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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’.
So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.
I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.
Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.
19 Jan 2013
Baroque treasures at the Barbican, London
The Barbican is going have a bit of a baroque moment next month. Joyce DiDonato will be bringing her Drama Queens programme, then there will be complete performances of Handel's Radamisto and Lully's Phaeton.
Accompanied by Il Complesso Barocco directed by Dmitry Skinkovsky, Joyce DiDonato will be performing a selection of arias from great queen roles in baroque opera, on February 6. She performs arias for Cleopatra by Handel (from Giulio Cesare) and Hasse (from Antonio e Cleopatra). Hasse married Handel's leading lady, Francesca Cuzzoni, and settled in Naples, but Antonio e Cleopatra dates from early in his career when he was based in Naples. DiDonato will also be singing one of Rossane's arias from Handel's Alessandro, written for the great trio of singers Senesino, Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordone with Rossane being sung by Bordone.
An earlier generation is represented by Ottavia's final aria from Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea.
Other baroque composers in the recital are rather less well known. Giuseppe Orlandini (1676 -1760) worked extensively in Italy, but his opera Arsace was premiered at the Kings Theatre in London in 1721. DiDonato will be singing an aria from his opera Berenice which dates from 1725. Geminiano Giacomelli was Italian born, but worked extensively in Vienna. His opera Merope was premiered in Venice in 1734, and DiDonato sings an aria from this opera. Giovanni Porta was another Italian composer who worked in London, his opera Numitore was premiered at the Kings Theatre in 1720. We will be hearing an aria from Ifigenia in Aulide, which was premiered in Monaco in 1738
The orchestra will also be playing instrumental music including a Vivaldi concerto written for Dresden, and the passacaglia from Handel's Radamisto.
We get the complete Radamisto on Feburary 10 with David Daniels singing the title role in a concert performance with Harry Bicket conducting the English Concert with Patricia Bardon as Zenobia, Luca Pisaroni as Tiridate, Elizabeth Watts as Tigrane, Brenda Rae as Polisenna and Robert Rice as Farasmene
Radamisto dates from 1720 and is one of the most serious of Handel’s serious operas (opera seria) written for the Royal Academy in the earlier part of his career. His aristocratic patrons who ran the academy were interested in seeing noble characters put through difficult situations, morally uplifting. The plot can sometimes seem convoluted, and there is no light relief, but Handel’s response to the characters difficulties is wonderfully subtle and humane. After the first performance in April 1720, Handel radically re-cast the opera so that the title role could be sung by the alto castrato Senesino, recently arrived in London. This gives us the unusual situation where one of Handel’s revisions to his Italian operas is as valid artistically as the original. The English Concert will be performing the revised version.
Prior to their Barbican performance, they are performing the work at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris and at Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
Then on 10 March we move to Paris, as Christoph Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques perform Lully’s Phaeton with Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Ingrid Perruche, Isabelle Druet, Sophie Bevan, Andrew Foster-Williams, Matthew Brook, Benoît Arnould, Cyril Auvity, Virginie Thomas. Lully wrote the opera to a libretto by his regular collaborator Philippe Quinault and the work premiered at Versailles in 1683. Its plot, dealing with the hubris of Phaeton, son of the Sun god, can be seen as an allegory of the punishment awaiting those mortals who dare to raise themselves as high as the sun (i.e. the Sun King, Louis XIV). The opera is the 10th of Lully’s 14 tragedies lyriques. As with all operas in the form, it mixes aria with choruses and extensive dance episodes which are integrated into the plot.