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Elsewhere

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall.

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.


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Reviews

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork perform Purcell and Nyman at Milton Court Theatre, 28th May 2018
22 May 2018

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall. »

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20 Mar 2006

MONTEVERDI: L'Orfeo

In the 1990’s Pierre Audi staged productions of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas (L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea) with De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. »

20 Mar 2006

Maria Callas — Three Remastered Releases from EMI

Of all opera singers of the last century, no one better dominated the genre’s star power than Maria Callas. During her thirty-four years onstage, she came to embody the essence of the term “diva,” both in her stormy personal life and her equally tempestuous stage career. »

17 Mar 2006

My Name is Barbara

Barbara Bonney’s discography is extensive and wide-ranging, including opera and oratorio, as well as lieder recitals from Mozart and Mendelssohn through the major Romantics to Zemlinsky. »

17 Mar 2006

Hercules at the Barbican — Five Reviews

Hercules (HWV 60) was first performed on 5 January 1745 at King's Theatre, Haymarket, London. Categorized as a drama, it traditionally has been performed in the oratorio style (i.e., a concert performance). Following its performance as an opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, this production by William Christie now appears at the Barbican in London. "This extraordinary opera recounts the tragic tale of a hero literally poisoned by the jealousy of his misguided wife. In this modern-dress production, punctuated by Greek references, the action takes place on a sand-covered, amphitheatre-style arena where the chorus is used as Handel originally intended, to embody the people of Trachis and comment on the action." Here are five reviews. »

16 Mar 2006

Songs for Ariel

Of the countertenors coming to the fore in the generation following Alfred Deller, few, if any, have achieved the prominence or performance longevity of James Bowman. »

16 Mar 2006

TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of the most popular ballets. Tchaikovsky’s score alone is synonymous with Christmas—one can even say that it is what keeps this ballet alive. »

16 Mar 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 4
BERG: Sieben Frühe Lieder

A critical aspect of Mahler’s music is the way the composer often juxtaposed the familiar and the new, and this dichotomy is reflected strongly in his Fourth Symphony. »

14 Mar 2006

HIGH RISK “ORFEO” FROM CHICAGO LYRIC

Producer Robert Carsen, together with his set designer Tobias Hoheisel, is taking a big risk with their new production of Glück’s 1762 version for alto of “Orfeo ed Euridice” at Chicago Lyric Opera. »

13 Mar 2006

MEYERBEER: Dinorah

Some opera sets are meant to be an introduction to the work presented. They contain a booklet which tells you about the life of the composer, the history of the work, some analysis, a synopsis of the story, and maybe (if you're lucky) the libretto translated into your language. »

10 Mar 2006

Gabriela Montero — Piano Recital

This recording features piano works by the pillars of nineteenth-century Romantic piano composition (Chopin and Liszt), the Spanish-speaking musical nationalists (Granados, Ginastera, and de Falla), and the Russian composer-pianists (Scriabin and Rachmaninov) who reinterpreted the Romantic spirit in new and innovative ways for the piano. »

10 Mar 2006

MOZART: Requiem

Mozart’s Requiem has become widely-known and popular since the 1984 movie Amadeus. Left incomplete at his death, his student and assistant Franz Xaver Sussmayr (1766-1803) completed the work from Mozart’s notes. »

10 Mar 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Could La Traviata be the opera with the most versions available on DVD? The appetite for the doomed heroine never wavers. »

09 Mar 2006

Wagnerian Songs

If Richard Wagner’s music may be seen to pervade the late nineteenth century, an area that is rarely discussed is his influence on song. »

09 Mar 2006

DOVE: Flight

For most of its 40 plus years the Adelaide Festival of Arts has had as its central attraction the Australian premieres of a landmark European opera like Wozzeck, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Fiery Angel or landmark contemporary works like Death in Venice, Nixon in China or El Nino presented within a few years of their world premieres. »

08 Mar 2006

Karajan Performs Strauss Waltzes and Polkas

Everyone is familiar with the waltzes and polkas of the “Waltz King,” Johan Strauss II, along with his father Johann I and his brother Josef. »

08 Mar 2006

VERDI: Ernani

Verdi’s smash hit of 1844 is a relative rarity these days. As Stefano Olcese notes in his booklet essay for a new Dynamic recording, the opera calls for daunting vocal display from tenor, soprano, baritone, and bass. »

08 Mar 2006

Mazeppa at the Met — Three Reviews

This season the Metropolitan Opera presents Tchaikovsky's infrequently performed opera, Mazeppa. Acording to the Met, "[a]lthough Tchaikovsky is best known for Eugene Onegin and several great ballet scores, he wrote many other wonderful operas including Mazeppa, which receives its premiere at The Met this season. Premiered in Moscow in 1884, it was first seen in St Petersburg just three days later, and has remained in the repertoire of The Mariinsky Theatre from that time. Based on a poem by Pushkin, it tells the story of a 17th century Ukrainian separatist, who falls in love with a friend’s daughter. The opera is full of tuneful episodes (similar to those in The Queen of Spades) and this is a very rare chance to see the opera in New York." Here are three reviews. »

05 Mar 2006

HILLIARD ENSEMBLE: Thy Kiss of a Divine Nature — The Contemporary Perotin

The richness of the Ars Antiqua flourishing in Paris in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries marks the time as one of high cultural achievement, drawing nurture from the contemporaneous rise of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the University of Paris. »

05 Mar 2006

MOZART: The Magic Flute

It would be presumptuous of me to go through the entire plot of The Magic Flute, given its historical and popular significance with all classical music devotees. »

05 Mar 2006

GALLO: Opera — The Basics

Is it possible to say something new and fresh about opera? While many books have been written about the artform, it is rare to find an introductory text that serves its subject well. »

28 Feb 2006

Les Violons du Roy and Magdalena Kožená at Carnegie Hall

On Sunday, 28 February 2006, Carnegie Hall presented Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie, Music Director and Conductor, with Magdalena Kožená, Mezzo-Soprano, featuring works by Rameau and Gluck. Here are two reviews. »

28 Feb 2006

BACH: Works for Trumpet

This recording is a grouping of various compositions by J.S. Bach, which are not solely dedicated to the trumpet, but provide some of the most demanding repertoire for the instrument prior to the nineteenth century. »

28 Feb 2006

Ewa Podles in New York — Two Reviews

On 26 February, Constantine Orbelian led the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, marking its 50th anniversary this season, in works by Haydn, Prokofiev, Rossini, Shostakovich, and Mussorgsky, with the renowned contralto Ewa Podlés. Here are two reviews. »

23 Feb 2006

La Forza del Destino at the Met — Four Reviews

METROPOLITAN OPERA: "Commissioned for St Petersburg (the premiere was in 1862), La Forza del Destino was based on a play by the Duke of Rivas, and was at first only a moderate success. Although Verdi revised it for Milan in 1869, it took a long time for audiences to come to appreciate the sprawling drama; several years take place between the first and last scenes, and the number of coincidences in the plot stretches credulity to the limit. But the overture, the arias for Leonora (including “Pace!”), and the duets for tenor and baritone have ensured that the opera remains popular whenever it is revived." Here are four reviews. »

22 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Concerti con molti strumenti, vol. 2

Vivaldi was very impressed with the sound and performances of the Dresden court orchestra when they visited Venice in 1716. »

22 Feb 2006

SCHÜTZ: Symphoniae Sacrae III

The tragic ravages of the Thirty Years’ War explicitly shaped the musical output of Heinrich Schütz. »

21 Feb 2006

ARIOSTI: “The Flowering and Fading of Love”

Musicologists should be eager to welcome the “first modern recordings” of any work; surely having the opportunity to hear a long-lost musical treasure, rather than having it stare off the page in black-and-white, is something to be celebrated. »

21 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Concerti e Cantate da Camera III

As the Vivaldi edition continues, Opus 111 is releasing a series of individual volumes dedicated to cantatas interspersed with other chamber works. »

20 Feb 2006

WNO's The Flying Dutchman — Three Reviews

WELSH NATIONAL OPERA: "Welsh National Opera's The Flying Dutchman promises to be a focused, powerful and intense experience. This early Wagnerian masterpiece signalled the composer's fascination with combining epic myths and dramatic music." Here are three reviews. »

17 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Arie d’Opera

This recording is another gem from the Complete Vivaldi Edition, a collaboration of Naïve (opus 111) and various Piedmontese institutions [see this author’s review of Vivaldi’s Orlando in that series]. »

16 Feb 2006

Hercules in Brooklyn — Two Reviews

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is presenting Handel's Hercules with Les Arts Florissants, conducted by William Christie and directed by Luc Bondy. Here are two reviews: »

15 Feb 2006

BARRY: The Intelligence Park

Irish composer Gerald Barry insists that “Really, my music is very straightforward. »

13 Feb 2006

WAGNER: Parsifal

Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s Parsifal, first staged by English National Opera in 1999, is given on this Opus Arte DVD in a 2004 performance led by Kent Nagano at the Baden-Baden summer festival. »

11 Feb 2006

GÓRECKI: Symphony no. 3

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony no. 3 (1976), his “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” as it is called, is one of the most popular recordings of late twentieth-century music. »

11 Feb 2006

CIMAROSA: Il Matrimonio Segreto

Premiered in 1792 (just months after the death of Mozart), Il Matrimonio Segreto won over Vienna from the start, and Domenico Cimarosa’s opera would remain his most popular work. »

10 Feb 2006

LEE: The Great Instrumental Works

This book is for any aficionado or lover of classical instrumental music. »

09 Feb 2006

BYRD: The Great Service

The religious turmoil of sixteenth-century England was characterized not only by factionalism and polarity, but also famously by the charting of a via media, a middle path, through opposing views. »

05 Feb 2006

MAHLER: Symphonies 1-10 • Das Lied von der Erde

The late Gary Bertini (1927-2005) was noted for his fine interpretations of Mahler’s work, and his cycle with EMI was esteemed highly. An accomplished musician, Bertini founded the Israeli Chamber Orchestra in 1965, and later become chief conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony. »

05 Feb 2006

Body and Soul - A New “Poppea” in London

Monteverdi’s great work, “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” in a “semi-staged” format, has been chosen to showcase the talents of some exciting young singers and musicians in London recently as the first part of an ambitious project aimed at a more holistic approach to singing opera. »

04 Feb 2006

TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake

This 2005 release was filmed at a performance in La Scala’s temporary home, Milan’s Teatro degli Arcimboldi, in April 2004. It is based on the Burmeister version of the ballet of some 50 years ago, first introduced in the West by the Paris Opera. »

04 Feb 2006

Le Nozze di Figaro at ROH — Four Reviews

ROYAL OPERA HOUSE: "To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Royal Opera mounts a new production of his setting of the second of Beaumarchais' domestic but politically charged 'Figaro' comedies, as adapted by librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. " »

03 Feb 2006

WAGNER: Der Ring des Nibelungen

It has been nearly thirty years since the centenary production of the Ring at Bayreuth, and the controversy and even scandal that it generated have long since faded into memory. »