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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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28 Sep 2007

Dusting off a Masterpiece… “The Fortunes of King Croesus” by Reinhard Keiser, coming to Opera North, Leeds and Minnesota Opera soon.

Masterpiece? The term rather depends on whether the artist in question was indeed a master and it might come as a surprise to learn that this little-known composer of the brief, but significant, German Baroque Opera period is regarded by many as just that. »

26 Sep 2007

Margaret Garner at NYCO

The New York City Opera’s production of Richard Danielpour’s and Toni Morrison’s opera, Margaret Garner, boldly faces the ugly history of slavery in the United States, and the racism inherent in the institution of opera. »

23 Sep 2007

Hear the Voice and Prayer

There are a number of signs of the popularity of the King’s Singers—their longevity as an ensemble, the huge success of their public concerts, and their sizable discography all come immediately to mind. »

23 Sep 2007

The Feast of St. Edward, King and Confessor at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is surely many things to many people. »

23 Sep 2007

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune

The 2004 DVD "Playing Elizabeth’s Tune," originating in a BBC television production, features concert performances of Byrd’s sacred music sung by the Tallis Scholars along with documentary material treating the composer and his time. »

23 Sep 2007

Brewer at her best in live “Fidelio”

It is not surprising that it was Beethoven’s Fidelio that was chosen to reconsecrate rebuilt opera houses in Vienna and Berlin in the years after World War Two. »

23 Sep 2007

Italian Sunshine Sweeps Away Gloomy Operatic Forecast

If the swift downpour that hit Pesaro, moments before the Prima of G. Rossini’s Otello on August 8th, seemed like a bad omen, that was nothing compared to the two major cast changes that could have weakened the foundation of the Rossini Opera Festival’s new production of the opera and washed it away. »

23 Sep 2007

PENDERECKI: Die Teufel von Loudon

Of the operas composed in the latter half of the twentieth century, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Die Teufel von Loudon is a significant contribution to the repertoire. »

19 Sep 2007

Music Triumphs in S.F. Tannhauser

For those who can’t (or won’t) see the forest of an opera for the trees of performance minutiae, here’s the word about the San Francisco Opera’s new production of Wagner’s “Tannhauser” that opened tonight: »

19 Sep 2007

Music for Compline

The liturgy of Compline marks the end of the monastic day, as the community seeks peaceful repose for the night ahead. »

19 Sep 2007

Psalms for the Spirit

Psalmody, be it in the form of chanted recitations or anthem settings, lies close to the heart of liturgical singing, and this collection, “Psalms for the Spirit” brings together an engaging variety of both long familiar and recent psalms that celebrates the traditions and explores new directions. »

19 Sep 2007

WAGNER : Lohengrin

What’s outstanding about this Lohengrin is the orchestral playing. »

18 Sep 2007

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue and Capriccio in Paris

Name this stage piece if you can: »

18 Sep 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

Before the age of computers, CDs. DVDs and Apple i-Phones, there was television. »

18 Sep 2007

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

Los Angeles Opera opened its 2007 season with Fidelio on September 8th, and on the following day held a gala performance of Verdi’s Requiem. »

16 Sep 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre

One of the glories of a well-executed performance of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle is the sonic dimension of the work, with the dramatic contrasts between the larger musical canvasses and the more intimate ensembles that occur between several voices and within the orchestra itself. »

16 Sep 2007

Hector Berlioz: Te Deum, op. 22

Often overshadowed by its composer's Requiem, the Te Deum, Op. 22 (1849) by Hector Berlioz deserves attention for its own merits, and this recent release by Hänssler in its series of live recordings of the Staatskapelle Dresden is a solid reading of this work. »

16 Sep 2007

SCHEIDT: Ludi Musici

The courtly instrumental music of the Halle composer, Samuel Scheidt, is preserved in the printed collection "Ludi musici" (1620), giving congenial suggestion of both the richness of the court practice and the virtuosic abilities of the ensemble players there, including the cornettist, Zacharias Härtel. »

16 Sep 2007

Le Chant des Templiers

The quarter century of work by the French medieval ensemble, Ensemble Organum, and their director, Marcel Pérès has positioned them as leading interpreters of early liturgical repertories; among interpreters, their renditions assert a high degree of distinctiveness and character. »

12 Sep 2007

La Bohème x3

On stages all over the world, most any night of the year, poor Parisian Mimi hacks her way into oblivion, while her sometime lover cries out her name in hysterical despair. »

11 Sep 2007

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus

In 2005 the Australian musicologist Janice Stockigt made the case that several works attributed to Baldassare Galuppi in the Saxon State and University Library (Dresden) were really the works of Antonio Vivaldi. »

10 Sep 2007

MONTEVERDI: Madrigals (Book 5)

This installment in the ongoing series of Monteverdi madrigal recordings from Marco Longhini and Naxos presents distinctive performances of works that lie close to the heart of the early baroque style. »

10 Sep 2007

BACH: St. Matthew Passion (Excerpts)

There is much to admire in Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach performances with the Bach Collegium Japan, and this recording of excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion will remind the listener of the diverse ways in which this is so. »

07 Sep 2007

SMETANA: The Bartered Bride

As an audio-recording, Supraphon's set of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride conducted by Zdeněk Košler deserves the highest recommendation. »

07 Sep 2007

JANÁČEK: Katja Kabanowa

A series of historic recordings comes from Profil/Edition: Günter Hänssler, and from those a subset of Staatskapelle Dresden performances brings opera fans a remarkable document. »

07 Sep 2007

Teresa Berganza Live in Concert

Here's another in a series of televised recitals from Lugano, Switzerland to have appeared on DVD. »

