Recently in Reviews
Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.
On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.
English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman
theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or
amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators
or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in
other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.
The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard
Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014
by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine
Goerke in the title role.
Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.
The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?
Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).
01 Nov 2005
BORODIN: Prince Igor (Highlights)
Not long ago the record label Delos announced that they would embark on a series of studio recordings of highlights from operas. This intriguing idea seemed to address the recording crisis spawned by the shrinking market for full studio sets, with their high cost for both producer and purchaser.
The first disc, of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, featured Dmitri Hvorostovsky in one of his signature roles, Prince Yeletsky, as well as Elena Obraztsova, and Sergei Larin. Despite this fairly successful disc, the series apparently suffered a quiet, ignored death.
Naxos may feel Delos had a good idea, as indicated by a recent release of studio-recorded highlights from Borodin’s Prince Igor. No star as glittery as Hvorostovsky headlines the cast, but the CD offers both the well-known selections (such as the overture and the Polovtsian Dances, here performed with chorus) and four arias.
But why only four arias? At 57 minutes, the CD has plenty of room for more music from the opera, and 7:32 of that total goes to a decent but not outstanding run through of Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia. Such stingy allotment of the opera’s music suggests that Naxos does not feel the opera has that much that can be considered a highlight.
The frustration suggested here derives from the enjoyment produced by the four arias as recorded. Taras Shtonda, a bass, puts across a wonderful comic aria, “I don’t like boredom,” a paean to the sentiment so well expressed once by Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be king!”
Angelina Shvachka’s ripe, very Slavic mezzo will not be to everyone’s taste, but her aria, “Daylight is fading,” showcases Borodin’s atmospheric way with melody. The similarly titled “Slowly the day was fading,” sung by tenor Dmytro Popov, is a seductive ballad, though Popov’s unrelenting volume might be more effective live.
Finally, the title character, sung by Mykola Koval, sings the great “There is neither sleep, nor rest.” Koyal’s vibrato is unrestrained, where restraint could well have been urged, and his top threatens to collapse on him, but he certainly delivers on the drama of this piece.
Naxos, for once, provides a bilingual libretto (Russian/English), but since only the four arias and the choral Polovtsian Dances require translation, no less should be expected, even at Naxos’s prices.
The singers mostly come from the Ukraine National Opera. Kuchar leads the Ukraine National Radio Symphony with authority, and the recorded sound has fine balance and clarity.
Again, surely additional music from the opera should have been included for this disc to be a true “highlights” disc. As it is, Naxos has provided, for modest cost, an enjoyable disc of music from an opera that remains an obscurity, despite the fame of the overture and the Polovtsian Dances. Better singing can be heard on the complete sets of the opera, which can be found by the diligent and dedicated. Otherwise, this Naxos disc will hopefully serve to introduce some listeners to a few of the other delights of the work.
And Naxos will, one hopes, continue in the effort to keep the embers of operatic studio recording aglow, even if it has to be this sadly abridged form.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy