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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.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

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.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

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.



Kate Royal as Euridice [Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of Metropolitan Opera]
18 May 2011

Orfeo ed Euridice, Metropolitan Opera

Gluck’s Orfeo is, intentionally, free of clutter. If you cut out the scenes of balletic rejoicing just before the finale (and I can’t think of any good reason not to do so), it’s less than ninety minutes of music.

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

Orfeo: David Daniels; Euridice: Kate Royal; Amore: Lisette Oropesa. Metropolitan Opera chorus and orchestra, conducted by Antony Walker. Performance of April 29.

Above: Kate Royal as Euridice

All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of Metropolitan Opera


Gluck’s intention was to isolate the story in three individual voices, as no opera treating the story of Orpheus had done before. He could even have made it a monodrama, and in some ways it is one: The roles of Euridice and Amor are neither large nor intricate in the original Vienna version of the score. (Euridice’s aria was a Parisian afterthought, as was Orfeo’s coloratura showpiece in Act I, which may not even be Gluck’s work. Neither is performed at the Met.)

ORFEO_Daniels_as_Orfeo_1307.gifDavid Daniels as Orfeo

The Metropolitan Opera production, directed by Mark Morris, seemed, when it was first mounted, to be mostly about Isaac Mizrahi’s distracting costumes for the chorus (some idiot tale about “all the famous people in history witnessing the story”) and, secondarily, Morris’s jazzy choreography, almost the only scene-setting we have for Tartaros or Elysium. There was some story about a guy who goes to the Underworld to bring back his dead wife, but that came a poor third. On its latest revival, those miserable costumes are still around, but the chorus do not rush about on their catwalk portraying furious Furies; they stay sedately in place, out of the spotlight. The lighting is seldom upon them anyway, and one can ignore their egregious intrusions and just listen to the way they sing. (Beautifully, with very precise diction.) Morris’s choreography also seems less to clutter matters and (I could be wrong here) there may have been cuts in the celebratory dances. So at last the opera is about Orpheus and Eurydice, a pleasant, nearly Ovidian, metamorphosis.

ORFEO_Oropesa_as_Amor_0293.gifLisette Oropesa as Amor

Antony Walker, an Australian, made an excellent, brisk debut in the pit, and even at its most languid moments, the musical tension never let up all night: an energetic performance informed, one suspects, by a background in the current, danceable Early Music style of doing galant music. He plays well with singers, too—this staging requires the chorus to keep time, beating their hands on the rails of their bleachers, at certain moments.

David Daniels is now 45, and countertenors’ voices do not last as long as, say, Wagnerian sopranos’ do. I hear less of the thrilling sensuality in his alto that had me gaga in earlier years, less control at the edges of individual notes, but he has always been a superb musician and a passionate actor, and his Orfeo is a memorable, ardent portrait. When he stands alone, bereft, at the center of the stage (vertically as well as horizontally) for the climactic “Che faro senza Euridice,” a clear and simple statement of anguish, he has earned our total attention and repays it richly. This is what Gluck’s clarifying reform of opera was all about.

ORFEO_Daniels_and_Royal_188.gifDavid Daniels as Orfeo and Kate Royal as Euridice

Lisette Oropesa made a pleasing god of love, the voice pure and clear, filling the hall, the gestures a minimum of cute excess. Kate Royal made her Met debut as Euridice, with a voice of distinct color and beauty and an attractive stage presence, but she did not make terribly much of this pallid character’s awkward situation, as Danielle de Niese, in striking contrast, did, and for some reason she had lost her vocal footing for the final triumphal duet and was unable to regain it.

John Yohalem

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