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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Riccardo Muti
22 Apr 2011

Otello, Carnegie Hall

By the time he emerged from retirement with Otello, his twenty-seventh opera, at 73, there wasn’t much Giuseppe Verdi didn’t know about how to make an orchestra do his bidding, set the mood of each line of a good story, piling excitement on excitement and letting the tension mutate to something gentler at the right times in order to make the outburst to follow the more demoniac.

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello

Otello: Aleksandrs Antonenko; Desdemona: Krassimira Stoyanova; Iago: Carlo Guelfi; Emilia: Barbara Di Castri; Cassio: Juan Francisco Gatell; Rodrigo: Michael Spyres; Lodovico: Eric Owens. Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Riccardo Muti. At Carnegie Hall, April 15.

Above: Riccardo Muti


This makes the score one of particular delight to an instrument as skilled and as superbly led as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and its equally illustrious chorus), and the opera’s appeal clear to its director, Riccardo Muti, a former music director of La Scala.

When, at sixteen, I told my father that I had discovered opera, he got me my first opera recording: the von Karajan Otello with Del Monaco and Tebaldi, both singers considered definitive interpreters of the roles at that time. (In the Rome Opera House, there is a wall-size bronze plaque dedicated to Del Monaco, with his profile and the bar lines for Otello’s opening “Esultate…,” a terrific way to remember a tenor, eh?) I listened to this first recording devoutly, and then encountered the opera in performance in perhaps Franco Zeffirelli’s finest bit of stagecraft at the Met, under Böhm, with Zylis-Gara, Vickers and Milnes singing and acting it superbly. And there have been many great Otellos for me since then (McCracken, Domingo, King, the frighteningly quiet Willow Song of Pilar Lorengar, the horrifying Iago of Wassily Janulako), but there were things in the orchestration that I had not noticed until the Chicago’s performance before a packed Carnegie Hall last Friday. This points up one of two advantages about a concert performance of an opera (the first being that no stage director to distract you from the piece being performed with his own irrelevance): You can hear the orchestra more clearly, often playing with more care, than you can in the opera house, where there is a covered pit and the distractions of the stage and the attention (and the limelight) squarely on the singers.

Riccardo Muti, who has conducted hardly any opera in this country, got his start in the opera house and his original fame as a stickler for the letter of the score. This has led to many productions of operas of an earlier era that aficionados deplore as lacking the high spirits that idiosyncratic singers (of the best sort) could bring to them. Muti’s attention to detail, to the symphonic picture and to dramatic propulsion suits some operas better than others, and Otello is a case where the composer knew just what he wanted and took infinite pains to achieve it. Muti has great fun with it, reaching out to each section with clutching, pleading hands, wooing them into the dynamic he desired. There were times during the lighter, merrier moments with which Verdi intended the dark drama to be studded—the drinking song, the “flower” chorus, the “handkerchief” trio in Act III—that an airier spirit sometimes eluded his attention, but placing the Chicago Symphony in the hands of such a technician produces gilded, glowing effect upon effect, each tremolo wind in perfect tune (from sighing violins to threatening, murmurous basses), each thunderous brass outburst ideally calculated.

The singers, all well chosen, were not in quite such superlative form as the orchestra and chorus. Aleksandrs Antonenko, singing though ailing, in Italian rather better than his French in last year’s Les Troyens at the same hall, demonstrated real tenor ping (as the aficionados say) on Otello’s abrupt rises from the conversational to the furious and was never overwhelmed by the orchestra. His quieter, more tragic moments were affecting as well. Krassimira Stoyanova, who has sung Desdemona to acclaim from Vienna to Barcelona, was occasionally flat in the Act I love duet, but her placid, dignified bewilderment in the rest of the opera was true and sweet, her Willow Song and Ave Maria quietly devastating. Carlo Guelfi, not always the most exciting of baritones, sang a worthy, menacing Iago, with diabolic energy to his cries of “O gioia!” as his wicked plots moved to fruition. Juan Francisco Gatell’s Cassio and the few (but full and lovely) notes of Barbara Di Castri’s Emilia made one eager to hear more of their singing. Only Eric Owens, the growling Lodovico, proved a disappointment.

John Yohalem

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