Recently in Reviews
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.
A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic
concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.
Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the
composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who
has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman
composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.
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
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.)
David 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
Lisette 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.
David 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.