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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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30 May 2007

MASSENET: Esclarmonde

Just as sausage can be best enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of its preparation and contents, one should slide slowly into the luxuriant bath that is Massenet’s Esclarmonde and leave the libretto far to the side. »

30 May 2007

ORFF: Carmina Burana

Released in early 2007, Marin Alsop’s performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is an exciting, new recording of this familiar and durable scenic cantata, based on medieval lyrics in Latin and German. »

30 May 2007

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Verboten und verbannt — forbidden and banned — a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust. »

30 May 2007

Angel Dances

Curmudgeons and aesthetes may have to fight their gag reflex to enjoy some luscious music-making on the latest disc, Angel Dances, from that hot studio band, The Twelve Berlin Philharmonic Cellists. »

29 May 2007

Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music

The interpretive reception of medieval music begins, as John Haines lays forth in the present investigation, already during the latter period of the Middle Ages. »

29 May 2007

BRITTEN : Gloriana

Towards the end of his life Britten became interested in the idea of developing the opera experience beyond the technical confines of the stage. He would have, I think, loved this film because it’s so intelligently sensitive to his fundamental ideas. It is, no less, a work of art built around a work of art. »

25 May 2007

Virginia Arts Festival celebrates “Pocahontas”

Norfork - It’s America’s biggest birthday since the 1976 bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence: »

20 May 2007

VERDI: Aida

This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense. »

20 May 2007

Simon Boccanegra — Opéra national de Paris

Chief attraction of the Paris Opera’s new production of Simon Boccanegra was Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role. »

20 May 2007

Anonymous 4: Gloryland

The quality packaging of Anonymous 4’s latest recording indicates the group’s importance to their label, Harmonia Mundi. »

09 May 2007

LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci

In the countless performances of Leoncavallo’s masterpiece Pagliacci since its 1892 premiere, there must have been times when the light tenor singing Beppe watched the other tenor, of heavier voice, in the lead role of Canio and wondered if someday he (the Beppe) would take on the dramatic role of the homicidal clown. »

09 May 2007

Audrey Stottler Sings Wagner

Audrey Stottler’s Wagner recital provides ample evidence of a voice with the range and heft for the challenging roles of Brünnhilde and Isolde, as well as Sieglinde, a role often sung by a vocalist with less firepower. »

09 May 2007

Alison Balsom: Caprice

Dare one assume that with this disc, Alison Balsom becomes the first artist to bring her lung power to both Norma’s “Casta Diva” and Die Zauberflöte’s “Der hölle rache” in the same recital? »

09 May 2007

Porgy and Bess at Los Angeles Opera

Premiered at Washington National Opera, director Francesca Zambello’s Porgy and Bess arrived in Los Angeles May 4th, for a run of 12 performances in just 17 days. »

09 May 2007

On The Town – English National Opera

In a season that will conclude with a new production of Kismet, ENO has once again come under criticism for the number of non-operatic works on the bill. »

03 May 2007

Franco Corelli: His Early Cetra Records

I often wonder who decides what records will be used to produce historical vocal issues. »

03 May 2007

Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo

For those who didn’t long ago purchased or exchanged this Salzburg recital via the pirate connections, this is a fine opportunity to get maybe the best testimonial of this artist. »

03 May 2007

American Choral Music

The commitment of Naxos to American music is substantial and admirable. »

02 May 2007

OFFENBACH: Orpheus in der Unterwelt (Orphée aux enfers)

Filmed for television in 1971, this performance of the German translation of Orphée aux enfers (1858) as Orpheus in der Unterwelt breaks the conventional wisdom that some espouse about the weaknesses of opera or opera when conceived for the small screen. »

02 May 2007

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 26 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday)

Among the virtues of hearing Bach cantatas performed in liturgical order—one of the hallmarks of John Eliot Gardiner’s stunning Cantata Pilgrimage of 2000—is the chance to savor Bach’s range of approach to unified text themes. »

02 May 2007

Delightful Organ at St Margaret’s Palm Desert

Who says an organ recital cannot be jolly good fun? »

01 May 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

Dynamic brought its cameras to the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, in August 2005 to record Bianca e Falliero, one of Rossini's so-called “serious” operas, and one that had only been rescued from many decades of neglect by the festival itself, in 1986. »

01 May 2007

Miami “Karenina” a dream come true

Colin Graham’s dream of an opera based on Tolstoi’s “Anna Karenina” extends far into the past. »

01 May 2007

In Barcelona, a Wagner debut without scandals for Àlex Rigola, the rising star in the Catalan school of direction

At Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, a sold-out house marked, for two nights in a row, the weekend introducing la diada de Sant Jordi, the big fiesta celebrated on April 23 in honor of the city’s patron St George. »

01 May 2007

Tristan und Isolde: Total Immersion

The Los Angeles Philharmonic in April and May brought back its Tristan Project for the benefit of audiences in California and New York City. »

25 Apr 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Over a century after its premiere, Mahler's Second Symphony continues to be a compelling work and is as relevant now as it was when the work was conceived. »

25 Apr 2007

Beverly Sills & Placido Domingo

More than ever, compilations of previously released material fill the shelves of those stores still selling classical music. »

