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Elsewhere

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Pavarotti: a touching, yet not dispassionate, account of the legendary Italian tenor

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

An interview with composer Dani Howard

The young Hong Kong-born British composer Dani Howard is having quite a busy year.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.


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Reviews

Luciano Pavarotti [Photo by Terry O'Neill/Decca Records]
18 Jul 2019

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Pavarotti: a touching, yet not dispassionate, account of the legendary Italian tenor »

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06 Apr 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach Cantatas [BWV 64, 151, 57 and 133]

This installment of John Eliot Gardiner’s impressive Bach Cantata Pilgrimage comes from close to the end of his millennial Wanderjahr, presenting cantatas for Christmas week. »

06 Apr 2008

San Diego Opera: Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci

Opera companies often tout new productions as a major attraction of their seasons. »

06 Apr 2008

Serafin: Overtures and Preludes

Timeless values of great opera conducting fill this disc of overtures and preludes, all conducted by Tullio Serafin. »

30 Mar 2008

William Byrd. Laudibus in sanctis.

William Byrd’s affinity for the Latin motet found various outlets. »

30 Mar 2008

HANSON: Merry Mount

A frequent complaint about contemporary operas — or most any after Puccini's Turandot — is the lack of that memorable lyricism found in the standard repertory. »

30 Mar 2008

Verdi: La Forza del Destino

From a relatively obscure label — Osteria — comes this 1962 live recording of Verdi's La Forza del Destino, featuring a relatively obscure soprano, Gré Brouwenstijn. »

30 Mar 2008

Classics for Pleasure opera highlights: Puccini

With single CD versions of full-length operas, isn't the term "highlights" presumptuous? »

23 Mar 2008

Lalo's Fiesque — University College Opera

UC Opera's reputation for showcasing rare large-scale works has been boosted this year with the UK premiere of this 1846 opera by Edouard Lalo after a Schiller play. »

17 Mar 2008

Frankfurt's Ship of Fools

As Anna Russell might say: "The three operas of Puccini's 'Il Trittico' take place on a luxury cruise liner. . . . . On it." »

17 Mar 2008

Heggie's "Last Acts"

Let me say up front that I like Jake Heggie's work. I feel he has a true gift for soaring and meaningful melody, a great ear for orchestral effects, a talent for picking good source material, and a knack for crafting affecting melodrama (in the best sense of that word) that can move an audience to tears. »

17 Mar 2008

Heggie faces family dilemma in new work

Do dysfunctional families outnumber the ones that move through life untroubled, or is it — to paraphrase Tolstoy — that every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way and thus of greater interest to writers and composers? »

16 Mar 2008

Tristan und Isolde — The Metropolitan Opera

I bet this doesn't happen at the movies: »

16 Mar 2008

Handel's Riccardo primo, Re d’Inghilterra (HWV 23) and Tolomeo, Re d’Egitto (HWV 25) from Bärenreiter

Published in 2007, Riccardo primo, Re d’Inghilterra (HWV 23) and Tolomeo, Re d’Egitto (HWV 25) mark two of the latest installments of vocal-score editions of Handel’s operas based upon Bärenreiter’s Urtext editions. »

16 Mar 2008

Peter Grimes at the MET

Let us, for one example among many, take the capstan song in Act I. »

16 Mar 2008

MOZART: Don Giovanni

This an intriguing two-disc DVD set. The primary disc is the opera itself, while the other disc is a film called “Adieu Mozart” that tells us about the unique relationship Mozart had with the City of Prague. »

16 Mar 2008

Zarzuelas — Arrieta: Marina; Bretón: La verbena de la paloma; Vives: Bohemios and Doña Francisquita

The Spanish comical lyric genre of the zarzuela has long been considered the stepchild of opera. »

16 Mar 2008

Best of British from the BBC Proms 2007

The BBC Proms webcasts all of its performances, and many are available for extended periods through BBC Radio's archives. »

16 Mar 2008

The Opera Gala — Live from Baden-Baden

As evidence of Deutsche Grammophon's proud status as a classical record label of the "old school," there appears this CD document of a typical opera gala affair, from July of 2007 in Baden-Baden. »

16 Mar 2008

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8.

While a number of fine recordings of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony have been released in recent years, the prospect of a performance conducted by Pierre Boulez is attractive for many reasons. »

03 Mar 2008

Los Angeles Opera: March 1 & 2, 2008

James Conlon has become the artistic heart and soul of Los Angeles Opera in his second season as music director. »

02 Mar 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach. H-moll-Messe, BWV 232.

The large number of recordings of Bach’s Mass in B minor predispose one to look for distinctions between them. »

02 Mar 2008

Cyrano at The Opera Company of Philadelphia

The Opera Company of Philadelphia’s February production is the second staging of David DiChiera’s new opera Cyrano, a co-production with Michigan Opera Theater and Florida Grand Opera. »

02 Mar 2008

Peter Grimes by Opera North

Opera North is one of the most innovative opera companies in Britain. »

02 Mar 2008

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles and the Invention of Post-Bop

It is a measure of the classic status that the music of Miles Davis has acquired in American culture that a single LP produced for Columbia in the 1960s (Miles Smiles) is the focus of a short monograph from Indiana University Press. »

02 Mar 2008

Short on the sides and Full On Top

Perhaps the most beloved comic opera, Rossini’s Il barbière di Siviglia has never left the repertoire. »

02 Mar 2008

The Sea Hawk and Deception

A typical film soundtrack today might not fill the length of a CD, while being padded with any pop music hits for which the producers would cough up the money for the rights. As often as not the scoring would... »

