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The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

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A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

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English Touring Opera: Xerxes

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English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

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English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.

Dream of the Red Chamber in San Francisco

Globalization finds its way ever more to San Francisco Opera where Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara saw the light of day in 2015 and now, 2016, Chinese composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber has been created.

San Diego Opera Opens with Recital by Piotr Beczala

Renowned Polish tenor Piotr Beczala and well-known collaborative pianist Martin Katz opened the San Diego Opera 2016–2017 season with a recital at the Balboa Theater on Saturday, September 17th.



Giuseppe Verdi
16 Sep 2008

Prom 61 — Verdi's Requiem

The Verdi Requiem is a regular feature at the Proms, having appeared every few years in past decades, usually to full houses.

Prom 61 — G. Verdi: Requiem

Violeta Urmana (soprano), Michelle DeYoung (mezzo-soprano), Joseph Calleja (tenor), Ildebrando d'Arcangelo (bass). BBC Symphony Chorus, Crouch End Festival Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Jiří Bělohlávek (cond.)
Royal Albert Hall, 31 August 2008


This year it was the turn of the BBC Symphony Orchestra under their Chief Conductor Jiři Bělohlávek, along with the BBC Symphony Chorus, Crouch End Festival Chorus and a first-class line-up of vocal soloists.

What was truly remarkable, and frankly it should be something that can be taken for granted in high-profile professional performances, was the consistency in intonation and tone quality among the four soloists. They were big voices but there was not a wobble among them. The octaves between soprano and mezzo in the Agnus Dei were sung with such mutual sensitivity that the effect was almost one of a single voice (though ironically, the couple of bars where the two female voices are actually in unison revealed that they do not naturally blend). Joseph Calleja’s beauty and strength of tone made the Ingemisco searching and not in the least self-indulgent, while the pinpoint accuracy of Ildebrando d’Arcangelo gave the broken phrases of the Mors stupebit an authoritative finality which made the rests work at least as effectively as the notes.

Though Violeta Urmana's Libera me never quite sounded as though she was terrified for her mortal soul, the sheer power and accuracy of her delivery made for a hair-raising experience. Pace my reservations about this one-time mezzo’s ability to crown the orchestral sound with her top notes, even the quiet ones. Olga Borodina cancelled at short notice and was replaced by Michelle DeYoung, whose glinting mezzo in the Liber scriptus left the audience in little doubt that this WOULD be the fate in store for them.

For the Sanctus and Libera me fugues, Bělohlávek’s tempi were somewhat steady, perhaps due to the need to accommodate the substantial massed choral forces. As in many past performances of this piece, the trumpets of the Tuba mirum were arranged at various points throughout the Hall, with the third group being high up in the Gallery at the back; spatially it’s very effective, but musically it’s a mistake because of the sheer distance and resultant time-lag. They were never going to be in time with each other.

Generally, though, the orchestral sound was full and impressive, and the combined effort made for the finest and most powerful performance of the Verdi Requiem I can recall.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

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