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Elsewhere

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

Garsington's Douglas Boyd on Strauss and Skating Rinks

‘On August 3, 1941, the day that Capriccio was finished, 682 Jews were killed in Chernovtsy, Romania; 1,500 in Jelgava, Latvia; and several hundred in Stanisławów, Ukraine. On October 28, 1942, the day of the opera’s premiere in Munich, the first convoy of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 90 percent of them went to the gas chamber.’

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.


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Reviews

Alexandra LoBianco (Aida). Jacob Lucas photo
21 May 2018

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection. »

Recently in Reviews

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15 Jun 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 14

This installment in the remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series presents four Christmas cantatas: “Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ,” BWV 91; “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” BWV 110; “Dazu ist erschienen,” BWV 40; and “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” BWV 121, all recorded live in St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City. »

14 Jun 2006

Piero Cappuccilli: Recital

Can you believe it? With all the profound knowledge of my 24 years, I first visited the Verona Arena in 1968. On was Trovatore with Bergonzi, Gencer and, as Luna, Piero Cappuccilli. »

14 Jun 2006

PUCCINI: Gianni Schicchi

Glyndebourne’s 2004 live recording of Gianni Schicchi, produced by Opus Arte, is quite possibly the most electric and riveting performance of this Puccini one-act opera. »

12 Jun 2006

WOLF: Prometheus — Orchesterlieder

Like other nineteenth-century composers, Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) orchestrated some of his Lieder, and his contributions to the genre of Orchesterlieder are impressive. »

01 Jun 2006

MAHLER: Lieder

Among the interpreters of Mahler’s music in the late twentieth century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim stand out for their various contributions. »

01 Jun 2006

BERNHARD: Geistliche Harmonien

The composer Christoph Bernhard (born Kolberg, Pomerania, 1628, died, Dresden 1692) embodies the problematic nature of German musical culture in the seventeenth century. »

01 Jun 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

This Opus Arte set not only captures a mostly satisfying performance of Monteverdi's opera based on the last books of Homer's Odyssey, but features something even rarer: a booklet essay by the musical director (Glen Wilson) of remarkable lucidity. »

01 Jun 2006

LE JEUNE: Autant en emporte le vent — French Chansons

In spite of the religious warfare that consumed France during the second half of the sixteenth century (which claimed the life of one eminent Catholic composer, Antoine de Bertrand, who was murdered by Protestants)*, musical life continued unabated. »

31 May 2006

PFITZNER: Das Christelflein

Dubbed a “spieloper,” Hans Pfitzner’s Das Christelflein (“The Christmas Elf”) casts a magical, yet appropriately cool, spell, even in the warm days of late May, the time of this review. »

31 May 2006

Delectatio angeli — Music of love, longing & lament

Catherine Bott is an English soprano in her fifties with decades of career and an extensive discography, but even in the world of early music, where she has spent most of her time, one could not say she is a marquee name. »

31 May 2006

BÖHM: Cantatas

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring”, quoth the great poet Alexander Pope in 1709. »

31 May 2006

JONES: The Geisha

Should Opera Today readers want to test where they would place themselves on a spectrum ranging from “completely politically incorrect” to “utterly politically correct,” the Hyperion Helios re-release of Sidney Jones “Japanese musical play” The Geisha surely will do the trick. »

31 May 2006

MANFREDINI: 12 Concerti op. 3

The general aversion of the listening public to vocal music can nowhere be more easily seen than in the comparative success of the operatic and instrumental works of the Italian baroque. »

31 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Marino Faliero

There was a great northward swing of composers from Italy to Paris and London in the 1820s and 1830s. Actually, this has been going on for a long time, but was temporarily halted by the Napoleonic wars. »

31 May 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 10

Few works seem more seminal to our understanding of J. S. Bach than the church cantatas, written over a wide chronological swath of his career, sometimes as part of occasional duties, other times in what was clearly a frenzy of steady prolificity. »

31 May 2006

MASSENET: Le Roi de Lahore

Sergio Seggalini, former editor of Opéra International (now Opéra Magazine), is the artistic director of both La Fenice and the Festival of Martina Franca. »

30 May 2006

BOITO: Nerone

“What a difference a sound makes” goes the song (or something like that). »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

By sheer coincidence I attended a concert performance of this opera at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp at the same moment I received these CD’s. »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Roberto Devereux

When asked whether he believed Rossini had composed Il Barbiere di Siviglia in thirteen days, nineteen-year-old Donizetti is supposed to have replied, »

25 May 2006

NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years." »

25 May 2006

Flights of Madness — Munich’s New “Orlando”

Returning from Munich’s new production of Handel’s “Orlando” at thirty thousand feet above clouds which might have done service as props for that opera when first staged in 1733, it occurred that the great man himself could have had things to say about what might be director David Alden’s valedictory baroque piece for the Bayerische Staatsoper. »

24 May 2006

BACH: Alles mit Gott

A little over a year ago Bach scholar Michael Maul found himself in the exceedingly unusual position of having discovered a hitherto unknown Bach composition, a birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, entitled “Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn. »

24 May 2006

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin

Franz Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin has received, in recent years, frequent attention with several fine recordings having been issued during this period. »

24 May 2006

Orchestral Excerpts from Wagner Operas

Among the plentiful selections of orchestral music from the operas of Richard Wagner, it is rare to find recordings that truly stand out, and this recent release of performances conducted by the late Klaus Tennstedt merits distinction. »

