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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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15 Apr 2005

DUNSBY: Making Words Sing: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Song

In Making Words Sing, Jonathan Dunsby investigates what he calls the "vocality" of song, that is, the "quality of having voice," as the author states in the introduction to his study. By using this perspective, Dunsby focuses on the intensification of the text that occurs when words are set to music, which stands in opposition to the kind of "songfulness" that Lawrence Kramer discussed in Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002). »

15 Apr 2005

English Choral Music

One has to wonder if the number of recordings of English choirs singing English choral music will ever reach a saturation point. This Naxos double disc by the Choir of St. Johns College, Cambridge, may very well signify such a moment through its attempt to chronicle the succession of English choral music from the 19th century to the present. The choir of men and boys sings gloriously, nearly equaling their more famous sister choir at King’s College, yet the musical montage is rather unusual. »

14 Apr 2005

Tristan at Paris

PARIS, April 13 – Huge, dense, taxing, with almost all the action taking place in the heart, Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” is notoriously difficult to stage. Indeed, the composer himself abandoned his first attempt in Vienna in the early 1860’s after no fewer than 77 rehearsals. Now, in a daring experiment, the Paris National Opera has invited the American video artist Bill Viola to accompany the work with his own visual commentary. »

14 Apr 2005

Masked Ball at Covent Garden

The aesthetics of this new staging have been determined by a co-production deal with Madrid and Houston, rather than by any wish to explore Verdi in a modern context. Like La forza del destino earlier this season, it is an old-fashioned singers’ show – safe, bankable, peppered with big-house spectacle but oblivious to the characters’ psychology and Verdi’s elegantly crafted dramatic situations. The onus for making those situations come alive once again falls on Antonio Pappano. »

13 Apr 2005

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

After playing a few tracks I was reminded of the late Harold Rosenthal’s review of a 1973 Callas and Di Stefano-concert in his own Opera Magazine: “This is one of the saddest reviews I ever had to write.” »

13 Apr 2005

RANDALL & DAVIS: Puccini & the Girl

"Puccini & the Girl" is a rare and engrossing work of scholarship that can be enjoyed on several levels. For the Puccini-lover, to say nothing of one who has a special interest in La Fanciulla del West, it will provide a wealth of information not previously available, particularly all in one place. Any one interested in the creative process will find it exposed and examined clearly. The scholar will recognize the fascinating chance discovery, the thrill of the chase and the deep rewards of work undertaken lovingly and with rigorous care by the dedicated and passionate co-authors. »

13 Apr 2005

HANDEL: Athalia

I have long been accustomed to the grumblings of my German and Italian colleagues concerning the pronunciation and expression of musical works in their native languages by English-native singers and choirs. I had chalked it up to benevolent xenophobia, but this beautiful recording gives me new insight into their perspective. »

11 Apr 2005

Faust at Linz

Kam da doch glatt ein Franzose (ausgerechnet!) und stellte 1859 nonchalant das deutsche Literatur-Nationalheiligtum vom Kopf auf die Füße! Sprich: Ignorierte Goethes Motto “Wer vieles bringt, wird manchem etwas bringen” und nahm des Dichterfürsten Ideendrama als Text-Steinbruch einer amour fou. Bei den deutschen Kritikern fiel das Stück durch, das Publikum hingegen war begeistert, bekam es doch genau das zu sehen, wonach es in einer Oper dürstet. »

11 Apr 2005

Pearl Fishers at NYCO

The new “Pearl Fishers” that arrived at New York City Opera on Sunday afternoon came from the San Diego Opera, but it looks as if it came from the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Maybe it was the fluorescent hues; or the attempt to create local color with tinselly choreography; or the stylized patterns painted on the stage, like sun on sand, and the women’s bikinis, which evoked the flavor of a recent addition to the Games, beach volleyball. »

11 Apr 2005

Olga Borodina in New York

My last encounter with Olga Borodina as a songstress was a particularly memorable one, and I daresay it was for her as well. In May 2001 she postponed a Carnegie Hall recital literally at the last minute, a hastily scrawled piece of paper taped over the poster out front our only greeting. Ms. Borodina was suffering from allergies and gamely attempted to forge ahead a week later with James Levine at the piano. The afternoon was challenging, but the half-empty hall was populated by a dedicated group that admired her courage. »

11 Apr 2005

More on Mignon at OONY

Once upon a time, Freedom Fries didn’t exist, no one made apologies for charm and grace, and operas like Ambroise Thomas’ “Mignon” (1866, revised 1870) ruled the boards. As it happens, April 2005 is a throwback to those innocent days of musical Francophilia in New York. The Philharmonic just performed “Damnation of Faust” by Berlioz; a new staging of Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” opened yesterday at New York City Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera presents Gounod’s once-ubiquitous “Faust” with a promising cast later this month. »

11 Apr 2005

SCHUBERT: Die Winterreise

When it comes to any new recordings of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, it is difficult not to think of the fine performances by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at various points in his career. While Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings can serve as points of reference, the recent CD by the baritone Andreas Schmidt adds to the many excellent recordings that already exist for this work. Schmidt brings to this cycle a personal and effective interpretation that emerges clearly in the recording, where the close ensemble with Rudolf Jansen results in a nuanced performance. By allowing themselves fluid tempos, the performers allow the text to serve the music well. At times they linger over a syllable or stretch a phrase to reinforce the meaning. These are subtle differences that are at the core of experienced and effective Lieder performance. »

