Recently in Performances
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.
The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
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’.
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.