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L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.

La Vestale, La Monnaie, Bruxelles

In the first half of the 19th century, Spontini’s La Vestale was a hit. Empress Josephine sponsored its premiere, Parisians heard it hundreds of times, Berlioz raved about it and Wagner conducted it.

Shattering Madama Butterfly Stockholm

An intelligent updating and outstanding performance of the title role lead to a shattering climax in Puccini's Japanese opera



13 Dec 2004

A Wedding in Chicago: Two Reviews

Altman opera a fitting renovation By Bill Gowen Daily Herald Classical Music Critic Posted Monday, December 13, 2004 It's rare that a film director has an opportunity for a do-over. But Robert Altman is no ordinary director, having created several...

Altman opera a fitting renovation

By Bill Gowen Daily Herald Classical Music Critic
Posted Monday, December 13, 2004

It's rare that a film director has an opportunity for a do-over.

But Robert Altman is no ordinary director, having created several of the most honored films of the past 40 years.

But even he will admit "A Wedding," filmed in Lake Forest in 1977 and released by 20th Century Fox the following year, isn't on the same exalted plane as "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Nashville" or "M*A*S*H." So when composer William Bolcom approached him about turning "A Wedding" into an opera, Altman wasn't all that enthusiastic.

But their successful Lyric Opera collaboration with "McTeague" in the 1992-93 season remained fresh in Altman's mind, and after several years' contemplation, the operatic "A Wedding" was born, with Altman the stage director and co-librettist (with Bolcom's longtime librettist, Arnold Weinstein). This creative team has come up with another operatic winner in a comedy of manners that presents a glimpse of a societal clash between two disparate families, one of them uncultured and nouveau riche from Louisville, the other a snobbish, high-society clan from the North Shore. Both are hiding numerous dark secrets from their past.

[Click here for remainder of article.]

Bolcom Musically Weds the Old Money to New


CHICAGO, Dec. 12 - Most composers count themselves lucky to secure even one commission from a major opera company. William Bolcom has had three in relatively quick order from one America's leading companies, the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The first resulted in the intense and gothic "McTeague," of 1992. Then came "A View From the Bridge" in 1999, a work Mr. Bolcom described as his journey into "Brooklyn verismo." On Saturday night the Lyric Opera presented the world premiere of "A Wedding," adapted from Robert Altman's 1978 film.

I wish I could report that the Lyric Opera's admirable faith in Mr. Bolcom, a prodigiously skilled composer, has emboldened him. But musically "A Wedding" plays it safe. In some ways it is the least compelling of the three works, each written with Mr. Bolcom's longtime lyricist, Arnold Weinstein, as librettist.

Be assured that you will have a good time attending "A Wedding." Mr. Altman, who collaborated with Mr. Weinstein on the libretto, has directed the striking production, drawing nuanced and vibrant portraits from a splendid cast. The creators have done an ingenious job of adapting the film into an opera that holds the stage effectively. No small feat, since the film's 48 characters had to be reduced to 16 singing parts.

Based on a story by Mr. Altman and John Considine, the film is a bleakly satirical, class-skewering tale of a wedding between Dino, the rakish son of a wealthy family from the posh Chicago suburb of Lake Forest ("old money" people) and "Muffin," the smitten and vacuous daughter of a trucking magnate from Kentucky ("new money" people who haven't yet acquired the snobbish pretensions of the old).

Still, music should come first in opera and Mr. Bolcom takes a frustratingly deferential role, as if he were afraid to impede the stage show or undermine a sight gag. The score is filled with snappy songs and dance numbers, extractable arias, clever ensembles and pleasing bits. But after a while the music seems slight. I wish Mr. Bolcom had tried to entertain his listeners a little less and challenge them a little more.

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