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Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
20 Jan 2005
Karita Mattila — A Stunning Leonore
'Fidelio' returns Lyric, cast rise above flawed Beethoven opera By John von Rhein Tribune music critic January 19 2005, 1:00 AM CST "Fidelio" has been missing in action at Lyric Opera for nearly 24 years, much too long for...
Lyric, cast rise above flawed Beethoven opera
By John von Rhein
Tribune music critic
January 19 2005, 1:00 AM CST
"Fidelio" has been missing in action at Lyric Opera for nearly 24 years, much too long for a flawed masterpiece that once held sway on Wacker Drive whenever the great tenor Jon Vickers was available to sing the punishing role of Florestan.
Beethoven's only opera attempts to translate the high-flown democratic ideals he later developed in his Ninth Symphony into credible theatrical form. He didn't fully succeed despite his heroic labors. But dramatic awkwardness finally bows to the music itself: a great score driven by noble sentiment.
Much of that noble sentiment was recognizable in the radiant Finnish soprano Karita Mattila's thrilling portrayal of Leonore, the opera's courageous, larger-than-life heroine, at the Lyric's first performance of the season Tuesday night at the Civic Opera House.
But the Lyric also did itself proud with its casting of the other roles, all of them strongly filled.
Whatever inconsistencies of concept marred German stage director Jürgen Flimm's updated production from the Metropolitan Opera (taken over in his absence by his assistant, Gina Lapinski) were more than offset by the splendidly idiomatic conducting of Christoph von Dohnányi, returning in triumph to the theater that gave him his U.S. operatic debut 36 years ago.
[Click here for remainder of review.]
Beethoven's 'Fidelio' seizes the heart
January 20, 2005
BY WYNNE DELACOMA Classical Music Critic
With all due respect to Beethoven -- creator of those landmark piano sonatas, gripping string quartets and iconic Ninth Symphony -- opera was not his forte. "Fidelio,'' his sole foray into the form, which opened Tuesday night at Lyric Opera of Chicago, has its clunky patches. In Act II, he is so eager to emphasize his points about the value of freedom and selfless love that he belabors them mercilessly.
But such weak spots were easy to overlook, given the powerful musical and theatrical forces at work in this production conducted by the estimable Christoph von Dohnanyi and starring Karita Mattila in the title role, Rene Pape as the jailer Rocco and Kim Begley as the imprisoned Florestan.
"Fidelio's'' story of a wife risking her life to free her unjustly imprisoned husband is universal, and designer Robert Israel has moved the action to the 20th century. The tale of the loving wife, Leonore, who disguises herself as a male prison guard, Fidelio, in an attempt to rescue her husband, Florestan, plays out in a grim concrete prison block. Its gray, forbidding shadow could be falling across God-forsaken stretches of west Texas, Bosnia or South Africa. Originally staged for the Metropolitan Opera by Jurgen Flimm in 2000 and staged for Lyric by Met assistant director Gina Lapinski, this is a world in which important politicians wear well-cut three-piece suits and prison guards sport short-sleeved khaki shirts and brandish billy clubs.
At the center of this barren arena, Mattila's Fidelio glowed like a judiciously hooded but red-hot flame. Previously this season, the Finnish soprano sang a moving Donna Anna in Lyric's "Don Giovanni," and her Leonore/Fidelio offered an even more nuanced blend of glorious singing and riveting acting. Mattila's voice is big and agile, with a bright center and velvety edge, capable of plumbing every facet of Leonore's treacherous emotional journey.
[Click here for remainder of review.]