25 Apr 2007

Handel Singing Competition Final – London April 23rd

Once again, George Frederick Handel’s old stamping ground of St. George’s Hanover Square, London, resounded last night to the sound of his music as aspiring young singers from all over the world fought out the Final of the London Handel Singing Competition. »

23 Apr 2007

Wozzeck at San Diego Opera

“What drives a man to insanity and murder?” asks the poster for San Diego Opera’s new production of Wozzeck, which closed this Sunday after a run of four performances. »

22 Apr 2007

Satyagraha at ENO

Philip Glass’s 1980 work, new to the London stage, gives an illustrated account of Mahatma Gandhi’s early years in South Africa, viewed through the eyes of his satyagraha philosophy of peaceful resistance. »

19 Apr 2007

PENDERECKI: Symphony no. 7

Krzyzstof Penderecki (b. 1933) has contributed a body of works to the modern repertoire, and his Symphony no. 7, which he composed 1996 (premiere 1997 in Jerusalem), is an impressive composition. »

16 Apr 2007

MAHLER: Des Knaben Wunderhorn

The orchestral songs of Gustav Mahler remain an important contribution to the genre, and stand well alongside similar works by Berlioz, Wolf, and Strauss. »

16 Apr 2007

City Opera Presents La Donna del Lago

The New York City Opera continued its tradition of championing works that are less frequently performed with this season’s production of La Donna del Lago. »

15 Apr 2007

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Sadko

This sumptuous 2006 release was recorded live in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in late 1993 for European TV broadcast the following year. »

15 Apr 2007

Handel's Flavio at NYCO

Incongruity was the rule of the day in the New York City Opera’s production of Handel’s Flavio, which opened on Wednesday, April 4. »

12 Apr 2007

Passion, pain paired in Berlin

It was, of course, a coincidence; on the other hand, on Berlin’s vital, vibrant and all-encompassing arts scene one is continually overwhelmed by new perspectives on the creative process and its product. »

11 Apr 2007

L’invitation au voyage: Mélodies from La belle époque

“Linvitation au voyage” is an appropriate title for this collection of French song, which makes available a number of fine performances of both familiar and rare works. »

11 Apr 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

With a label such as Gala, a purveyor of live recordings of various provenance, some adjustment to compromised sound quality can be expected. »

07 Apr 2007

A bride for sale at the Baltimore Lyric

The latest offering from the Baltimore Lyric Opera was Bedrich Smetana’s sparkling comedy Prodana Nevesta (“Bartered Bride”), a little gem of Czech Romantic nationalism that one does not see live very often these days. »

07 Apr 2007

BERNSTEIN: Fancy Free; Dybbuk

This excellent disc brings together two ballet scores from the far ends of Leonard Bernstein’s compositional career. »

06 Apr 2007

Kurt Weill on Broadway: Songs and Orchestrations by Kurt Weill

Kurt Weill’s perennial appeal can be attributed to various factors, not the least of which is the genuine craft of his stage works. »

06 Apr 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Film music has become a sort of refuge for some music lovers turned off by the work of those serious music composers who have turned increasingly away from attempting an encounter with a broader public, retreating into an insular word of academic composition. »

04 Apr 2007

The Metropolitan Opera on DVD: Elektra, Luisa Miller and Tosca

With some deliberation the Metropolitan Opera releases DVD versions of live television broadcasts from its heyday as a PBS mainstay. »

02 Apr 2007

San Diego Opera — Il Trovatore

Verdi's magnificent melodrama Il Trovatore may be the most masculine of his creations, but the production that San Diego Opera presented as the third opera of its 2007 season was a triumph for the ladies. »

30 Mar 2007

José Carreras Collection

A classic Seinfeld episode revolved around a brush with the “third” of the Three Tenors - the one whom no one could quite put a name to. »

30 Mar 2007

HANDEL: Poro, Re dell’Indie

Let’s face it, Handel’s “Poro, Re dell’Indie” (in English “Porus, King of India”) isn’t exactly a household name in any but the most dedicated baroque opera circles. »

28 Mar 2007

Camacho’s Wedding (Die Hochzeit des Camacho)

UC Opera now have a half-century’s reputation to live up to; they were responsible for the UK premieres of such works as Das Liebesverbot, The Maid of Orleans, Alzira, Oberto and the 1847 version of Macbeth. »

27 Mar 2007

BRUCKNER: Lateinische Motetten — Latin Motets

Known almost iconically for his symphonies, Anton Bruckner devoted a great deal of his compositional output to vocal music, including choral works in both German and Latin. »

26 Mar 2007

RAMEAU: Platée, Pigmalion, Dardanus Ballet Suites

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, French instrumental music was closely identified with dance and dance suites. »

26 Mar 2007

GRÉTRY: Pierre le Grand

Although milestones in the history of opéra-comique, Grétry’s operas are infrequently revived and rarely recorded. »

25 Mar 2007

MOZART: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

With the trials and tribulations of a multicultural society currently at the forefront of the British media, Gavin Quinn’s production placed a light-hearted focus on the bizarreness of a group of foreigners being thrown together in an unfamiliar situation. »

25 Mar 2007

MOZART: Don Giovanni

This 2005 production of the Mozart-Da Ponte masterpiece Don Giovanni makes for a frustrating experience. »