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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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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

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Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

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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.



Puccini Romance
11 Dec 2009

Puccini Romance

This disc faces a marketplace already crowded with similar compilations from major companies who can raid their archives to offer competitive interpretations at bargain prices.

Puccini Romance
Arias and duets from La Bohème, Tosca, Le Villi, La Fanciulla del West, Turandot and Madama Butterfly.

Antoinette Halloran, soprano; Rosario La Spina, tenor. The Queensland Orchestra. Stephen Mould, conductor.

ABC Classics 476 6404

$35.98  Click to buy

The main target is therefore the local audience who can currently see these two artists regularly singing with Opera Australia. None the less this disc has some attractions. They are not, however, in the musical layout. Multiple selections from an opera are presented out of order. This is less of an issue with operas like Madama Butterfly or Tosca, where the chosen excerpts are separated often by an entire act, but informed listeners will be amused by the four La Bohème items which places “O soave fanciulla” before “Che gelida manina” and “Sì, mi chiamo Mimi” so that the young couple declare their love before making their introductions. More amusing still is that ‘Mimi’s farewell’ follows immediately so having “come to bother you at an inconvenient time”, she immediately declares her intention to return alone to her solitary nest to make fake flowers!

Rosario La Spina has the makings of a good tenor. He has a bright ‘Italianate’ voice, if occasionally backwardly placed on some higher notes but the biggest irritant are the intrusive aspirates that occur throughout. They may assist him into top notes and give the impression of that ‘hairy-chested’ singing of the Del Monarco/Corelli variey but they become tiresome for repeated listening and the Tosca duet is riddled with them. He has a natural feeling for Italian, singing through diphthongs and making some beautiful sounds although his actual handling of the words is disappointing compared to the careful attention his partner Antoinette Halloran gives to the texts. His phrases are dully shaped, salient words or the emotions they convey are rarely pointed. It would be hard to imagine any soprano responding to his serenades, let alone undergoing the emotional and physical tortures Puccinian women suffer for their men.

Halloran is another bright and intelligent Australian soprano. Her Mimi and Butterfly are well thought out and characterised. In the ‘Dream’ aria from La Rondine her voice expands into a rich and well controlled forte. Her singing in the ‘Butterfly’ duet is the highlight.

The unsung, so to speak, heroes are conductor Stephen Mould and the orchestra, underpinning the moods and commenting on the characters like old troupers from an Italian house that play this music daily. In “Sì, mi chiamo Mimi”, the short, blunted phrases as she details her dull daily routine suddenly swell, as she mentions the pleasure spring flowers bring her, into beautiful arching phrases. La Spina, incidentally, is not on hand to sing ‘si’ when she asks “lei m’intende?” The disc ends with the “Butterfly” duet where the orchestra respond superbly; the harp passage as Butterfly begins to remove her wedding gown almost suggests its silken texture. Similarly, the horns in the closing moments throb with suggestive anticipation as Pinkerton urges Butterfly into his arms and bed. The low gong strike in that closing passage hovers in mid-air and the overall sound is in the demonstration class.

Michael Magnusson

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