Recently in Performances
Written at a time when both his theatrical business and physical health were in a bad way, Handel’s Faramondo was premiered at the King’s Theatre in January 1738, fared badly and sank rapidly into obscurity where it languished until the late-twentieth century.
Fabio Luisi conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in Brahms A German Requiem op 45 and Schubert, Symphony no 8 in B minor D759 ("Unfinished").at the Barbican Hall, London.
The atmosphere was a bit electric on February 25 for the opening night of
Leoš Janàček’s 1921 domestic tragedy, and not entirely in a
Each March France's splendid Opéra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is Mémoires -- mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Grüber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner Müller (1929-1995).
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
For his farewell production as director of opera at the Royal Opera House, Kasper Holten has chosen Wagner’s only ‘comedy’, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: an opera about the very medium in which it is written.
The dramatic strength that Stage Director Michael Scarola drew from his Pagliacci cast was absolutely amazing. He gave us a sizzling rendition of the libretto, pointing out every bit of foreshadowing built into the plot.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
During the past few seasons, English Touring Opera has confirmed its triple-value: it takes opera to the parts of the UK that other companies frequently fail to reach; its inventive, often theme-based, programming and willingness to take risks shine a light on unfamiliar repertory which invariably offers unanticipated pleasures; the company provides a platform for young British singers who are easing their way into the ‘industry’, assuming a role that latterly ENO might have been expected to fulfil.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
On February 21, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s last composition, Falstaff, at the Civic Theater. Although this was the second performance in the run and the 21st was a Tuesday, there were no empty seats to be seen. General Director David Bennett assembled a stellar international cast that included baritone Roberto de Candia in the title role and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti singing her first Mistress Quickly.
In Neil Armfield’s new production of Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago the work is performed as entertainment on a summer’s night staged by neighborhood children in a suburban setting. The action takes place in the backyard of a traditional house, talented performers collaborate with neighborhood denizens, and the concept of an onstage audience watching this play yields a fresh perspective on staging Mozart’s opera.
Patricia Racette’s Salome is an impetuous teenage princess who interrupts the royal routine on a cloudy night by demanding to see her stepfather’s famous prisoner. Racette’s interpretation makes her Salome younger than the characters portrayed by many of her famous colleagues of the past. This princess plays mental games with Jochanaan and with Herod. Later, she plays a physical game with the gruesome, natural-looking head of the prophet.
On February 17, 2017 Pacific Opera Project performed Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles. After that night, it can be said that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay this company from putting on a fine show. Earlier in the day the Los Angeles area was deluged with heavy rain that dropped up to an inch of water per hour. That evening, because of a blown transformer, there was no electricity in the Ebell Club area.
There has been much reconstruction of Marseille’s magnificent Opera Municipal since it opened in 1787. Most recently a huge fire in 1919 provoked a major, five-year renovation of the hall and stage that reopened in 1924.
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.
06 Dec 2016
L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera
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.
Kaija Saariaho is a composer fêted
the world over and the United States has been a bit tardy in perceiving her
charm. (The opera’s premiere was at the Salzburg Festival in 2000 and the
Santa Fe Opera produced it in 2002, but Darmstadt, Bern, Bergen, Toronto and
Quebec all beat the Met to the punch.)
Saariaho is Finnish and studied at the Sibelius Academy. She then
struck out for the avant-garde study centers of Europe: Freiburg, Darmstadt and
then Paris where she worked at IRCAM, Pierre Boulez’ famous institute for
experimental music. At IRCAM she worked with composers who experiment
with combining electronic sounds with acoustic music. The term
spectral music was first used to describe the style by Hugh Dufourt, a
philosopher and composer, in 1979, but recently the term has been resuscitated
and Saariaho’s growing fame and popularity has brought the term to a
The Met opera production by Robert Lepage is a visual masterpiece. Photos
cannot convey the almost palpable illusion of water created by rows of LED
lights. The show began with a total blackout — including the orchestra
pit — then tiny lights appeared like small twinkling stars — then
the dots of lights grew into shimmering lines of light which resembled ocean
waves. A beautiful verse in Amin
Maalouf’s libretto based on the history and songs of a
twelfth-century troubadour Jaufré Rudel (sung by Philadelphia’s
bass-baritone Eric Owens) has Jaufré ask of the Pilgrim (sung by
mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford) “Why is the sea blue? Why is the sky
Eric Owens as Jaufré Rudel and Susanna Phillips as Clémence
Susanna Phillips, the soprano who plays Clémence, the Countess of
Tripoli, the unrequited and unknown love of the troubadour, has lovely pure
high notes and it is a good thing because that is mostly what she gets to sing.
The part of the Pilgrim has a much more melodic score. Rudel’s first
songs are quite hard to hear in the very lowest part of his range, but the
score for his duets with the Pilgrim and with Clémence were clearer.
The program notes by Cori Ellison, a dramaturg at Glyndebourne Festival
Opera and a member of the vocal arts faculty at Julliard School, contain some
outrageous sentences like: “The dearth of apparent action
through the opera’s two hours is mirrored in the illusion of musical
stagnation, by now a trademark of Saariaho’s music.”
Don’t let that scare you, I stayed awake for the entire show.
Ellison also wrote the subtitles, which were interesting at best. Lines like
“he is my outremer” kept appearing. (“Outremer” means overseas in French and I suspect the message was that
Clémence’s fascination with Rudel was due to the fact that he was
a foreign exotic.) The wordplay in the original libretto by Maalouf of
the word “clément” and “Clémence” also came out
rather awkwardly in English, but that would have been tough to
The orchestration was the highlight of the opera. Bassoon lines came through
as wavy and oceanic, the oboe took the dreamy and twinkly phrases and the
electronic sounds of the keyboard added mystery, as did the watery, pedaled
notes on the piano. The strings were used to enhance the ethereality. There was little brass in the score, but the piccolo provided strategic punctuation.
Another coup for this production was to have a woman wield the baton.
Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki,
in her Met debut, managed to form a composite of the ethereal sounds and kept
the pace as much as possible, although even she was challenged by the tediously
long ending. The warm hug between female composer and female conductor on the
Met stage was a historic moment for women in music. Put that in your pipe and
smoke it, Mr. Toscanini.
L’Amour de loin is a stunning achievement but I cannot help
feeling that Saariaho’s chamber music seems more structured than her
orchestrations. The performances of her string quartet Terra
Memoria and her trio Mirage for soprano, cello and piano, each of
which I heard at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, left a more indelible
musical impression on me than L’amour, but the production is
well worth seeing. Don’t worry about the dearth of action; it is
the lot of most troubadours. Think of poor old Tristan.