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Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

An Interview with Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa sings Eurydice in Los Angeles Opera’s French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice that can currently be seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

The operatic tradition is not as old in the Netherlands as in other European countries, yet opera is a vital part of the Dutch classical landscape. Both Dutch National Opera & Ballet and the Concertgebouw are in Amsterdam, so the capital gets the lion’s share of the opera on offer.

Lyric Opera of Chicago to Premiere Fellow Travelers—A Preview

On 17 March 2018 Lyric Opera of Chicago will premiere the 2016 opera Fellow Travelers by Gregory Spears (with a libretto by Greg Pierce, based on the novel by Thomas Mallon. Mallon’s 2007 novel offered fresh perspectives on the paranoiac investigations of McCarthy-era Washington, DC, through the lens of a gay relationship.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.



Photo courtesy Dutch National Opera & Ballet
23 Mar 2018

Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief. »

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13 Mar 2007

Native-American Drama at Opera Omaha

Perhaps the gestation period for “Wakonda’s Dream,” premiered by Opera Omaha on March 7, was too long. »

13 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre; Götterdämmerung

Two weeks before viewing these DVD’s, I attended a performance of the same opera at De Vlaamse Opera in a new production by Ivo van Hove; Flemish boss of the most important Amsterdam theatre company. »

08 Mar 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

With the distance of time, is it allowable to feel affection for Herbert von Karajan, beyond any respect — grudging or otherwise — for his long, starry career? »

08 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Recorded between 18 and 29 June 1984 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, this production of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg makes a classic presentation of the opera available in a two-DVD set issued in 2006 by Deutsche Grammophon. »

08 Mar 2007

Verdi Gala from Berlin

This concert was given on New Year’s eve in the year 2000, and the frail Claudio Abbado who comes out to conduct makes for an alarming sight. »

08 Mar 2007

Berlin “Ring” remains a sterling achievement

It was in the “Orwell year” 1984 that Götz Friedrich, general manager — Intendant — of the Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) from 1983 until his death in 2000, staged the first half of Wagner’s “Ring des Nibelungen” in the 1900-seat house on Berlin’s Bismarckstrasse. »

06 Mar 2007

OONY Performs Cilèa’s L’Arlesiana

It is well known that the Opera Orchestra of New York’s performances are required events for opera aficionados to hear the the most exciting performances of the season. »

06 Mar 2007

Adams/Sellars “Tree” blossoms sublimely at SFS

Compared with Pamina and Tamino, Kumudha and her Prince, the central figures in “A Flowering Tree,” the John Adams and Peter Sellars collaboration given its American premiere on March 1 by the San Francisco Symphony, walk a rock-strewn road. »

28 Feb 2007

La Bohème – English National Opera

The death this month of director Stephen Pimlott could have cast a shadow over this revival of his 1993 production, but a hugely affectionate pre-show tribute by colleague Nicholas Hytner ensured that the performance only served to do great honour to the memory of a man who was clearly loved and cherished by many. »

28 Feb 2007

KÁLMÁN : Die Csárdásfürstin

The booklet essay writer effuses passionately about this filmed Kalman operetta, Die Csárdásfürstin. Jürgen Otten gushes over the "immortal melodies," Anna Moffo's "precious jewel" of a voice, and Rene Kollo's "innate nobility." »

28 Feb 2007

Nicole Cabell, St John’s Smith Square, London

The Rosenblatt Recital Series, which presents concerts around London from artists ranging from the well-known to the brand-new, last week showcased Nicole Cabell, the glamorous 29-year-old winner of the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World competition. »

27 Feb 2007

Rachmaninov and Glinka: Lieder • Songs • Chants

Originally released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1976, this recording of selected songs by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Mikhail Glinka (1804-57) make available some fine examples of Russian art song to Western audiences. »

27 Feb 2007

ADAM: Le Postillon de Longjumeau

Why should anyone buy a German language broadcast of a delicious French opéra-comique? »

27 Feb 2007

Bach Cantatas, Volume 21

John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage continues to echo with the release of concert recordings of this historic millennial tour. »

27 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

As familiar Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser is, the opera benefits from solid performances that bring together fine singing, exquisite orchestral playing, and effective staging, and the Metropolitan Opera’s 1982 production conducted by James Levine gave audiences an exemplary performance that remains a touchstone for this work. »

27 Feb 2007

Matthias Goerne at the Wigmore Hall

This wasn’t an “easy” program for dilettantes. »

26 Feb 2007

Cori Spezzati: Venetian Polychoral Music

If there ever was a moment where architecture and music became passionately tied to one another, it would be when the polychoral music of the 16th century was tied to St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice. »

22 Feb 2007

MUSSORGSKY: Khovanshchina

At the curtain call for the first night of WNO’s new production of the infrequently performed Khovanshchina director David Pountney wore a simple Russian shirt. »

21 Feb 2007

Victoria de los Angeles performs Ravel, Debussy & Duparc

Carmen was one of Victoria de los Angeles’ favorite roles and she brought to it much that we hear on this recording of French songs: a winsome voice without heavy vibrato, a close attention to musical detail, and an evident understanding of the French words that she conveys, if not with an impeccable accent, at least with a convincingly understandable pronunciation. »

20 Feb 2007

MOZART: Die Hochzeit des Figaro

Yes, the German title must be employed for this filmed Nozze en Deutsch from 1967. »

20 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

Recorded on 28 March 1970 in Rome, this recording of Parsifal makes available a live performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the foremost interpreters of Wagner’s works in his day. »

18 Feb 2007

HAYDN: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words is well known, both as a familiar part of modern Lenten devotions and also as something of a stylistic oddity, I suspect. »

