Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

Don Giovanni in Paris

A brutalist Don Giovanni at the Palais Garnier, Belgian set designer Jan Versweyveld installed three huge, a vista raw cement towers that overwhelmed the Opéra Garnier’s Second Empire opulence. The eight principals faced off in a battle royale instigated by stage director Ivo van Hove. Conductor Philippe Jordan thrust the Mozart score into the depths of expressionistic conflict.

A riveting Rake’s Progress from Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival

Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to Neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic ‘progress’ from blissful ignorance to Bedlam.

The Gardeners: a new opera by Robert Hugill

‘When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot,/ Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,/ And flowers will shine in this now barren plot/ And fame upon it through the years descend:/ But many a heart upon each simple cross/ Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.’

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

22 Oct 2004

Four Reviews of Die Zauberflöte at the Met

Julie Taymor -- and Mozart Too By HEIDI WALESON [Wall Street Journal] October 14, 2004; Page D7 New York The Metropolitan Opera usually showcases singers, not star directors, but the Met's newest production is most definitely the "Julie Taymor 'Zauberflote'"...

Julie Taymor -- and Mozart Too

By HEIDI WALESON [Wall Street Journal]
October 14, 2004; Page D7

New York

The Metropolitan Opera usually showcases singers, not star directors, but the Met's newest production is most definitely the "Julie Taymor 'Zauberflote'" ("Magic Flute"). Ms. Taymor is best known for "The Lion King," which has been running for almost seven years on Broadway, but her startlingly original visual imagination also worked brilliantly with Mozart, illuminating this complex work without overpowering it.

With set designer George Tsypin and lighting designer Donald Holder, Ms. Taymor created a compelling universe for "Flute." Mozart's last opera, with sung and spoken text by Emanuel Schikaneder, mixes grandeur, pathos and whimsy. Unlike many directors, who often slight one for the others, Ms. Taymor succeeded in making all those elements work together. She understood that the grand Enlightenment scheme of the opera is about the journey from darkness into wisdom. In the ideal union of Tamino and Pamina, sense and sensibility temper and strengthen each other. Ms. Taymor's nonrepresentational world, explored through creative combinations of materials (glass, steel and billowing silks) and light made those themes clear while maintaining the humanity of the characters.

The production exploited the Met's sophisticated stage machinery to create the fears and confusions of that journey, for the path to enlightenment is not easy. Four large transparent squares, each with a different geometric opening (a triangle, a square, a large circle and a small one) at the center, first appeared independently, circling on the stage turntable. But as Tamino, Papageno and Pamina stumbled along, they moved to create jagged angles and dizzying kaleidoscopic vistas. "Where am I?" the characters often asked, and in this world of hard edges, strange reflections, darkness and no recognizable landmarks, it was no wonder. No wonder, also, that when they found each other they clung together, only to be torn apart again. Ms. Taymor even captured the terror of the final trials of fire and water with two proscenium-high figures, their helmets filled with flame, that guarded the portal.

[Remainder of article here (subscription to WSJ Online required)]


Die Zauberflöte, Metropolitan Opera, New York

By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times]
Published: October 13 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 13 2004 03:00

Graceful geese swoop through the black sky. The baddest of bears prance about the proscenium with surreal bonhomie. Exerting stylised menace, a collapsible serpent stalks the puny hero. Blissful storks traipse the boards sur les pointes. A flying lobster snaps its claws at a would-be devourer.

The basic set, constantly evolving and revolving, evokes a pyramid locked in a gigantic ice-cube. It's a fantastic show. It's Julie Taymor's Die Zauberflöte. It may not be Mozart's.

With her inspired accomplices (set designer George Tsypin, lighting director Donald Holder, puppet-master Michael Curry, choreographer Mark Dendy), Taymor has left no turn unstoned in her effort to make the old operatic fable look nifty. She invokes all manner of scenic mumbo-jumbo to tell the tale on her own cleverly picturesque terms.

[Remainder of article here (subscription to Financial Times Online required)]


Taymor's 'Flute' is utterly enchanting

By HOWARD KISSEL [New York Daily News]
DAILY NEWS CRITIC
Monday, October 11th, 2004

Although Mozart's "Magic Flute" is one of the most sublime operas ever composed, in its own time it was most definitely part of Show Business.

That's why it was a brilliant idea to have Julie Taymor (Broadway's "The Lion King") direct and design a sorely needed new production for the Met. It opened Friday night and has a performance tonight.

In contrast with other opera directors, Taymor's soaring imagination is always at the service of the composer. Her production captures the grandeur of the work and is also, hands down, the best show in town.

Unlike other Mozart masterpieces, which were written to be performed at court, "The Magic Flute" was intended for a theater with a box office.

Despite its allusions to the ideals of the Enlightenment and to Masonry (Mozart, his friend Haydn, and Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto, were all Masons), "Flute" is at heart a fairy tale. As such, it was a boffo hit in 1790 and has remained so ever since.

In her costume designs (and in the imposing sets of George Tsypin), Taymor conveys both the somberness of the ideas that underpin the plot, as well as its delicious fancifulness.

[Remainder of this article here (no subscription or registration required)]


Amadeus Ex Machina

Chagall and Hockney have already had their way with Mozart's Magic Flute. Now--cue the kite puppets --it's Julie Taymor's turn.

By Peter G. Davis [New York Magazine, October 25, 2004]

Mozart's music may not always take second place when the Metropolitan Opera stages The Magic Flute, but--at least as long as I've been around--the productions have been mostly defined by their sets and costumes. And, true to form, the big buzz over the latest Flute centers on Julie Taymor, Tony-winning director of The Lion King, and her take on this immortal operatic fantasy. No wonder, since her Asian-influenced sense of theater, with its kite puppets, animal imagery, and masks, together with set designer George Tsypin's translucent geometric shapes and sculptures, give the eyes plenty to take in. To judge from the roars of approval on opening night, audiences will be finding new visual marvels to savor in this production for many years to come.

Yes, Taymor's stage is a very busy one, but not so frantic as to obscure what is at heart a fairly traditional approach to the dramatic action. Sarastro and the Queen of the Night, their mythical realms located somewhere between the sun and the moon, are clearly depicted in a pitched battle between good and evil; the young lovers Tamino and Pamina are tested, grow, and become wise through their adventures; everyday folk like Papageno and Papagena remain endearingly unaware of life's mysteries as they eat, drink, and make babies; and illusion is omnipresent as the characters wander through a world where humans of all ethnicities mix in surroundings that remain in a constant state of magical mutability. The stage pictures are dazzling, but the real wonder of Taymor's production is how precisely movement is counterpointed with music to reflect the enormous emotional range of Mozart's score, from slapstick comedy to solemn spirituality.

[Remainder of article here (no subscription required)]


Staging note:

The Stilts Beneath Their Wings
By DANIEL J. WAKIN [New York Times]

Mark Mindek walks into the Metropolitan Opera as a 5-foot-11-inch dancer and walks out onto the stage as a 12-foot dancing bird. He and a fellow dancer, James Graber, play two of the Julie Taymor-created creatures that flirt with Papageno, the girl-crazy bird catcher of Mozart's "Magic Flute," in the second act of Ms. Taymor's new production at the Met, which has performances on Monday and Thursday. How do the dancers manage to reach and lunge while tottering on stilts?

[Remainder of article here (subscription required for archived articles)]

Recommended recordings:

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):