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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.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

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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28 Sep 2006

That's Amore

Vanity publishing is not for the print world only, as a release from a company called Jeremiah Productions, called "That's Amore," proves. »

27 Sep 2006

Flaviano Labo – Vol III

According to Giancarlo Landini, author of the very interesting and detailed sleeve notes, Labo “has been sorely neglected, if not totally forgotten”. »

26 Sep 2006

LEHAR: Schön is die Welt

CPO has recently given us a lot of wonderful Lehar recordings like Eva, Der Rastelbinder or Der Sterngucker (admired by Hofmannsthal who exclaimed after a performance: ‘I wish, Lehar had composed Rosenkavalier’). »

25 Sep 2006

POULENC: Gloria and Stabat Mater

In the 1930s, Poulenc’s turn to writing sacred choral music such as the Litanies à la vierge noire and the Mass in G was closely linked to his new embrace of Roman Catholicism following the death of a close friend, the composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: St. John Passion

The Bach Passions combine drama, sublimity of expression, and deeply devotional reflection in such a powerful way that we invariably tend to set them apart from other liturgical works. »

25 Sep 2006

Pilar Lorengar: Prima Donna in Vienna

Maybe a looking glass will help you to decipher the reprint in this CD’s inside cover of a small article on the soprano by Terry McEwen, who was Manager of the Classical Divison of London Records at the time of recording. »

25 Sep 2006

Birgit Nilsson — "Or sai chi l'onore"

Deutsche Grammophon was one of the many labels for which Nilsson recorded and the company decided to commemorate her passing by offering us most of her not so very large catalogue. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: Mass in B Minor

We are reasonably sensitive, I suspect, to the number of ways in which venue can shape the nature and success of musical performance. »

24 Sep 2006

BELLINI: Norma

The best Norma on DVD treats the viewer to a blurry picture of washed-out colors and remote, compressed sound. »

24 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

The better can be the enemy of the good and this recording proves it. »

24 Sep 2006

Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert

In her debut recording the young Roumanian soprano Katarina Jovanic demonstrates her talent in performing an intriguing selection of Lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss. »

24 Sep 2006

ROSSINI: Moïse

Myto does many an opera-lover a service by offering this enjoyable recording of Rossini's French grand opera, here called Moïse. »

24 Sep 2006

HALÉVY: La Juive

For a period of close to half a century, French grand opera, as exemplified by the works of Giacomo Meyerbeer and his school, was the preferred form of music for the theatre (i.e. opera) in most of the civilized world. »

22 Sep 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali

It is somewhat ironic that until recent years Italy has generally been slow to take a leading role in the historical performance movement: ironic in that historically Italy both dominates and defines the early baroque style and ironic in that that style enshrines the primacy of text— the Italian text. »

22 Sep 2006

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

I should probably preface my reaction to this release by confessing to the heretical belief, at least from a Wagnerian perspective, that Tristan und Isolde is not really a stageworthy opera. »

20 Sep 2006

CIMAROSA: Cleopatra

The first thing I noticed in the liner notes was the bold print claiming Cimarosa was born in 1797 and died in 1848, which correspond exactly with Donizetti’s lifespan. »

19 Sep 2006

Old Music In a New Home — WNO stages a brand new production of Monteverdi’s “Ulysses”

In his introduction to the Welsh National Opera’s celebratory 60th anniversary season programme Carlo Rizzi, their Music Director, declares that “we are bringing the best of Wales to the rest of the world — and the best of the world to Wales”. »

16 Sep 2006

150 Years of Opera in Chicago

This is a very attractive book, which, in addition to the expected text, has many striking photos, a list of the operas performed in Chicago, indicating all the seasons in which each work was given, and a season by season chronology, limited to professional companies. »

12 Sep 2006

ASHLEY: Perfect Lives; Celestial Excursions; Foreign Experiences

Robert Ashley has the uncanny ability to sprinkle diamonds amidst great swaths of apparently trivial and quotidian detritus–diamonds that trigger the nervous system in an intensely stimulating fashion. »

12 Sep 2006

BEETHOVEN: Overtures
BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

The later Günter Wand was a remarkable interpreter of Bruckner’s music, as is demonstrated in this live recording from the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. »

09 Sep 2006

Joshua Bell’s Good Taste

Sony Records occasionally still sends the odd CD to reviewers hoping they will give it notice. »

08 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Callas fans better skip this review, as they won’t like the tone, the words, or whatever slights real or imagined they may perceive. »

08 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 7

At the expense of stating a truism, the music of Gustav Mahler, like that of other composers, is best experienced live in the concert hall. »

08 Sep 2006

PUCCINI: La Fanciulla del West

This Fanciulla is such a wonderful issue because, for once, none of the three protagonists ever recorded their role commercially, so that one is spared the many doublings often met in live recordings. »

07 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

During the last few years Antoni Wit has recorded Mahler’s symphonies one by one, such that he is building a fine cycle for the Naxos label. »

31 Aug 2006

BRAHMS: Missa Canonica
RHEINBERGER: Mass

The program for this recent recording from the choir of Westminster Cathedral presents sacred choral works by Brahms and Rheinberger, anchored at one end by Brahms’s youthful Missa Canonica and at the other by Rheinberger’s Mass for Double Choir in E-flat, Op. 109. with a handful of motets by Brahms in between. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

