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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).
30 Oct 2008
Portraits of Domingo and Pavarotti
While the tributes and retrospectives continue to appear for the late Luciano Pavarotti, his sometime-colleague (if not rival) Plácido Domingo maintains a top-rank career, even including a contract with Deutsche Grammophon for new studio work.
Both tenors were blessed with distinctive, appealing instruments, and if the inclination might be to find Pavarotti’s voice more beautiful, Domingo often got the credit for being the more dramatic, impassioned performer.
Decca’s The Pavarotti Story covers the singer’s career amply, with one disc dedicated to his studio recordings of the great tenor arias, another full of Italian song and such sacred favorites as the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria.” Two “bonus” discs fill out the set; one is a 37 minute interview with a John Tolansky, whose obsequious style can be deduced from the first track quotation, “Luciano Pavarotti, you have been a legend in your lifetime…” The second bonus disc begins with the first 5 recordings Pavarotti made in a studio, released on an EP in 1964 (Decca had already released these tracks on the earlier compilation, “For Lovers Only.”) That disc is comprised of tracks, mostly duets, that don’t do Pavarotti’s “legend” much credit. The “Pearlfishers” duet with Nicolai Ghiaurov should have been a winner, but the slow pacing makes for a lugubrious tone. “Nessun dorma!” with Carreras and Domingo, from the first “Three Tenors” affair, becomes a scream fest. And better to pass over the tracks with U2, Elton John, and even Frank Sinatra (at the end of his career) in silence.
Ah but the first two “non-bonus” discs confirm the legend. In Bellini and Donizetti, the voice has a delectable sweetness, whether punching out the high C’s in the Fille du Regiment aria or silkily spinning out the long legato lines of “A te o cara.” The Puccini arias have a sensuous masculinity; the Verdi selections showcase Pavarotti’s beefier side (including a credible “Nium mi tema.” And those who fall asleep in Idomeneo need to listen to the gorgeous, detailed “Fuor del mar.”
True, the arrangements on the songs disc get a bit tacky (especially those with Henry Mancini), but no one will ever quite spin through Rossini’s “La Danza” as Pav did, or make “O sole mio” sound so fresh again.
The set comes with one lavish booklet with a biography and track notes, and another with a full discography.
Domingo’s disc, Pasión Española, presents 13 selections in a popular Spanish song form called “copla,” according to the booklet essay. Although the disc credits 5 composers, no distinctive voice emerges. Most of the tracks feature extensive instrumental introductions, with many a familiar gesture of rhythm and melody, like a cartoon setting up a Spanish locale. The lyrics tend to trite expressions of frustrated or ecstatic love, and much bitter jealousy.
A whole disc of coplas, in other words, goes a long way. But if listeners were to hear a track or two individually, they might well be caught up in the conviction Domingo brings to the project. No, he doesn’t sound like a young man, but age seems to have only deepened the bourbon-hue of his tenor (often called “baritonal”), and for sheer vocal production Domingo makes the disc enjoyable.
Miguel Roa and the Orquesta de la Communidad de Madrid provide the professional accompaniment.
If somehow an opera lover needs one set of Pavarotti at his best, they can be satisfied with either “For Lovers Only” or this “The Pavarotti Story.” For all but his most devoted fans, there are better recordings in the Domingo library to enjoy than Pasión Española.