07 Sep 2007

Kiri Sings Karl: Songs of Mystery & Enchantment

Alban Berg's Wozzeck takes almost two hours to induce a sense of soul-crushing nausea and despondency. Kiri Sings Karl achieved that for your reviewer in a couple minutes, and then went on with terrifying, torturous efficiency for almost another hour. »

07 Sep 2007

VERDI: Otello

Director Willy Decker's outstanding Traviata from Salzburg, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, is one of the great contemporary opera DVDs. »

07 Sep 2007

Aspen premieres forgotten Cavalli work

A husky baritone in Speedos on a motor scooter and a buxom, purple-wigged Dame Edna drag clone — the Aspen Opera Theater Company’s staging of Francesco Cavalli’s 1667 “Eliogabalo” was off to a start that promised to equal the program’s over-the-top staging of the composer’s 1649 “Giasone” two summers ago. (AOTC director Edward Berkeley raised the curtain on that Baroque potboiler to a biker Amor on a Harley.) »

06 Sep 2007

STRAUSS: Elektra

Among the available videos of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the recently released DVD of the live broadcast from 16 February 1980 stands out for capturing the exciting of an all-star international cast that included the famous Birgit Nilsson in the title role. »

05 Sep 2007

Netherlands Opera — New Wine in Old Bottles

The unmistakable fanfare that opens Monteverdi’s seminal L’Orfeo rang out from the top of the crowded foyer of the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam last Friday night to signal not only the start of the opera, but also the opening night of their celebratory 2007 Monteverdi Cycle. »

02 Sep 2007

The Pleasures of Presence — The Small Loudspeakers of Richard Sequerra

In the long ago, when the best source of music reproduction in the home was a handsome piece of furniture, fitted with hidden audio components, and usually called radio-phonographs, my family had one — from Avery Fisher I believe — that had among its controls a switch labeled ‘presence.’ »

28 Aug 2007

DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena

A career-making smash for Donizetti at its 1830 premiere, Anna Bolena eventually faded from the standard repertory. »

28 Aug 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 5

Recorded live at the Stiftsbasilika, St. Florian (Austrian) on 12 and 13 September 2006, this DVD offers a special performance of the famous Cleveland Orchestra outside its home at Severance Hall. »

28 Aug 2007

BERG: Wozzeck

Among the available DVDs of Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck, the recent release of the production Rolf Liebermann made into a film i the late 1960s stands out for various reasons. »

28 Aug 2007

The Dream of Gerontius Opens Elora Summer Festival

Written in 1900, Elgar’s Gerontius expresses the universal and existentialist struggle of death and rebirth. The allegorical significance of the piece touches on a need for faith, self-discovery, and acceptance of the world around us. »

28 Aug 2007

Faustina Bordoni: Faces of a prima donna

Opera singers today have become almost as famous and publicly worshipped as movie-stars; yet this has always been the case in operatic history. »

27 Aug 2007

Menotti’s “Saint” wears a dim halo

CENTRAL CITY, Colo. — A year ago, when the Central City Opera announced plans to conclude its 2007 75th anniversary season with Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Saint of Bleecker Street,” the composer was aged but alive. »

27 Aug 2007

New opera from China crosses national boundaries

It’s clear today that China’s Cultural Revolution has led to a cultural revolution that — in music at least — has made the country’s artists frontrunners on the international scene. »

27 Aug 2007

Glimmerglass Opera 2007 — An Overview

Glimmerglass Opera is in a watershed year. With the departure of Paul Kellogg, who had considerable success developing that annual festival, General and Artistic Director Michael Macleod has chosen to begin his tenure with a variation on the usual four-opera-season, namely a thematic collection of pieces based on the “Orpheus” legend. “Don’t look back” is the marketing catch phrase. »

27 Aug 2007

JANÁČEK: Jenůfa

In an evening brimming with sublime performances, Anja Siljja took grasp of her dramatic prowess and left us breathless, yearning for more. At the most sacred opera house in Italy, and perhaps the world, Janáček’s opera was thrillingly presented and is an example of our beloved genre at its finest. »

27 Aug 2007

Carlos Cogul: Introduction

Carlos Cogul is a London vocal coach and an appreciated baritone giving many a recital ……in the London Tube while commuters hastily pass by to catch their trains. Judging from the photo on this CD he is not a young man any more. »

27 Aug 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

The choice between this recording made at the Pesaro Festival in August 2005 and the Opera Rara recording of 2000 will partly be made for non-musical reasons. »

27 Aug 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals

Almost thirty years ago a century old tradition ended with the last performance of I Maestri Cantatori. »

20 Aug 2007

Unsuk Chin’s “Alice in Wonderland”

“Who in the world am I?” proclaimed the posters all over Munich, reducing Lewis Carroll’s famous conundrum to a sound-bite. »

16 Aug 2007

Katharina Wagner's Debut at Bayreuth

If you are in need of a Romantic, Alt-Nuernberg, Beloved-Old-Vaterland-As-It-(Never)-Was sort of production of “Die Meistersinger,” you would probably do well to wait for the Met revival, and stay far far away (actually, add another “far” to that) from the Bayreuth Festpiel’s latest “Skandal”-ripe interpretation. »

16 Aug 2007

Ohio Light Opera Festival

For twenty-eight years now the Ohio Light Opera Festival (OLO) has held forth in Wooster in the summertime, presenting no less than 99 different works (their big 100th comes next year), familiar and forgotten, by the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Offenbach, Sigmund Romberg, Carl Zeller and Emmerich Kálmán — to refer only to the authors of the seven undertaken this year. »