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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.



W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo
17 Jun 2009

Mozart: Idomeneo

“Mozart's first mature masterpiece,” Sophie Becker calls Idomeneo in the booklet essay of this DVD set of a June 2008 Bayerische Staatsoper staging.

W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo

Idomeneo: John Mark Ainsley; Idamante: Pavol Breslik; Ilia: Juliane Banse; Elettra: Annette Dasch; Arbace: Rainer Trost; Gran Sacerdote di Nettuno: Guy de Mey; La voce: Steven Humes. Bavarian State Opera Chorus. Bavarian State Orchestra. Kent Nagano, conductor. Uwe Eric Laufenberg, stage director. Recorded live at the Cuvilliés-Theater, Munich on 11 and 14 June 2008.

Medici Arts 2072448 [DVD]

$39.99  Click to buy

Somehow this masterpiece needs director Dieter Dorn to work a “minor miracle” and present the characters of the opera seria as “genuine human beings” (Stewart Spencer translated Ms. Becker’s thoughts). Too bad in his maturity, Mozart and his music weren’t able to accomplish that feat…

Dorn provides a staging that could serve as an encyclopedia entry on regietheater in the opera world. The overture gets a pantomime that ostensibly provides background story but mostly serves to distract from the music. The set is not just bare, but denuded, with the rear of the stage, including rigging and exit doors, visible. A mishmash of costumes (designed by Jürgen Rose) range from a Samurai get-up for John Mark Ainsley’s Idomeneo, to a velvet evening gown for Annette Dasch’s Elettra, and some hideous prints for the other singers and chorus (are the men in Dockers, or the German equivalent?). Granted, Dorn doesn’t titillate with sex as much as he might, but he does have Rainer Trost as Arbace strip to the waist and then cut himself with a knife, letting the stage blood run down his arm. In a regietheater masterstroke, for the ballet sequence Dorn foregoes dancers and has supernumeraries drape white sheets over the props on stage at that point, and then some of the singers amble on to leisurely examine the scene.

Possibly this staging felt fresh and bold seen live. As captured by the cameras of the experienced Brian Large, the affair feels dated and dopey. As is usually the case with failed regietheater stagings (acknowledging that there are successes), Dorn doesn’t trust the material to hold an audience’s attention, and so tries a bit of updating, a bit of anachronism, a lot of unmotivated movement, and hopes it all adds up to a show, coherent or not.

The musical side of things, however, is mostly strong. Kent Nagano finds a nervous energy that moves the score forward while retaining classical form. All Ainsley is asked to do is glower and grimace, but he does that well. His “Fuor del mar” is an angry roar, yet never ugly, and he has the technique for runs that sound heavier with many an other tenor. Annette Dasch doesn’t chew the scenery as so many Elettras have done. Maybe that’s due to the lack of scenery, but Ms. Dasch has fire enough to bring the role off anyway. Nagano uses a tenor as Idamante, and Pavol Breslik is excellent in the role. As Arbace, Rainer Trost has moments of roughness in his delivery, but the weakest link is Juliane Banse as Ilia, who has some beautiful music but whose pitch in unreliable throughout the performance.

The Metropolitan Opera video with Luciano Pavarotti can be slow-moving and undramatic, but much of the singing is as strong, when not superior, to this performance, and the staging, while dull, at least makes a modicum of sense.

Chris Mullins

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