Recently in Reviews
With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia
Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory
mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola,
whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the
Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.
'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.
On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.
In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener
Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.
In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the
Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in
a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.
I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and
Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series
programmes opening the New Year.
There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.
On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.
Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.
A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.
One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle
Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement”
for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and
anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the
emotions and reason of the audience.
Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal,
Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its
focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy
and with a clever twist,
Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner
productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and
Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it
comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.
Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.
16 Aug 2005
Collectors have known this piece for more than a quarter of a century due to the MRF-pirate recording. Some have probably transferred these LP's unto CD-R and don't see a reason why they should buy this issue. Well, there is one and it's a compelling one. The MRF-sound was good mono, obviously culled from a radio broadcast. This Bongiovanni-issue however gives us the original brilliant stereo sound and it makes for a world of difference. I always liked the opera though I thought the first act somewhat lacking in inspiration; the performance only taking fire by Labo's first appearance. This set cured me of that impression while the choruses and brilliant orchestration (even somewhat too showy to prove Cilea had mastered his craft after Adriana where the violins are mostly doubling the vocal line) are now crystal clear and one quickly recognizes the inspired melodious ideas of the maestro.
Of course Cilea had moved on after the initial impact of Adriana which strangely enough disappeared after two years of initial successes on the boards only to re-emerge in the twenties, this time to stay forever. He too suffered under the attacks that he could only write a few tunes which he then consequently repeated endlessly. Therefore in Gloria he went for the uninterrupted flow of the music Puccini would use three years later in his Fanciulla. Nevertheless though the arias and duets are well hidden by orchestral postludes they still are clearly discernable and though they don't fall so easily on one's ears like " Poveri fiore " or " La dolcissima " they are still memorable after a few hearings; the final duet being especially worthwhile.
The recording has two exceptional singers in the title role. The American soprano Margherita Roberti shone ten years in dramatic coloratura roles in Italy and she is here caught at her very best : a supple rich sound which easily overcomes the many vocal hurdles. Labo (" probably one of the biggest voices in one of the smallest frames I ever saw ", was the definition a friend gave me who heard him frequently at the Met) is one of the tenors who are often talked about on opera forums with the epitaph " if he would be singing now etc ". This may be nostalgia but it nevertheless is true: the voice with the fine burnished sound is big, easily recognizable and even from bottom to the easy high notes. Maybe Villazon's sound comes nearest though the Mexican tenor has not quite the splendid top Labo had His role is not overlong (indeed the whole opera only lasts less than an hour and twenty minutes) but heavy with a lot of difficult intervals which he makes sound so easy. Baritone Lorenzo Testi is not completely in the same class as the two title main singers but he still brings with him a good and gruff voice well suited to the villain of the piece. Ferruccio Mazzoli on the other hand sings with splendid richness his few lines. In short this cast has nothing to fear from comparison with the 1907-creators Zenatello, Amato and Kruszelnicka; none of whom ever recorded a single note from this opera.
Personally I'd dearly wish to see a production of this opera (one of the many offspring's of the Romeo and Julia-theme, this time set in medieval Siena) but I fear neither the singers nor the right spirit to revive Gloria are available at this time. The bonus is an interesting one: some Cilea's songs sung by tenor Leonardo De Lisi (nice timbre; too much thickening of the tone above the staff) and soprano Anastasia Tomaszewska Schepis (a little too shrill under pressure). The songs are not particularly distinguished and sound a little bit too laboured; Francesco Tosti obviously had nothing to fear from Cilea who reserved his best tunes for his operas So I cannot say these songs are a warm recommendation for the CD with the complete chamber songs by these same artists (GB 2336-2) Still, the set is a must in every collector's cupboard.