Elsewhere

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.


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Welsh National Opera explores Madness for autumn season

Madness descends upon Welsh National Opera for its autumn 2015 season, with three new productions that will explore human turmoil through some of the finest musical expressions of madness and the human condition.

The season launches WNO’s 70th birthday year which will see the company stage seven new productions over the course of the year — including two world premières — and a classic revival.

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New Releases from Opera Rara

This month, Opera Rara embark on back-to-back recording projects — Donizetti’s Le duc d’Albe and Gounod’s La Colombe — with their Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder conducting the Hallé. Following last year’s release of Donizetti’s Rita which marked the company’s 50th complete opera recording to date, this is Opera Rara’s second collaboration with the Hallé. La Colombe will be released in November while Le duc d’Albe will be available next spring.

Click here for more information.


A Time-Out With Isabel Leonard: In 'L'Heure Espagnole' at San Francisco Symphony

By Sean Martinfield [Huffington Post, 2 June 2015]

Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard appears with conductor Charles Dutoit and the San Francisco Symphony this week in Ravel's one-act comic opera, L'Heure espagnole. (The Spanish Hour). The program opens with Ravel's brief "morning song," Alborado del gracioso and concludes with Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain featuring pianist Javier Perianes. The opera (not quite an hour) also features tenors Jean Paul Fouchécourt and John Mark Ainsley, along with baritones Jean-Luc Ballestra and David Wilson-Johnson. Isabel sings the role of Concepion, a clockmaker's wife with way-too-much time on her hands. And with three potential lovers in the shop - two of them hidden in tall standing clocks - each counting the minutes until her buffoon of a husband returns, Isabel says, "She's hysterical! A woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown."

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On Site Opera Presents 'Barber of Seville' at Fabbri Mansion on New York’s Upper East Side

By K. Young [Classicalite, 31 May 2015]

This summer, On Site Opera (OSO) will present a new production that personifies the company's mission to produce operas in non-traditional locations ideally suited to the stories they tell. This June (9-13), OSO will stage a site-specific production of The Barber of Seville at the opulent Fabbri Mansion (House of the Redeemer) on New York City's Upper East Side.

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Il Trittico: Puccini's most underrated opera

By Rupert Christiansen [The Telegraph, 29 May 2015]

La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly - and oh yes, “the one with ‘Nessun dorma’ in it”, Turandot - make Puccini the world’s most popular opera composer, and one who earns ever more admiration as a musical dramatist and expressive melodist. Is there still some residual snobbery about his genius? Thirty years ago, I remember being shocked to hear William Walton confess in a television interview that in old age, he had come to love Puccini’s music even more than Verdi’s. Now I begin to sympathise.

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Metropolitan Opera Stars Join Opera Las Vegas in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Four stars of the Metropolitan Opera will headline the Opera Las Vegas fully-staged, live orchestra production of Puccini’s tragic love story Madama Butterfly at Judy Bayley Theatre on the UNLV campus on June 12th and 14th.

Click here for additional information.


Lowering the tone

By Laura Battle [FT, 8 May 2015]

Given the enormous enthusiasm for countertenors and, increasingly, male sopranos that has flourished in recent decades, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the female vocal range. Of course, the trend has been largely dictated by the range of available repertoire. Opera companies and period ensembles, keen to emulate the sound of 17th- and 18th-century castrati, are now spoilt for choice of high male voices. Over the same period of time, true contraltos, considered by many to mark the lower limits of the female vocal range, appear to have all but disappeared.

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The Rake’s Progress, Metropolitan Opera, New York

By Martin Bernheimer [FT, 4 May 2015]

The Met season is gasping to a close, but the final major gasp — a revival of The Rake’s Progress — offers some degree of exhilaration.

Only “some degree”? Blame the qualification on the size of the house. Stravinsky’s quixotic faux-baroque masterpiece had its premiere, back in 1951, at La Fenice in Venice (with none less than Elisabeth Schwarzkopf heading the cast). At the time, the capacity of that theatre was 840. The all-too-mighty Met accommodates 4,000. Enough said, and, alas, enough badly heard.

