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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.



Anita Selvaggio
15 Jun 2009

Haydn’s Bicentenary : 20 Capitals Salute “The Creation” With Standing Ovations

The Austrian Ministry of Culture and the Committee for the Celebrations of Haydn’s Bicentenary had a brilliant idea: on May 31st , the day of the composer’s death, 20 symphony orchestras and/or opera houses performed one of his greatest and best known oratorios Die Schöpfung (The Creation) .

F. J. Haydn: Die Schöpfung (The Creation)

Anita Selvaggio, Soprano; Michael Smallwood, Tenor; David Wilson Johnson, Bass; London Symphony Chorus. Joseph Cullen, Chorus Master. Francesco La Vecchia, Conductor.

Above: Anita Selvaggio


Because of different time-zones, Die Schöpfung day started in New Zealand and ended in Honolulu. An earnest radio listener could enjoy the different performances over 24 hours and appreciate the difference in conducting as well as in singing. Opera houses were included because in certain countries (e.g. Germany) Die Schöpfung is also staged as a music drama: computer technology and animation are a superb support to show the initial chaos , the creation of the animals, of the flowers, of the lakes, of the rivers and of the mountain as well as the Eden garden with the passionate Adam and Eve duet.

In Rome, the Orchestra Sinfonica - Fondazione Roma (OsFr) was selected for the task. The OsFr is a peculiarity in the Italian musical landscape: it is the only fully private symphony orchestra. It does not receive any State, Regional., Provincial or Municipal support but it is financed by the Fondazione Roma ( a nonprofit foundation) and by a few companies. It has 90 permanent elements (average age: 30), a budget which is less than one-fifth of that of the main symphony orchestra in the Italian capital (l’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia) and a low- priced ticket policy to attract young and old people with modest income (season tickets for 30 concerts vary from € 260 to € 90 according to the category). Its music director and permanent conductor is Maestro Francesco La Vecchia, who is also principal guest conductor of the Berliner Symphoniker. La Vecchia has been music director of Opera Houses and symphony orchestras in Central Europe (Budapest), Latin America (Rio de Janeiro) and Portugal (Lisbon). The OsFr started some eight years ago after a EU-supported training program for young graduates from European conservatories. It has gained an important place in the international music scenes also due to its tournée in Germany, Poland and China.

In January, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia had offered a different version of Die Schöpfung — performed by Frieburger Barochester conducted by René Jacobs and with Julia Kleiter, Donat Havar and Johanner Weisser as soloists. The difference, of course, is not in the score (both Jacobs and La Vecchia conducted the full score without cuts or intermission) but in the style: dry, albeit almost religious, Jacobs’; passionate (even in the approach to religion) La Vecchia’s .

Die Schöpfung is well known. Thus, there is no need to provide Opera Today readers with background on its composition, on its Austrian and London premières and on its contents. Its three parts are operatic acts. In the first and in the second, the three archangels Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael observe the Creation by following very closely the biblical text. In the third act, we are no longer witnessing from a distance the works of the Creator. The scene is the Eden Garden. After an introduction of Uriel, the act is long love scene of Adam and Eve that includes a duet supported by a choral background. As Haydn planned, there are five characters but three singers: the bass and the soprano are Raphael and Gabriel in the first and second act but become Adam and Eve in the third act. The roles are taxing both for the duration (nearly two hours of music ) and for the “virtuoso” singing — they imply “coloratura”, “agility”, quite a few high Cs and many Fs.


Maestro La Vecchia recalls that in 1992 he had conducted Die Schöpfung in the Amazonian Forest, at the vey confluence of the Rio Branco with the Rio Petro. Over 10,000 Indios attended the performance thrilled by the Haydn’s score. Most likely, the memory of that performance influenced conducting on May 31st. In the first part, it is noteworthy how conductor, orchestra and singers amplified the transition from the chaos (C minor) to the newly lit world (A major) . In the second act, the emphasis is on the descriptive imagery as in the portrayal of the animals: the cheerful, but rude, trombone blast of the lion, the pouncing tiger, the placing grazing of cattle, the sinuous music for the worm. The third act is less contemplative than normally performed: the love between Adam and Eve is powerful, not merely platonic; their duet is rapturous and timeless, an essential transition to the glorious final chorus.

La Vecchia and the symphony orchestra had three excellent singers to work with. Anita Selvaggio is a “soprano assoluto” better known outside Italy than in her own country. Both as an archangel and as Eve she displayed a a remarkable flexibility in the upper extension and an extraordinary use of messa di voce (a quality that many sopranos seem neither to care for nor to practice enough). Michael Smallwood is an up-and-coming Australian tenor with a delicate sensuous “legato”. David Wilson Johson is the best known of the three soloists. He once again confirmed his talent and versatility.

Giuseppe Pennisi (Based On May 31st Rome Symphony Orchestra Performance)

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