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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.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.
Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered
as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
22 Jan 2010
Il Mondo della Luna (The World on the Moon)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, around 1777, the Empress Maria
Theresa used to visit Prince Esterhazy’s summer palace at Esterhàza,
where there was an opera house fully equipped with stage machinery, leading
singers, an orchestra, and a guy named Joseph Haydn to compose on cue.
often considered the father of the symphony, the string quartet and the piano
sonata, but he is seldom mentioned in an operatic context. That’s not
because he wasn’t any good at it — he was often very good.
But he was seldom consistently good at opera, and he never found — or
sought, maybe — the sort of mature libretto that would display his
talents as Lorenzo da Ponte displayed those of Mozart, Salieri and Martin y
Soler. Haydn’s operas seem a series of amiable misfires with charming
moments — but I’ve only attended seven of them, and none were his
grand operas, Armida and Orlando Paladino, which may play
As the operatic world scours forgotten and therefore fresh scores, Haydn, a
familiar name, is bound to seem appealing even without Maria Theresa’s
imprimatur (“Whenever I want to hear good opera, I go to
Esterhàza,” she said, probably as much to goad the management of her
court theater back in Vienna as to compliment her host). Haydn’s style is
familiar to us, all modern opera singers being trained to perform Mozart, and
the forces required are seldom large.
Carlo Goldoni, librettist
Il Mondo della Luna, using a popular libretto by Goldoni that was
set by everyone from Galuppi to Paisiello, is a typical buffo tale of a rich
old fool, Buonafede (“good faith”), opposed to the marriage of his
two daughters and their maid to the three impecunious men they love, with the
sly twist that the old coot has a hobby: astronomy. One of the boyfriends,
Ecclitico (“ecliptic”), is a charlatan astrologer who pretends to
transport the old boy to the moon. Buonafede, presented to the lunar emperor,
is dazzled by Lunatic mores and court etiquette (Maria Theresa probably loved
this part), but he regrets his womenfolk are missing the fun. Quicker than you
can say, “May the farce be with you,” they arrive! — beamed
by transporter, one presumes. The emperor marries the venal maid, Lisetta, and
his chamberlain and master of ceremonies wed the two daughters. Wedding hymns
are sung in the Lunatic tongue. Buonafede is puzzled that the girls already
speak it so well, and though furious when he learns he has been bamboozled,
accepts the fait accompli. In the full libretto, he reflects philosophically
that you really need to travel to get the right perspective on life back home
— but the moral was one of Gotham Chamber Opera’s omissions.
Gotham has created one of the more dazzling entertainments of the New York
season by presenting this nonsense in the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of
Natural History, replete with instrument panels, space suits (the elegant and
witty costumes are by Anka Lupes), globular space helmets, acrobatic
“moon nymphs” and above it all, on the 180-degree dome, shooting
stars, exploding galaxies, shots of earth and the moon, and the wildest light
show since psychedelia fell from fashion. Viewers of a certain age (mine) may
recall The Saint in its heyday, but the music was better at the planetarium and
the show a lot shorter. The whole run has sold out, and it’s hard to
imagine anyone attending who would not gladly go again.
The one exception I would take is, in fact, to the evening’s brevity.
Over-anxious not to bore, music director Neal Goren and director Diane Paulus
may have left too much out. Over half the opera was omitted — on the
grounds, Goren says, that the cuts were less than top-drawer Haydn. That may be
true, and no one wants more secco recitative “dialogue” than we
absolutely need, but confining most of the singers to one aria apiece means the
characters are one-dimensional, silhouettes of slight interest or humanity. You
cannot tell the sisters apart, for one thing — from the synopsis in the
program, I’m not sure which one marries which lover — and you do
not know or care if their feelings are sincere. In a farce, someone ought to
want something sincerely or the crazy shenanigans aren’t as funny;
there’s no contrast. You need Kitty Carlisle as a backdrop for the Marx
In Il Mondo della Luna, Gotham goes for constant entertainment
rather than letting the drama merely rest, at any point, upon the skills of the
singers, the beauty of the often wonderful music. This is a current trend, and
those of us who like singing may find that, fun as it is, it can go
too far in an MTV direction. On the plus side, it sure was fun.
It would be difficult to single out any performer among the seven flawless
players of this ensemble cast. Marco Nisticò seemed to be enjoying himself as
the bubbling blowhard Buonafede, and he had the most to do, swinging hips as he
ornamented his arias. Nicholas Coppolo gets special notice for being so slimy a
phony as Ecclitico and then leaping seamlessly into the role of ardent lover to
sing a rapturous duet with his Clarice (Hanan Alattar — or was it
Flaminia, Albina Shagimuratova? Well, each one had an aria, and both were
excellent). Rachel Calloway, as pert Lisetta, demonstrated the swagger of a
chambermaid is exactly the right style for an empress. Timothy Kuhn sang an
alluring love song to himself — director Paulus’s idea, not
Haydn’s, but charming in context, and Matthew Tuell triumphed as the
spunky valet who ascends to the lunatic throne. This was far and away the best
all-around cast I have encountered in a Gotham production, each of them worthy
at the very least of another aria or one of the omitted da capos. They were
also all Lucy-ready farceurs — though a very little “disco”
dancing in eighteenth-century costume goes a long way, and after an hour of it
one wondered if director Paulus had run out of ideas or was simply bored by the
characters. The Gotham orchestra played music that was always pleasant and
Impossible to discuss the event and not mention Philip Bussmann, credited
with Video and Production Design, who made a charming evening a spectacular
one. And the Gotham team for dreaming this up, and the Museum of Natural
History for recognizing a major opportunity when it came their way.