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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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19 Apr 2005

Sir Thomas Allen: Great Operatic Arias

Some 20 years ago I ended my subscription to Opera Magazine after an article by its editor, the late Harold Rosenthal. He had written a review of La Clemenza di Tito that described tenor Stuart Burrows in words that, for those who did not attend the performance, they had missed the second coming of Enrico Caruso, Jussi Björling and Beniamino Gigli in one person. I had attended and I knew that Rosenthal and his colleagues could be almost funny in their chauvinism but enough was enough. Well, I’m happy to report the old tradition still lives on. I looked at some reviews of this recital by British critics and Giuseppe De Luca, Tito Gobbi and Robert Merrill in their heydays would have been proud of such notices. »

19 Apr 2005

The Cambridge Companion to the Lied

Books described as a "Companion" to this or that and published by university presses should be required to come with a Reader Beware label. As is the case with many books put out by university and many for-profit publishers, the main reason for publishing these is to advance the tenure and promotion prospects of the authors. This is not a bad thing, except that all too often the books aren't very good. »

18 Apr 2005

Muti in New York

Riccardo Muti, the Italian conductor, has been much in the news lately, having quit La Scala – that is an interesting story. But that is not today’s story: Mr. Muti was in New York last week, for a subscription series with the Philharmonic. On his program were two seldom-heard works, the first more seldom heard than the second: Goffredo Petrassi’s “Coro di morti” (“Chorus of Dead Ones”) and Liszt’s “Faust Symphony.” Saturday’s was a concert of the highest order. »

18 Apr 2005

Joseph Schwarz Sings Arias by Verdi, Wagner, Leoncavallo and Meyerbeer

For whom is this fine CD? It is published by Hänssler Verlag; a publishing house that specializes in Christian literature and that has a classical record branch as well. »

18 Apr 2005

Anna in Köln

KÖLN. Als Anna Netrebko ihre Stimme zum silbernen Mond hob wie Rusalka in der gleichnamigen Märchenoper Antonín Dvoráks, tönten die ersten Bravi der 8000 Gäste in der Großoper Kölnarena. Annas Aufstieg ist märchenhaft verlaufen; von Kälte, dem Problem der Nixe Rusalka, war in der gut geheizten und besuchten Halle keine Spur, und einen Prinzen musste sie nicht verführen, sie hat ihn einfach angerufen. José Cura, der gut aussehende und zudem stimmgewaltige Tenor aus Argentinien, war der Einladung gern gefolgt. »

17 Apr 2005

Nabucco at Opera Australia

Despite Nabucco’s rudimentary plot and underdevelopment of its subsidiary characters, its dignity is maintained through its music, which, although still primitive by Verdian standards, already shows signs of the greatness to come. »

17 Apr 2005

Michelle DeYoung in Chicago

Michelle DeYoung, to seriously understate the fact, looked radiant. The first of three performances as Sieglinde and Waltraute in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s hugely successful production of Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung” was behind her, and the American mezzo-soprano seemed to be counting the minutes until she would be back on the Civic Opera House stage making passionate love to Placido Domingo, Siegmund to her Sieglinde in this production. Her cloud of long, crisply crinkled blond hair caught the light like an angel’s aureole as she settled into a conference room backstage at Lyric. She was revved up to talk about her transformation from a Colorado-reared, conservative Christian teenager whose chosen life goal was to marry and have lots of children into an opera singer in demand across the United States and Europe. »

17 Apr 2005

La Vie parisienne at Théâtre Silvia-Monfort

Fondé en 1985 par Olivier Desbordes, Opéra Eclaté Midi-Pyrénées est bien connu des amateurs d’art lyrique qui fréquentent, au mois d’août, le festival de Saint-Céré (Lot). Cette compagnie nationale de théâtre musical, fixée depuis 1996 à Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées), trouve toutefois sa raison d’être dans une décentralisation qui s’est traduite pendant vingt ans par plus de 900 représentations données en France et à l’étranger. »

16 Apr 2005

García's L'isola disabitata at Wake Forest University

The second of two performances of Manuel García’s L’isola disabitata (The Uninhabited Island) in WFU’s Brendle Recital Hall on April 8 was a happy marriage of musicological scholarship and practical vocal pedagogy. I am familiar with Teresa Radomski’s work as an opera and oratorio soloist; the focus of her scholarship – the careful transcription of manuscripts and the creation of a performing edition of a salon opera by García – was fascinating. Her splendid program notes place the work in its historical context and recount aspects of her research. She transcribed the score from a complex original manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) while on research leave. With her brother, musicologist James Radomski, she completed a critical edition of the opera which is being published by A-R Editions, Inc. »

15 Apr 2005

Lotte Lehmann: “Frauenliebe und Leben” — Works by Schumann, Brahms, Schubert and Sacred Songs

Of all the singing geniuses of the 20th century, Lotte Lehmann is among the forefront. Though not blessed with the most beautiful voice or impressive technique, Lehmann knew how to reach her audience through unmatched musical interpretation and expression. She was able to win the love of her audience, and now, almost a century from the start of her career, the world continues to sing her praises. »

15 Apr 2005

Ariodante in Vienna

Am 8. Jänner 1734 wurde erstmals eine Oper von Georg Friedrich Händel am Royal Opera House in Covent Garden gespielt. “Ariodante” hieß sie – und wurde ein voller Publikumserfolg. Bald darauf fiel das Werk in einen 200-jährigen Dornröschenschlaf. Erst ab 1927 erlebte es eine Renaissance, wurde in Stuttgart gespielt, an der Berliner Staatsoper, beim Salzburger Pfingstfestival. In Wien war die opera seria, die auf demselben Stoff beruht wie Shakespeares “Viel Lärm um nichts” (auf “Orlando furioso” von Ariosto), noch nie zu sehen. »

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. »