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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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24 Jan 2008

Italian opera on Gala

The budget label Gala purveys live performances both historic and relatively recent; of the three discussed here, the La Scala Fedora dates back to 1931, while the Attila comes from a 1987 La Fenice performance. »

22 Jan 2008

Echo de Paris: Parisian Love Songs 1610-1660

National styles of music in the seventeenth century were often distinctive, and in the case of French and Italian music, famously so. »

21 Jan 2008

MAHLER: Symphonies 1-10

With its recent release of Mahler’s symphonies conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, EMI Classics makes available in a single place an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography. »

21 Jan 2008

WAGNER: Parsifal

This DVD records and commemorates a 1981 production of Parsifal in its Bayreuth lair, and the singers of 1981 are as fine as recollection might paint them. »

20 Jan 2008

Historic opera performances in Russian on Gala

Once the custom of the world's opera houses was to translate great operas into the language of each respective country. »

20 Jan 2008

Deutsche Grammophon budget opera sets

Repackaging older recordings having become the primary focus of a classical recording company's business, Deutsche Grammophon budgeted some funds for art direction for its budget series called "Opera House" (although that appellation only appears in a link found on the back inside cover of the sets' booklets). »

20 Jan 2008

STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier

Of Rosenkavaliers on DVD, the classics tend to be lovingly detailed productions, going back to the film of Herbert von Karajan leading an exemplary cast, with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's iconic Marschallin. »

20 Jan 2008

Die Walküre at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera audience loves its Wagner, and the management for the last several decades has, alas, made sure we aren’t spoiled: it’s a rare season that gets more than two production revivals of Wagner, and some years there have been none. »

20 Jan 2008

Lamentazioni per la Settimana Santa

Despite an unsurprising degree of conservatism in liturgical music, devotional life in Rome often found ways of taking advantage of modern musical style. »

20 Jan 2008

Deborah Voigt in Concert with the San Francisco Symphony

With her performance of the “Four Last Songs,” ably partnered by Michael Tilson Thomas and his San Francisco Symphony, Deborah Voigt emphatically confirmed her place as one of the glories of the current roster of Strauss interpreters. »

20 Jan 2008

John Adams' Doctor Atomic in Chicago

John Adams, whose opera Nixon in China set the bar for post-minimalism in the lyric theatre, has once again scored a success with his latest work. »

16 Jan 2008

Castradiva

“Her fioritura is priceless, breathtaking, and effortless.” »

16 Jan 2008

A New Hansel und Gretel at the Met

Wagner’s all-conquering chic made apocalyptic music-dramas drawn from folklore the ideal of the nationalistic era; every serious opera composer of the time felt obliged to attempt something in that line. »

13 Jan 2008

“One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand”: Choral Music by Nicholas Maw.

The English composer Nicholas Maw has been a major voice since the 1960's, with a wide range of works that include the 2002 opera, "Sophie’s Choice," a violin concerto for Joshua Bell (1993), and the monumentally-scaled orchestral work, "Odyssey" (1972-87). »

13 Jan 2008

MOZART: Requiem (Neukomm ed.)

As is often the case, last works that remain incomplete at the time of a composer’s death, are quick to invoke controversy and conspiracy theories. »

07 Jan 2008

ROUSSEAU: Le Devin du Village

This is a valuable new recording of a work that is only rarely heard, but was widely influential and wildly popular during the eighteenth century. Philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote both the libretto and the music, with mixed success. »

07 Jan 2008

Les Élémens

This disc is well worth the price for the first track alone: the opening measures of Jean-Féry Rebel’s “Cahos,” (Chaos), written in 1737 or 1738, may cause you to wonder if you accidentally left a Stockhausen or Ligeti disc in the changer. »

03 Jan 2008

Oppenheimer opera charts new course in music

In this country art and politics are rarely bedfellows — strange or otherwise; indeed, it’s seldom that the two meet under the same roof. »

30 Dec 2007

Iphigénie en Tauride at the Met

Regarded, until the modern vogue for earlier masters, as the senior surviving grand master of opera, Gluck never quite becomes fashionable and never quite vanishes. »

30 Dec 2007

Prokofiev's War and Peace at the Met

There is no middle ground in War and Peace — or, rather, it’s all middle ground, like a battlefield, and you may feel as if every soldier in Russia (and in France) has marched over you. »

30 Dec 2007

Cinderella and her Cinderfella

Once upon a time, we used to only dream about a stellar pairing like Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu has fielded for their current offering on display: “La Cenerentola.” »

30 Dec 2007

¡Viva Valencia!

Enough ink was spilled last year gushing over Valencia’s new Calatrava-designed opera house and Arts and Science park that I had been chomping at the bit for the opportunity to take in a performance there as soon as my availability and, more important, the availability of a still-very-hard-to-find ticket coincided. »

30 Dec 2007

Chicago stages fantastic “Frau” --- Another View

Do we too easily take Richard Strauss for granted? The question is prompted by the superlative production of “Frau ohne Schatten” that was the highlight of the fall season at the Chicago Lyric Opera. »

30 Dec 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals: December 2007

This recording made half a century ago will not be anyone’s first choice unless one is a die-hard fan of one of the principal singers; neither of them belonging to the absolute top in their profession. »

27 Dec 2007

MOZART: Don Giovanni

The glorious universe of the Baroque has been receiving tribute from the wonderful talent of countertenor and early music guru René Jacobs for more than thirty years now. »

