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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.



Diana Damrau as Gilda and Roberto Frontali as Rigoletto [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
10 Apr 2009

Rigoletto at the MET with Diana Damrau as Gilda

Rigoletto is the ideal first opera: a taut tale, comprehensible characters, terrific tunes, and not an ounce of fat anywhere.

G. Verdi: Rigoletto

Gilda: Diana Damrau; Duke of Mantua: Joseph Calleja; Rigoletto: Roberto Frontali; Sparafucile: Raymond Aceto. The Metropolitan Opera. Conducted by Riccardo Frizza.

Above: Diana Damrau as Gilda and Roberto Frontali as Rigoletto [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]


I was delighted to see the Met filled, at so appealing a performance as that of April 9, with young opera-goers, many of them signifying (by questions about where to find standing room and how to get to the bathrooms) that they were new to opera, or new to the Met. There was, also — as I’d rather expected — a murmur of surprised recognition when the orchestra launched “La donna è mobile” (is there a better-known melody from opera? Wagner’s “Here Comes the Bride,” perhaps), and a general appreciation of the story, the excellent acting, the melodious score, the “classic” Otto Schenk staging, as the German tourists behind me described it — no prima donnas waving cell phones, no motorcycle helmets, no leather bustiers, and a street in Italy that looked like nothing so much as a street in Italy.

They encountered an excellent, well-balanced performance: A heroine to love, a villain to hate while admiring his panache, a protagonist who seemed entirely caught up in the proceedings and a thrilling performance of the score led by Riccardo Frizza, whose attention to detail and dramatic effect were just what Verdi could have desired. This was a very spruce performance, and made one eager to hear what Frizza could do with other familiar items in the Italian repertory.

Joseph Calleja is one of the new crop of exciting young tenors in the Italian repertory. A sturdy, masculine figure — taller than almost anyone else at the court of Mantua — he acted and sang the seductive Duke with careless elegance and athletic ease, with a fluid, forthright tenor and sudden diminuendos at moments for dramatic effect. It was a completely reliable performance if not yet quite so polished as (for example) Ramón Vargas ten years ago, but in that line and heading in that graceful direction.

Diana Damrau has a cool, refreshing voice, clear and house-filling, and she is an ardent actress. One could hope for a more precise trill, and — perhaps on the conductor’s insistence — she omitted optional high notes everywhere and the long trail-off with which Gildas used to leave the stage after “Caro nome,” but in this age of more realistic acting and “come scritto” singing, she is a first-rate Gilda. Too, she is a tiny woman and makes the right vulnerable impression beside a tall Duke and a tall Sparafucile. She can also seem to whisper (at such moments as her shamed entrance in Act II) when she is doing nothing of the sort, and then surprise us with the power of her protest at her father’s plans for vengeance. I’m sure the first-timers will remember her fondly at more ordinary Rigolettos.

RIGOLETTO_Calleja_as_Duke_1.gifJoseph Calleja as the Duke [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]

Roberto Frontali may lack the power to knock us out with “Cortigiani,” but he sings and plays a, convincing portrait of Verdi’s humanized monstrosity, a man eaten up by hatred of the world and of his own place in it, whose one soft spot is invaded and infected by the very viciousness he has himself encouraged in the corruptions of the court. His snarling contempt in the final scene for what he thinks is the corpse of his former master riveted the house, his horror brought shock (and a marked cessation of coughing). It made a solid, convincing centerpiece to an opera too easy to lose to the charms of an ideal Duke or Gilda.

Raymond Aceto’s Sparafucile rumbled on the low notes; he aroused great enthusiasm — who doesn’t love an unembarrassed professional villain? The smaller roles were well and enthusiastically handled all around, especially David Crawford’s nervous Ceprano, Kathryn Day’s firm-voiced Giovanna, and Viktoria Vizin’s Maddalena, determined that her legs should share the honors with her voice.

John Yohalem

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