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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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16 Aug 2007

A Cloudy Mirror

“Tea: Mirror of the Soul” with book by Xu Ying and music by Tan Dun, revised from an earlier version first produced in Japan in 2002, was to have been the novelty of the present Santa Fe Opera season. Instead, it was dead on arrival. »

16 Aug 2007

Haydn’s L’Anima del Filosofo (Orfeo ed Eurydice) — A rare performance at Glimmerglass this summer, as part of their “Orpheus” 2007 Festival Season

On a cold winter’s day in Vienna, just before Christmas 1790, Mr. Haydn dined with Mr. Mozart for the last time. »

16 Aug 2007

Michael Maniaci Flies High as Orphée at Glimmerglass

The legend of Orpheus and Eurydice has come down through the centuries to us, on the way inspiring some sixty-four other known operas. »

16 Aug 2007

Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo”, Glimmerglass 2007 — Slattery rises to Alden’s challenging concept

The first masterpiece in the history of opera. That’s a tall order to live up to for any company and for any band of singers, especially those at the beginning of their careers. »

16 Aug 2007

Madame Butterfly: The Search Continues

Over the past decade, there have been a plethora of works trying to identify the historical models for characters in Puccini’s famous opera Madama Butterfly. »

13 Aug 2007

Così fan tutte Deconstructed

W. A. Mozart’s Così fan tutte, heard on a stormy night July 11, proved a sorry exercise in deconstruction, something I never expected to endure at Santa Fe Opera. »

12 Aug 2007

Bieito Does La Fanciulla del West at Staatsoper Stuttgart

Staatsoper Stuttgart presented its new production of The Girl of the Golden West, directed by Calixto Bieito. And, well, it began with an added dialogue scene to establish the “concept.” »

07 Jul 2007

Love and death among battlements

In 2003, at Cagli’s Accademia del Teatro, Elisabetta Courir directed a compelling Così fan tutte, minimalist, sophisticated and low-budget; quite unlike Daniele Abbado, whose Lohengrin for Bologna’s Teatro Comunale integrated “hard” scenery, video projections and historically informed costumes into a dream-like pageant. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Don Pasquale

An ingenious and handsome staging, in the proper period and full of delicious color, fashion and furnishings, a production that honors the compatibility of tradition with good fun, and four singers who look their parts, play the farce, and are as easy on the ears as on the eyes — what more could you want from a Don Pasquale? »

04 Jul 2007

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz

The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is one of more engaging composers of the early twentieth century. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal

When hearing the final work of a composer whose life was cut short, one can not help but wonder, “What if?” »

27 Jun 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 8 (rev. version, Nowak ed.)

Established in 1985 by the United Nations, the World Philharmonic Orchestra gave its inaugural concert on 12 December 1985 under the auspices of UNICEF and the Konserthus, Sweden. »

27 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: La Scala di Seta

La Scala di Seta, composed in Venice in 1812 (Rossini was 20; Tancredi and fame were a year off; Barbiere and immortality were four years down the road), shares the fortune of La Gazza Ladra: that is, until recently, the public knew the overture quite well but nothing else from the opera which, indeed, lacks the spectacular arias and hilarious ensembles that might have kept it on the boards. »

25 Jun 2007

WEBER: Der Freischütz

Produced by Rolf Lieberman and directed for television by Joachim Hess, this 1968 studio recording of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz has much to recommend as a traditional production of the opera. »

25 Jun 2007

San Francisco underscores complexity of “Rosenkavalier”

Just whose opera is “Der Rosenkavalier” anyway? The title — to begin with the obvious — says it’s youthful Octavian, pinpointing his role as the bearer of the rose that is to seal the marriage contract of Ochs and child-like Sophie. »

24 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Il Viaggio a Reims was a pièce d’occasion, part of the official tributes to Charles X of France on his coronation in 1825, but unlike most such creations – which tend to dreary platitudes of the Oscar speech variety – Viaggio has a cheeky personality and delicious music from Rossini at the top of his game, music he planned to recycle in subsequent operas – which he did. »

24 Jun 2007

STRAVINSKY: Histoire du soldat (Suite); Renard

As indicated in the copy on the CD, itself this is indeed a “unique collection of mostly short works” by Igor Stravinsky. »

24 Jun 2007

Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral

In charting the history of music in the West, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Paris loom large as a golden age of innovative polyphony, a golden age that is much the fruits of two composers, Leoninus and Perotinus. »

22 Jun 2007

Concilium musicum Wien on authentic instruments

This live concert recording assembles a trio of late eighteenth-century Viennese composers; the program is strong in evocation of time and place, but admittedly less so in substance. »

21 Jun 2007

Lully’s Psyché at Boston Early Music Festival

There’s not much point in presenting Lully’s Psyché (in its North American premiere no less) unless you’re going to give it something vaguely like the grandeur Louis XIV could command in 1678. »

19 Jun 2007

La Clemenza di Tito – English National Opera

An increasing lack of substance and imagination behind ENO’s season scheduling means that a revival of a theatrically impressive recent production of a repertoire piece is to be welcomed, especially when that production comes with a cast of superior calibre. »

18 Jun 2007

Leipzig Bachfest explores early opera

When opera is the subject, there’s an uneasy embarrassment at Leipzig’s annual 10-day Bach Festival, for opera is a genre that the city’s most famous musical son never embraced. »

