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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.
05 Mar 2010
Ariadne auf Naxos, New York
As the first familiar themes of Ariadne came from the pit, I felt
myself sinking — sinking from a tense, dreary, daily world into a sort of
ecstatic fantasy — a place where all was happy, funny, romantic, inane,
fateful and surprising all at once — Sarah Connolly superb, Kathleen Kim
charming, Nina Stemme full-throated,
Kyrill Petrenko bringing out all the
elegant, edgy Schwarmerei of a score that is supremely sophisticated
without being too sophisticated to believe in fanciful dreams, and the
production, for once in a long while, was a production of the opera being
performed, so that all the parts fit together instead of sticking out like
bleeding, inefficiently amputated limbs. All was bliss. I can’t remember
the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed being at the Met.
You remember the colorful Elijah Moshinsky production, with its vertiginous
three-story farthingales on the earth spirits, its rather overdone acrobatics,
its sky map giving way to shipscape giving way to setting (or is it rising?)
sun? Well it’s as charming as ever. Laurie Feldman’s redirection
has no doubt been hampered by having a cast of comparatively slim singers for
once — her Brighella, has to wear a false tummy to live up to
commedia expectations — but all were game, and the clowns tossed
Zerbinetta about in the air in mid-roulade without hampering her breath
control. (Diana Damrau, over in La Fille du Régiment, take notice.)
Kathleen Kim as Zerbinetta and Sarah Connolly as the Composer
Sarah Connolly, who sang the Composer radiantly, is not a pretty woman, and
she makes her looks work for her in her frequent assumption of trouser roles
(Giulio Cesare, Romeo, Ariodante). As a lover, she is sometimes less than
convincing, but she was irresistibly right this time for the adolescent,
idealistic musician, Strauss’s tribute to his beloved Mozart:
clumsy-charming and visibly a-quiver when a seated Zerbinetta casually leaned
on his knee. Connolly sang the little air to Cupid and the fervent hymn to
Music (the two gods, one might say, who preside over this opera) with a fervent
delight that reminded more than one listener of Troyanos and was certainly the
most enthralling account of the part to be heard at the Met since her day.
Lance Ryan as Bacchus
I think I’ve never heard a bad Zerbinetta — they’re either
good or terrific in my experience, which goes back to Reri Grist — and
Kathleen Kim (if not quite Swenson or Dessay) was on the terrific end of the
spectrum. She is one of the tiny Zerbinettas (a group including Grist
and Dessay), and she makes use of her size and agility to boss big
folks to great comic effect. Her bewitchment of the hapless Composer is quite
believable. In the early scenes her trills were on the colorless side, but all
was in place by the time her “Grossmächtige Prinzessin” began. In
that bravura number, where the cascades of ornament can often lack color, she
made the notes identifiable notes and brought down the house.
Nina Stemme is too rare a visitor on these shores, as the great dramatic
German roles are currently in disfavor here or tend to be performed by
second-rate Americans. She sang Ariadne with torrents of earth-deep sound in
colors of cognac and sherry, rising to superb heights, rich with frustrated
— and then idealized — emotion. She is also as slim as any lover of
the opera could desire, and plays a glamorous send-up of a diva.
The trio of “earth-spirits” were charming — and in the
higher reaches of the house, I’m told, blended with unusual delicacy.
Though all very decent, the men were not quite so fine as the women in the
cast. This is not a tragedy in Strauss, who would have done without male voices
entirely if he’d been permitted to do so. Lance Ryan sang the high-lying
role of Bacchus without a squall or a crack, in itself an achievement, but with
a dryish color that did not always give pleasure. Jochen Schmeckenbecher sang
an admirable Music-Master, and the comedians were ably handled by Markus Werba
as Harlekin — one has heard more sensuous serenades — Mark
Schowalter, Joshua Bloom and Sean Panikkar. In this staging, Scaramuccio and
Truffaldino have very little to do and no distinction, but Panikkar gave
Brighella a distinctive sound and antics.
Michael Devlin — surely not the man I heard sing Ptolemy to
Sills’s Cleopatra forty years ago! And the Count to Te Kanawa’s
Countess thirty years ago! But yes, it was he — performed the speaking
role of the Major-Domo with archducal hauteur, a man so snooty he regards
singing in an opera as beneath his dignity.
Kyrill Petrenko demonstrated clarity and genuine feeling for Strauss’s
mingling of delirious motifs, and produced not just a musical fabric but a
philosophic statement. The singers all found him easy to work with — they
went about their comical antics without appearing to pay him any attention, but
they were always together and he was always having fun. So were we.