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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.
16 Nov 2012
Alagna sings Nemorino - L'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House, London,
One of the main reasons for interest in the Royal Opera’s latest revival of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore was that tenor Roberto Alagna had chosen to return to the role of Nemorino. Though he had sung Nemorino earlier in his career, he had never sung the role at Covent Garden. The other cast members were of a high order too, with Alexandra Kurzak as Adina, Ambrogio Maestri as Dulcamara and Fabio Capitanucci as Belcore. So plenty of reasons for seeing the revival, which I caught on opening night 13 November 2012.
Laurent Pelly’s production had been revived by Daniel Dooner, the results in Chantal Thomas’s designs looked handsome and it was all charmingly entertaining without being heartless. Pelly and Thomas had chosen to set the opera in a small Italian farming town in the 1950’s. Wheat and straw bales were a big feature of the set, with a wheat-field as part of the backdrop and piles of straw bales used extensively in large stacks as the location for much of the action. The other significant visual effect was the use of transport. The chorus moved around on bicycles, vespas and mopeds, Dulcamara arrived in a huge truck and Nemorino appeared driving a tractor (whilst drunk) towards the end of act 2.
Neither the set nor the production really pushed the 1950’s setting too far, which meant that the piece worked very well. Donizetti’s opera is about a small town farming community and Pelly’s lovely detailed observation ensured that we were drawn into the doings of this particular one. The chorus were very much part of the action, and helped create the mis-en-scene for the soloists. The entire performance had the feeling of a group enterprise, an ensemble piece despite the presence of star names; it was all the better for it.
Alagna can no longer sing Nemorino with the grace and beauty of tone that he once could. But his determination to sing Nemorino whilst also singing Radames and Enee is rather admirable and has the feel of an earlier age when these roles were often taken by singers with larger voices. Of course, all this would be as naught if Alagna could not still sing the role. Granted, his voice was at times slightly louder than ideal, but he negotiated all the passagework deftly, if not ideally neatly. His voice did not always quite behave as he wanted, a couple of high notes were compromised, but he still produced some lovely tone and his account of Una furtiva lagrima was still a thing of beauty on its own terms. If you accepted that stylistically he was channelling Puccini, then there was a great deal to admire.
But it was Alagna as an actor, as a stage creature, who made the performance. From the outset he was completely charming, with a winning manner and an extreme physicality to the performance (to the extent of even losing his clothes) which could have turned into a stunt but in fact became part of his delightful characterisation of Nemorino. I have to admit that I went into the performance a little dubious, but came away entranced. Alagna’s performance was very much team work, he worked with his other performers and was clearly having a whale of a time.
It helped, of course, that he had such a strong team around him. Alexandra Kurzak has sung in the production before and remains a complete delight in this repertoire. Her capabilities in singing elaborate bel canto roles is astounding, but she is not just a technical delight she uses her technical abilities to create a real character. Her Adina was wonderfully pert and flirtatious, but even from the outset it was obvious that she felt something for Nemorino, and Kurzak allowed us to see this and developed it.
There were plenty of vocal delights on the way as well, but everything combined superbly in her account of her act 2 aria Prendi, per me sei libero where her feeling for Nemorino is displayed, combined with technical finesse.
Dulcamara was played by Ambrogio Maestri with rotund good humour. He was more the loveable rogue than the edgy character in some versions of this opera and I understand that the satire was more pointed when Pelly’s production was new. Maestri is very adept at using his bulk to devastating comic effect, but his account of the role was also very finely sung. It was buffo, but with a very clear musical line and very good it was too. Maestri also had a number of delightful tricks, such as interpolating little whistling noises when singing the comic duet with Adina during the wedding scene in act 2. But you felt that Maestri was less interesting in comic business for its own sake, and more intent on using it to create character.
Fabio Capitanucci (last seen here as Chorebe in Les Troyens) was finely fatuous Belcore, but one with a creditable swagger who would clearly be of interest to the ladies. Much of the humour came from the fact that his troops consisted of just two recruits, two mismatched boys one tall one small, both in ill-fitting suits. The way that, at the end he smoothly transferred his affections to Giannetta (Susana Gaspar) made it clear that Belcore was a survivor.
Gaspar (currently one of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists), was announced as suffering from a cold, but there were thankfully no audible effects and she made a charming Gianetta.
Bruno Campanella conducted; he got off to a slow start, and there were one or two hiccups in ensemble between pit and stage in the more complex choruses. But as Campanella got into the swing of things, there was much to enjoy in his performance. I have to confess, that I do rather prefer this opera in a smaller opera house, but he managed to get a nicely sparkling performance from the orchestra.
This was a joyous evening in the theatre, just what L’elisir d’amore should be.