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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.
02 Oct 2011
Eugene Onegin, Los Angeles
Kudos to the Los Angeles Opera Company for expanding its heretofore limited
Russian repertoire and opening its 26th season with Tchaikovsky’s
Eugene Onegin. The romantic work based on the novel in verse of the
same name by Alexander Pushkin, is likely everyone’s favorite
Kudos too, for having presenting the work in a production created by the
late Stephen Pimlott for the Royal Opera House and the and the Finnish National
Opera (more about this later) which, though it sparked discontent at its 2006
London premiere, introduces a new view of the tale.
Whereas Pushkin narrated his lengthy lyrical poem filled with wit, cynicism,
and psychological insights, Tchaikovsky and his librettist Konstantin
Shilovsky reduced the work to intimate scenes focused directly on their
principal characters. In both versions, however, the story is set at a time
when rank and status mattered, when women were essentially powerless. Eugene
Onegin, the eponymous protagonist (one can’t call him a hero) of the
work, is the wealthy neighbor of the widow Larina and her young daughters, Olga
and Tatiana. Onegin, who has wandered the world, lives the dissolute life of a
Byronic Don Juan, and carries himself with the aristocratic mien of Jane
Austen’s Mr. D’Arcy, is introduced to the Larin household by the
poet Lensky, in love with Olga. The three woman, attended by a nanny, live as
did Elizabeth Bennett, a modest country life. But in this story, it takes only
a glance for young Tatiana to fall in love with the elegant Onegin. The same
night, unable to sleep, overflowing with passion and impetuosity, she writes a
letter to Onegin offering him her heart.
When the two meet the next morning Onegin honorably, but coldly returns the
humiliated girl’s letter and rejects her love. Later, bored at a local
ball, he flirts with Olga and incenses Lensky to the point where the poet
challenges him to a duel Lensky is killed and Onegin returns to his aimless
wandering life. When, in Act 3 Onegin and Tatiana meet again, she is the wife
of a prince. Now it is Onegin who will write a letter and plead for love.
Tatiana first upbraids him for his past cruelty, then confesses that she still
loves him. But refusing to renounce her vows, she leaves him alone to his
despair. Is this a story of payback, as one reviewer described it? Is it about
class and caste? Is it about a country girl’s solid values, set against
the nihilism of a sybaritic life? Or does it reflect as many Pushkin scholars
believe, the battles raging within Pushkin himself? It should not be surprising
to find new interpretations of the work.
Though not a cast well-known to American opera goers, Los Angeles assembled
four stellar principals with knowledge of the language and familiarity with
their roles, which always brings a a sense of ease to a production. Baritone
Dalibor Jenis was a full voiced, if somewhat stiffly mannered Onegin, until the
last scene when rejected by Tatiana, jacketless and unkempt, he seemed to me a
maddened Don Jose. Oksana Dyka’s role as Tatiana took her in an opposite
emotional direction. In voice and manner she made the transition from love
starved teen ager to mature woman convincingly. I loved tenor Vsevolod
Grivnov’s ringing top voice as Lensky’s but sometimes I think I
love every tenor as Lensky. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk sang Olga, and
Margaret Thompson, her mother, Larina with assurance and ease. There were three
young American artists in the cast. Ronnita Nicole Miller as Filipievna, the
nanny, has a rich voice wonderfully under control. James Cresswell sang Prince
Gremin’s aria with magnificent sonority and hit the low notes, but still
lacks that “innerness” that brings subtlety and shading. Keith
Jameson was a silky voiced Trinquet.
Dalibor Jenis as Onegin and Oksana Dyka as Tatiana
In the emotion-filled dramatic scenes that Tchaikovsky set, not only the
characters, but his music speak directly to our hearts. Conductor James Conlon
led the orchestra in a pulsing, radiant performance.
Pimlott’s intelligent production deserves a review of its own despite
some incomprehensible stagings: why Tatiana writes a letter bursting with
passion while bent over on the floor, I’ll never know. And why the
glittering third act “polonaise” is performed before a scrim
depicting death, remains a mystery to me. Suffice it now to say that with this
production Pimlott introduces us to Pushkin’s narrative viewpoint. Aided
by Antony McDonald’s sometimes outlandish costumes and Peter
Mumford’s always dramatic lighting, he gives us something of
Pushkin’s distant view of his characters by staging the action as though
painterly images set within a frame.
One last word about Tchaikovsky’s music. Tatiana, Lensky, Gremin and
Onegin have the four great arias of this opera. Leaving the theater, I could
recall snatches of the first three, all of which declare love, but not of
Onegin’s. His is the one about rejection.
And one other last word to thank Placido Domingo and the Opera Company for
including a touching tribute to Salvatore Licitra in its program.