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Three Tales, Imax Cinema, Science Museum, London

By David Cheal [FT, 24 April 2015]

Steve Reich and Beryl Korot tackle hubris with 2002 ‘video opera’ about science and technology

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Die beste hochdramatische Sopranistin der Gegenwart

By Manuel Brug [Die Welt]

Sie entäußert sich auf der Bühne, gibt perfekt eine vollkommen gestörte Frau, die moderne Mörderin: Die Schwedin Nina Stemme ist die ideale Heroine. Zu Hause mag sie das komplette Gegenteil.

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“Tarquin” an der Berliner Staatsoper: Vom Werden eines Diktators

By Benedikt von Bernstorff [Der Tagesspiegel]

Ernst Krenek hat seine Kammeroper „Tarquin“ 1940 im US-Exil geschrieben, nach der Uraufführung 1950 präsentiert die Werkstatt der Staatsoper im Schillertheater erst die dritte Produktion des Werks. Dabei beweist Krenek, dass sich mit der Zwölftontechnik der Schönberg-Schule effektvolles Musiktheater schreiben lässt. Die Partitur ist für zwei Klaviere, Geige, Klarinette, Trompete und Schlagzeug instrumentiert, die musikalische Dramaturgie suggestiv, tonale Anklänge und ein leitmotivisch eingesetztes Thema mit Sehnsuchtsintervall und Rosenkavalier-Appeal erleichtern den Zugang.

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Moses und Aron, Komische Oper Berlin

By Shirley Apthorp [FT, 21 April 2015]

Holocaust references are a delicate matter on any stage, but a defensible choice in a production of Arnold Schoenberg’s monolithic Moses und Aron. Here, the mountain that Moses descends is a vast pile of Jewish corpses.

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Death Clown for Cutie (Cav and Pag at the Met)

By Micaela [Likely Impossibilities, 19 April 2015]

Men are sensitive and easily injured souls, as ten minutes in any internet comment section would tell you. Such is also the gist of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, the august double bill of verismo which presents us twice with the even more august situation of baritones interfering with soprano-tenor relationships and it all getting very bloody. In the Met's new production, Fabio Luisi makes these high octane scores sound quite classy, but otherwise the two diverge: a dreary, clunky Cav is followed by a fun and punchy Pag. Oh, one other thing in common: for better and for worse, Marcelo Alvarez is the tenor. I shouldn't be putting that last, which might give you an idea of what is going on here.

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A broken heart in a bloodstained nightgown

By Phillip Larrimore [14 April 2015, The Charlotte Observer]

Opera Carolina’s production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Belk Theater is elegantly set, handsomely lit, fleetly conducted, and sung with high virtuosity, especially among the principals.

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Voices in space: Meredith Monk & friends construct musical cathedrals at 50-year anniversary concert

By Rebecca Lentjes [bachtrack, 5 April 2015]

“The rhythm of words takes away from my sense of rhythm,” Meredith Monk explained after a riveting performance of her piece Things Heaven and Hell by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. The third part of Ms. Monk’s 1992 work Three Heavens and Hells, this piece was one of only a handful to incorporate real words in the entirety of the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall last weekend.

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Beyond Falstaff in ‘Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor’: Otto Nicolai’s Revolutionary ‘Wives’

By John R Severn [Music & Letters, February 2015]

This article explores how Otto Nicolai and Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Berlin, 1849) might contribute to an alternative reception history of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which the play’s unusual features—in particular the central role it gives to female agency, family life, and the natural world—are positively valued.

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Scheherazade.2: Violin, cimbalom and female empowerment star in John Adams’ new work

By Rebecca Lentjes [Bachtrack, 28 March 2015]

John Adams has been known to draw inspiration from American writers—Walt Whitman, E. Annie Proulx—for his works, but his most recent composition, Scheherazade.2, is presented as a musical sequel of sorts to the sprawling Middle Eastern collection One Thousand and One Nights. Mr Adams explained at the piece’s world première on Thursday…

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