Elsewhere

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Soprano Eleanor Dennis performs Beethoven and Schubert at the 2019 Highgate International Chamber Music Festival

When soprano Eleanor Dennis was asked - by Ashok Klouda, one of the founders and co-directors of the Highgate International Chamber Music Festival - to perform some of Beethoven’s Scottish Songs Op.108 at this year’s Festival, as she leafed through the score to make her selection the first thing that struck her was the beauty of the poetry.

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Giovanni Pacini: Medea

Medea: Melodramma tragico in three acts.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.


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Incoming Artistic Director Rosetta Cucchi announces her 2020 programme inspired by William Shakespeare and the launch of the Wexford Factory Academy for young Irish singers

2020 marks the inaugural Festival for Rosetta Cucchi as Wexford Festival Opera’s Artistic Director. To date only seven previous Artistic Directors have programmed the Festival over its 68-year history. Today Rosetta Cucchi announced her first exciting programme for 2020. For the first time, in a major new development, the Festival will be themed. Inspired by William Shakespeare, each of the three main evening productions in the National Opera House will be based directly or indirectly on the life and work of this great poet and playwright. The three day-time operas, retitled, Pocket Operas / Opera Beag continues this Shakespearian thread, with new productions on the themes of love, fun and the darker side.


Music In The Present Tense: Rossini’s Italian Operas in Their Time

Senici.png“In the early 1800s, Rossini’s operas permeated Italy, from the opera house to myriad arrangements heard in public and private. But after Rossini stopped composing, a sharp decline in popularity drove most of his works out of the repertory. In the past half century, they have made a spectacular return to operatic stages worldwide, but this recent fame has not been accompanied by a comparable critical reevaluation.

Emanuele Senici’s new book provides a fresh look at the motives behind the Rossinian furore and its aftermath by examining the composer’s works in the historical context in which they were conceived, performed, seen, heard, and discussed. Situating the operas firmly within the social practices, cultural formations, ideological currents, and political events of early nineteenth-century Italy, Senici reveals Rossini’s dramaturgy as a radically new and specifically Italian reaction to the epoch-making changes witnessed in Europe at the time. The first book-length study of Rossini’s Italian operas to appear in English, Music in the Present Tense exposes new ways to explore nineteenth-century music and addresses crucial issues in the history of modernity, such as trauma, repetition, and the healing power of theatricality.”


The Last Opera: The Rake’s Progress in the Life of Stravinsky and Sung Drama

Last_opera.pngFrom the fall of 1947 through the summer of 1951 composer Igor Stravinsky and poet W. H. Auden collaborated on the opera The Rake’s Progress. At the time, their self-consciously conventional work seemed to appeal only to conservative audiences. Few perceived that Stravinsky and Auden were confronting the central crisis of the Modern age, for their story of a hapless eighteenth-century Everyman dramatizes the very limits of human will, a theme Auden insists underlies all opera. In The Last Opera, Chandler Carter weaves together three interlocking stories. The central and most detailed story explores the libretto and music of The Rake’s Progress. The second positions the opera as a focal point in Stravinsky’s artistic journey and those who helped him realize it—his librettists, Auden and Chester Kallman; his protégé Robert Craft; and his compatriot, fellow composer, and close friend Nicolas Nabokov. By exploring the ominous cultural landscape in which these fascinating individuals lived and worked, the book captures a pivotal twenty-five-year span (from approximately 1945 to 1970) during which modernists like Stravinsky and Auden confronted a tectonic disruption to their artistic worldview. Ultimately, Carter reveals how these stories fit into a larger third narrative, the 400-year history of opera. This richly and lovingly contextualized study of The Rake’s Progress sheds new light on why, despite the hundreds of musical dramas and theater pieces that have been written since its premier in 1951, this work is still considered the “the last opera.”


