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Elsewhere

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.


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A Shakespearean Songbook

By Matthew Gurewitsch [WSJ, 12 December 2014]

While he lived, the schoolmaster’s son Franz Schubert made no great splash in the world. Intimates called him Schwammerl, or Mushroom, supposedly because he was small and round. His occasional travels never took him more than 200 miles from his native Vienna. Before his death, much of his music was played only at private gatherings or not at all. Yet the catalog of symphonies, piano sonatas, chamber music and sacred works he brought forth in his brief 31 years—four years fewer than Mozart’s, 26 fewer than Beethoven’s—places him well and truly in the company of the immortals. Arguably most impressive of all is his legacy of song, inexhaustible in its Shakespearean variety, upward of 700 items, each, to the mind of Graham Johnson, “a law unto itself.”

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daggers are a thane’s best friend

By John Yohalem [Parterre Box, 12 December 2014]

A Birnam Wood of Macbeths and Ladys has come traipsing through New York this year. Dell’ Arte Opera staged Verdi’s early masterpiece last Summer, and the Met revived its grandiose production of the work back in the Fall. The Met followed that up with a splendid revival of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. And now the Manhattan School of Music’s Opera Theater program (through Sunday) is giving performances of Ernest Bloch’s opera of the same (only to be whispered) name.

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Making a Note of It

By Eric Felten [WSJ, 28 November 2014]

In our age of easy playback, it’s hard to imagine how ephemeral music once was.

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anger’s aweigh

By John Yohalem [Parterre Box, 22 October 2014]

It was a night a-tingle with excitement at the Metropolitan Opera House. At least part of this lay in never knowing when vocal protests might explode (verbally) somewhere in the auditorium.

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The Royal Shakespeare Company Releases Music From Its Archive

By Ari Shapiro [NPR, 12 October 2014]

For more than a century, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England has hired composers to write original music for its productions. That sheet music has sat in a vault for decades — until now.

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In Bruges

By John Yohalem [16 September 2014, Parterre Box]

They say that Boston, despite many cultural distinctions, ain’t no opera town, and for some decades—generations?—this has been true. But tides of change will break, even on the shores of the Hub. There is a baroque opera revival, spawned by the Boston Early Music Festival (a Monteverdi trilogy arriving next spring) and leading to hi-jinks at the region’s many schools, and to Boston Baroque, which gives Handel’s Agrippina in April. The somewhat traditional Boston Lyric Opera presents everything from Lizzie Borden (last month) to La Traviata (next month), though confining itself to three or four productions a year.

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Great Expectations: A New Season Of New Music

By Tom Huizenga [NPR Music]

Musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen once quipped: "The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition." But it's tough to see much gloom when faced with the diversity of premieres and provocative programming around the country in the 2014-2015 season.

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Theatre of war: new-found patriotism meets old-school propaganda in a Russian opera about Crimea

By Amelia Glaser [2 September 2014, The Calvert Journal]

This year, Russia has revelled in grand demonstrations. If Sochi’s opening ceremony is now a distant memory, the annexation of Crimea has offered a theme for mass spectacle to rival those of the Soviet Union. The Night Wolves motorcycle club (Russia’s Hells Angels) recently hosted their annual bike show in Sevastopol in Crimea, dedicated to the defenders of the fatherland from 1941 to 2014. Poems celebrating Russia’s historical struggle for Crimea were interspersed with black-clad “fascists” dancing to soundbites from Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. President Vladimir Putin sent a greeting; Steven Seagal made an appearance. These larger-than-life images of a triumphant fatherland, venerated leader and glorious history suggested a new return to Socialist Realism, albeit with a post-socialist twist.

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The Classical Cloud

By Alex Ross [8 September 2014, The New Yorker]

Recently, while moving my CD collection to new shelving, I struggled with feelings of obsolescence and futility. Why bother with space-devouring, planet-harming plastic objects when so much music can be had at the touch of a trackpad—on Spotify, Pandora, Beats Music, and other streaming services that rain sonic data from the virtual entity known as the Cloud?

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Operalia 2014 winners include Mario Chang, Rachel Willis-Sørensen

By David Ng [31 August 2014, LA Times]

The winners of the 2014 Operalia competition were announced Saturday evening at the conclusion of the finals competition held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Tenor Mario Chang from Guatemala and soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen of the U.S. took home the two first-place prizes.

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Delusion of the Fury - Heiner Goebbels brings an extraordinary opera to life

By Andrew Clements [31 August 2014, The Guardian]

Heiner Goebbels has been a regular visitor to the Edinburgh festival since the 1990s; a succession of his unique music-theatre hybrids, from Black on White in 1997 onwards, have had their British premieres there. But his latest visit was the most extraordinary yet - the staging of Delusion of the Fury, Harry Partch's only completed opera, which Goebbels created last year with Ensemble musikFabrik as part of his three-year directorship of the Ruhrtriennale.

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