02 Mar 2008

Juan Diego Florez: Voce D'Italia - Arias for Rubini

The handsome face of tenor Juan Diego Florez naturally gets the cover of his latest CD, and his arguably unusually slim physique is on view too: on the inside cover of the booklet, on both the interior and rear of the jewel case, and on the back of the booklet. »

02 Mar 2008

Mary, Queen of Scots (Maria Stuarda)

San Diego Opera apparently has raided the vaults of Lincoln Center opera companies, circa the 1970s. »

25 Feb 2008

Puccini Gold

Many an anthology of Puccini's "greatest hits" has found its way to market, and many more will follow this latest from Decca, Puccini Gold. »

25 Feb 2008

Salome at Covent Garden

The Royal Opera's new Salome is set roughly in the 1930s, in surroundings which refer overtly to Pasolini's Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom, populated by uniformed soldiers and naked whores. »

22 Feb 2008

Carmen, The Metopolitan Opera

Dread and disgruntle are the emotions natural to the fan of any special singer when he arrives at the opera house to learn she has withdrawn from the performance and been replaced by an unknown. »

22 Feb 2008

Leonie Rysanek Live Recordings 1955-1991

With the tenth anniversary of her death approaching, Orfeo has released a double-CD box set tribute to Leonie Rysanek in their Wiener Staatsoper Live series. »

20 Feb 2008

Anna Christy Triumphs in Lucia di Lammermoor at ENO

ENO doesn’t really go in for bel canto opera. Other than a Maria Stuarda back in the mid 1990s, the only Donizetti opera in the company’s repertoire in the recent past has been the popular L’elisir d’amore. »

19 Feb 2008

SALIERI: Prima la musica e poi le parole

In 1786, Habsburg Emperor Joseph II commissioned a pair of short operas from two of the biggest names in Viennese musical theater: Salieri and Mozart. »

18 Feb 2008

Jonas Kaufmann—Romantic Arias

Jonas Kaufmann’s debut album is a treat to the ears of opera lovers. »

17 Feb 2008

ENO's The Mikado

Director Jonathan Miller was there at the curtain call to greet the first night of this latest revival of a production which has now been in ENO's repertoire for twenty years. »

17 Feb 2008

LA Opera: Tristan und Isolde

My Valentine’s Day gift came a bit early courtesy of Los Angeles Opera. Of course, it is to be hoped that your own celebration has a happier outcome than that of opera’s most famous Love Couple, “Tristan und Isolde.” »

17 Feb 2008

Rodelinda at Portland

Valentine’s Day may not quite be in the same major holiday league with the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, but you wouldn’t have known it from the fireworks emanating from the stage of Portland Opera, in the form of some dazzling Valentine’s night vocalizing in quite a fine production of Handel’s “Rodelinda.” »

17 Feb 2008

Navajo oratorio a triumph in Phoenix

A sound designer? Isn’t that merely a euphemistic upgrade of “sound engineer?” »

17 Feb 2008

Tosca at COC

An air of anticipation filled the Four Seasons Centre as the announcer walked across the stage to say that soprano Ester Sümegi was ill and would not be performing. »

17 Feb 2008

Tannhäuser at San Diego Opera

To open its 2008 season, San Diego Opera restored the production of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser that Günther Schneider-Siemsson created for the Metropolitan Opera three decades ago. »

10 Feb 2008

Madam Butterfly at ENO

Anthony Minghella's visually-arresting staging, a co-production with New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Lithuanian National Opera, returned this month to its original home at the London Coliseum after a gap of two years. »

10 Feb 2008

Italian Opera at the Liceu

The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, after suffering a calamitous fire in the early 1990s, reopened in 1999, lovingly restored. TDK has released a series of DVDs from the Liceu since that date, providing ample evidence of the world... »

06 Feb 2008

MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde

Premiered posthumously, the symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) remains one of his defining works because of its synthesis of song and symphony, two genres he pursued throughout his career. »

04 Feb 2008

Awesome Angelika Again

While I eagerly seized upon an opportunity to hear Angelika Kirschlager live for the first time, having written in very recent weeks about not one but two of the star mezzo’s current CD releases, I ventured to Frankfurt’s Alte Oper feeling a little bit like her stalker. »

03 Feb 2008

Karita Mattila Performs Manon Lescaut

When I worked in the Archives of the Met, I was custodian of several hundred costumes, many from the days when divas traveled with steamer trunks full of things run up just for them, by the finest designers, with the most glamorous materials, in the colors and styles that suited the ladies themselves. »

03 Feb 2008

J. S. Bach, arr. Robert Schumann. Johannes Passion.

In 1851 during his first season as music director in Düsseldorf, Robert Schumann presented a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, and unsurprisingly adapted the score both to nineteenth-century taste and nineteenth-century practicalities. »

03 Feb 2008

DE LALANDE: Les Folies de Cardenio.

The centrality of dance at the French court helped bring grace, order, and political allegory into the characteristic prominence they enjoyed during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV; theatre presentations of all stripes were infused with choreographic diversions. »

03 Feb 2008

SIBELIUS: Symphonies 1-7

In tandem with the recently released set of Sir Simon Rattle’s recordings of Mahler’s symphonies on EMI Classics, the set of the complete symphonies by Jean Sibelius merits attention. »

03 Feb 2008

Verdi's Falstaff at Chicago

There is nothing redeeming about Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most lively comic characters and the subject of Verdi’s final opera, and yet, inexplicably, we love him. »

28 Jan 2008

Two Queens in Full Cry

What constitutes an “international opera star” these days, anyway? »

24 Jan 2008

Wagner: Orchestral Hightlights from the Operas

As much as Richard Wagner espoused opera reform in his theoretical writings by bringing to his works for the stage a closer unity between music and text, his actual means of doing so at times involved the use of orchestral forces that sometimes overwhelmed the sung word. »