18 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

From the 2005 season of the “reborn” La Fenice comes this Dynamic DVD of Wagner’s Parsifal. »

18 Feb 2007

Opera North: Breathing new life into “Orfeo”

Friday night in Leeds, in the North of England, at the city’s marvellously restored Grand Theatre, with the pavements outside shining wet and a tidal wave of umbrellas surging past, was an exciting place to be. »

16 Feb 2007

BRAHMS: Ein deutsches Requiem

In dedicating much of his creative life to the Thomaskirche, the German musician Günther Ramin left his mark on the musical life of Leipzig, and his legacy includes a fine recording of Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45. »

16 Feb 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

Perhaps the best-known of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies, the Fourth also benefits from a number of fine recordings. »

16 Feb 2007

Jean-Baptiste Lully, Armide (Opera Lafayette)

The Opera Lafayette of Washington DC has been engaged in a new project this season – the Armide Project, as the group dubbed its ambitious plan, in collaboration with the University of Maryland Opera Studio, to present two great operas set to the same celebrated Philippe Quinault libretto. »

14 Feb 2007

SAMMARTINI: Della Passione di Gesú Cristo; L'addolorata Divina Madre.

Giovanni Battista Sammartini (c.1700-1775) belongs to that shadowy generation of Italian composers who no longer composed in the high Baroque style, but had adopted the clarity, simplicity and regularity that would serve as the building blocks for the Viennese masters of the late eighteenth century, and thus were tagged with the rather pejorative label “pre-classic” (a plague on all those music historians who can only see musical style in terms of progress leading to their particular figure of veneration!). »

13 Feb 2007

Dust-bowl opera overwhelming at Minnesota premiere

The great American opera? Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Grapes of Wrath” might be it. »

09 Feb 2007

HANDEL: Agrippina

An expressionist portrait of the Roman she-wolf was the first, striking image of this production, originally devised for Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, by the fashionable British director David McVicar. »

09 Feb 2007

The Devil’s Dream

The duo of gambist Vittorio Ghielmi and lutenist Luca Pianca even has its own domain name (, as well as several previous releases, of which the first has perhaps my favorite CD title ever (Bagpipes from Hell). »

09 Feb 2007

ARNE: Six cantatas for a voice and instruments; Advice to Cloe

The English, though fundamental to the early music revival of the last half-century, have been rather remiss in exploring their native music dating from after the death of Purcell, and particularly that produced after the death of Handel. »

08 Feb 2007

VERDI: Rigoletto

Sorry my friends, but this rich-looking DVD has a feature that disqualifies it for me. »

08 Feb 2007

Houston stages a provocative “Faust”

A literary critic once recalled the day when a German could not clear his throat “without finding pithy precedent in Goethe.” »

08 Feb 2007

Houston takes fresh approach to Cenerentola

In opera, Rossini, born in 1892- the year after Mozart died, is the successor of the great master and, when performed as perceptively as in the “Cenerentola” that debuted at the Houston Grand Opera on January 27, his rightful heir. »

07 Feb 2007

Jaume Aragall en Vivo

During any recital by an aging divo there comes a moment of truth when he sings an operatic aria (usually E lucevan le stelle , as the highest note is an A). That is the defining moment when he no longer can hide behind idiosyncratic interpretation, expressive breathing and a lot of clever transpositions. »

07 Feb 2007

PURCELL: Dido and Aeneas

This disc is a reissue of a 1993 recording made at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, California, but new to me. »

06 Feb 2007

PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf

I suppose you will find this quite an addition to the Melchior legacy if you are a collector of every sound Melchior ever uttered. »

06 Feb 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District (Kirov Opera)

The Kirov Opera and Orchestra concluded their annual residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last week with a Sunday matinee concert performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1932 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. »

06 Feb 2007

CHARPENTIER: Judicium Salomonis, H. 422; Motet pour une longue offrande, H. 434

Neither of these late works (the Judicium Salomonis is from 1702) is new to disc – the former has two recent recordings, from ten and from twenty years ago, and the latter one, by Herreweghe, released in 1985. »

06 Feb 2007

Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki

The title Walewska i przjaciele, “Walewska and friends,” reflects the intention of the mezzo soprano Małgorzata Walewska, one of the foremost contemporary Polish singers to present herself and some of her colleagues in recording of various kinds of music. »

05 Feb 2007

BERLIOZ: La damnation de Faust

Why do some conductors make it and others don’t? »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Rossini’s last Italian opera, staged in 1825 as a part of Charles X’s coronation festivities, is a bizarre creation — a sassy little farce capped with a coronation cantata in the best traditions of staged court entertainment, from 16th-century Italian intermedi through their Baroque and Classic operatic progeny. »

28 Jan 2007

EDER: Musik für die Felsenreitschule

While many associate it with traditional music, the Salzburg Festival is also a venue for new productions and, to a degree, new compositions. »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Semiramide

The reason for being of this set is Gruberova’s wish to record as much as possible of her repertory (on her own label as most of the majors were either not interested in recording belcanto operas or had their own stars like Decca’s Joan Sutherland). »

28 Jan 2007


Who is the potential consumer for this DVD release of a 1953 Italian film version of Verdi's Aida, featuring Sophia Loren's stunning physical presence and Renata Tebaldi's stunning vocalism in the title role? »

24 Jan 2007

RAMEAU: In Convertendo Dominus

Let it be said at the outset that, at least to my eyes, the packaging and marketing of this DVD is somewhat misleading. »

24 Jan 2007

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D

A welcome addition to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s own line of releases, this CD is a compilation of two works by Gustav Mahler that the late Klaus Tennstedt performed with the ensemble and which have not been issued previously. »