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The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
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.