Recently in Performances
Puccini Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera. What is Manon Lescaut really about? The Abbé Prévost's 1731 narrative was a moral discourse. Unlike many modern novels, it wasn't a potboiler but a philosphical tract in which the protagonists face moral dilemmas
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
03 Dec 2004
Praises for Rodelinda at the Met
Review: 'Rodelinda' at Met Is Masterpiece MIKE SILVERMAN Associated Press NEW YORK - George Frideric Handel's "Rodelinda" was a huge success at its London premiere in 1725, but it soon vanished from the stage and - like the composer's three...
Review: 'Rodelinda' at Met Is Masterpiece
NEW YORK - George Frideric Handel's "Rodelinda" was a huge success at its London premiere in 1725, but it soon vanished from the stage and - like the composer's three dozen other operas - languished unperformed for nearly 200 years.
Lovely music, went the prevailing assessment, but basically just a long string of arias with no dramatic coherence.
Yet today, "Rodelinda" is recognized as a masterpiece that can enthrall a modern audience if it's cast with first-rate singers and presented in a lively production. Both requirements are met handsomely in the production that premiered Thursday at the Metropolitan Opera, starring soprano Renee Fleming in the title role and directed by Stephen Wadsworth.
Adapting their plot from an obscure eighth-century history, Handel and his librettist streamlined the story to focus on Rodelinda, queen of Milan, and her husband, King Bertarido, who has been overthrown by the tyrant Grimoaldo. When the opera begins, Bertarido is believed dead, and Grimoaldo is plotting to marry Rodelinda, but it turns out the deposed monarch is alive and hoping to reunite with his wife and young son. A subplot involves the king's sister, Eduige, and a villainous court counselor, Garibaldo.
It's true that the opera consists almost entirely of solo arias (28 of them, plus one duet and a final ensemble). But Handel builds the dramatic tension so skillfully that the emotional stakes keep rising during each of the three acts until the happy resolution brings a genuine sense of rejoicing.
Fleming, one of today's operatic superstars, has tackled a diverse repertory at the Met, triumphing in Strauss, Mozart and Verdi, but having less success in Bellini's bel canto relic "Il Pirata." As Rodelinda, she sang with commitment and attention to detail, though her soft-grained voice took awhile to warm up. She hit her stride in Act 2 with a ravishing performance of the aria "Ritorna, o caro" as she awaited her reunion with Bertarido (countertenor David Daniels) then joined him in a meltingly beautiful account of the duet that closes the act before he is led off to prison.
Daniels sang with fire and admirable dexterity throughout the evening, though his middle register at times sounded underpowered. Another bravura countertenor, Bejun Mehta, sang the supporting role of Unulfo, Bertarido's ally in the court. Mezzo Stephanie Blythe was magnificent in her few opportunities to shine as Eduige; as Grimoaldo, South African tenor Kobe van Rensburg made a strong debut, with a voice of modest size but unforced flexibility. Bass John Relyea was compelling as Garibaldo and gets extra points for singing while mounting and riding off on a horse.
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