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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.
21 Jun 2009
Madame Says Farewell
Last week (May 27), “without further a-don’t,” as she adorably puts it, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh, the world’s reigning traumatic soprano
— lately, she says, more of a soprano “spento” — bade a
last, lingering, loving farewell to her adoring public in a sold-out concert at
the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
it again twice more that week, in the same venue; no doubt other such occasions
will occur. (In any case, there are several CDs and DVDs available. Check her
Web site, www.granscena.org.)
It is easy for anyone to make jokes about opera — everyone already
has. Most of them aren’t funny, never mind witty, never mind as delicious
as the real thing — but that never stops the jokers. What is rare,
besides jokes about opera that are actually funny, witty, and delicious, is
someone who can make a joke about opera last (before a pretty knowledgeable
audience, too) for three hours at a stretch, without deadening out. Anna
Russell managed it — but opera, though her best-known target, was not the
only string to her bow. (I’m not mixing metaphors; I’m setting them
on PUREE.) Gerard Hoffnung managed it, but died too tragically young. Vera
Galupe-Borszkh can still clock it in at three hours after 28 years in the
saddle, which is nothing short of extraordinary — sometimes she has even
been known to resort to new material! No doubt she owes some of her creativity
to a long and suspiciously well-guarded but indescribably relationship with the
vastly knowledgeable Ira Siff, who co-announces Metropolitan Opera
But how she manages to get her magnificent mane of red hair (natural, she
swears by the Virgin of Kiev) out of its scruffy featherduster á la nature into
a taut geisha coiffure during one swift scene change (you never saw a redheaded
Butterfly? This must be the place) and then formed into a trillion sausage
curls for the dying Violetta in another — that calls for skill, technique
and effrontery, which have been (along with a haphazard, not to say biohazard,
shtetl Bessarabian accent) the hallmarks of her career.
Born Vera Vsyevelodovna Borszkh on the outskirts, or fringes, or gym socks
of Odessa, more years ago than Madame can be relied upon to count, she fled
Soviet Russia “when I got tired of singing Aida in languages which got no
wowels.” Later she became the last pupil and ultimately the bride of the
last bel canto castrato, Manuel Galupe (“for a diva, marrying a man
already a castrato is good thing — it save so much time”). Vera
Galupe-Borszkh is not only a living legend (they’re common enough), she
is a voice from the golden age when such things were preserved only by memory
and by the rare and often unconvincing magic of scratchy shellac at 78
revolutions per minute. When you hear G-B, you not only hear the technique, the
talent, the dedication of a bygone golden era, you seem always to hear in her
very throat the echo of scratchy shellac. Perhaps she is one of those who has
used her throat not wisely but too well — the Muse is a harsh mistress,
and G-B has never been one to hold back. Fake it, yes — hold back,
Only a cad — or a critic — to make a distinction without
difference — would point out that Madame’s sustenance of tone has
begun to waver, like the breeze flitting over the Ukrainian wheat fields at
noon. To put it crudely, you could drive a tractor through that tremolo. Yet,
properly warmed up, she can still exquisitely float the opening tone of the
opening “Pace” in Leonora’s aria from Forza del
Destino so that it seems to last longer than the entire opera usually
does. (Just as well she omits the rest of the aria.) Her pitch in the Philip
Glass takeoff is no longer machinelike — and Glass’s music, even in
sendup, does not take kindly to human performance. And was I really the only
member of the audience so moved by her singing of the Sleepwalking Scene from
Bellini’s La Sonnambula that I could not resist shouting:
“Jump! Jump! Jump!” (A friend said he was saving the comment for
Mary Zimmerman’s next curtain call.)
More grateful for her instrument in its present vocal estate (or tenement,
as she has been a New Yorker for years), were five “Rossyan fok
songs,” in which the audience was invited to join her. (“You are
good! You must all be Juilliard drop-outs!”) Lieder, too — her
signposted “Erlkönig” is justly famous, her “Morgen”
sublime — were rather easier on voice and ear than the full-scale arias.
Let lesser singers take note: Madame never sings with surtitles or subtitles or
translations — the voice and the gestures (and the costumes) give us
every drainable drop of meaning, and you’re lucky to get it.
It was a great event in the present — but it was, still more, as
Madame put it herself, an evening of extraordinary mammaries. So much of the
style — and the singing — and the shtick — and the annotation
— seemed uncannily to recall occasions long, long ago. But it was
delicious to hear her shtick it to the Met, with all the fervor of someone who
might have been tactfully repressing her real opinions during a season of
broadcast commentary. (“I love the Salome — where she take off
everything! Even some of the high notes!”)
She was ably assisted by Maestro Sergio Zawa, engulfing the piano, and
Carmelita della Vaca-Browne stealing the crumbs of the scenes Madame was
chewing. Della Vaca-Browne lovingly recreated a moment I’ve never
forgotten, from the very first season of La Gran Scena Opera Company di New
York in 1981, when Annina beheld the gasping Violetta on her deathbed and
tossed confetti in her face, then responded to her furious glare with the
explanation, from the libretto: “E carnevale.” In Vera’s
vocal presence, when is it not Carnival?
Ladies and gentlemen, all I can say is (to echo Tosca, one of Madame’s
great roles): “Ecco un artista!”