10 Apr 2005

Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims at the Mariinsky

Rossini’s long-lost, magnificent “party piece,” originally created for an army of bel canto singers, “Il Viaggio a Reims,” is being revived at the Mariinsky Theater, where it premieres on Wednesday with a further performance on April 16. The French actor and director Alain Maratrat is responsible for the staging, while his compatriot Pierre Alain Bertola created the sets. With their show, the French team promises an explosive fusion of Rossini’s subtle comedy and raving Russian madness. »

10 Apr 2005

The Crucible in Boston

Sex, religion and real estate: Put ‘em together, and you’ve got a plot that will bring out the best and the worst in any cast of characters. »

09 Apr 2005

Madama Butterfly at Volksoper Wien

Sieben von zwölf seiner Bühnenwerke sind nach einer Frau benannt. Puccini selbst wird der Satz nachgesagt: “Wenn ich nicht mehr verliebt bin, begrabt mich!” Was lag daher für Regisseur Stefan Herheim näher, als sich der “Madama Butterfly” aus dieser Perspektive zu nähern, die Bühne zeitweise zu einem Puccini-Museum zu machen. Mit stummen Auftritten von Tosca, Mimi und Manon Lescaut, aber auch dem Komponisten selbst. Ungewohnt auch Butterflys Ende: Sie muss in einem blutrünstigen Harakiri ihr Leben lassen. »

09 Apr 2005

Die Tote Stadt in Amsterdam

Die Tote Stadt is often described as Erich Korngold’s masterpiece. An enormous success when first performed simultaneously in Hamburg and Cologne in 1920, it has become one of those pieces every opera fan has heard of, yet few have seen: it has never been staged in Britain. That makes the new production from Netherlands Opera a real collector’s item. Musically and dramatically, it does the work proud. What it can’t do, though, is turn a deeply flawed piece into a good one. »

09 Apr 2005

La finta giardiniera in Cleveland

The CIM Opera Theater is offering two revelations this week, one old and one new. What a joy to experience Mozart’s neglected “La finta giardiniera,” which the precocious fellow wrote at the age of 18. The more recent discovery is soprano Jung Eun Oh, who was a sensation in the title role at Wednesday’s opening. »

09 Apr 2005

Tancredi in Toronto

There is one conspicuous reason for reviving Rossini’s Tancredi in our time. Fortunately that reason — the availability of the Polish contralto Ewa Podles — underlay the Canadian Opera Company’s production of that work which opened Friday night for six performances at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto. »

08 Apr 2005

Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina in Frankfurt

Alcoholism, depression and loneliness were a few of the things that killed Modest Mussorgsky in 1881. He was 42 years old. He left behind the unfinished piano score of Khovanshchina, a vast historical opera that was, among other things, a criticism of Tsar Peter I. »

08 Apr 2005

Ambrose Thomas’s Mignon at OONY

Mignon at OONY turned out to be a mixed experience last night. Eve Queler is controversial as a conductor and last night’s opera did not play to her strengths or do anything to conceal her deficiencies. The overture began in a plodding fashion and only came intermittently alive in the conclusion based on the coloratura showpiece for Philene. Throughout, Mignon has some really lovely arias and ensembles but a lot of note spinning as well and not just during the recitatives (the opera was presented in Thomas’s second of three scores, the one in which he suppressed most — not quite all — of the spoken dialog and wrote his own recits). Ms Queler provided almost nothing to enliven, vary or give grace and charm to these conventional passages. »

07 Apr 2005

Der Ring in Chicago

For opera conductors, the Ring cycle remains the professional Everest. So the fact that Andrew Davis has just completed his first Ring at the Lyric Opera in Chicago marks not merely a career peak for one of this country’s most important conductors, it is also a major event for British music – even if it is taking place thousands of miles from home. »

07 Apr 2005

Un ballo in maschera at the Met

Humor is not a quality normally associated with Verdi. He was a dour fellow, dubbed “the bear of Busetto” by his long-suffering wife. His first comic opera, “Un giorno di regno,” was a crashing failure, and “Falstaff,” his final work for the stage, looks more intently into the abyss than most commentators care to admit. »

06 Apr 2005

HANSEN: The Sibyl Sanderson Story — Requiem for a Diva

Jack Winsor Hansen's 520-page biography of Sibyl Sanderson (1865 - 1903) is packed with romanticism and gossip that will delight and titillate true worshipers of operatic divas and inquisitive opera fans. It also fills a gap in the music-historical writings about opera at the end of the 19th century. »

06 Apr 2005

More On Fanciulla

While ruminating about “Madama Butterfly” in these pages the other week, I mentioned that the de facto premiere of the work was not in Italy at all but rather New York, since the David Belasco play originally opened on Herald Square. In the case of “Girl of the Golden West,” both the Belasco theatrical piece and the Puccini opera were launched in Manhattan, the latter under Toscanini in 1910. »