Recently in Performances
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
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.
21 Feb 2005
Wozzeck at WNO
FIRST nights of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck are not traditionally sellouts, but then this was anything but a traditional first night.
As the main event of Welsh National Opera’s inaugural weekend in its new home, the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay, Saturday night’s performance sent out a volley of positive signals that will stand the company in good stead as it builds new audiences. There are more seats to fill than in WNO’s old house, but a strong forthcoming season combined with adventurous pricing policy should prolong the buzz.
John Allison at Wales Millenium Centre [Times Online, 21 Feb 05]
FIRST nights of Alban Berg's Wozzeck are not traditionally sellouts, but then this was anything but a traditional first night.
As the main event of Welsh National Opera's inaugural weekend in its new home, the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay, Saturday night's performance sent out a volley of positive signals that will stand the company in good stead as it builds new audiences. There are more seats to fill than in WNO's old house, but a strong forthcoming season combined with adventurous pricing policy should prolong the buzz.
Click here for remainder of article.
A Dark Tale of Humanity in Waves of Pity and Terror
By PAUL GRIFFITHS [NY Times, 21 Feb 05]
CARDIFF, Wales, Feb. 20 - For most of its 59-year history, the Welsh National Opera has been looking forward to having a theater built for it here in the capital city of Wales. Now that hope has been fulfilled. On Saturday the company presented its first production made for its new home, the Wales Millennium Center: Alban Berg's "Wozzeck," in a performance that lived up to the occasion in every way. Whether the theater did so is less certain.
Click here for remainder of article.
Night at altar of popularity
By Andrew Clark [Financial Times, 21 Feb 05]
With the first night of Welsh National Opera's new production of Wozzeck on Saturday, the final block in the edifice of Cardiff's #106m arts complex fell into place. The Wales Millennium Centre, which dominates a thriving business and leisure development at the seafront, is bright, spacious and flawlessly egalitarian. Covered by a bronze shell, clad in Welsh slate and commanding the eye with a massive inscription that reads "In these stones horizons sing", the building has succeeded since its official opening in November to be all things to all men.
Click here for remainder of article (subscription to Financial Times online required).
Crushed to death under a hill of beans
[Daily Telegraph, 21 Feb 05]
Rupert Christiansen reviews Wozzeck performed by the WNO at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Shocking the audience is an over-used tactic in the business of opera production, and one that pays swiftly diminishing returns - when Calixto Bieito grinds out his umpteenth coke-fuelled orgy, all we do is yawn.
But surprising the audience is a vital element of good theatre (at its most basic level, it's what keeps us awake), and one of the things I most deeply admire in Richard Jones's recent work is its arresting poetic strangeness: it's impossible to anticipate either its starting point or the journey it will take.
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