Recently in Performances
Is A Dog’s Heart even an opera? It is sung by opera singers to live
music. Alexander Raskatov’s score, however, is secondary to the incredible
stage visuals. Whatever it is, actor/director Simon McBurney’s first stab at
opera is fantastic theatre. Its revival at Dutch National Opera, where it
premiered in 2010, is hugely welcome.
I kept hearing from knowledgeable opera fanatics that the Israeli Opera (IO) in Tel Aviv was a surprising sure bet. So I made my way to the Homeland to hear how supposedly great the quality of opera was. And man, I was in for treat.
At Phoenix’s Symphony Hall on Friday evening April 7, Arizona Opera offered its final presentation of the 2016-2017 season, Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). The stars of the show were Daniela Mack as Cinderella, called Angelina in the opera, and Alek Shrader as Don Ramiro. Actually, Mack and Shrader are married couple who met singing these same roles at San Francisco Opera.
On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.
The town’s name itself “Baden-Baden” (named after Count Baden) sounds already enticing. Built against the old railway station, its Festspielhaus programs the biggest stars in opera for Germany’s largest auditorium. A Mecca for music lovers, this festival house doesn’t have its own ensemble, but through its generous sponsoring brings the great productions to the dreamy idylle.
The Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden pretty much programs only big stars. A prime example was the Fall Festival this season. Grigory Sokolov opened with a piano recital, which I did not attend. I came for Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma and Christian Gerhaher with Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Anne-Sophie Mutter breathtakingly delivering Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Robin Ticciati, the ballerino conductor, is not my favorite, but together they certainly impressed in Mendelssohn.
Mahler as dramatist! Mahler Symphony no 8 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. Now we know why Mahler didn't write opera. His music is inherently theatrical, and his dramas lie not in narrative but in internal metaphysics. The Royal Festival Hall itself played a role, literally, since the singers moved round the performance space, making the music feel particularly fluid and dynamic. This was no ordinary concert.
Imagine a fête galante by Jean-Antoine Watteau brought to life, its colour and movement infusing a bucolic scene with charm and theatricality. Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les fêtes d'Hébé, ou Les talens lyriques, is one such amorous pastoral allegory, its three entrées populated by shepherds and sylvans, real characters such as Sapho and mythological gods such as Mercury.
Whatever one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs, Bach’s St Matthew Passion is one of the most, perhaps the most, affecting depictions of the torturous final episodes of Jesus Christ’s mortal life on earth: simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, juxtaposing tender stillness with tragic urgency.
Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner
Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a
stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he
embodied a perfect Rodolfo.
Listening to Moritz Eggert’s Caliban is the equivalent of
watching a flea-ridden dog chasing its own tail for one-and-half hours. It
scratches, twitches and yelps. Occasionally, it blinks pleadingly, but you
can’t bring yourself to care for such a foolish animal and its
A large audience packed into the Wigmore Hall to hear the two Baroque rarities featured in this melodious performance by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company. One was by the most distinguished ‘home-grown’ eighteenth-century musician, whose music - excepting some of the lively symphonies - remains seldom performed. The other was the work of a Saxon who - despite a few ups and downs in his relationship with the ‘natives’ - made London his home for forty-five years and invented that so English of genres, the dramatic oratorio.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
Ermonela Jaho is fast becoming a favourite of Covent Garden audiences, following her acclaimed appearances in the House as Mimì, Manon and Suor Angelica, and on the evidence of this terrific performance as Puccini’s Japanese ingénue, Cio-Cio-San, it’s easy to understand why. Taking the title role in the first of two casts for this fifth revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, Jaho was every inch the love-sick 15-year-old: innocent, fresh, vulnerable, her hope unfaltering, her heart unwavering.
Calliope Tsoupaki’s latest opera, Fortress Europe, premiered
as spring began taming the winter storms in the Mediterranean.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary New Sussex Opera has set itself the challenge of bringing together the six scenes - sometimes described as six discrete ‘tone poems’ - which form Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet into a coherent musico-dramatic narrative.
Reflections on former visits to Opera Holland Park usually bring to mind late evening sunshine, peacocks, Japanese gardens, the occasional chilly gust in the pavilion and an overriding summer optimism, not to mention committed performances and strong musical and dramatic values.
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
03 Dec 2016
Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin
As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus
tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra
from the depths of her soul.
She electrified the audience for Patrice
Chéreau's production, debuting in Berlin. In 2013, she starred in the
world premiere of Chéreau's staging in Aix-en-Provence. His In an
exhilarating experience, Daniel Barenboim and his Staatskapelle Berlin
illuminated with thunderous brilliance the psychological tempest in Richard
Strauss’ Elektra. The high quality ingredients of this evening
led to an experience that was more than the sum of its monumental parts.
In front of the entrance to Theater Unter den Linden, an unusual amount of
people searched for tickets. In the last minute queue, folks bickered about
their place in line. Just picking up a ticket required enduring an intense
stare from determined fanatics. With Herlitzius singing and Barenboim at the
helm, Strauss’s late-Romantic blockbuster turned into the hottest ticket
Chéreau's unadorned staging displays the psychological drama in
Surrounded by columns and arches in grey blue hues, the actors filled the
stage with tension. The set was not meant to impress the eye; instead, the
staging allows the psychological drama to fill in the void. As a force of
nature, Herlitzius vocally and dramatically demanded attention.
Barenboim’s Strauss saturated Chéreau's space with a silvery
Herlitzius enthralled the audience with her flexible voice. Her sound fueled
Elektra’s grand desire for revenge. She conveyed Elektra’s
vulnerability in nostalgia, wreaked vocal havoc with scorching distrust, and
let, above all, her maddening lust for revenge prevail. In her expressive
mannerisms, Herlitzius added a visual component to her character’s
mythological agita. She scratched her skin feverishly, like a heroine addict.
And yet she was never ridiculous in her frenziness. Chéreau directs this
lust into Elektra’s behavior: in each familial interaction, Herlitzius
charged her character with a suggestively incestuous sexuality.... truly out of
Herlitzius served up a dramatic climax at the end: when hearing
Klytaemnestra scream as Orestes kills her, a fiery flicker of gratification
flashes in Elektra’s eyes. After all her anger and despair, that brief
moment of satisfaction on Herlitzius’s face demonstrated how sharp an
actress she is.
When Chrysothemis’s argued with Elektra, Adrianne Pieczonka formed a
precious contrast to Herlitzius’ darker voice. Her character’s
naivety and relentless optimism flourished in Pieczonka’s intonation.
Very light and very bright. Her voice offered the audience a brief respite from
Elektra’s hellbent revenge. As well as in her own shrieking, she became a
vital element in all the Straussian hysteria.
Singing persuasively, Waltraud Meier cloaked Klytaemnestra in an air of
indifference. Supported by brass and percussion, Elektra’s stepmother had
a showstopper with her spectacular entrance. Her sins were hidden in a shroud
of mystery. Did she really kill Agamemnon? I was baffled to hear boos amongst
the cheers for her. Stephan Rügamer fleshed out Aegisth’s eerie and
foolish qualities. With his chilling, determined diction foreshadowing his
kill, Michael Volle’s Orest proved formidable in his duet with
Dense, thick, loud, but never overbearing. Barenboim balanced the powerful
music in extraordinary detail. At the false news of Orest’s death, the
strings mourned with somber brilliance. Without interruption, Barenboim’s
thrilling momentum captured all the frenzy and suspense in Strauss’s
music. He created interesting psychological atmospheres out of Strauss’s
wicked tonality. It was wonderful to be swept away in the madness of this