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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.



22 Apr 2011

The Magic Flute, Manitoba

It’s hard to go wrong with The Magic Flute. Mozart’s final opera contains every audience-pleasing feature in spades: beautiful music, a fairy tale story, romance, laughter, villains, heroes/heroines, and for most — a happy ending.

W. A. Mozart: The Magic Flute

Manitoba Opera, Centennial Concert Hall, April 9, 2011


Manitoba Opera’s production of this three-hour masterpiece offered a bonus feature: a crackerjack cast rich with talented Manitobans working their own special magic. Twelve out of 15 roles were filled by Manitoba singers.

The opera’s set, representing 1882 Egypt, was a stark multi-level structure resembling stone. Creative curtain draping, props dropping from above and a brightly lit pyramid made for efficient, if slight, scene changes.

As Tadeusz Biernacki conducted the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through the overture, we were treated to some inventive effects — characters silhouetted high against a red sky, watching as an Anglo-Egyptian War battle raged below making explosions of light. Bill Williams’ lighting introduced the story before a single note was sung.

We first see American lyric tenor Bruce Sledge (Tamino), struggling to escape a huge, Chinese dragon-like serpent, with billowy cloth body, gigantic googly-eyed head with fangs. He was saved by three hilariously preening ladies, played to the hilt by sopranos Sarah Halmarson and Naomi Forman and smoky-voiced mezzo Marcia Whitehead. Coiffed in multi-coloured streaks, they fawned competitively over the collapsed Tamino, making clever (and suggestive) choreographic use of the crooked poles they carried.

Sledge has a true hero’s voice and demeanour. In “Dies Bildnis ist bezaurbernd schön,” he poured his heart into his singing, flowing phrases imbued with passion. He also did a mean representation of flute-playing, making it quite believable.

One of opera’s all-time favourite characters, bird-catcher Papageno was played by baritone Hugh Russell. Dressed in feathers and rags, he was delightfully animated, his easy, pleasing voice setting just the right tone for this amiable role. Russell is the ideal Papageno, with great comic ability and superb timing.

While the opera was sung in German, all dialogue (by Schikaneder) was in English, so the audience could laugh along with Papageno when he spouted such gems as “all this stress is making me moult out of season” and claimed that the wine was giving him “acid reflux.” Director Michael Cavanagh went to town with the dialogue, giving us plenty of chuckles.

Magic-Flute_Manitoba.gifPhillip Ens (Sarastro), Bruce Sledge (Tamino), and Andriana Chuchman (Pamina). [Photo: R. Tinker]

Papageno’s better half, Papagena, was the delightful Lara Ciekewicz. She was positively bubbly in this small role. Their “Pa-pa-pa-gena! Pa-pa-pageno!” was lively and adorable.

Speaking of adorable, who couldn’t love the three genii with their bushy white hair and angelic voices? Bravo to Carson Milberg, Anton Dahl Sokalski and Torbjörn Thomson.

As the infamous Queen of the Night, American coloratura Julia Kogan made quite the entrance, floating down from the sky on a fantastical winged camel. Dressed in a magnificent gown, she was ghostly pale — but her fine voice was anything but. Assertive and commanding, she ordered Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina. But in later scenes, Kogan’s dialogue was almost inaudible upstage. She made a valiant effort in the devilishly difficult “Der Höle Rachekocht in meinem Herzen,” reaching for the highest notes with obvious exertion.

Winnipeg soprano Andriana Chuchman’s Pamina was radiantly princess-like, with an appealing dose of youthful exuberance. Chuchman is a natural performer, with a mature, substantial voice that carries exceedingly well. The famous lament, “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden” was masterfully crafted, round notes oozing heartbreak.

Phillip Ens’ resonant bass made the ultimate High Priest Sarastro, steady and noble. The depth and pomp of his performance made every hair stand on end. His regal robes were elegant and refined.

His slave Monostatos, played by the athletic Michel Corbeil, appeared tattooed from the top of his bald head to his toes. His flexible tenor voice sneered through his lines, making him the villain we loved to hate.

Gregory Atkinson was perfectly cast as an authority figure (High Priest), his deep voice richly resplendent. PJ Buchan’s (Priest) glorious tenor voice sounds better on every outing.

The chorus rounded out the production nicely, always well balanced and supportive. Kudos go to the orchestra, in particular for the many solos by flute and glockenspiel. There would be no Magic Flute without them.

This was a first-rate production in every way.

Gwenda Nemerofsky

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