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Wigmore Hall has announced the 25 young singer and pianist duos from around the world who have been shortlisted for this prestigious competition, which takes place at Wigmore Hall in September with the generous support of the Kohn Foundation. Details were announced on 27 April during a recital by Milan Siljanov, who won top prize in the 2015 Competition.
Garsington Opera's thrilling new commission for the 2017 Season, Silver Birch, will feature over 180 participants from the local community aged 8-80, including students from primary and secondary schools, members of the local military community, student Foley artists under the guidance of Pinewood Studios and members of Wycombe Women’s Aid.
Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.
On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.
Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”
Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live
music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible
stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at
opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it
premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
Following Garsington Opera for All’s successful second year of free public screenings on beaches, river banks and parks in isolated coastal and rural communities, Handel’s sparkling masterpiece Semele will be screened in four areas across the UK in 2017. Free events are programmed for Skegness (1 July), Ramsgate (22 July), Bridgwater (29 July) and Grimsby (11 October).
I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.
At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.
On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.
The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.
Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.
Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.
Details of the Royal Opera House's 2017/18 Season have been announced. Oliver Mears, who will begin his tenure as Director of Opera, comments:
“I am delighted to introduce my first Season as Director of Opera for The Royal Opera House. As I begin this role, and as the world continues to reel from social and political tumult, it is reassuring to contemplate the talent and traditions that underpin this great building’s history. For centuries, a theatre on this site has welcomed all classes - even in times of revolution and war - to enjoy the most extraordinary combination of music and drama ever devised. Since the time of Handel, Covent Garden has been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists of every era. And for centuries, the joyous and often tragic art form of opera has offered a means by which we can be transported to another world, in all its wonderful excess and beauty.”
Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.
Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner
Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a
stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he
embodied a perfect Rodolfo.
Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of
watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It
scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you
can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its
A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.
26 Apr 2009
Il Piccolo Marat
Try to imagine the scenario: You’re an opera company, giving concert
performances of neglected, indeed forgotten, hundred-year-old scores (no sets, no costumes, at least you don’t have those headaches), and you give young singers a chance to do their stuff once a year before a paying New York crowd actually eager to hear music they do not know, and you’ve lit on a genuine obscurity, even in the ranks of the obscure; Mascagni’s penultimate stage work, a huge success at the premiere (as his operas usually were), utterly forgotten nowadays (as, but for Cavalleria Rusticana and, on rare occasion, L’Amico Fritz, they pretty much are), and it’s never been performed in North America ever.
Recordings of ancient performances exist, though, and everyone is really
excited to hear it, with its blood-and-skullduggery-defeated-by-true-love
French Revolutionary plot, and you gather your forces, and rehearse to a
fare-thee-well, and then it happens: the lead tenor in the big title role
withdraws due to a death in the family. Okay, hardly the first time
that’s happened, there’s still two weeks, you can dig up another
tenor, and you do. But then the baritone in the impossibly evil
villain’s part (and in verismo opera, it’s the villain who makes
the machine run, more than almost anything else), falls ill and cannot sing,
and you have mere days to find a baritone capable of learning a long role, to
say nothing of performing it Monday night. And you find one, and he can
handle Scarpia, so he can probably handle this. And then, the day of the
performance, the third male lead, another baritone, has to pull out …
and there is no time for anyone to learn this thing now, and no one on earth
knows it … but a young singer of no less than three other small roles
says he’s been following the sick man’s music and he could give
it the old Bastille try. And you give it to him, and smile when the audience
shows up, and out of the corner of your mind, the sole corner that remains
sane, you vow to rip the soprano’s head off if she so much as murmurs
of her rampaging case of bubonic plague, but no, she is a lamb, she is in
excellent health and ready to rock, and by all the Muses (but especially
Thalia, comedy), the show goes on.
Would you have a stroke? Would you retire? Would you call Mel Brooks or
Blake Edwards and try to get them to option this backstage screenplay, far
too unlikely to occur in real life? Or maybe a skit on SNL?
And would the show go on?
On April 13, at Avery Fisher Hall, the show – Teatro
Gratticielo’s concert performance of Mascagni’s Il Piccolo Marat
– went on, and was greeted, at evening’s end, with a standing
The world premiere, in 1921, took fifty curtain calls. Why, then, did
Marat become so rare? I’m told the Grove Dictionary of the Opera blames
its failure to hold audiences on its Fascist librettist. This does not make
sense when reading (and following) the libretto, which is as passionate a
hymn to freedom from tyranny as Fidelio or Tosca. Too, there is a rather
beautiful love duet, a melodious lullaby that recalls the peaceful Easter
music of Cavalleria Rusticana, and a tense climax that lures the audience
into the emotions of the three “good” characters as, desperately,
they assault the unkillable Ogre (English for Orco, the character’s
nickname – so that’s where Tolkien found the word!).
As is customary in verismo, a school that matured as the bourgeoisie
seized political power and its echo in the arts from aristocratic
predecessors, the chorus is a main character in this opera, easily swayed and
ruthless in its bloodthirsty support of hero or villain by turns. The Cantori
New York and the Long Island University Chorus howled gloriously under the
direction of Mark Shapiro; we were right at home, ringside to mob rule.
As is also the rule in operas about the French Revolution (think Andrea
Chenier or Madame Sans-Gêne), there were innumerable small parts –
which proved convenient when one singer of three of them, Daniel Ihn-Kyu Lee,
earned a needed promotion to the almost-lead role of the gentle Carpenter,
not too sensitive to design death ships but queasy when the Ogre wants him to
build them. Joshua Benaim was worthy and forthright as a Soldier sent to
investigate the Ogre – a by no means easy role, designed for a Pertile
or Del Monaco sound, to give heroic voice to the Revolution during the
opera’s early scenes, when the title character, the Piccolo Marat, must
conceal his real feelings to win the Ogre’s confidence. Alfred Barclift
and Hugo Vera showed promise onstage playing offstage voices. (Versatility is
the name of this game.)
Richard Crawley, in the title role, effectively concealed his noble self
and warmed up the while in order to sing a passionate duet with Paula
Delligatti, as Mariella, the Ogre’s unhappy niece, and then burst out
like a Cavaradossi “Vittoria” when the time came. Brian
Jauhiainen was less overwhelming as the monstrous Ogre. Neither gentleman
indicated, however, by any hesitancy or misstep, how recently they had first
encountered this music: these were trim, professional performances and we
were all very grateful to have them. Delligatti has an expressive spinto,
perhaps less than ideal to the explosions of a Butterfly or Tosca but
probably ideal for Liú or Maddalena. Her lullaby, perhaps the opera’s
only excerptable number (another reason for the work’s obscurity), was
serene and charming.
Conductor David Wroe, who perhaps rehearsed with the singers who
cancelled, rather bashed his way through the score. It’s a large score,
all right, and the music should be loud, but not holding back in a hall as
orchestrally focused as Fisher is a disservice to the singers, who were often
inaudible at the opera’s high points.