This cast looks quite promising on paper. However, I cannot honestly say these big names keep their promise, except for the comprimario-singers. »

29 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Rienzi

I can readily understand why Bayreuth refuses to perform Richard Wagner’s third opera. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: Missa da Requiem

Verdi responded to the death of Rossini in 1868 by planning a collaborative Requiem Mass, drawing on the contributions of thirteen “distinguished” composers. »

28 Aug 2006

POULENC: Figure Humaine and Dialogues des Carmelites

Francis Poulenc is well known for the religious works that comprise much of his oeuvre after he was traumatized by the accidental and premature death of his friend Pierre-Octave Ferroud in 1936. »

28 Aug 2006

DUNSTABLE: Sweet Harmony — Masses and Motets

The music of John Dunstable embodies many of the characteristics that so dramatically set the music of the emerging Renaissance apart from its Medieval forebears. »

28 Aug 2006

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare in Egitto

Sometimes an invidious comparison cannot be avoided, and such is the case with two recent DVD versions of Georg Frederic Handel's masterpiece, Giulio Cesare. »

25 Aug 2006

MENDELSSOHN: Sacred Choral Music

The English “Oxbridge” choral tradition tends to be a cohesive one, most often with choirs of men and boys receiving similar training, singing a largely shared repertory in similar venues and in similar contexts. »

25 Aug 2006

Ikon

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen have a particular affinity for pre-modern polyphony, as their long discography, teeming with the music of the Eton Choirbook, assorted Renaissance masters, Handel, Bach, and others, amply shows. »

25 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Some argue that Bayreuth ushered in the modern era of regietheatre in opera productions with its now-legendary centennial Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Patrice Chereau. »

25 Aug 2006

Children’s Songs of the World

In Turkey recently, we visited a second-grade classroom, where our guide invited the children to sing songs for us. »

25 Aug 2006

Mozart — Airs Sacrés

It seems only natural that the quality of radiance should quickly come to mind in contemplating the twelfth-century Basilica of Saint Denis, where luminous stained glass creates colored walls of mystical light. »

25 Aug 2006

Bolshoi Russian opera highlights

Pentatone Classics joins some smaller recording companies staking out niche markets as the biggest labels continue their enforced retreat from the classical marketplace. »

25 Aug 2006

Verdi Gala 2004 Teatro Regio di Parma

In recent European reviews, Teatro Regio di Parma’s DVD of their 2004 Verdi Gala was generally labeled as worthless. »

25 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Traviata x 2

Tower Records online DVD page shows eleven available incarnations of Verdi's classic La Traviata, four of which have appeared in the last year, including one filmed at the reopening of La Fenice in Venice, and a Zurich production reviewed recently for Opera Today by yours truly. »

25 Aug 2006

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 19

This installment of the estimable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings brings together cantatas from the middle of the Epiphany season, along with a “refugee” from Trinity XXIV), and the well-known motet, “Jesu, meine Freude.” »

25 Aug 2006

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Snegurochka

This is a most sympathetic performance, though perhaps being a Fleming helps. In my small country on the frontier of Northern and Southern European influences, many musical styles made their entrance and became popular. »

25 Aug 2006

Erwartung — Lieder by Schoenberg, Wagner, Strauss et al.

Internationally acclaimed soprano, Solveig Kringelborn, now has recorded a delightful selection of late nineteenth-century German Lieder on the NMA label. »

25 Aug 2006

REIMANN: Lieder

In making words sing, to use a phrase from a recent study of the poetics of vocal composition, Aribert Reimann (b. 1936) does not emulate another composer as much as he makes fashions his own lines and punctuates them with accompaniments that serve as a means of accentuating the text. »

25 Aug 2006

BACH: Musical Offering

We can easily imagine the pleasure that Bach must have taken in presiding over a household that was both large and talented enough to form its own complete ensemble. »

25 Aug 2006

VERDI: Don Carlos and Don Carlo

Had Plato been a 19th century opera fan, would the philosopher have been so sure that there exists an ideal version of each and every opera, in the way that all chairs come from one immutable concept of "chair"? »

13 Aug 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

Myto is always generous with its timings, usually producing very full CD’s and thus of necessity offering a bonus if a performance doesn’t fill the whole of the record. »

13 Aug 2006

SCHUBERT: Der Graf von Gleichen

Most of us who listen to opera often chose a work to relax us on a quiet evening; perhaps lighting some candles, and opening that bottle of good vino you’ve been saving for a special occasion. »

10 Aug 2006

OFFENBACH: Les Contes d'Hoffmann

When the Ring theater burned in Vienna, on December 8, 1881,1 Richard Wagner commented that it left him “cold” to know that a number of patrons should die while at a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s music. »

09 Aug 2006

SANTA FE OPERA: Golden Oldies

Carmen and The Magic Flute have finally made it onto my calendar, a nice way to end the summer opera festival at Santa Fe. »

03 Aug 2006

A Night of Rhythm and Dance

The Waldbühne in Berlin is a large copy of ancient Greek theatres. Originally it was the ‘Reichssportfeld’, built for the Olympic Games of 1936. »