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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. »

Recently in Reviews

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25 Sep 2006

BACH: Mass in B Minor

We are reasonably sensitive, I suspect, to the number of ways in which venue can shape the nature and success of musical performance. »

24 Sep 2006


The best Norma on DVD treats the viewer to a blurry picture of washed-out colors and remote, compressed sound. »

24 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

The better can be the enemy of the good and this recording proves it. »

24 Sep 2006

Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert

In her debut recording the young Roumanian soprano Katarina Jovanic demonstrates her talent in performing an intriguing selection of Lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss. »

24 Sep 2006


Myto does many an opera-lover a service by offering this enjoyable recording of Rossini's French grand opera, here called Moïse. »

24 Sep 2006

HALÉVY: La Juive

For a period of close to half a century, French grand opera, as exemplified by the works of Giacomo Meyerbeer and his school, was the preferred form of music for the theatre (i.e. opera) in most of the civilized world. »

22 Sep 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali

It is somewhat ironic that until recent years Italy has generally been slow to take a leading role in the historical performance movement: ironic in that historically Italy both dominates and defines the early baroque style and ironic in that that style enshrines the primacy of text— the Italian text. »

22 Sep 2006

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

I should probably preface my reaction to this release by confessing to the heretical belief, at least from a Wagnerian perspective, that Tristan und Isolde is not really a stageworthy opera. »

20 Sep 2006

CIMAROSA: Cleopatra

The first thing I noticed in the liner notes was the bold print claiming Cimarosa was born in 1797 and died in 1848, which correspond exactly with Donizetti’s lifespan. »

19 Sep 2006

Old Music In a New Home — WNO stages a brand new production of Monteverdi’s “Ulysses”

In his introduction to the Welsh National Opera’s celebratory 60th anniversary season programme Carlo Rizzi, their Music Director, declares that “we are bringing the best of Wales to the rest of the world — and the best of the world to Wales”. »

16 Sep 2006

150 Years of Opera in Chicago

This is a very attractive book, which, in addition to the expected text, has many striking photos, a list of the operas performed in Chicago, indicating all the seasons in which each work was given, and a season by season chronology, limited to professional companies. »

12 Sep 2006

ASHLEY: Perfect Lives; Celestial Excursions; Foreign Experiences

Robert Ashley has the uncanny ability to sprinkle diamonds amidst great swaths of apparently trivial and quotidian detritus–diamonds that trigger the nervous system in an intensely stimulating fashion. »

12 Sep 2006

BEETHOVEN: Overtures
BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

The later Günter Wand was a remarkable interpreter of Bruckner’s music, as is demonstrated in this live recording from the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. »

09 Sep 2006

Joshua Bell’s Good Taste

Sony Records occasionally still sends the odd CD to reviewers hoping they will give it notice. »

08 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Callas fans better skip this review, as they won’t like the tone, the words, or whatever slights real or imagined they may perceive. »

08 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 7

At the expense of stating a truism, the music of Gustav Mahler, like that of other composers, is best experienced live in the concert hall. »

08 Sep 2006

PUCCINI: La Fanciulla del West

This Fanciulla is such a wonderful issue because, for once, none of the three protagonists ever recorded their role commercially, so that one is spared the many doublings often met in live recordings. »

07 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

During the last few years Antoni Wit has recorded Mahler’s symphonies one by one, such that he is building a fine cycle for the Naxos label. »

31 Aug 2006

BRAHMS: Missa Canonica

The program for this recent recording from the choir of Westminster Cathedral presents sacred choral works by Brahms and Rheinberger, anchored at one end by Brahms’s youthful Missa Canonica and at the other by Rheinberger’s Mass for Double Choir in E-flat, Op. 109. with a handful of motets by Brahms in between. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

This cast looks quite promising on paper. However, I cannot honestly say these big names keep their promise, except for the comprimario-singers. »

29 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Rienzi

I can readily understand why Bayreuth refuses to perform Richard Wagner’s third opera. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: Missa da Requiem

Verdi responded to the death of Rossini in 1868 by planning a collaborative Requiem Mass, drawing on the contributions of thirteen “distinguished” composers. »

28 Aug 2006

POULENC: Figure Humaine and Dialogues des Carmelites

Francis Poulenc is well known for the religious works that comprise much of his oeuvre after he was traumatized by the accidental and premature death of his friend Pierre-Octave Ferroud in 1936. »

28 Aug 2006

DUNSTABLE: Sweet Harmony — Masses and Motets

The music of John Dunstable embodies many of the characteristics that so dramatically set the music of the emerging Renaissance apart from its Medieval forebears. »

28 Aug 2006

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare in Egitto

Sometimes an invidious comparison cannot be avoided, and such is the case with two recent DVD versions of Georg Frederic Handel's masterpiece, Giulio Cesare. »

25 Aug 2006

MENDELSSOHN: Sacred Choral Music

The English “Oxbridge” choral tradition tends to be a cohesive one, most often with choirs of men and boys receiving similar training, singing a largely shared repertory in similar venues and in similar contexts. »

25 Aug 2006


Harry Christophers and The Sixteen have a particular affinity for pre-modern polyphony, as their long discography, teeming with the music of the Eton Choirbook, assorted Renaissance masters, Handel, Bach, and others, amply shows. »

