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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Das Nationaltheater am Max-Joseph-Platz [Photo © Felix Löchner]
19 Jul 2014

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro, KV 492

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Das Nationaltheater am Max-Joseph-Platz [Photo © Felix Löchner]


Gerald Finley offered a handsomely-sung, dramatically alert portrayal of the Count, beautifully complemented by Véronique Gens, whose apparent indisposition was only occasionally evident. Erwin Schrott’s Figaro suffered from surprising occlusion of tone during the first act, but thereafter was very much on form, Schrott’s theatricality and musicality working very much in tandem. His Susanna, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller was perky and vivacious in both respects too. Kate Lindsey had a slightly uneasy start as Cherubino, but more than made up for it with a perfectly-sung ‘Voi che sapete’. One could believe in her/him throughout too, not least when she adopted the guise of awkward cross-dressing. Amongst the rest of the cast, Ulrich Reß’s Basilio stood out, although he alas — following directorial orders? — adopted the current tendency towards caricature in the role, if less so than sometimes one endures. Elsa Benoit’s Barbarina showed great promise, indeed great achievement; I suspect that we shall soon be hearing more from her.

If only the cast had been better supported, let alone led, by Dan Ettinger. The orchestra sounded as though it would have been happier playing without a conductor; indeed, though sometimes a little on the heavy side, the orchestral playing as such was distinguished throughout. Alas, Ettinger seemed never able to settle on the ‘right’ tempo: not that there is only one, but at the time, it should feel as though that were the case. After an Overture and good part of the first act that were driven as if they were Rossini, with little or no space to breathe, other numbers relaxed too much and felt unduly drawn out. Worse still were the occasions when tempi changed arbitrarily — this was no Furtwängler! — during a number, ‘Dove sono’ an especially unfortunate example, Gens seemingly very much at odds, and rightly so, with the conductor. It was far from the only occasion upon which coordination between stage and pit went quite awry. My habitual lament at the loss of Marcellina’s and Basilio’s fourth-act arias was exchanged for relative relief: a sad state of affairs.

Dieter Dorn’s production is an odd affair, of which I struggled to make much sense. I had the impression — which may of course be wide of the mark — that we saw a director of a fundamentally conservative disposition who nevertheless felt obliged to try something ‘new’, resulting in a compromise that lacked coherence. I assume that the contrast between period costume and scenic abstraction was deliberate, perhaps attempting to make some point about stylisation, about contemporary reception of an over-familiar eighteenth-century work, etc., but am not entirely sure quite what that point was. The fourth act’s ‘business’ with white sheets in place of ‘proper’ scenery has unfortunate echoes of a school play, or perhaps better, a school ‘movement’ session. The cast seemed to flounder on stage, and I could not really blame them. There was an equally unfortunate, if typical, tendency, if less extreme than can sometimes be the case, to confuse this most sophisticated of comedies with mere farce. (Does not Mozart’s score tell us everything we need to know in that respect — and indeed in every other?) For the most part, the cast rose above such limitations, but limitations they certainly were.

Mark Berry

Cast and production information:

Count Almaviva: Gerald Finley; The Countess: Véronique Gens; Cherubino: Kate Lindsey; Figaro: Erwin Schrott; Susanna: Hanna-Elisabeth Müller; Bartolo: Umberto Chiummo; Marcellina: Heike Grötzinger; Basilio: Ulrich Reß; Don Curzio: Kevin Conners; Antonio: Peter Lobert; Barbarina: Elsa Benoit; Two Girls: Josephine Renelt, Rachael Wilson. Dieter Dorn (director); Jürgen Rose (designs); Max Keller (lighting); Hans-Joachim Rückhäberle (dramaturgy). Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera (chorus master: Stellario Fagone)/Bavarian State Orchestra/Dan Ettinger (conductor). Nationaltheater, Munich, Thursday 17 July 2014.

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