Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.



17 Jan 2005

Britten's Billy Budd in Munich

Gut ein halbes Jahrhundert hat es gedauert, bis “Billy Budd”, Benjamin Brittens 1951 uraufgeführtes Meisterwerk, an der Bayerischen Staatsoper angekommen ist. Ein hochtheatrales Stück zwischen Seemannsgarn und Homoerotik, zwischen Kriegs- und Menschenrecht, zwischen verborgener (Zu-)Neigung und Pflichterfüllung. Ein Stück also, das “funktioniert” und berührt, wie der enthusiastische Premierenbeifall zeigte. Kein Buh, nicht einmal für Regisseur Peter Mussbach, dafür Bravi schon vor Beginn, als Kent Nagano, GMD ab 2006, den Graben enterte.

Stöckelschuhe und Seemannsgarn
Vor allem ein musikalisches Ereignis: "Billy Budd" im Nationaltheater
Edward Morgan Foster, einer der beiden Textlieferanten von Benjamin Britten, hätte womöglich protestiert. "Billy ist unser Erlöser", notierte er, "und doch ist er Billy, nicht Christus". Was der Regisseur, Kitsch-verliebter überdeutlichkeit nicht abgeneigt, irgendwie überlesen haben muss. Wir sehen also Billy an eine Golgatha-gleiche Leiter gefesselt, dann die "Kreuzabnahme" durch Captain Vere, als Eingangsbild aber, aus dem sich alles als Rückblende entwickelt: Billy als Pietà in den Armen dieses Mannes, der durch den schönen Matrosen sein emotionales und erotisches Erweckungserlebnis hatte - der "Messias" also gescheitert?

Gut ein halbes Jahrhundert hat es gedauert, bis "Billy Budd", Benjamin Brittens 1951 uraufgeführtes Meisterwerk, an der Bayerischen Staatsoper angekommen ist. Ein hochtheatrales Stück zwischen Seemannsgarn und Homoerotik, zwischen Kriegs- und Menschenrecht, zwischen verborgener (Zu-)Neigung und Pflichterfüllung. Ein Stück also, das "funktioniert" und berührt, wie der enthusiastische Premierenbeifall zeigte. Kein Buh, nicht einmal für Regisseur Peter Mussbach, dafür Bravi schon vor Beginn, als Kent Nagano, GMD ab 2006, den Graben enterte.

Und mag's im Orchester auch murren, weil man sich bei Naganos Berufung übergangen fühlte, weil auch das absurde Argument kursiert, der Neue habe doch kaum Opernerfahrung: Das Dirigat des künftigen Chefs weckt grosse Neugier. Nagano änderte die Sitzordnung, platzierte tiefe Streicher links und die Bläser direkt vor ihm, wodurch das eigentümliche Kolorit von Brittens Partitur noch verstärkt wurde. München muss also umhören. Denn Nagano ist ja kein Freund süffiger Unverbindlichkeit, sondern ein Schattierungs- und Strukturtüftler.

[Click here for remainder of review.]

Der junge Mann und das Meer

Kent Nagano dirigiert Brittens Seefahrer-Drama ,Billy Budd" und gibt sein Debüt an der Bayerischen Staatsoper

Von christine Lemke-Matwey

Als Winston Churchill für die britische Kriegsmarine zuständig wurde, soll er in einer Rede vor dem House of Commons geknurrt haben: ,Unsere Marine floriert seit Hunderten von Jahren auf Grund von drei Dingen: Rum, Peitsche und Sodomie." Daran ist mehrerlei bemerkenswert. Zum einen sagt es etwas über Politikersprache und deren Deutlichkeit, zum anderen ist das House of Commons keineswegs kollektiv in Ohnmacht gefallen. Und zum dritten benennt diese äusserung in ihrem Sarkasmus eine Stimmung, wie gewiss auch Nicht-Briten sie unweigerlich mit Romanen und Filmen wie ,Moby Dick" oder der ,Meuterei auf der Bounty" assoziieren: stolze Dreimaster in peitschender Gischt, Harpunen, die zuckendes Menschenfleisch durchbohren, rasselnde Säbel, klingelnde Ohrringe, Breitseiten aller Arten - und über allem das Bild einer trotzenden-strotzenden Männlichkeit, das das Salz der Weltmeere wohl bis in alle Ewigkeit auf unsere Netzhäute gebrannt hat.

Mit solcher Piratenseligkeit wollte die Bayerische Staatsoper naturgemäss nichts zu tun haben, als sie Kent Nagano und Peter Mussbach nun mit der Münchner Erstaufführung von Benjamin Brittens Seefahrer-Oper ,Billy Budd" betraute. Das ist richtig und bedauerlich zugleich. Richtig, weil Brittens Musik - und was wäre nach Opern wie ,Peter Grimes" (1945) oder ,The Rape of Lucretia" (1947) je anderes zu erwarten gewesen - in all ihrer Verträglichkeit für das zeitgenössische Ohr, ihrer ebenso überzeugten wie überzeugenden ästhetischen Homöopathie niemals bloss illustriert.

[Click here for remainder of review.]

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):