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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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26 Jan 2006

PADEREWSKI: Manru

Known for his virtuosity as a pianist, Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) is also known as a composer. While most of his works involve piano, he left a single opera, Manru, a three-act work that he composed between 1892 and 1901. »

26 Jan 2006

SALLINEN: Barabbas Dialogues

Two of Finland’s greatest artistic luminaries—composer Aulis Sallinen (b. 1935) and poet Lassi Nummi (b. 1928)—came together to produce a fine new work, The Barabbas Dialogues (2004), which has been recently recorded and released on CD on the CPO label. »

25 Jan 2006

BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings etc.

In an era where new studio recordings by major orchestras have dwindled to a pathetic dribble, leaving many fine institutions to start their own in-house labels, the Berlin Philharmonic still has an active contract with a major company (its conductor’s label of many years, EMI) and releases come on a regular basis. A recent one features some of Benjamin Britten’s great work for instruments and tenor. »

25 Jan 2006

Norma in Munich — Two Reviews

Bellini's Norma is the story of a love triangle involving Norma, the Druid high priestess, Pollione, the Roman proconsul and father of Norma's two children, and Adalgisa, a Druid acolyte and Pollione's new conquest whom he intends to take to Rome. The role of Norma is generally considered one of the most difficult in opera literature. Few have succeeded in mastering it. Now Edita Gruberova, has taken on the role at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Here are two reviews. »

25 Jan 2006

Mozart at Lincoln Center — Three Reviews

Earlier this week, Sir John Eliot Gardiner led the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir in two immortal Mozart works: the C-minor Mass and the Requiem, followed by an evening of Mozart's orchestral works. Here are three reviews. »

24 Jan 2006

Violeta Urmana — Lieder

“Carmen, un bon conseil” warns Frasquita in the last act of the opera. So friends, heed my advice and don’t play this CD in your car when you are accompanied by someone who likes opera but is not crazy on lieder. »

24 Jan 2006

MERCADANTE: La vestale

It is now slightly over 40 years since the first recording of a complete opera by Saverio Mercadante (an Il Giuramento with Maria Vitale and Amedeo Berdini) was released on LP. I quickly fell in love with his music, and realized that, while not necessarily on the same level as Bellini and Donizetti, he was not far behind, and that more of his works would be extremely welcome. »

23 Jan 2006

KINDERMAN & SYER: A Companion to Wagner's Parsifal

Some twenty years ago, a leading German musicologist remarked that the music of Parsifal »

22 Jan 2006

BIZET: Carmen

On June 3, 1875, thirty-six year old Bizet died after having one, some say two, heart attacks preceded by other complications. Legend has it that the composer's death was hastened by the failure of his latest work, Carmen. »

19 Jan 2006

The Diva Live — Wilhelmenia Fernandez & Bruno Fontaine

In 1981 Wilhelminia Fernandez became somewhat of a cult figure when the French thriller “Diva” appeared on the screens. For a time her “Ebben, ne andro lontano” from La Wally almost became a hit and several commercials used a small part of the aria. »

19 Jan 2006

La Traviata, Royal Opera House, London — Three Reviews

This season the Royal Opera House has recreated "Richard Eyre's popular production of Verdi's La Traviata, which draws on striking period designs by Bob Crowley to amplify the tensions and confrontations that make Violetta's predicament so tragic and her portrayal so real." Here are three reviews: »

18 Jan 2006

GERSHWIN: Porgy and Bess

So EMI has declared this 1988 Porgy and Bess to be one of the “Great Recordings of the Century.” That may settle the issue for many – but not all. »

18 Jan 2006

A NICE COUP: VILLAZÓN in his first “WERTHER”

The French city of Nice has this past week been enjoying some wonderful weather and the aptly-named Cote d’Azur has truly lived up to its name. »

17 Jan 2006

IT MUST NOT HAVE BEEN EASY BEING MOZART

It must not have been an easy life, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Perhaps even more so after the fact when scholars began to do their research and “wanna bes” began their intimations and psychoanalyzing. In the more seventy-five years of Mozart scholarship and its coming of age, one must ask: How much more is there to learn, to research? »

16 Jan 2006

STRAUSS: Capriccio

It is not uncommon for opera on DVD to have credits for two directors. In the case of this Paris Capriccio, a new production from June 2004, the credits list Robert Carsen as the stage director and Francois Roussillon as directing for TV and video. »

16 Jan 2006

Trinity Sunday at Westminster Abbey

Under the direction of James O’Donnell since January 2000, the Choir of Westminster Abbey has cultivated a robust singing style that well serves the music of this new recording and continues the Abbey’s position as one of the obvious standard bearers of the English cathedral tradition. »

14 Jan 2006

Berlin Opera Night

At 73 minutes, this DVD of the typical gala affair – various soloists trot on, sing an aria, then trot off – can’t be called generous, but it does have variety. »

14 Jan 2006

MASSENET: Werther

When you and I were young Maggie, there was only the fine Werther with Thill and Vallin and the Cetra recording with Tagliavini and his first wife, Pia Tassinari. »

14 Jan 2006

SCHEIDT: Ludi musici I, II, III & IV

I suspect that when we survey the musical landscape of the early seventeenth century, it is opera, monody, and madrigal that come most quickly and lastingly into view, and given the contemporaneous attention given to the relationship between music and word, it is unsurprising that this would be the case. »