27 Dec 2007

RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé

Although considered among Ravel’s finest works, Daphnis et Chloé may be known best through excerpts, particularly the second suite that the composer derived from his score. »

27 Dec 2007

Houston puts final touches on new Heggie opera

There’s still a hint of jest in the comparison, but it’s not without reason that Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally are mentioned now and then in opera circles as “the Strauss and Hofmannsthal of the 21st century.” »

27 Dec 2007

“Your Queen is trumped”: Queen of Spades by the Kirov

Watching The Queen of Spades staged by a Russian company is often an unforgettable experience. »

26 Dec 2007

SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder

A 1979 recording originally released on LP in 1985, the CD reissue of this classic performance of Schoenberg’s 1913 cantata Gurrelieder as part of its series entitled Originals makes this fine account of this magnificent work available to another generation of listeners. »

18 Dec 2007

Belfast welcomes a first-rate Messiah

If Belfast in Northern Ireland isn’t a city that immediately springs to mind as a centre of musical excellence then it’s not for want of talent, initiative and professionalism within its cultural community. »

16 Dec 2007

OONY Performs Verdi's I Due Foscari

After the triumph of his fifth opera, Ernani, Verdi could have gone on writing howling melodramas and made a mint. »

14 Dec 2007

WAGNER: Götterdämmerung

You will wonder what designer Rosalie could have been thinking when she put Brunnhilde in trousers twice as wide at the waist as the soprano wearing them, with a nippled plastic bustier above. »

11 Dec 2007

The Turn of the Screw at ENO

Not long ago, English National Opera declared an intention to capitalise on its name and history by placing greater emphasis on English works. »

11 Dec 2007

Otello — Kirov Opera

Despite 19th-century Russia’s reputation as an Italian opera haven, Verdi’s late masterpiece Otello found acceptance there only with great difficulty, even though in its 1889 premiere the title role acquired a great local interpreter in the Mariinsky Theater primo uomo, Nikolai Figner. »

04 Dec 2007

Beyond The Media Avatar

Imagine a mild December night, with some three hundred people queueing for a concert ticket on Siena’s horseshoe-shaped Piazza del Campo. »

04 Dec 2007

KINKEL: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs

Johanna Kinkel (1810-1858) was a talented contemporary of Fanny Hensel, and other fine musicians of the first half of the nineteenth century. Her legacy includes some fine Lieder, which are collected as An Imaginary Voyage through Europe in an arrangement that represents the various themes she explored in her music. »

04 Dec 2007

Giulio Cesare in Chicago

Peter Schickele, channeling P.D.Q. Bach, was wont to say, “Most classical scholars were unaware Iphigenia was ever in Brooklyn … and I think the cantata, Iphigenia in Brooklyn, does for Iphigenia what the Vinland Map did for Leif Ericsson.” »

04 Dec 2007

Bolcom’s ”View” brilliant at WNO

The American Dream and the tragic vision of ancient Greece are miles and millennia apart; yet they merge seamlessly in William Bolcom’s “View from the Bridge,” on stage in November at the Washington National Opera. »

04 Dec 2007

Die Frau ohne Schatten in Chicago

Die Frau ohne Schatten is the story of a being of purely sensual spirit who defies the temptation to do evil, thereby demonstrating a moral soul and achieving humanity. »

28 Nov 2007

DONIZETTI: Adelia

The little heard “Adelia, o la figlia dell’arciere” (Adelia, or the Archer’s Daughter) stands between Donizetti’s Parisian successes “La fille du regiment” and “La favorite” in the prolific composer’s oeuvre. »

28 Nov 2007

Thanksgiving in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera makes it possible for opera-lovers who have stuffed themselves with turkey on the fourth Thursday of November to indulge in a feast of opera on the following three days. »

27 Nov 2007

Johann Pachelbel. Arien & Concerti

Although few composers have been so closely associated with a single work, Johann Pachelbel, whose canon for three violins has achieved canonical ubiquity, was a prolific composer with a number of vocal works to his credit. »

19 Nov 2007

Verismo Rarities, Teatro Grattacielo

Part of the fun of visiting the many companies that specialize in unearthing forgotten operas lies precisely in not knowing what you’re going to get. »

19 Nov 2007

Norma returns to the Met

The bel canto era, insofar as the contemporary public considers it at all, is usually thought of as the golden age of vocal beauty for its own sake. »

19 Nov 2007

Pascoe comes to grips with the Don

Mozart made it easy for the Philistines. They see Don Giovanni thrown into the flaming jaws of Hell and hiss: “Two thousand women seduced and abandoned! “ »

18 Nov 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphonie no. 7

Released as part of Orfeo’s series entitled Festspiel Dokumente, this recording makes available on CD the concert performance at the Salzburg Festival of Anton Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic that Hans Knappertsbusch conducted on 30 August 1949. »

18 Nov 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Released Reissues and Historicals

The first opera performance I consciously attended while being definitely hooked to the genre due to records, was Guillaume Tell more than 40 years ago. »

18 Nov 2007

Bryn Terfel: Tutto Mozart!

Released in celebration of the recent Mozart year, Tutto Mozart! is a collection of nineteen arias, duets and other ensembles from the composer’s operas that feature the baritone Bryn Terfel. »

18 Nov 2007

The Oxford Psalms

Founded in Oxford in the early 1990’s, the ensemble Charivari Agréable looks to seventeenth-century composers with Oxford connections as the basis for their recent recording, “The Oxford Psalms.” »