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Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered
as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful
producers of opera.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.
30 Mar 2009
Magdalena Kožená shines in Martinů’s Juliette at the Barbican, London
Many works by Martinů will be performed in this year’s commemoration of the anniversary of his death, but it would be hard to equal the impact of this performance. Much of its success was due to Kožená, whose presence illuminated the whole opera, even though her moments on stage were fleeting.
A man arrives in a strange village where nothing seems quite right. The
villagers have no memories to bind them to reality, so things unfold without
sense or connection. But what is reality? The opera’s subtitle is
“The Key to Dreams”, which implies a search for meaning, whether or
not it can be unlocked.
From the orchestra emerges a lovely, haunting melody. The man thinks
he’s heard it before, connected to a vague memory - a beautiful woman ?
He’s determined to pursue the dream which seems to fade as fast as it
unfolds. The woman is Juliette, shining bright and golden, “like a star
in the firmament”.
Deeper the man goes, into a dark forest, where he meets a Seller of
Memories, who sells photographs of exotic places. The man buys into the images,
convinced that they show his past with the woman he’s searching for.
Eventually the man finds himself in The Central Office of Dreams which people
enter and leave when they sleep. On ferme! warns the nightwatchman
(who was also the Seller of Dreams). Wake or you’re forever trapped! But
Juliette is such a powerful, seductive dream that the man would rather remain
in eternal limbo than lose her.
Bohuslav Martinů’s Juliette materialized at the
Barbican, London, in a new edition of the urtext, using the French version the
composer wrote on his deathbed in 1959. He lived most of his creative life in
France, so it’s perhaps poignant that he should return to his masterpiece
in this way.
Hardly any staging was needed, for the action unfolds like a dream, utterly
adrift from rules of cause and logic. Indeed, what narrative there is lurks in
the music. The orchestral writing is densely vivid but at critical moments the
density clears and a solo instrument takes centre stage. At first, it’s
an accordion, then horn, clarinet and oboe, then a particularly evocative
melody on piano which surrounds Juliette’s entries. It’s like in
dreams where a single image comes into focus, like symbolic portent. Each time
Juliette’s music returns, impressions deepen and become frustratingly
familiar. Have we heard it before ? And where ? In dreams, the mind fixes on
details and follows their trail. Martinů uses allusions from music as
tantalizing clues. There’s a snippet from L’Histoire du
Soldat, just before the Fortune teller scatters cards. Then, a quotation
from L’Après-midi d’un Faune, evoking a mood of frustrated
love and longing. Similarly, Martinů uses off stage noises and singing.
Even when asleep, the mind hears what’s happening “outside”
so to speak. At any moment the dreamer might be woken, the dream shattered.
It’s psychologically astute, building dramatic tension into the very
fabric of the music.
Jiří Bělohlávek has a specially sensitive feel for this elusive,
mysterious music, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard his
Janaček or Dvořák. This performance was as good as the superlative
Excursions of Mr Brouček last year, which he conducted with the
same forces, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Singers. This production was also
directed by Kenneth Richardson, who made such magic with the concert staging of
Mr Brouček. Richardson’s intelligent, subtle style
achieves great things by simple means. The forest, for example, is created by
light and shadow, yet feels impressively alive.
Kožená was outstanding. Visually and vocally she glowed. While all the
cast was good, she was exceptional, for Juliette is in an altogether more
exalted league than ordinary mortals. Kožená’s fees might normally
exceed the other singers fees put together, but here she was utterly worth it,
for her presence embodied all that Juliette stands for. The role is so
important that the whole opera rests on how well it is realized. Kožená
has long championed Martinů’s music, so this magnificent
performance was a great tribute.
William Burden sings Michel, the protagonist. It’s a long, demanding
role which he carries off with aplomb. Also familiar to those who loved Mr
Brouček was Zdeněk Plech, who made the relatively small role
of The Old Arab/Sailor so interesting that you wished the composer had
developed it further. Roderick Williams sang no less than four roles, including
the pivotal Seller of Memories. He acts as well as he sings, and is certainly
one of the brightest young British stars of his generation. When will he get
the profile he deserves ? Andreas Jäggi’s Clerk was suitably tense and
There are only two available recordings of Julietta, and the
classic version is nearly 50 years old. Let’s hope this performance,
which was recorded by the BBC, will make it to CD/DVD. Bělohlávek’s
recording of Mr Brouček won the Gramophone award for best Opera
in 2008, so perhaps this new Juliette will do the same.