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Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

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.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

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.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

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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World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

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Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

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.



London Philharmonic Orchestra — 75th Anniversary, Volume 3: 1983-2007
05 Dec 2008

London Philharmonic Orchestra — 75th Anniversary, Vol. 3: 1983-2007.

Released to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the three multi-disc sets of recordings makes available recordings that document the triumphs of the ensemble since its founding in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham.

London Philharmonic Orchestra — 75th Anniversary, Volume 3: 1983-2007

Klaus Tennstedt conducts Beethoven; Franz Welser-Möst conducts Strauss, Mozart, Schubert, and Bruckner; Kurt Masur conducts Shostakovich; Vladimir Jurowski conducts Shostakovich.

LPO 0099 [4CDs]

$44.99  Click to buy

The third and final volume brings the documentation to the present, and celebrates some fine contemporary conductors of the London Philharmonic, with a disc devoted to each of its four recent conductors. Taken from a number of live performances, the recordings represent well the quality of the performances in the vividness of the concert hall. Reaching back a quarter century to 1983, the choice of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the direction of the late Klaus Tennstedt not only pays tribute to that conductor’s exemplary leadership and also demonstrates the caliber of soloists involved, with the late Lucia Popp, soprano, Ann Murray, mezzo soprano, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor, and René Pape, bass. The performance of the “Choral” Symphony stems from a concert on 8 October 1983 at Royal Festival Hall. While it is difficult to recommend a limited number of recordings of this iconic work of nineteenth-century symphonic literature, this particular release conveys a dynamic tension that is not always possible in various fine studio recordings. This performance captures Lucia Popp at an excellent time in her career and, at the same time, includes the young René Pape, a bass who has since achieved an international reputation. The addition of Ann Murray and Anthony Rolfe Johnson make this a festival-level cast for this intensive reading of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Dating from the later 1980s through the 1990s, the tenure of Franz Welser-Most includes music from several concerts and is denoted by several representative works for voices and orchestra. The disc includes five selections: Mozart’s Mass in C minor, K. 427, recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall in February 1987; Mozart’s Requiem, recorded at St. Augustine’s Church, London, in 1989; the final scene from Richard Strauss’s opera Capriccio, with soprano Dame Felicity Lott and bass Michael Georg from a concert on 25 February 1992; Schubert’s Stabat Mater, D. 175, from a concert at Royal Festival Hall, on 26 October 1992; and Bruckner’s Te Deum, recorded in October 1995 at All Saints’ Church, London. While most of the works are well-known, Schubert’s Stabat Mater is, perhaps, less familiar than the others and nonetheless of interest because of Welser-Most’s exemplary attention to the choral textures of this work. As one of the finest contemporary interpreters of Bruckner, the recording of the Te Deum brings together a remarkable cast, which includes soprano Jane Eaglen; contralto Brigit Remmert; the late tenor Deon van der Walt, and bass Alfred Muff. It is an exciting performance that stands well with other releases of the work. The relatively large amount of choral music on this disc does not need an explanation, but the inclusion of the scene from Strauss’s Capriccio remains a kind of commentary. With the nature of musical composition at the core of the libretto for Strauss’s opera, the final scene in this famed “conversation” about music contains the unresolved argument as to whether the text of the music should be foremost. It remains for the listener to decide, but the works chosen make a strong case for the place of choral music in the tradition of the London Philharmonic.

Moving to the early twentieth century, Kurt Masur, familiar to American audiences for his fine work with the New York Philharmonic is represented here with two critical works by Dmitri Shostakovich, the composer’s First and Fifth Symphonies. The recordings of those two symphonies are taken from performances given in the relatively short time between 31 January and 3 February 2004. Masur’s lively interpretation of Shostakovich’s First Symphony bears hearing for its fine sonics that make bring a nice clarity to the solo lines and thinner textures that are characteristic of the work. With the Fifth, Masur strikes a fine balance between the range of moods and textures that are part of the score. The slow movement, the penultimate band on the recording, is seamless, with a welcome spaciousness to its elegiac quality. The ensemble required for a successful execution is present in this masterful performance, which demonstrates the quality of playing that has been part of the London Philharmonic since its founding. The culmination of the movement, with the percussive line with xylophone and piano leads to a moving conclusion under Masur’s direction.

The final disc of the set is an opportunity to hear the young conductor Vladimir Jurowski, whose recorded legacy is not yet as extensive as those of his predecessors. Jurowski brings his own intensive musicality to the London Philharmonic in a performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 14, a work that brings together settings of poetry by Lorca, Apollinaire, Küchelbecker, and Rilke, in a symphonic song cycle that stands well alongside other such twentieth-century works as Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Britten’s Les Illuminations. With soloists Tatiana Monogarova and Sergei Leiferkus, this recording from February 2006 is an excellent introduction to Jurowski’s work.

As part of the anniversary celebration of the London Philharmonic, this last installment stands well with the other two. The sound is consistently fine, and audience noise, minimal. Not only do these recordings serve well in documenting the recent years of the London Philharmonic, but they represent well the conductors involved, each a major figure at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

James Zychowicz

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