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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.
13 Oct 2009
Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the MET
Bartlett Sher’s production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia has
proved one of the more admired stagings of the Peter Gelb regime, but
I’ve avoided it due to a surfeit of Barbieres and to fond
memories of the John Cox production on Robin Wagner’s delicious turntable
set, about as ideal a Barbiere as could be imagined.
story was told clearly, the stage pictures were handsome and the set changes
elegant, the funny business funny and to the point, the movement rapid. Even
Rossini’s thunderstorm got laughs, as a projected starry sky was
gradually effaced by clouds and real rain while the set spun around below. I
wasn’t crazy about the barber’s updated costume and I could have
done without the donkey — the donkey is the one item Mr. Sher retained.
Figaro’s costume is back to tradition.
The Sher production does not get in the way of the storytelling (a major
point! especially in a comic opera), does not introduce new sub-plots the
composer never delineated (a defect of the recent stagings of Tosca,
Sonnambula and Fidelio, among others), the stage pictures are
attractive and will endure repeated viewing (unlike Tosca), the funny
business is sometimes funny — and gives scope, as a comedy staging
should, for funny performers to make it more so; there are inexplicable touches
(what is that giant anvil in the sky, aside from a sign of Mr. Sher out of
ideas? Why does Bartolo’s china closet explode?), and the movement is
constant if not always logical. Seville, indicated in the previous production
by the city’s famous white walls and a splendid conservatory in the
courtyard of Bartolo’s mansion, is now implied by many, many doors and an
orangery. At one point, the Count, playing a drunken soldier, makes a swipe at
an orange tree with his saber — and appeared to slice it through —
the best laugh of the night. I’d give the production a solid B, maybe a
The most distinctive part of the Sher staging — aside from the
moveable doors that comprise most of the set, and which are often used to
delightful farcical advantage — is the platform around the orchestra pit
that allows singers to leave the action and come warble to us intimately, duck
out of busy action entirely, complain about how badly they are being used by
other characters — or hand out business cards to the audience, as Figaro
does during the curtain calls. This parade in front of the apron also allows a
solid but underpowered cast to make a more powerful effect than they would if
they remained center stage. There was certainly an improvement in sound quality
when they stepped forward.
Among the singers last Thursday night, the smoothest, most elegant, most
satisfying performance came from Bulgarian newcomer Orlin Anastassov, who
possesses the requisite size, depth and legato for Don Basilio and is an
amusing comic actor to boot. It is no surprise to see in the program that he is
singing Boito’s Mefistofele elsewhere this year —
that’s an opera that the Met could certainly use back in its repertory,
and he’s a likely candidate to put over a role that calls for an agile
actor as well as a remarkable voice.
Joyce DiDonato as Rosina and Barry Banks as Count Almaviva
Rodion Pogossov, a showman of great charm and comic energy — you may
well remember his Papageno — sang a most entertaining Figaro, with a
seductive and self-seductive way of phrasing. John Del Carlo, a familiar and
excellent buffo quantity, fudged the racing patter of “A un dottore del
mio sorte,” as so many Doctor Bartolos do, but proved an effective foil
for the antics of all the others throughout the evening. You can’t have a
farce if the villain isn’t convincingly alarming — if he’s
not, nobody else’s antics make sense. Del Carlo, tall as a Wagnerian
giant, can be alarming while full of self-pity, which is just what we want.
Barry Banks is a comic actor the equal of any bel canto tenor going —
his smarmy smiles as the feigned “Don Alfonso” were especial joys
— and his coloratura technique is remarkable, but the quality of the
voice itself was dry in “Ecco ridente” and rather hollow the rest
of the night. Dramatic intensity (as Oreste in Rossini’s
Ermione) and delirious self-parody (as Thisbe in Britten’s
Midsummer Night’s Dream) are his fortes; romantic heroes are
Joyce DiDonato as Rosina and Rodion Pogossov as Figaro
Joyce Di Donato is a few years into an important career. She is an excellent
comic actress — you listen to her, yes, but you also watch, just to see
what madcap business she’ll come up with next. She works the manic
fireworks of “Contro un cor” in the Lesson Scene into a
simultaneous show of brilliant vocalism and stage hilarity like no other Rosina
I’ve seen. When she dashes out on that walkway to deliver the
evening’s few big phrases, her strong line suggests that many of the
grander bel canto roles (Adalgisa, Elisabetta Tudor, La Favorite)
would suit her nicely, but in some of her rapid-fire phrases in “Una voce
poco fa” and elsewhere, she seemed too anxious to race up and down the
scale to bother with the note-perfect ideal flow of a Horne, a Berganza or a
Swenson. She seems to love to play this role and to be on stage with these
other singers, but a little more technical focus (and you just know
she could do it) would make hers an extraordinary Rosina instead of merely a
very good one. Claudia Waite, the Berta, sang her “sherbet aria”
with the shrill, ungrateful tone one expects of, well, Berta the laundress.
Maurizio Benini in the all but invisible orchestra pit kept the wheels
turning precisely without calling attention to himself — it was not a
Mozartean reading of the score but a reliable base for the farcical doings on
stage. The whole evening seemed calculated in that direction, and it was
gracious of him to be so self-effacing, but sometimes Rossini works well as a