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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 Mar 2013
Samson and Delilah, San Diego Opera
Samson and Delilah is the only opera by Camille Saint-Saens that is
still regularly performed. He had written two previous operas and would write
several more, along with a long list of instrumental pieces including The
Carnival of the Animals.
In the 1860s the composer was aware of a renewed
interest in choral music, so he planned an oratorio on the story of Samson that
is found in Chapter sixteen of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. He
spoke to the husband of one of his wife's cousins, Ferdinand Lemaire, about
writing a libretto for it and the writer said the story would make a good
opera. They began working on it as an opera, but other concerns interrupted
Fellow composer Franz Liszt, who was interested in producing new works by
talented composers, persuaded Saint-Saëns to finish Samson and
Delilah, saying that he would produce the completed work at the
grand-ducal opera house in Weimar.
The composer tailored the role of Delilah for Pauline Viardot
(1821–1910), but by the time the work was finished and could be staged,
the singer was too old to perform it. She did, however, organize a private
performance of the second act at a friend's home with the composer at the
piano. A great admirer of the work, she hoped that this private performance
would encourage the director of the Paris Opéra to mount a full production.
Although Saint-Saëns completed the score in 1876, no opera houses in France
displayed any desire to stage Samson and Delilah.
It was Liszt's support that led to the work being premiered in a German
translation on December 2, 1877, in Weimar, where it was a resounding success.
But there were many intervening years before it started to become popular in
other cities. Its Paris premiere at the Éden-Théâtre did not take place until
October 31, 1890, but audiences did give it a warm reception. Over the next two
years, performances were staged in Bordeaux, Geneva, Toulouse, Nantes, Dijon,
and Montpellier. When the Paris Opéra finally presented the opera on November
23, 1892, audience members and critics alike praised it.
On February 19, 2013, San Diego Opera presented Samson and Delilah
in a traditional production directed by Leslie Koenig. The solid looking,
effective scenery was designed by Douglas Schmidt and the soft colored costumes
were originated by Carrie Robbins. All were constructed at San Francisco Opera.
Koenig’s direction told the story in a straightforward manner and made no
attempt to update or change the setting from the borders of Judah, Dan, and
Philistia in the late twelfth or early eleventh century BCE.
Clifton Forbis was a dramatic Samson who showed us the wages of his
character’s sins. Vocally, he started off slowly, but it is a long role
and his pacing was good after the first scene. His best singing was heard
during the poignant third act aria, ‘Vois ma misère, helas’. Tall
and slim Nadia Krasteva was a sensual, seductive Delilah who fully captured her
man when she sang ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ (My Heart
Opens at your Voice). Her voice had a purple velvet sound and the low notes of
her chest voice were exquisite. As the High Priest of Dagon, Anooshah Golesorki
commanded the stage as he sang with a stentorian voice. His second act duet
with Krasteva was quite memorable.
Gregory Reinhart was a compelling Old Hebrew and Mikhail Svetlov a fiery
Abimilech. Doug Jones, Scott Sikon, and Greg Fedderly gave interesting
portrayals as Philistines. Since the composer originally thought to write this
work as an oratorio, the chorus is very important. Under the direction of
Charles F. Prestinari, the San Diego Opera Chorus sang Saint-Saens’
rousing music with great gusto. Conductor Karen Keltner is an expert on both
French language and French music, so she coached the singers’ diction in
addition to leading the orchestra in this idiomatic performance. She brought
out Saint-Saens’ love for the exotic and her interpretation was
particularly impressive in the ‘Bacchanal’. Her tempi were well
thought out and the playing was rich and translucent. Kenneth von
Heidecke’s choreography was fun to watch and the enticing music made the
entire audience want to join the dance.
Cast and Production Information
Clifton Forbis, Samson; Nadia Krasteva, Delilah; Mikhail Svetlov,
Abimelech; Anoosha Golesorki, High Priest of Dagon; Scott Sikon and Doug Jones,
Philistines; Greg Fedderly, Philistine Messenger; Gregory Reinhart, Old Hebrew;
Karen Keltner, conductor; Leslie Koenig, director; Kenneth von Heidecke,
choreographer; Charles F. Prestinari, chorus master; Douglas Schmidt, scenery;
Carrie Robbins, costumes; Gary Marder, lighting design. San Diego Opera, Civic
Theater, Tuesday, February 19, 2013.