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The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

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English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

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World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.



Rosemary Joshua [Photo by Ruth Crafer]
19 Jul 2009

Prom 2 — Haydn: The Creation

‘I never left a theatre more contented, and all night I dreamed of The Creation of the world.’ — the view of one of those at the first performance of The Creation in 1799.

Prom 2 — Haydn: The Creation

Rosemary Joshua (Gabriel), Mark Padmore (Uriel), Neal Davies (Raphael), Pater Harvey (Adam), Sophie Bevan (Eve), Chetham's Chamber Choir, Members of Wrocław Philharmonic Choir, Gabrieli Consort & Players. Paul McCreesh (cond.). Concert performance, Royal Albert Hall, London, 18 July 2009.

Above: Rosemary Joshua [Photo by Ruth Crafer]


Evidently one shared by the Proms audience last night, although if we dream of the creation of the world it’s probably more likely to be in the more usually heard German edition — given Paul McCreesh’s advocacy of his own revised version it seems churlish to voice this, but there’s something about, say, ‘Mit Würd und Hoheit angetan’ which ‘In native worth and honour clad’ just doesn’t have.

What this performance did have, was stirring singing from the massed forces of Chetham’s Chamber Choir, members of the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir, and the Gabrieli Consort, and mostly stellar playing from the Gabrieli Players, with especially strong contributions from Katy Bircher’s flute and the Fortepiano of Benjamin Bayl. McCreesh has a dynamic view of the piece: it’s all dappled shade followed by blazing light, with tremendous climaxes at the exalted, Handelian closing choruses, ‘Achieved is the glorious work’ being especially powerful. He handles the intimacy of the solo parts well too, giving space to shape the phrases and savour the language.

If I have doubts about this evening, they lie with the singers: far be it from me to argue with how solo passages are managed, but it did seem odd to me that poor old Adam and Eve had to sit there for two thirds of the time before they were created — aren’t those parts usually sung by the Gabriel and Raphael? As for their singing, of course it is always lovely to hear Peter Harvey’s refined bass, and Sophie Bevan has been delighting me for years ever since I heard her RCM debut: their duet ‘With thee is every joy enhanced’ was very engaging.

Rosemary Joshua was the vocal star of course, her genuine Handelian soprano making light work of the onomatopoeic trills of ‘On mighty pens uplifted soars’ and providing exactly the right sense of sparkling lightness at ‘The glorious heav’nly hierarchy.’ Beside her, Neal Davies’ workmanlike Raphael and Mark Padmore’s worthy Uriel tended to seem rather pedestrian, although Padmore as always did his best to sound suitably heroic at ‘In native worth and honour clad.’

The Creation has always seemed to be the poor relation to Handel’s oratorios, but a performance such as this one makes not only a powerful case for its greatness, but shows how accurate Hugo Wolf was when he described Haydn’s music as ‘Sheer nature, artlessness, perception and sensitivity!’

Melanie Eskenazi

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