17 Jun 2007

BRITTEN: Death in Venice

Two productions of Death in Venice within a month : one high budget and glamorous at the ENO and the other at Aldeburgh with a much more humble pedigree. »

17 Jun 2007

LASSUS: Psalmi Davidis pœnitentiales

Among Lasso’s vast output there are few works more imposing than his collected settings of the seven penitential psalms. »

17 Jun 2007

WAXMAN: Joshua

Franz Waxman was working with librettist James Forsyth on an opera, Dr. Jekyll, when the composer’s wife died. »

17 Jun 2007

MAHLER: Urlicht

Mahler: Urlicht is a recording of selected songs for voice and piano from various collections of the composer’s Lieder, including his early settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the later Wunderhorn Lieder that Mahler set in the 1890s in versions with both orchestral and keyboard accompaniment, and also his Rűckert-Lieder, performed by the young mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn accompanied by Julius Drake. »

11 Jun 2007

VIVALDI: Arie per basso

In 2001 the recording company Naïve and the Istituto per beni musicali in Piemonte began a large-scale undertaking of recording the vast holdings of Vivaldi’s musical library. »

11 Jun 2007

Italiana restored: Rossini’s afterthougts staged in Vicenza

Vicenza’s Teatro Olimpico, a jewel of Renaissance architecture inaugurated in 1585 and seating around 500, hosted in early June a run of three performances of Rossini’s Italiana in Algeri. »

05 Jun 2007

Pasatieri’s return to opera impressive

The June 2 world premiere of “Frau Margot” at the Fort Worth Opera might be regarded as “an historic return,” for this is Thomas Pasitieri’s first opera in 18 years. »

05 Jun 2007

BUSONI : Songs

Doktor Faust eclipses most of Ferrucio’s Busoni’s other work in terms of popularity. Surprisingly, though, he wrote little song. Only 40 pieces remain, many written in his youth. »

04 Jun 2007

The Jussi Björling Series: rare opera recordings from Stockholm

“We’ll discuss the greatest tenor in history, Jussi Björling, and his astounding voice.” »

04 Jun 2007

RUBINSTEIN: Il Demone

I was never much impressed by the Russian performances of this most famous of Rubinstein’s many operas. »

04 Jun 2007

“La Traviata” from the Volksoper Wien

In Verdi’s beloved opera, love does not conquer all but the sweet-taste of what “might have been” lingers on our lips forever when we think of the beautiful Violetta. »

03 Jun 2007

Arizona Opera's Susannah — A Naive Story Dilutes an Impressive Production

Arizona Opera ended its 2006/07 season with a tightly-knit, well-tuned presentation of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, his best known opera that has enjoyed numerous productions since its New York City Opera debut in 1956. »

31 May 2007

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains; The River

Naxos’s DVD venture has produced a fascinating document, the original documentary shorts The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, filmed by Pare Lorentz, with the Virgil Thomson scores re-recorded by the post-Classical Ensemble, led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez. »

31 May 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Given the fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Second Symphony on both CD and DVD, the release of Pierre Boulez’s performances from 26 and 27 March 2005 at the Philharmonie, Berlin, is a further contribution to the interpretations of this important work. »

31 May 2007

Death in Venice at ENO

Deborah Warner’s new production of Death in Venice is ravishingly beautiful, with stunning lighting designs by Jean Kalman who manages to capture the spirit of every facet of Venice and of the drama’s more general themes, from the misty eeriness of Aschenbach’s first gondola ride through to ominous darkening skies and blazing sunsets. »

30 May 2007

Die Zauberflöte at the Volksoper

Serpents, abduction, magic flutes, a sacred priesthood and, of course….love, are a few of the elements Mozart used to comprise his mason-influenced collaboration with Emanuel von Schikaneder. »

30 May 2007

MASSENET: Esclarmonde

Just as sausage can be best enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of its preparation and contents, one should slide slowly into the luxuriant bath that is Massenet’s Esclarmonde and leave the libretto far to the side. »

30 May 2007

ORFF: Carmina Burana

Released in early 2007, Marin Alsop’s performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is an exciting, new recording of this familiar and durable scenic cantata, based on medieval lyrics in Latin and German. »

30 May 2007

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Verboten und verbannt — forbidden and banned — a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust. »

30 May 2007

Angel Dances

Curmudgeons and aesthetes may have to fight their gag reflex to enjoy some luscious music-making on the latest disc, Angel Dances, from that hot studio band, The Twelve Berlin Philharmonic Cellists. »

29 May 2007

Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music

The interpretive reception of medieval music begins, as John Haines lays forth in the present investigation, already during the latter period of the Middle Ages. »

29 May 2007

BRITTEN : Gloriana

Towards the end of his life Britten became interested in the idea of developing the opera experience beyond the technical confines of the stage. He would have, I think, loved this film because it’s so intelligently sensitive to his fundamental ideas. It is, no less, a work of art built around a work of art. »

25 May 2007

Virginia Arts Festival celebrates “Pocahontas”

Norfork - It’s America’s biggest birthday since the 1976 bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence: »

20 May 2007

VERDI: Aida

This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense. »

20 May 2007

Simon Boccanegra — Opéra national de Paris

Chief attraction of the Paris Opera’s new production of Simon Boccanegra was Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role. »