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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

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L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

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Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

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Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

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Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

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Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

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La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

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64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Anna Bolena (ETO)
06 Apr 2008

ANNA BOLENA – English Touring Opera

In a climate in which bel canto opera seems to be enjoying a steady and welcome revival, ETO opened their current season with a welcome production of Donizetti's historically dubious account of the latter days of Anne Boleyn. The company's...

Gaetano Donizetti: Anna Bolena
English Touring Opera, 13 March 2008

Above: Julia Riley
All photos by Robert Workman courtesy of the English Touring Opera


In a climate in which bel canto opera seems to be enjoying a steady and welcome revival, ETO opened their current season with a welcome production of Donizetti's historically dubious account of the latter days of Anne Boleyn. The company's fine Maria Stuarda three years ago is still fresh in the memory, and one wonders whether the company might be brave enough to complete the 'set' with a staging of Roberto Devereux before too long.

The basic framework of Soutra Gilmour's versatile set serves all three productions on the current tour, and for this opera the set's skeleton had tapestry panels mounted upon it which slid in and out of place to create different spaces and enable characters to conceal themselves from one another.

In the title role, Julie Unwin grew in confidence and vocal security as the evening progressed – at the start her tone, dynamics and vibrato overpowered the musical line a little, but by the middle of the first act she had settled into it and she gave a particularly convincing performance in the lyrical moments of the later scenes.

She was, however, overshadowed by outstanding performances from two colleagues: Julia Riley's Jane Seymour was rich-voiced, elegant, poised, passionate and credible – and although Luciano Botelho's dryish tenor is not quite beautiful, he made almost effortless work of Lord Percy's stratospherically high-lying passages. I suspect that this is one of those roles which, when sung even half-decently, is guaranteed to bring the house down – however Botelho really did deliver it with style and panache.

In fact, while most ETO offerings boast one or two particularly strong performances, I forget the last time they fielded such a strong all-round cast. Former ENO principal Riccardo Simonetti was a commanding Henry VIII, while Jonathan Pugsley's Lord Rochford and Serena Kay's Smeaton were also luxuriously sung.

Performing in an orchestration which suits the forces available (and with several cuts to the score) the company has put together a fine orchestra this time around, too, with some particularly good woodwind – Michael Lloyd conducted.

bolena_124.pngJulie Unwin

ETO's decision to perform in the original Italian – a rare exception to their usual English-language policy – was perhaps a wise one, as this repertoire benefits from the Italian vowel sounds combined with the bel canto melodic lines. However the scrolling surtitles were laughable, full of misspellings and oblivious to what might unintentionally cause amusement. But overall this is a creditable account of an opera which has been unjustly neglected in the country from which it takes its inspiration.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

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