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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).
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.
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.