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).
19 Oct 2006
DONIZETTI: Alahor in Granata
A yellow banner in the lower right hand corner of the slip case cover (identical to that of the jewel box and booklet) proclaims this CD as the "first world recording" of Gaetano Donizetti's Alahor in Granata.
In today's market, a second will not be soon arriving, but not to worry. On the debit side, although the opera's score presents itself as the sturdy dramatic work of a talented craftsman, it lacks those glittering moments of genius that secured Lucia di Lammermoor a place in the core repertory, or even those flashes of inspiration that inspire occasional revivals of La Favorite or the "three queen" operas. To the recording's credit, however, a more enthusiastic or professional performance than this is hard to imagine.
Two excellent booklet essays detail the complex history of the opera's composition and the even more labyrinthine ongoings of the libretto, which passeth all understanding. Granada under Muslim rule provides the setting for betrayal, revenge, passion, and joy, all exhibited at the zenith of the range of human emotion. It is enough that there are plentiful opportunities for choral, ensemble, and solo vocal display. The Orchestra of the city of Granada may not be of world-renown, but they exhibit more than enough skill for Donizetti's score, and the seasoned leadership of Josep Pons supports the singers at every step.
When it came time to find singers, the opera really found luck on its side. The excellent Simone Alaimo has the title role, a baritone lead, and it perfectly suits this accomplished bel canto artist. As his sister, soprano Patricia Pace has a bright, dancing vocal timbre that sometimes falls a bit shy of the note, evoking a plaintive air (and a slight reminiscence of the great Edita Gruberova).
But the discoveries of this recording are two young singers, even younger in 1998, the time of the recording. Vivica Genaux now brings her quick, light mezzo to many of the world's best opera houses. Here she finds herself, if not for the first time (and far from the last) in pants. Her quickness and delineation have a heroic quality which make the cross-dressing entirely fitting. Juan Diego Florez now stars in the top opera houses, and here he is in his-mid-twenties. The tangy, sharp tone is unmistakable, as is his control and skill in fast, high music. Genaux and Florez have a long duet near the end of act one that alone makes this set a desirable acquisition for fans of contemporary singers.
So Alahor in Granata, after falling into many decades of obscurity, finds itself resurrected, and the living proof comes in a handsome recording in fine sound. Bel canto lovers and Donizetti worshipers, rejoice.