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The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
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.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
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.
03 Aug 2005
ROSSINI: Equivoco Stravagante
A DVD performance of an opera may deserve recommendation for a single memorable performance, or because a rare work has finally been recorded, or simply for nostalgia's sake. How many DVDs primarily offer the pleasures of a witty, imaginative staging, done on a minimal budget?
Francesco Esposito (director and designer) has created such a performance for this Kicco Music DVD. Some Rossiniites may have been praying for a chance to see the very early L'Equivoco Stravagante; one hopes to be forgiven for suggesting the clamor elsewhere could not have been so great. The libretto's one amusing feature, alluded to in the title, involves a scam meant to convince an older suitor that his intended bride is actually a male — a castrato. That plot point takes up most of the shorter act two; act one offers a more familiar set of scenes of young lovers struggling against the preemptory rights of age and money. In fact, that first act contains many eerie foreshadowing of Barbieri di Siviglia, including the tenor suitor's disguised entrance into the house of his beloved, aided by that home's servant.
The score cannot compete with that of the later masterpiece, but the music remains fresh and energetic throughout.
Esposito, working with a cast of no great distinction, manages to make the performance come to life, mainly through his clever design. No one would mistake this for a Metropolitan Opera production. Clearly the theater is small and the budget tight. Necessity has engendered much creativity, however. Three large frames, representing different rooms and/or locales, dominate the stage. Within each frame are carefully selected props that truly evoke the required milieu — the kitchen setting in act one, with realistic steam seeping through pot lids, serves as just one example.
Most importantly, Esposito has sought out ways to keep the stage picture as fresh as the energetic action. So that sometimes only one of the frames is used, or two at other times too. In some scenes the chorus appears behind a long row of smaller frames, making for am amusing row of portraits. Through a variety of approaches Esposito keeps the action moving and still manages to set the scene. It is very well done.
Viewers may differ on whether the occasional use of film deserves as much praise. The overture accompanies some mystifying antics involving a Rossini bust come to life. Later, as the buffoonish older suitor imagines with horror the supposed male he has been romancing, we see that character (mezzo-soprano Olga Voznessenskaia) with full beard, entertaining a bevy of nymphs. (this is before the "knife" — here scissors — but surely a bearded youth wouldn't have a voice worth preserving through such extreme measures!)
Similarly, including the audience seating area in the action smacks a bit of desperation for innovation. The general spirit of fun allows for a forgiving spirit, however.
If only that spirit could extend to the reaction to the singers. The older suitor, played by the youthful Luciano Miotto, is decent enough, both as actor and singer. The other two leads leave much to be desired. The tenor, Vito Martino, is the anti-Juan Diego Florez — having neither that great singer's charming appearance or sweet, fluid instrument. One can only imagine how much more rewarding this performance would be with a more effective tenor.
Voznessenskaia, the supposed castrato in love with the tenor and eager to escape the clutches of the "basso comico," possesses a dark, heavy contralto, which belies the supposed youthful femininity of the character in the first act. The second act masquerade might be more believable with such a voice. Suffice it to say, when this contralto and tenor get together, the resulting duet makes for some uncomfortable listening.
The DVD has one large demerit — the titles, at least in English, are even worse than usual. One may become accustomed to the typical DVD's odd spelling or wayward syntax. Here, however, the shoddy translation makes some of the story incomprehensible. Surely someone can do better than "A man without a head in his head" or "Life don't out of me!" On the other hand, sometimes the mangled English becomes quite poetic as the mezzo decries the "frenetic delirium of a pygmy thinker" and the basso worries that he is engaged to a cross-dresser with "a rock beneath the waves." Ouch!
A mixed bag, therefore. On a vocal level, this L'Equivoco Stravagante can't merit a recommendation. As an example of what a truly creative director can do under less than ideal circumstances, the DVD provides much to ponder, and even enjoy. And Francesco Esposito deserves credit for that.
Los Angeles Harbor College