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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
Soldier Songs in San Diego
David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.
Upon entering the theater, the audience was greeted by low rumbling sounds that erupted into soft-edged explosions every few minutes. It was somewhat unnerving as it continued unabated until the presentation began, but the idea was to give the incoming audience a tiny taste of what it is like to be in a war zone. The mood didn’t get any lighter when Director Tomer Zvulun and design group GLMMR began to show a verismo version of the three stages of a soldier’s life.
In Stage One, the child, acted by Ryan Singer, plays with guns and video games. He enjoys chasing other children with guns. Children chant slogans about killing people with strange clothes and funny names. Video games simulate war and the child onstage thinks going to war is very much like playing a video game. The finality of death has completely escaped the youngster.
In Stage two, the child has grown up and enlisted in the military. Played by David Adam Moore, the Soldier sang with strong virile tones and excellent diction. In this presentation all the music was amplified in Garth MacAleavey’s sound design. There were titles in case anyone missed a word, but they were not altogether necessary.
After enlisting, the Soldier learned some hard truths: Getting shot hurts and soldiers actually die in combat. Casualties of war don’t get up and go home in the way that those shot down in video games or children’s stories do. Only when the soldier saw a mutilated body lying on the ground before him, did he begin to understand what war could do to the warrior. Then, he began to realize that he might be maimed and return home disabled or that he might lose his life and return in a coffin.
In Stage Three, actor Dan Denison showed the audience some of the thoughts of veterans who were lucky enough to have returned home. Contemplating what soldiering had done to them, they found they had trouble talking about their overseas experiences with people who had not been to war. Later, members of the "Talk Back" Panel noted that some veterans have had more trouble reintegrating into American society than others. Unfortunately, returnees who need psychological services may be embarrassed to ask for them. It’s sad to see that some veterans do not learn to cope with life in the United States and end up homeless.
The woman veteran on the "Talk Back" Panel said rejoining normal life in the States was harder for women because military trainers negated much of what girls had been taught growing up. As a child, she had been taught to nurture but as an adult she had learned to join in doing harm. Coming home she was again expected to be nurturing rather than aggressive, and it did not come easily. In business, for example, we expect men to be much more aggressive than women.
In Soldier Songs David Little combined the sounds of far off artillery and percussion with flute, violin, cello, clarinet, and piano. Conductor Steven Schick, a renowned percussionist, is well known for his performances of contemporary music. He paid a great deal of attention to detail and gave an impressive rendition of this unusual score.
Soldier Songs is not for the faint of heart. It takes the audience into war-like situations and shows the average American who has never seen a war zone what some soldiers have to endure. It also points out the lack of understanding many parents and children have regarding the difference between playing violent games and actual violence. High school youngsters, in particular, need to know what the dangers of war are for those who join the military. I think performances of Soldier Songs in San Diego did a great deal to bridge the gaps between soldier, veteran, and civilian.
Cast and production information:
Cast and Production Information:
Soldier, David Adam Moore; Child, Ryan Singer; Elder Man, Dan Denison; Conductor, Steven Schick; Director Tomer Zvulun; Production Design, GLMMR: David Adam Moore, Victoria “Vita” Tzykun; Lighting Designer, Maxwell Bowman; Sound Designer, Garth MacAleavey; Supertitles Coordinator, Charles Arthur; San Diego Symphony: Violin, Wesley Precourt; Cello, Chia-Ling Chien; Flute, Erica Peel; Clarinet, Frank Renk; Percussion, Erin Douglas Dowrey and Andrew Watkins; Piano M. Barranger.