14 Jan 2006

CACCINI: Nuove musiche

When Giulio Caccini entitled his landmark 1601/02 publication Le nuove musiche, he confidently laid claim both to the novelty of the emerging baroque style and his formidable role in bringing it to blossom. »

14 Jan 2006

GASPAROV: Five Operas and a Symphony

This new volume from Yale University Press is one of those rare and treasured phenomena in Russian music scholarship that illuminate their subject from a new angle — that of cultural history. Indeed, Boris Gasparov's expressed goal in Five Operas and a Symphony is nothing less than turning the table on poetry, philosophy, and literary criticism that have for so long ruled the field of Slavic research, and elucidating them from a musical point of view. »

11 Jan 2006

VERDI: Macbeth

This Macbeth, originally conceived by Phyllida Lloyd for a co-production of the Paris Opéra and Covent Garden, is an excellent example of what nowadays is to be seen on most opera stages in Europe (and probably the States as well). »

11 Jan 2006

BELLINI: I Puritani

Through Rossini's influence Bellini and his rival Donizetti were each invited to compose an opera for the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris. Bellini who, paranoid and delusional, thought he was the object of a sinister plan headed by Rossini to benefit Donizetti, went out of his way to ingratiate himself with the "Great Master" long before Donizetti's arrival in the French capital. After a year of idle life in Paris, where he survived off the kindness of his hosts and friends, the Sicilian composer set to work on what would regretfully become his last opera: I Puritani di Scozia. »

09 Jan 2006

Renée Fleming and the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall — Two Reviews

On 8 January 2006, the Met Orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall with James Levine, Renée Fleming and Julien Robbins. »

08 Jan 2006

CILEA: L’Arlesiana

For a work that is known as a one-aria-opera, four official (this one included) recordings is not a bad record. And of course most opera-lovers have not only “E la solita storia” in their many tenor recitals but know the baritone aria “Come due tizzi” and the mezzo’s “Esser madre è un inferno” as well. »

08 Jan 2006

Operatunity Winners — Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist

When asked if I had any interest in reviewing the discs of “the Operatunity finalists,” I admit I was so ignorant of what Operatunity was that I had to make a quick web search to find out. »

06 Jan 2006

Dvořák und seine Zeit

Dvořák und seine Zeit – Dvořák and his Time – immediately conveys a singular perspective on some of the vocal music of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) in the context of his generation. Recorded on 17 August 2004, the music on this two-CD set is from the second of two programs that were given at the 2004 Salzburg Festspiel under the rubric of “Dvořák und seine Zeit.” »

06 Jan 2006

Natalie Dessay: Mozart Concert Arias

I wonder how Natalie Dessay would comment on this CD made more than 10 years ago when she was barely thirty? The lady is a dream for every interviewer. »

06 Jan 2006

BELLINI: La Sonnambula

What to do, what to do, with Bellini and Romani’s bel canto masterpiece, La Sonnambula? The exquisite music demands to be performed, so the opera continues to have an existence on the fringes of the standard repertory. »

06 Jan 2006

Ablaberdyeva/Korobeinikov at Wigmore Hall, London — Four Reviews

On 28 December 2005, soprano Alla Ablaberdyeva and pianist Andrei Korobeinikov presented a program of songs by Rachmaninov, Britten and Shostakovich. Here are four reviews. »

04 Jan 2006

Régine Crespin: Wagner and Berlioz Opera Arias

For those who want to possess every single TV appearance of Régine Crespin, this issue will not suffice. Only four items of the EMI DVD devoted to the soprano are to be found on the short DVD that is included with this CD. »

04 Jan 2006

CATALANI: La Falce

Although nothing is mentioned on the cover of the CD, I think this is the first official recording of the opera even if there are some pirates doing the rounds of the collectors (my copy is a Buenos Aires pirate). So this is not an unimportant issue of Catalani’s first opera. »

04 Jan 2006

L'Elisir d'Amore at the Met — Three Reviews

The Metropolitan Opera presented Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love), which "tells of the peasant Nemorino who decides to take some magic elixir sold to him by a quack doctor, so that he can win the heart of a wealthy land-owner, who (to spite Nemorino) has announced her marriage to a sergeant." Here are three reviews: »

03 Jan 2006

Jonathan Lemalu: Love Blows as the Wind Blows

If one should believe British critics, especially English ones, Jonathan Lemalu is a major new bass; one of the greatest talents around whose qualities are widely proven by the fact this is already his third solo CD in a short time. »

02 Jan 2006

BRUCH: Das Lied von der Glocke

A century or so past, those simpler times without the internet, Desperate Housewives, and back-to-back sports and other activities that desperate parents feel they have to chauffeur their children to so they’ll be able to get into the higher levels of student loan debt, Americans joined choral societies and regularly presented well-known oratorios and cantatas: Elijah, The Seasons, maybe Christ on the Mount of Olives if they were really adventurous. »

02 Jan 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz

This 1959 recording is one where the whole is bigger and better than the separate parts. It is the German equivalent to the Cetra recordings of the fifties. Those were maybe not the greatest recording of an opera but one felt that everybody was steeped in the Italian tradition. The same is happening here. »