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
Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler
Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.
was their intermediate break, but the Mahler performance tonight felt a bit
lackluster. It was Composer-in-Residence Detlev Glanert’s thrilling
Theatrum Bestiarium that left me most impressed as I biked home that
My expectations for Bychkov’s Mahler debut were quite high, after I
witnessed his growing sterling synergy with the RCO in previous seasons with
Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie and Ein Heldenleben. Each
exuberant and sweeping me off my feet. Tonight he missed that cohesion and
brilliance. Bychkov’s reached a graceful, but demure ambience. More nobly
restrained than fiery; chivalrous rather than heated. Overall each segment was
decent in musical beauty, but never moving.
A highlight included Omar Tomasoni’s trumpet solos. In the opening
Trauermarsch he served up moments of brilliance with a devoted air,
producing some sour shrills. He ruled the first movement and later returned
with more of his distinct curvy phrasing with his intensity consistently
growing in verve and resonance. Such stamina!
Mahler’s Fifth contains arguably his most Romantic music in the
Adagietto. Mengelberg was an ambassador for Mahler’s work, who
conducted this symphony in Amsterdam in 1906. This fourth movement is a love
letter to his wife Alma, as she wrote to the Titan Mengelberg about a poem on
longing included by her husband.
The Adagietto has enormous power to disarm through the dreamy harp
and lush strings. With all its decency, Bychkov’s influence did not reach
emotive depth; his conducting expressive, authentically passionate without
overreacted theatricality. His result made for more of a soothing experience,
rather than capturing Mahler’s swooning Romance.
Before the intermission, I was surprised by my enjoyment of Detlev
Glanert’s Theatrum Bestiarum. Glanert suggests this work as a
precursor to his opera Caligula. I felt pleasantly uprooted by its
violent momentum. This is the third time the RCO scheduled this work. I grow
more fond of it with every performance.
“In Theatrum bestiarum I visit a zoo of human beings,”
Glanert declared. At many moments I could envision his concept. This
“dark and wild series of “Songs and Dances for Large
Orchestra”, in which the audience looks in upon the dissection of man as
beast,‟ opens with psychological horror through incisive strings burning with
fire. Glanert dedicated this work to Shostakovich, and his Eleventh Symphony
seems of particular influence. It also reminded me of the violence of Bernard
Herrmann’s Psycho score.
As a guest performer visiting, Erwin Wiersinga mastered the
Concertgebouw’s legendary Maarschalkerweerd Organ. His thunderous volume
just as impressive as the subtleties of the calmer passages.
The twenty-two minute piece premiered in 2005. Glanert said his
compositional inspiration comes from the “simple and dramatic sense of
Mahler’s structure.” This contrasts is evident in the emotional
drama: from powerful fortissimos to jazzy pianissimo phrases, while the winds
section lands on cushioning strings. Bychkov conducted with strict tempi,
highly focused yet still more expressive in sound than in Mahler later.
It’s encouraging to hear the RCO programming this work more
frequently, as it becomes part of its repertoire. Combining it with Mahler
provides an enriching contrast for both works. After the much lauded world
premiere of his Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch earlier this month, this
programming proved yet another fruitful collaboration between the RCO and its
Composer-in-Residence Detlev Glanert.
The folks in NYC and DC will be in for a treat when the Amsterdam entourage
performs across the Atlantic.