24 May 2006

Turn of the Screw at Kennedy Center

On May 22, the Kennedy Center's Fortas Chamber Music Series and the Chateauville Foundation co-presented a fully staged production of Benjamin Britten's haunting chamber opera The Turn of the Screw, conducted by Lorin Maazel. Here are three reviews: »

24 May 2006

Rolando Villazón — Opera Recital

I’ve carefully listened several times to this new solo album (his third) by Rolando Villazón and it grows on you, though there are a few weaknesses. »

24 May 2006

PUCCINI: Turandot

This must be the first Turandot that has in the sleeve notes three photographs of the soprano who sings Liu compared to two of the lady in the title role. »

22 May 2006

Glyndebourne opens with Così fan tutte

Glyndebourne opened this year's festival with "a new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, subtitled ‘The school for lovers’, will open the 2006 Festival. This masterpiece includes some of Mozart’s most exquisite music, and Così’s now established popularity, following comparative neglect in the 19th century, is partly due to Glyndebourne’s championing of the work since the opening of the Festival in 1934." Here are some initial reviews: »

19 May 2006

Placido Domingo — Great Scenes

Domingo-fans probably have all complete performances from which these scenes were culled, as they were widely broadcast in Europe during the eighties. »

19 May 2006

HALFFTER: Don Quijote

I can’t imagine a more utopian enterprise for a composer than writing an opera at the end of the twentieth century. »

19 May 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

For a time this Don Carlo was a return to times people thought long gone. As always, Dutch papers covered beforehand this new Decker production in depth, as the theme of liberty is an important one. »

17 May 2006

PETRELLA: Jone

Jone is the only Italian opera from the 1850s by a composer other than Giuseppe Verdi to make it into the standard repertory for a period of well over 50 years, lasting until the onset of World War I before eventually disappearing. »

17 May 2006

CHARPENTIER: Te Deum and Grand Office des Morts

In the modern performance of seventeenth-century French music, the ensemble Les Arts Florissants holds a special place, both for its longevity and the striking stylistic fluency it brings to performances — performances that have come to define our very sense of French Baroque style. »

16 May 2006

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs 4

Dans un parfum de roses (“Within the scent of roses”), is the fourth and final volume of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré issued by Hyperion. »

16 May 2006

PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly

All is right and good in the world of opera as long as the Arena di Verona puts on vivid productions, in questionable taste, with impassioned singers pouring out the volume, in questionable taste, and the audience roaring its approval - in questionable taste. »

16 May 2006

ROSSINI: La Scala Di Seta

Here is another handsome production of an early Rossini one-act comedy from the Schwetzingen festival, held at the charming and tiny Rokoko theater in May 1990. »

16 May 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6

In recent years the Sixth Symphony of Gustav Mahler has gained some prominence with the declaration by the internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft about the only correct order of the internal movements, a position that has inspired some discussion among enthusiasts. »

16 May 2006

VERDI: Nabucco

The booklet somewhat proudly tells us that “a modern Italian opera-going public would likely walk out in horror if confronted with the avant-garde productions of many German opera houses. »

15 May 2006

Three Releases from Nightingale Classics

Frank Sinatra had Reprise. The Beatles had Apple. Madonna has Maverick. And Edita Gruberova has Nightingale. »

11 May 2006

The Music of Joseph Dubiel

Joe Dubiel is a well known and accomplished music theorist, affable, pleasant in demeanor, learned and astute, and above all friendly in a field that has its thorns and brambles. »

09 May 2006

MONTEMEZZI: L’amore dei tre re

What happened to Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re? After the opera’s triumphant premiere at La Scala in 1913, Montemezzi was vaulted into the international limelight, and his creation enjoyed regular performances throughout the world until his death in 1952. »

02 May 2006

Three Mozart Collections from Universal

A recent newspaper report — the sort of item conveyed in a short paragraph and relegated to a column of such brief pieces — summarized a study that argues that Mozart did not die a pauper, but actually had a fairly steady stream of income. »

02 May 2006

BROPHY: Mozart the dramatist

Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) was a noted novelist and critic who was passionately interested in opera, and especially Mozart and his operas. »

02 May 2006

ATTRAZIONE D'AMORE / VOYAGE TO CYTHERA

Passion for music is hardly rare, but it is welcome to hear it espoused in public, especially by some of the art’s strongest proponents. »

29 Apr 2006

World Premiere of Miss Lonelyhearts at Juilliard

On 26 April, The Juilliard Opera Center gave the world premiere of Miss Lonelyhearts by Lowell Liebermann. Commissioned by the Centennial Commission of The Juilliard School with the support of the Trust of Francis Goelet, the production of Miss Lonelyhearts “has been developed cooperatively among The Juilliard School, the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.” Here are two reviews. »

29 Apr 2006

Music for the Virgin Mary—Celebrating 300 Years of Charpentier

This wonderful CD was recorded in the magnificent church of Notre Dame, Rozay-en-Brie, which is 30 miles east of Paris, and contains one of the better-preserved French organs of the seventeenth century, actually played by Francois Couperin during his lifetime. »

29 Apr 2006

Conducting Mahler / I Have Lost Touch with the World

In recent years a number of the number of recordings of Mahler’s works have become available on DVD. »