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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.
19 Jun 2009
No Redemption for Munich’s Dutchman
Although there was considerable theatrical imagination on display, redemption was in critically short supply in Peter Konwitschny's production of The Flying Dutchman at Munich’s estimable Bavarian State Opera.
It all began very promisingly indeed with a realistic period setting,
gorgeously painted, and with luxurious Old Dutch Masters costumes, both designs
courtesy of Johannes Leiacker. I was not completely taken with the invention of
the mute character “An Angel” (Christina Polzin) who somewhat tailed the
leading man as a premonition of Senta, I guess, but never mind. Because, in a
stunning directorial stroke, Konwitschny set the second act ladies in a
gleaming white contemporary fitness center spinning class! No fooling, this
really worked. Mary was the attendant who circulated and dispensed water
bottles and towels.
Erik entered in a white bathrobe and slippers (apparently having taken a
sauna) and it is hard to explain the rather carnal element that that visual
introduced into a scene that we usually simply suffer through. And when the
Dutchman arrived, completely anachronistic in his period Flemish drag, wow! Did
it ever hammer home the time warp he was trapped in, and the irrational
inevitability of Senta’s obsession. This was truly powerful theatre, heightened
by the fine lighting design with its isolated areas by Michael Bauer.
And then…Peter lost his way. The final act took place in a harbor-side
warehouse with Fest tables/benches, the Dutchman crew visibly partied stage
left, and lots of metal drums filled with flammable materials crowded the
stage. The face-off between the locals and the spooks, shorn of its element of
surprise, looked like a lame “Dance at the Gym” confrontation from West
Side Story. And in a critical artistic mis-step, after Senta’s last
outburst she torched one of the storage drums, and a huge explosion blew
everyone away. Everyone.
Somewhere in the far distance, perhaps on a boom box in the ladies dressing
room, we faintly heard the final bars playing as the cast was revealed standing
down lit and ghostly behind a scrim. Dead as door nails. Or Dutchmen. In a box,
house left, a pained spectator yelled “For God’s sake, play the rest of the
music!” No one shushed him. He was articulating our collective grief.
It is inconceivable that the producers allowed Wagner’s opera to be shorn of
its soaring redemption at the expense of an ineffective and inappropriate
theatrical effect. Nor can I conceive that a Bernstein, or Karajan, or Maazel,
or Barenboim would have allowed this musical cut to happen.
Apparently, young (talented) conductor Cornelius Meister did not have such
leverage. Maestro Meister is the youngest General Music Director in Germany
(Heidelberg) and his star is justifiably rising. Much of his leadership was
richly incisive, with well-judged tempi and fine consideration of his singers.
But it has to be said that the tricky ensemble woodwind attacci were a might
ragged, and the brass were too many times perfunctory. The string section
however, had a fantastic night characterized by warm and accurate tutti
Even a willful re-writing of the story by a bad boy stage director, however,
could not steal the focus from the brilliance of Bryn Terfel’s assumption of
the title role. Surely this is one of the most glorious vocal instruments
currently to be heard in the lyric theatre. From his first intense sotto voce
utterance, Mr. Terfel served notice that his Dutchman was more resigned than
tortured, more refined than bombastic, more rounded and musical by miles than
most park-and-bark Wagnerian practitioners.
That rolling, richly burnished tone poured out with ease and power, and his
acting was subtle and noble. His great duet with Senta was as tender and
persuasive as I have yet experienced, and his stamina and sound technique found
him sounding as fresh at opera’s end as at the start. Richly colored, finely
detailed, superbly shaped phrases characterized Terfel’s tremendous
musicianship, and they were wedded to an easy, engaging stage presence. If we
are ever searching for members of A New Golden Age (and aren’t we always?), we
can start with Bryn Terfel.
He was not alone in his success. Anje Kampe served up a radiant and vocally
generous Senta, building on her already fine reputation as a Sieglinde of
choice. While ample in volume, and secure in all ranges and volumes, the voice
is just a bit drier than, say, Hildegard Behrens, a great Senta of the recent
past. Still, her restrained vibrato made Ms. Kampe’s impersonation more
youthful than womanly, and that certainly was a rewarding take. Her acting was
Nikolai Schukoff was a very fine Erik, with plenty of thrust to his
substantial, essentially lyric tenor, and a handsome and youthful stage
presence. There were plenty of sparks between him and our doomed heroine. I
first saw Matti Salminen’s seasoned Daland in Savonlinna some years ago and his
definitive performance has only deepened over time, with very little
perceptible loss in vocal allure or power. Julia Oesch contributed a handsome,
securely sung Mary. Kevin Conners seems to be a local favorite, but I found his
stentorian Steersman a bit longer on power than finesse. The hard-working
chorus performed well under the direction of Andrés Máspero.
Can this Dutchman yet be saved? Restoring the finale Wagner wrote
would be a good start. Seriously, a musically and dramatically honest re-look
of Act Three could transform this otherwise inventive and rewarding production
into a memorable one.