Recently in Reviews
The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.
I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly
bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s
thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some
Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with
the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music.
His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in
C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the
Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.
Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.
‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.
This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?
A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert. Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.
On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.
On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.
When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.
It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.
Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.
This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at
’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.
With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.
When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.
Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe
Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.
Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.
Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.
A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.
The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.
05 Aug 2005
BIZET: Les Pecheurs de Perles
Bizet's youthful masterpiece is notoriously difficult to stage. Up to now I have not seen a production which is not slightly ridiculous. So it is an ideal opera for a concert performance or a listening experience. If you are looking for an authentic performance this is not the one to go for.
The orchestra is somewhat thin sounding and so is the chorus. Conductor Bruno Rivoli (whose name is printed in the smallest letter possible on the back) has some strange ideas concerning tempi at the start of the opera (the faster the better) until Alfredo Kraus makes his entrance and then Mr. Rivoli gladly follows the experienced guide. There is no libretto included and for those wishing to brush up their French this is not the course to follow. The chorus has no inkling what it is singing and Vicente Sardinero grunts a lot of sounds that vaguely resembles French. Therefore this set is strictly for the fans of the three principal singers and it must be said they will not be disillusioned.
The main attraction of course is tenor Alfredo Kraus whose picture is on the cover though he is at least twenty years younger on it than he was at the time of the performance. Still the voice after a career of 26 years had the youthful sheen which at the end of the eighties would gradually disappear. Kraus is the only singer with perfect French and he is his stylish self though with a few reservations which definitely won't put off his fans as he is playing a home match and not recording a set for the international market he is not too much concerned with note values. Each high note is kept a second longer than necessary though he doesn't make a circus spectacle of this facility. He makes his entrance with a blazing unwritten high C and he keeps up the good works all along .There is in my opinion something lacking in this performance: charm and sweetness. Take the big aria " Je crois entendre encore ". The voice is a little too stiff, too unwieldy to lead us into the land of his dreams. There is no morbidezza in this song which can be found so abundantly in Alain Vanzo's interpretations. Moreover Kraus' attacks on the high notes are always fortissimo, then gradually declining into piano and this makes the aria more of a robust love song than a dream. Of course the moment determination has to be shown his approach works magnificently as in the duet " Ton coeur n'a compris le mien ".
Mariella Devia is a fine Leila — young sounding (and not old as Jeanine Micheau did on the historic set with Gedda) or too thin as with Ileana Cotrubas on the later EMI-set though that lady has a bit more charm than the Italian soprano. Devia's middle register is not very distinct but of course the voice takes flight from middle G on. Baritone Vicente Sardinero mixes up Bizet with Mascagni. There is no elegance in his delivery like Blanc or Massard gave us but there is no denying the fully rounded sound he brings with him. Bass Giovanni Foiani is a deluxe Nourabad in a role which is often weakly cast. Indeed I always wondered why he didn't have a bigger career.
As told, this is not an authentic performance of the score though I take the heretic view that hundred and fifty years of tradition cannot be wiped away as some seasoned performers probably recognized better the beauties of the opera than did 25-year old Bizet himself. The hit of the piece " Au fond du temple sain " is given the traditional reprise of the main theme after the short quarrel between Nadir and Zurga instead of the somewhat clumsy melody Bizet wrote. And I still think that Benjamin Godard's trio " O lumiere sainte " (magnificently sung here) is a more impressive way to conclude the opera than Bizet's own ideas.