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Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

An Interview with Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa sings Eurydice in Los Angeles Opera’s French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice that can currently be seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

The operatic tradition is not as old in the Netherlands as in other European countries, yet opera is a vital part of the Dutch classical landscape. Both Dutch National Opera & Ballet and the Concertgebouw are in Amsterdam, so the capital gets the lion’s share of the opera on offer.

Lyric Opera of Chicago to Premiere Fellow Travelers—A Preview

On 17 March 2018 Lyric Opera of Chicago will premiere the 2016 opera Fellow Travelers by Gregory Spears (with a libretto by Greg Pierce, based on the novel by Thomas Mallon. Mallon’s 2007 novel offered fresh perspectives on the paranoiac investigations of McCarthy-era Washington, DC, through the lens of a gay relationship.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.



Photo courtesy Dutch National Opera & Ballet
23 Mar 2018

Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief. »

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28 Dec 2005

SPITZER & ZASLAW: The Birth of the Orchestra — History of an Institution, 1650-1815

At a time when the press has made the public aware of the difficult circumstances that exist for the symphony orchestra in the United States, it is refreshing to find a book that demonstrates unequivocally the nature of that institution and, as a consequence, its power in culture. »

27 Dec 2005

SCHUBERT: Winterreise

Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise has been performed by many fine singers, who keep the work alive in the repertoire and in the imagination of audiences. In recent years the work has been subject to a variety of interpretations, and with this recording, the well-known tenor René Kollo offers his perspective on the work, accompanied by the young pianist Oliver Pohl. »

27 Dec 2005

A Trio of New Year's Concerts

The first thing I saw when I opened the La Scala DVD was a notice on the back that track 5 plays “Va! Pensiero da: I vespri siciliani (1855).” One wonders if there is nobody at the La Scala Bookshop who has at least a bit of knowledge of one of the most popular pieces in the operatic repertoire that served Italy for more than hundred years as an unofficial anthem — the Venice DVD has it right, of course. »

22 Dec 2005

LUTOSLAWSKI: Twenty Polish Christmas Carols

Witold Lutosławski (1913-94) composed vocal works throughout his career, and recording collects several pieces that involve female voices. His set of Twenty Polish Christmas Carols for soprano, women’s choir and orchestra is a late composition compiled between 1985 and 1989 and given its premiere in 1990. »

21 Dec 2005

Christmas with Renée and Bryn

Though singers have always recorded some of these arias and songs, it was young Leontyne Price who first started a trend by devoting a whole LP to the genre more than 45 years ago. »

21 Dec 2005

RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

In its 2004 season Glyndebourne put on a double bill celebrating avarice — Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the much-lesser known The Miserly Knight. »

21 Dec 2005

Giulini Conducts Mozart and Mahler

With the passing of Carl Maria Giulini (1913-2005) in June 2005, the music world lost one of its finest conductors. Among his legacy are some critical recordings, which represent the literature that Giulini chose to preserve. »

21 Dec 2005

Two Super Audio CD re-releases of Elly Ameling performances for Philips

I admit I jumped at the chance to review these SACD re-releases of performances that were on the very first classical vocal LP’s that I owned and overplayed on under-maintained equipment, to the point where I frankly shudder to even try to compare my vinyl versions with the digital. »

18 Dec 2005

WAGNER, S.: Der Heidenkönig

What an unjust fate for an aspiring opera composer to be born the son of Richard Wagner! Imagine a child of Albert Einstein who dreams of greatness in science, or the son of William Shakespeare sitting down to sketch out his first sonnet. Doubtless you would have a nagging suspicion that you would likely never better your father’s titanic accomplishments. »

18 Dec 2005

The legendary Magda Olivero

What is the difference between a lady who becomes a prima-donna and a prima-donna who becomes a lady? The last one has to be begged as she thinks she has to behave according to her rank. The first one is sure of herself and doesn’t need, well let’s call it to behave somewhat capriciously. »

18 Dec 2005


In fall 2003, Los Angeles Opera opened its season with Deborah Dratell’s Nicholas and Alexandra, with libretto by Nicholas von Hoffman. At that time, company director Placido Domingo, who took on the juicy role of Rasputin, announced that the production would be filmed and prepared for eventual DVD release. »

15 Dec 2005

Malena Ernman, Simon Rattle and OAE at the Barbican — Three Reviews

On 9 December 2005, Malena Ernman stepped in for an ailing Magdalena Kožená at the Barbican in London. Here are three reviews. »

15 Dec 2005

Rigoletto at the Met — Three Reviews

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA: Verdi considered Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse “one of the greatest creations of the modern theatre”, and jumped at the opportunity to adapt it for Venice in 1851. »

14 Dec 2005

Sherrill Milnes - An All Star Gala

The former TV-producer in me tells me the following conversation took place between producer and director (in German as this is a GDR (East-Germany) product). »

13 Dec 2005

Stravinsky in San Francisco — Two Reviews

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY: The San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas present two semi-staged theatrical performances: a double-bill featuring Stravinsky's rarely heard operas The Nightingale and Oedipus Rex. »

12 Dec 2005

GAY: The Beggar’s Opera

Benjamin Britten’s identity as a decidedly “national” composer is formed in part by his well-known engagement of pre-existent English music, old English texts, and subjects rich in the English legacy, as a glance at works like the Purcellian The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, the Chester mystery play, Noyes Fludde, or the Elizabethan opera, Gloriana, all confirm. »

11 Dec 2005

Gwyneth Jones - In Concert

Sorry my friends, but since I retired as a TV-reporter I forgot a lot of technical know-how, which to be fair never interested me very much. »

