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Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
09 Nov 2008
Ernani and I Capuletti e I Montecchi on Dynamic DVD
Both these performances come from mid-2005. Teatro Regio di Parma presented the Ernani in May of that year; August saw I Capuletti e I Montecchi on stage at the Festival della Valle d'Itria di Martina Franca.
Sound and picture are excellent for both, and the performances, while not first-class, feature solid singing and tasteful productions. Despite those merits, neither DVD makes for a truly satisfying experience. Verdi’s early hit should be more exciting; Bellini’s take on the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet could use more style. The catalog doesn’t exactly run over with these two titles, on the other hand.
As seems to be typical of most of the productions Dynamic chooses to film, the sets tend to the spartan - neither of these have much scenery or even props. The budget, apparently, goes to costumes. For Ernani, Pier’Alli’s gorgeous designs put the ladies in satins of metallic red and gold, while the men wear form-fitting tunics of coordinating leather. Beautiful to look at, they also inhibit easy movement, as well as expressing much more of the creator’s taste and imagination than anything about the drama or the characters.
Not helping matters is a cast of strong voices but little stage personality. In the heroic tenor lead, Marco Berti manages the notes with an able but colorless instrument. If he sang with greater individuality, perhaps your reviewer wouldn’t mind so much his bland appearance and stiff stage deportment. Susan Neves shows a little more life as the love interest, Elvira, but why she inspires such mad lust from every man who sees her remains a riddle. Her singing is unsubtle but when she pours out the volume, she makes some impressive sounds. Carlo Guelfi and Giacomo Prestia, as the dark-voiced “bad guys,” Don Carlo and Silva respectively, growl and bluster appropriately. Pier-Alli really needed to spend a little less time with the needle and thread and more getting some inspired movement on stage. The elemental passions of this early Verdi work are done no favors here. Conductor Antonello Allemandi has the right ideas, however, in the pit with the Parma forces.
For the Bellini, director/designer Denis Knef decided to update the tale of the star-crossed lovers to some vaguely early 20-th century setting. The unchanging backdrop of worn stone edifices suggests a plaza in Verona. The men wear caps and fedoras, with dark suits, and some carry rifles. The aim simply seems to be to put a fresh spin on the timeless tale (albeit one told with some key differences from Shakespeare’s version). In the end, the updating is harmless but meaningless. Bellini’s music never quite reaches the heights of his masterpieces, with only the last scene really touching deeper emotional levels. Nonetheless, the two leads, including a mezzo in the pants-role of Romeo, get many opportunities to shine, and both Patrizia Ciofi (Juliet) and Clara Polito (Romeo) make the most of them. As the tenor bad guy Tebaldo, Danilo Formaggio impresses with a handsome, sizeable mid-range and able top. It’s unfortunate to note that if he were better looking, he might have a lot more opportunity to expand his career. Luciano Acocella and the Orchestra Internazioale d’Italia support the singers admirably.
Perhaps if director/designers had been switched, we could have had a rougher, more scintillating Ernani and a lusher, more entrancing I Capuletti e I Montecchi. What we have instead is decent but not all that exciting.