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Probing Bernstein and MacMillan double bill in Amsterdam

The Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in Amsterdam is about new things: new compositions, rediscovered works and new faces. This year’s program included a double bill produced by Dutch National Opera’s talent development wing. Leonard Bernstein’s portrait of a miserable marriage in affluent suburbia, Trouble in Tahiti, was the contrasting companion piece to James McMillan’s Clemency, a study of the sinister side of religious belief.

Macbeth in Lyon

A revival of the Opéra de Lyon’s 2012 Occupy Wall St. production of Verdi’s 1865 Macbeth, transforming naive commentary into strange irony, some high art included.

Barber of Seville Is Fun in Tucson

On March 4, 2018, Arizona Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in Tucson. Allen Moyer designed the bright and happy scenery for performances at Minnesota Opera,

Moody, Mysterious Morel

Long Beach Opera often takes willing audiences on an unexpected journey and such is undeniably the case with its fascinating traversal of The Invention of Morel.

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.



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.

[Click here for remainder of article.]

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