25 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Some argue that Bayreuth ushered in the modern era of regietheatre in opera productions with its now-legendary centennial Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Patrice Chereau. »

25 Aug 2006

Children’s Songs of the World

In Turkey recently, we visited a second-grade classroom, where our guide invited the children to sing songs for us. »

25 Aug 2006

Mozart — Airs Sacrés

It seems only natural that the quality of radiance should quickly come to mind in contemplating the twelfth-century Basilica of Saint Denis, where luminous stained glass creates colored walls of mystical light. »

25 Aug 2006

Bolshoi Russian opera highlights

Pentatone Classics joins some smaller recording companies staking out niche markets as the biggest labels continue their enforced retreat from the classical marketplace. »

25 Aug 2006

Verdi Gala 2004 Teatro Regio di Parma

In recent European reviews, Teatro Regio di Parma’s DVD of their 2004 Verdi Gala was generally labeled as worthless. »

25 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Traviata x 2

Tower Records online DVD page shows eleven available incarnations of Verdi's classic La Traviata, four of which have appeared in the last year, including one filmed at the reopening of La Fenice in Venice, and a Zurich production reviewed recently for Opera Today by yours truly. »

25 Aug 2006

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 19

This installment of the estimable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings brings together cantatas from the middle of the Epiphany season, along with a “refugee” from Trinity XXIV), and the well-known motet, “Jesu, meine Freude.” »

25 Aug 2006


This is a most sympathetic performance, though perhaps being a Fleming helps. In my small country on the frontier of Northern and Southern European influences, many musical styles made their entrance and became popular. »

25 Aug 2006

Erwartung — Lieder by Schoenberg, Wagner, Strauss et al.

Internationally acclaimed soprano, Solveig Kringelborn, now has recorded a delightful selection of late nineteenth-century German Lieder on the NMA label. »

25 Aug 2006


In making words sing, to use a phrase from a recent study of the poetics of vocal composition, Aribert Reimann (b. 1936) does not emulate another composer as much as he makes fashions his own lines and punctuates them with accompaniments that serve as a means of accentuating the text. »

25 Aug 2006

BACH: Musical Offering

We can easily imagine the pleasure that Bach must have taken in presiding over a household that was both large and talented enough to form its own complete ensemble. »

25 Aug 2006

VERDI: Don Carlos and Don Carlo

Had Plato been a 19th century opera fan, would the philosopher have been so sure that there exists an ideal version of each and every opera, in the way that all chairs come from one immutable concept of "chair"? »

13 Aug 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

Myto is always generous with its timings, usually producing very full CD’s and thus of necessity offering a bonus if a performance doesn’t fill the whole of the record. »

13 Aug 2006

SCHUBERT: Der Graf von Gleichen

Most of us who listen to opera often chose a work to relax us on a quiet evening; perhaps lighting some candles, and opening that bottle of good vino you’ve been saving for a special occasion. »

10 Aug 2006

OFFENBACH: Les Contes d'Hoffmann

When the Ring theater burned in Vienna, on December 8, 1881,1 Richard Wagner commented that it left him “cold” to know that a number of patrons should die while at a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s music. »

09 Aug 2006

SANTA FE OPERA: Golden Oldies

Carmen and The Magic Flute have finally made it onto my calendar, a nice way to end the summer opera festival at Santa Fe. »

03 Aug 2006

A Night of Rhythm and Dance

The Waldbühne in Berlin is a large copy of ancient Greek theatres. Originally it was the ‘Reichssportfeld’, built for the Olympic Games of 1936. »

02 Aug 2006

Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert

In summer doldrums? Spend a delightful hour with two great artists in a rare joint appearance, as Fabula Classics has resurrected for DVD a 1985 Cesare Siepi and Mirelle Freni televised recital. »

02 Aug 2006

Haitink conducts Elgar and Britten

Commemorating some of its outstanding concerts of the 1980s and Bernard Haitink, its principal conductor (from 1967-1979), the London Philharmonic Orchestra has released on its own label a single CD that includes several pieces that brought notice to the ensemble. »

02 Aug 2006

Ann Murray and Malcolm Martineau: Schumann, Mahler, Britten

Recorded in early May 2005 at Crear, an artists’ community in Argyll, Scotland, this CD contains selections of Lieder and songs that fit well the supple voice of the mezzo-soprano Ann Murray, who is accompanied facilely by the Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau. »

01 Aug 2006

Morricone Conducts Morricone

Connoisseurs of pretentious booklet essay verbiage will delight in the prose style of  Matthias Kellerin his musings for this EuroArts DVD of Ennio Morricone conducting his film scores with the Munich radio orchestra. »

31 Jul 2006

Strong Tempest at Santa Fe

The news from Santa Fe Opera last week-end is good, unexpectedly so. The British composer Thomas Ades’ new (2004) opera, a riff on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, has been rumored hard to perform and harder to hear. »

27 Jul 2006

BUXTEHUDE: Membra Jesu nostri

Dietrich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri is a large-scale Passion work dedicated to the Swedish chapelmaster, Gustav Dübin, in whose notable collection, now at Uppsala, it holds a prominent place. »

27 Jul 2006

WAGNER: Das Rheingold

Was it so many years ago that lovers of Wagner's titanic multi-part opus, Der Ring Des Nibelung, focused their passion principally on audio versions? »