Prokofiev’s Soviet Operas

Prokofiev_Operas.png“Prokofiev considered himself to be primarily a composer of opera, and his return to Russia in the mid-1930s was partially motivated by the goal to renew his activity in this genre. His Soviet career coincided with the height of the Stalin era, when official interest and involvement in opera increased, leading to demands for nationalism and heroism to be represented on the stage to promote the Soviet Union and the Stalinist regime. Drawing on a wealth of primary source materials and engaging with recent scholarship in Slavonic studies, this book investigates encounters between Prokofiev's late operas and the aesthetics of socialist realism, contemporary culture (including literature, film, and theatre), political ideology, and the obstacles of bureaucratic interventions and historical events. This contextual approach is interwoven with critical interpretations of the operas in their original versions, providing a new account of their stylistic and formal features and connections to operatic traditions.”


The Operas of Benjamin Britten – Expression and Evasion by Claire Seymour

9781843833147_67_1_47.png“The delicate balance between private and public communication, and the tension between art as self-expression and art as moral resolution were key concerns in Britten’s music. Seymour examines ways in which Britten’s operas explored and articulated the inherent ambiguity and latent sexuality of music, particularly song, and suggests that Britten’s operas may illustrate his search for a public ‘voice’ which would embody, communicate, and perhaps resolve his private beliefs and anxieties.
Analyses of Britten’s operas from Paul Bunyan to Death in Venice, the three Church Parables, and several of the ‘children’s operas’ offer evidence that, for Britten, opera was the natural medium through which to explore, express and, paradoxically, repress his private concerns.”


The Opera Singer’s Acting Toolkit

Opera-Singers-Acting-Toolkit.png“Drawing upon the innovative approach to the training of young opera singers developed by Martin Constantine, Co-Director of ENO Opera Works, The Opera Singer's Acting Toolkit leads the singer through the process of bringing the libretto and score to life in order to create character. It draws on the work of practitioners such as Stanislavski, Lecoq, Laban and Cicely Berry to introduce the singer to the tools needed to create an interior and physical life for character. The book draws on operatic repertoire from Handel through Mozart to Britten to present practical techniques and exercises to help the singer develop their own individual dramatic toolbox.”


The real Traviata. The Song of Marie Duplessis

9780198708544.jpegWeis’s book constitutes the latest and most comprehensive outcome of the interest already surrounding the figure of Marie Duplessis for quite a number of years. As the title suggests, Marie (or, better, Alphonsine) embodies the rather rare case of a real-life character inspiring not only a major writer’s work, but also what the author himself considers “probably the best loved opera in the world” (p. 1). In the case of an operatic work that has almost completely displaced its literary sources, the interest towards the real “fallen woman” has already produced quite significant fruits, both in English and, most notably, in French.

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Glyndebourne announces new Artistic Director

stephen-langridge__02__Stephen_Langridge_-_Konstnarlig_ledare_operadrama_pa_GoteborgsOperan_fr_o_m_sasongen_20132014__Joakim_Hovrevik__GoteborgsOperan.pngStephen Langridge has been appointed Artistic Director of Glyndebourne. Stephen is currently Director for Opera and Drama at Gothenburg Opera, Sweden, a role he has occupied for five years. He will take up his new role at Glyndebourne in spring 2019. . . . [More]


BLACK OPERA: HISTORY, POWER, ENGAGEMENT

 

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From the University of Illinois Press:

From classic films like Carmen Jones to contemporary works like The Diary of Sally Hemmings and U-Carmen eKhayelitsa, American and South African artists and composers have used opera to reclaim black people's place in history.

Naomi André draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore this music's resonance with today's listeners. Interacting with creators and performers, as well as with the works themselves, André reveals how black opera unearths suppressed truths. These truths provoke complex, if uncomfortable, reconsideration of racial, gender, sexual, and other oppressive ideologies. Opera, in turn, operates as a cultural and political force that employs an immense, transformative power to represent or even liberate.

Viewing opera as a fertile site for critical inquiry, political activism, and social change, Black Opera lays the foundation for innovative new approaches to applied scholarship.


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.

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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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