, Karita Mattila's traversal of some standards from the so-called "Great American Songbook," plus two Brazilian numbers. »

22 Dec 2008

Berg’s Lulu at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its new production this fall season of Alban Berg’s Lulu, Lyric Opera of Chicago has achieved a near ideal synthesis of music and drama.  »

22 Dec 2008

Hänsel and Gretel at Covent Garden

Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is titled a Märchenspiel — a Fairytale: and as twentieth-century psychologists and psychoanalysts have been eager to inform us, lurking beneath those familiar saccharine stories of sleeping princesses, defeated tyrants, love fulfilled and harmony restored, lie the dark shadows of the human heart — passionate, violent, unpredictable and unredeemed. »

22 Dec 2008

Thaïs: A Star Vehicle — In Overdrive

The Metropolitan Opera’s high-definition broadcast on radio and by satellite to movie theatres around the Nation, December 20 was Jules Massent’s 1894 star vehicle, Thaïs — the sadly ironic tale of a 4th Century Egyptian courtesan who grows tired of the long hours and demanding nature of her work, and is thinking of a career change.  »

18 Dec 2008

I mori di Valenza — Ponchielli’s Unfinished Opera

It almost seems as if every composer was entitled to have at least one unfinished work.  »

14 Dec 2008

Riders to the Sea — English National Opera, London Coliseum

Back in June, in my review of The Pilgrim’s Progress at Sadler’s Wells, I wrote about the valuable and unsurpassed work being done by Richard Hickox to champion the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams in the composer’s centenary year, a project of which this rare staging of Riders to the Sea for ENO was to be the culmination.  »