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With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia
Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory
mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola,
whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the
Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.
Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.
It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.
Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.
American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no
less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series
feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera,
Nixon in China.
Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.
'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.
On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.
In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener
Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.
In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the
Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in
a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.
I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and
Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series
programmes opening the New Year.
There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.
On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.
Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.
A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.
One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle
Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement”
for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and
anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the
emotions and reason of the audience.
Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal,
Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its
focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy
and with a clever twist,
Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner
productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and
Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it
comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.
Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.
17 Nov 2016
Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera
Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.
Fairies, nature spirits and the supernatural inspired the transition between the orderliness of the Enlightenment and the wild, revolutionary spirit of the Romantic Age. This delightful yet thoughtful concert from Bampton Classical Opera contrasted two pieces, both from 1776: Thomas Linley's Ode on the Spirits of Shakespeare and Georg Anton Benda's Romeo and Juliet, showing how two very different composers responded to Shakespeare in their own, original ways.
Georg Anton Benda (1722-1795) was a member of a family well-connected to the German musical establishment. His Romeo und Julie was a three-act "ernsthafte Oper" a Singspiele with prose text by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, who also adapted The Tempest. Benda and Gotter subscribed to the principles of classical antiquity as perceived in their time, dramatic values that predicated on the unity of time, action and place. Thus Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was pared down, Benda's Romeo und Juliet focusing on the key characters. Bampton Classical Opera presented a half-hour version of Benda's original, revolving around Juliet (Clare Lloyd-Griffiths) and Romeo (Thomas Herford). Laura (Caroline Kennedy) duets with Juliet, and a single Capulet (Richard Latham) stands in for the feuding families. The choruses (as in Greek drama), sung by Cantandum, thus provide backdrop and commentary. Lloyd-Griffiths, substituting at short notice for Rosalind Coad, was very well cast. She has an attractive, bright timbre that captures Juliet's youth and purity. In the recit and aria, Juliet is already contemplating death "I am trembling with such joy and with such fear....See, the moon turns pale...."
Thomas Linley (1756-1778) was part of the English theatrical and artistic establishment. His father was a famous actor; his sister, also an actress, was a muse of Thomas Gainsborough and married Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Unfortunately Linley died so young that part of his mystique rests on what he might have been had he matured. Linley's A Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare adapts a text by his teenage schoolmate, who also died young. Its hyberbolic exaggeration thus represent the enthusiasm of youth. The Spirit of Avon (Clare Lloyd-Griffiths) and Fancy (Caroline Kennedy) are memes in an allegory, not fleshed out-personalities as in Shakespeare or, indeed, most opera.
Linley's Ode began with an overture, very much in a formal style, but more salon piece than Handelian public opera. Gilly French conducted the Bampton Classical Players, on period instruments including harpsichord, with antique horns and trumpets, positioned at each side of the stage. The Englishness of the aesthetic came over well. "O guardian of that sacred land, where Avon's wood-crowned waters stray" sang the chorus. Though the Avon in question would be Stratford-on-Avon, as there are references too to Arden, it may or may not be significant that the Linleys had connections with the Avon of Bath and Bristol. Thus the Spirit of Avon (Lloyd-Griffiths) addresses Greek deities advising them that "Shakespeare now demands your lays" As the Spirit of Avon, Lloyd-Griffiths had more with which to demonstrate her range. Lloyd-Griffiths is also interesting because she's very English, (though she may be Welsh) and The Spirit of Avon is a kind of Britannia. English sopranos are a distinct Fach, an aesthetic that's much under-appreciated. Lloyd-Griffiths reminds me of Lucy Crowe. Caroline Kennedy, as Fancy, also has a bigger part, and used it well. Although the mood in the First Part of Linley's Ode glorifies Shakespeare's birth like a divine act (witnessed by Jove himself), darker mysteries creep in. What to make of the "sordid wishes of the grov'ling crowd that chain the free-born mind"?
In Part II of Linley's Ode, the Fearful Observer (Richard Latham) sings of the id-like world of the night where "with feeble cries the gliding spectres throng". Linley responds to these sinister images with vividly dramatic figures, even spookier because they're conjured up with small ensemble and the timbre of period instrumentation. French and her orchestra rose to the occasion, playing with animated vigour. But dawn breaks, and spells are broken. The Spirit of Avon announces peace, since these horrors were created by Shakespeare's art. "For who can wield like Shakespeare's skilful hand, that magic wand, whose potent sway the elves of earth,of air, of sea obey?" Yet Linley's not just looking back. He sets the final lines with mischevious glee: "Oh, give another Shakespeare to our Isle".