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On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
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.
16 Nov 2016
Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles
On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.
The Ebell Club in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles has a modest sized hall in which Pacific Opera Project (POP) often presents opera. The atmosphere is casual and the audience is usually seated at tables eating hors d’oeuvres and drinking wine. Music Director Stephen Karr sees to it that the music is taken seriously and Artistic Director Josh Shaw makes sure the action and the English supertitles keep their 2016 audience entertained.
Stage Director Josh Shaw designed the sets, which showed Rosina’s balcony, Bartolo’s living room, and Figaro’s shop. He had some short scenes played in front of a curtain. Above the stage were not only English titles but also videos and notes regaling the characters’ Hollywood exploits.
Figaro, Bernardo Bermudez, was the hairdresser who could always find his clients clean samples of hair or anything else needed to pass a drug test. His Figaro was so amusing that he almost distracted the audience from his robust singing. As his servant, Fiorello, Kevin Blickfeldt was a rollocking misfit.
Rosina, mezzo-soprano Meagan Martin, was a lovely young starlet who was anything but innocent, as she proved by the stripper-pole choreography she danced while singing “Una voce poco fa.” She sang with a small but sweet sound that was even all the way up and down her wide range.
The main character in this production, however, was Lindoro, sung by coloratura tenor Sergio Gonzalez. His well-focused sound made his virile voice sound larger than it actually was. New on the scene, he has an attractive tonal quality and a good sense of comic timing. Thus, he made an amusing drunk and a hilarious, bewigged “lady” music teacher. Don Bartolo, portrayed by bass-baritone E. Scott Levin, was Rosina’s leering manager who wanted her--and the money she could earn--for himself. The fall guy in this opera, Levin is an old friend to POP. We remember his riotous interpretation of Maestro Biscoma Strappaviscere in Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma.
Basilio, sung by bass Phil Meyer, was once the skin-tight leopard-print-pants-wearing lead singer of the famous group, Aluminum Blymp. At this point, however, he is a caustic-tongued music teacher who loves getting high on cocaine. He sang with a dark sound while spewing calumnies with comic touches. Although singing the comprimario role of Berta in this presentation, Melinda Ehrlich is a fine soprano who has sung leading roles with local companies and will be Juliet in the Center stage production of Romeo and Juliet. She added a strong top line to the ensembles. Wearing the shortest possible pants, Keystone cop wannabe Christopher Anderson-West’s Sergeant fainted when confronted with true nobility and he made the end of the opera turn out right.
For the better part of three hours the Ebell Club audience smiled, tittered, and guffawed at the antics of this talented cast. At the beginning of this review I mentioned that the music was always rendered with the utmost serious attention to detail. POP usually has a small orchestra, but this time Music Director Stephen Karr and Assistant Conductor Zach Neufeld played a knuckle-busting piano four hands version of Rossini’s intricate score that captured almost all of the original sonorities. The titles said the arrangement was by Arnold Schoenberg, but Karr and Neufeld hit the right keys and their music sounded just like unadulterated Rossini! This was a fun production that profited from the intimacy and casual ambience of the setting.
Cast and production information:
Cast and Production Information:
Music Director, Stephen Karr; Director and Designer, Josh Shaw; Costume Designer, Maggie Green; Assistant Conductor, Zach Neufeld; Figaro, Bernardo Bermudez; Count Almaviva, Sergio Gonzalez; Don Basilio, Phil Meyer; Fiorello, Kevin Blickfeldt; Rosina, Meagan Martin; Don Bartolo, E. Scott Levin; Berta, Melinda Ehrlich; Sergeant, Chris Anderson-West; Chorus: William Grundler, John David Wiese, and Matthew Ian Welch.