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Wigmore Hall has announced the 25 young singer and pianist duos from around the world who have been shortlisted for this prestigious competition, which takes place at Wigmore Hall in September with the generous support of the Kohn Foundation. Details were announced on 27 April during a recital by Milan Siljanov, who won top prize in the 2015 Competition.
Garsington Opera's thrilling new commission for the 2017 Season, Silver Birch, will feature over 180 participants from the local community aged 8-80, including students from primary and secondary schools, members of the local military community, student Foley artists under the guidance of Pinewood Studios and members of Wycombe Women’s Aid.
Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.
On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.
Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”
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.
08 Mar 2010
Tamerlano: Handel at the Royal Opera House, London
Handel’s Tamerlano, in the production by Graham Vick, is well
known, but its run at the Royal Opera House is unusual because many of the cast
are creating the roles for the first time. It isn't a live reprise of the DVD,
but more challenging.
Plácido Domingo had been billed to sing five of the seven performances, but
was rushed to hospital days before opening night. Kurt Streit had to step in at
short notice. This is his first Bajazet, although he’s very experienced
and professional. Domingo’s name sells tickets, but his withdrawal
wasn’t an issue for me, sad as the circumstances are, for his Bajazet is
a known quantity. I’d been planning to hear Streit anyway, later in the
Unlike Domingo, Streit is a baroque and Mozart specialist, so he brings a
completely different perspective to the role. Bajazet is not a sympathetic
character. He is used to being an autocrat, whose will is unquestioned:. Suddenly he’s in chains, defeated by “a common herdsman”.
It’s so far beyond his comprehension that he cannot adapt. Suicide
is his only option. It’s a kind of warped autonomy. Because he
can’t learn or change, it’s the only form of self-preservation left
Streit’s Bajazet is regally dignified. Men like he don’t do
empathy, they rule. This makes the tenderness between father and daughter all
the more poignant. Streit’s Bajazet is perceptive, for Bajazet is
fundamentally isolated by his inability to relate to others. After swallowing
poison, he has nothing to lose, so gives in to feelings. Streit’s calm, magisterial singing at this point conveys the sense that the Ottoman has found sublimation. Being an absolute monarch can be a burden, and perhaps Bajazet at last senses release.
Christine Schäfer as Asteria, Kurt Streit as Bajazet and Sara Mingardo as Andronico
Tamerlano represents the new order wiping away the old. His costumes
constantly change, a dash of colour against the stark black and white design of
the set. Eventually, Tamerlano appears in full wig and train, like a monarch of
the Ancien Regime. It’s not in the libretto, but a telling
observation, for Tamerlano became a tyrant. Handel didn’t need to spell
this out explicitly, but the implications would not have been lost on him. Full
credit to Graham Vick and his team (Richard Hudson, designs).
This production looks uncompromisingly modern, because Handel’s ideas
are relevant to modern times : power, integrity, loyalty. The lighting (Mathew Richardson) is oppressively bright, but throws the moral issues in the opera into full focus. Because
there’s no unnecessary detail, such details as they are become
significant - rows of anonymous servants, moving in stylized obeisance, like
machines. Great Empires function through rituals like these. Power is
symbolized by a huge foot, bearing down on a sphere which perhaps represents
the world. When Bajazet and Asteria crawl under, it feels dangerous, as it
should be. They’re not crushed by the set but by what it means.
Renata Pokupić as Irene
Princess Irene appears astride a huge blue elephant. It’s marvelous
theatre. But power “is” theatre. The elephant looks comic, like an
illustration in a children’s book. But again, there is something faintly
ludicrous about these monarchs handing out kingdoms as if they were candy.
Christine Schäfer is a superb Asteria. It’s her debut in this role,
too, though like Streit, she has extensive experience in Handel and the Baroque.
Indeed, they’ve appeared together, including Partenope
at the Theatre an der Wien. The dynamic between them is good.
Schäfer’s Asteria is so strong that she really comes over as her
father’s daughter. Such ferocity and strength of purpose. From
Schäfer’s diminutive frame emits a voice so coolly resolute, it’s
frightening. The famous “whiteness” of her timbre is ideal.
Virginal as Asteria is, she has integrity. To honour her father, she’d
kill and die. Ostensibly Tamerlano is attracted by her beauty, but her
personality is more than a match for his. Perhaps he’s wise not to marry
her. He’s safer with Irene.
Asteria’s purity is indicated in her simple white dress and pigtails.
She’s a princess from a long line of bluebloods, but rates moral
integrity far higher than worldly power. Irene, in contrast, loves power and
status, which is why she won’t settle for second best. Renata
Pokupić’s Irene makes a grand entrance on the blue elephant, but
spends most of the opera huddled under a black veil. She’s biding her
time. She sang the role in Madrid in 2008, so she sings it with assurance.
Christianne Stotjin as Tamerlano
As Tamerlano, Christianne Stotijn makes a debut both in the role and at the
Royal Opera House. Although she’s well known as a singer, Tamerlano is a
tricky role. Few women can portray a tyrant as butch and as uncouth as
Tamerlano must have been. Possibly more steel in the voice would have helped.
Even though Tamerlano is prepared to spare Asteria, he isn’t a nice
fellow. Acting this part is difficult, as it doesn’t remotely resemble
Stotijn herself. Maybe she’ll distance herself as the run continues and
play it with greater abandon.
Sara Mingardo is new to the Royal Opera House, too, though she sang
Andronico in Madrid. She’s accomplished, but the part is very long and
wordy. Handel wrote the whole opera in 24 days. Perhaps with more stringent
revision he might have reshaped the part so it’s less verbose, so the
singer doesn’t have to stretch herself so far for relatively little purpose. Even Leone, a relatively minor but critical part is sung by a newcomer to the Royal Opera House, Vito Priante.
Sara Mingardo as Andronico
I liked this first night performance for its freshness and immediacy.
If some of the performances were a little tentative, they might mature as the
run continues. But Streit and Schäfer are impressive, making this
“new” Tamerlano a rewarding experience.