20 Apr 2010
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk on Blu-Ray
Previously released on DVD, the Netherlands Opera recording of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a good way.
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful producers of opera.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.
Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
Gustav Mahler and fin-de-siècle Vienna will be the focus of the Oxford Lieder Festival (13-28 October 2017), exploring his influences, contemporaries and legacy. Mahler was a dominant musical personality: composer and preeminent conductor, steeped in tradition but a champion of the new. During this Festival, his complete songs with piano will be heard, inviting a fresh look at this ’symphonic’ composer and the enduring place of song in the musical landscape.
On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.
Previously released on DVD, the Netherlands Opera recording of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
(and reviewed at Opera Today) has also been issued in Blu-ray, and this technology enhances further the production values of this particular recording. Visually the Blu-ray video is superior to the DVD release with regard to the refinement of the images and the clarity of presentation. The sharp definition allows the performers to appear immediate and accessible. Without exaggerating any details, the realistic images also reinforce the sense of immediacy, which is already present in the DVD version of this production.
At times, however, the blue-cast of the sets in the first act seems more pronounced in this medium, and this seems to color the resulting images in an unintended manner. At the same time, that blue-cast makes the flesh tones of the actors more prominent, an element which is essential to the gritty, realistic production that has some provocative displays of various sexual interaction. As a filmed opera, some aspects of the staging appear also seem more pronounced in the Blu-ray disc, as with the use of the flashlight later in the act. This detail may not emerge as clearly in the theater, where this effect depends on the distance and elevation from the stage. Here the blurring light of the flashlight has a welcome prominence in drawing the viewer’s attention to the scene. Overall the already fine visual presentation that is available on the DVD is heightened in Blu-ray, as is the sound, which is qualitatively clearer. The fine performance is transmitted with a sense of immediacy that is not always possible with opera videos.
More importantly the sound on the Blu-ray version is more details and clearer than on DVD. Granted, the sound levels on the DVD are excellent, some aspects of the performance emerge with greater clarity on the Blu-ray version of this video. The orchestra has a fine presence, with the dynamic levels nicely distinguished in this recording. At times the sound conveys the sense of a studio recording, an aspect of the release which also commends itself to those interested in an effective recording. Yet this sense of clarity also allows the voices to be heard more precisely, thus reinforcing the sense of immediacy that is part of the visual presentation in this medium. The sound quality is fine throughout the Blu-ray recording, but particularly effective in the final scene in the fourth act (disc 2, tracks 8-17), as the score buildings to its powerful conclusion. This is a part of the opera in which the visual and sonic details are only enhanced through this level of refinement.
The Blu-ray release contains the same supporting materials as the DVD version of this opera. The documentary by Reiner E. Moritz “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: The Tragedy of Katerina Ismailova”, was already part of the DVD version, and it is included on the Blu-ray release. In fact, all the features of the original recording are found here, and given the qualitative differences in the sonic and visual levels, this version of the video is preferable for those who want to experience the opera almost as if they were in the audience for the production itself.
James L. Zychowicz
For this recording on standard DVD: