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Recently in Reviews

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

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.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

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 Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

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.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘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.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

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. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

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.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

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.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

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.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

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.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

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.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

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

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.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

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.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

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).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

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’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

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.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

Carmen in Orange

Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.

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Reviews

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
08 Mar 2006

Mazeppa at the Met — Three Reviews

This season the Metropolitan Opera presents Tchaikovsky's infrequently performed opera, Mazeppa. Acording to the Met, "[a]lthough Tchaikovsky is best known for Eugene Onegin and several great ballet scores, he wrote many other wonderful operas including Mazeppa, which receives its premiere at The Met this season. Premiered in Moscow in 1884, it was first seen in St Petersburg just three days later, and has remained in the repertoire of The Mariinsky Theatre from that time. Based on a poem by Pushkin, it tells the story of a 17th century Ukrainian separatist, who falls in love with a friend’s daughter. The opera is full of tuneful episodes (similar to those in The Queen of Spades) and this is a very rare chance to see the opera in New York." Here are three reviews.

A Met Premiere With a Russian Twist

By FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 8 March 2006]

The last time anything called "Mazeppa" was performed at the Metropolitan Opera was in 1894, when listeners heard a Franz Liszt tone poem of the same name. As for the Tchaikovsky opera, it didn't receive its official Met debut until Monday evening, when it took the stage under the watchful ear of the Kirov's Valery Gergiev.

Click here for remainder of article.


From a Galaxy Far Far Away, Tchaikovsky's Ivan the Rebel

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI [NY Times, 8 March 2006]

Though Tchaikovsky's "Mazeppa" is a staple of the Kirov Opera at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, it has made it only to the periphery of opera companies outside Russia. When the Kirov came to the Metropolitan Opera House in the spring of 1998 to present four Russian operas, "Mazeppa," the least well known, proved a stunning revelation. Conducted by Valery Gergiev, Tchaikovsky's epic about the 17th-century Ukrainian separatist Ivan Mazeppa seemed an anguished, probing and noble work.

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Mazeppa, Metropolitan Opera, New York

By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times, 7 March 2006]

Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa abounds in glorious melodies, thoughtful characterisations, rousing set-pieces, wrenching choruses and wondrous orchestral interludes, both snazzy and sombre. The ending, a mad scene for the gentle heroine culminating in a haunting lullaby, must rank among the composer’s finest inspirations. Still, US performances have been exceedingly rare (the first occurred in 1925), audiences scant. What do we know, after all, about Ukrainian separatists fighting Cossack landowners in the realm of Peter the Great?

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