11 Dec 2005

Edita Gruberová — The Queen of Belcanto Volume I

There are countless artists whose legend survives on their supposed fame, others leave a substantial legacy of their achievements. »

11 Dec 2005

On Christmas Day

Tastes in music for Christmas are quite personal. One individual’s beloved tradition may be another’s annoying jangling that just won’t go away. »

11 Dec 2005

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring; The Nightingale

So much has been written about the notorious scandal of May 29, 1913, the scandal of the reception of the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, that it is easy to forget that the music itself was less the cause of the riotous activities than the subject, the décor, and the dancing. »

11 Dec 2005

The Art of Gérard Souzay

If anyone had played the soundtrack of those first numbers of the 1955 telecast, I would have looked up in surprise at first and would have wondered if an electronic wizard had cleaned up the acoustic recordings of that giant of French singing: Jean-Emile Vanni-Marcoux. »

11 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Il Diluvio Universale

Originally issued in LP by Voce (100), this unfairly neglected work by Gaetano Donizetti is now available on the Bongiovanni (GB2386/87-2) label. »

11 Dec 2005

LEHÁR: Das Land des Lächelns

This version of Lehár’s second most popular operetta is not one for purists. By the mid-seventies, it was already clear that one of the biggest tragedies of Western classical music was taking place — the disappearance of operetta with its tons of wonderful music. »

10 Dec 2005

A Time of Tristans

We live in a time of Tristan & Isolde — recordings of the great Wagner opera, that is. »

06 Dec 2005

ROSSINI: Moise et Pharaon

Rossini's original Italian opera, Mose In Egitto, was re-adapted as Moise et Pharaon for Paris. A new libretto, the renaming of certain characters, some new music, a ballet and reordering of the original music make up the newer version. »

05 Dec 2005

Billy Budd at ENO — Two Reviews

ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA: ‘Under no circumstances to be missed’ (The Guardian), Neil Armfield’s illuminating reading of Billy Budd receives its long-awaited London premiere. In the season in which Benjamin Britten becomes ENO’s House Composer, this engrossing WNO/Opera Australia production is the perfect salute to a great British masterpiece. »

05 Dec 2005

An American Tragedy — Three Reviews

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA: The American author Theodore Dreiser published An American Tragedy in 1925 and it quickly became a classic. Based on a true story of a man who was found guilty of murdering the woman who was carrying his baby, while he was simultaneously pursuing another woman of a higher social class, Dreiser’s novel tells the story of a mid-western preacher’s son who tasted a little sophistication on his way to death in the electric chair. »

04 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor

A superstar in Europe, Edita Gruberova can rest assured that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate her artistry: the record label Nightingale Classics exists primarily, it seems, to record her in her greatest roles. »

02 Dec 2005

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2

As the second of four of the thematically organized recording of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Un paysage choisi is an excellent offering of chansons that concern selected natural places, that is to say, the “chosen landscape” indicated in the title of this volume. »

02 Dec 2005

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible

Sergei Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible? Which one? Prokofiev composed music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film (part 1, 1942-44; part 2, 1945) about the sixteenth-century ruler, and the score is catalogued as op. 116. After the composer’s death, music for the film was arranged first into an oratorio (with speaker, soloists, chorus, and orchestra) by Alexander Stasevich (1961) and later into a concert scenario by Christopher Palmer (1990). »

02 Dec 2005

Songs of Vaughan Williams and Ives

Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Ives; both known more for their symphonic music than anything else, receive superb tributes in these recordings of some of their early songs. Only two years separate the birth dates of these composers; but the musical language each speaks seems to put far more distance than that between them. »

29 Nov 2005

BIZET: Carmen

Two recent releases document performances of Georges Bizet’s Carmen that took place within just a few months of each other. The casts share many of the same performers, most notably the conductor and the interpreter of the opera’s title role. »

29 Nov 2005

Michele Pertusi - Recital

Bass-baritone Michele Pertusi’s voice is captured in this recital disc after only two years of formal studies. Taking this into account one can forgive what he calls “imperfections: a few, slight musical errors, some invented or switched words, a Neapolitan pronunciation that is not quite perfect, an English one which could be improved on, a few marred notes.” »

28 Nov 2005

ROSSINI: Guillaume Tell

On 24 October 1998, the Vienna State Opera presented the opening night of its staging of Gioachino Rosssini’s Guillaume Tell. It was the first Staatsoper production in 91 years of Rossini’s final opera and masterpiece, as well as the Vienna premiere of the 1829 opera’s original French-language version. »

28 Nov 2005

MACMILLAN: Seven Last Words from the Cross

The compositions of John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and Henryk Górecki have accustomed us to the degree that religious spirituality has found serious musical voice in the late twentieth century. In their works, a profound language of musical mysticism is wed to various liturgical evocations, creating compositions that seem both authentic in their expression and unusually personal in their genesis. »

28 Nov 2005

LANGGAARD: Antikrist

Watching this DVD, your reviewer suddenly recalled a brief exchange from the film Reversal of Fortune, when the Ron Silver/Alan Dershowitz character says to the Jeremy Irons/Claus von Bulow one, “You are a very strange man, “ and Irons, in the moment that may have won him the Academy Award, replies with eerie blandness, “You have no idea.” »

28 Nov 2005

Thomas Hampson in Recital

Monday evening, November 21, 2005, I was fortunate enough to attend a benefit recital given by Thomas Hampson in the Fox Theater in Spokane, Washington. »