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Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful
producers of opera.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.
Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
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