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On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.
It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre
Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances
dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed
at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in
the present case.)
I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the
annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I
heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It
was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at
As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.
A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to
life on stage
‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.
Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s
L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed
follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high.
The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution
of the CBSO to this concert.
When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities,
upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court
during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined
that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the
opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in
service of his God and his monarch.
Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.
The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.
There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.
First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.
With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.
Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.
Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).
What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question.
Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although
already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.
28 Sep 2012
Marriage of Figaro at the BBC Proms
Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s visit to the Proms has become a much anticipated annual event. This year on 28 August, they brought Michael Grandage’s new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Robin Ticciati, who takes over as musical director at Glyndebourne in 2014.
In Michael Grandage’s original production at Glyndebourne, there was a raised acting area behind the orchestra, with cast and chorus sitting in semi darkness behind this, whilst not performing. In theis BBC Proms performance (Prom 60), there was no set as such, just rudimentary door frames for entrances and exits.
There were no surprises about the version we heard, the traditional secondary arias were cut to ensure that the drama flowed. And flow it did. The dramatic and farcical elements move The opera was given in an abbreviated staging by Ian Rutherford based on efficiently and swiftly. Humorously too of course, though the boisterousness in act two got dangerously close to real farce. It was part of the way through act two that I thought, who are these people? And basically, the production didn’t really tell me.
Grandage and his designer Christopher Oram had move the action to the 1960’s. Oram’s costumes were all pitch-perfect with velvet suits, liberty print shirts, floaty dresses complete with awful period hairstyles. But this period does not necessarily give a secure dramatic basis for the piece, in fact by rather smudging the hierarchical relationships Grandage rather reduced the drama. In an era of free-love, the relationship of the Count (Audun Iversen) with Figaro (Vito Priante) and Susanna (Lydia Teuscher) was just too friendly. We need to believe that the count almost has the power of life and death over his servants. Without this, he is reduced to a hypocrite in a Whitehall farce.
Perhaps the situation could have been remedied by distinctive, strongly characterised individual performances. But Glyndebourne had assembled a young, enthusiastic cast who work well as an ensemble, conveying Grandage’s intentions, but failed to establish a personal stamp on the characters.
Audun Iversen as the count was personable and promising, but I defy anyone to be imperious when wearing a wig like that and a wine coloured velvet suit. Nor did he exude a particular sexual magnetism, which is surely a necessity. Iversen’s count seemed just too nice, there wasn’t the element of steel in the portrayal, the feeling that he has real power in his fief-dom and enjoys it.
Iversen was, I think, a little too matey with Vito Priante’s Figaro. Priante sang the role well enough but any hint at being revolutionary or subversive was rather nullified by the period. The Marriage of Figaro needs to be a dangerous piece, with real characters trapped in power relationships.
Sally Matthews as the countess was a Celia Birtwell sort of figure, elegant and slightly melancholy. She sang beautifully, "Dove Sono" was ravishing, but did not quite mine the vein of heartbreak at the aria’s heart. This was also noticeable at the end of the opera where the countess’s forgiveness of the count was lovely, but not yet heart-stopping.