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.
For the first time in its history, this summer Garsington Opera will present four productions as well as a large community opera. 2017 also sees the arrival of the Philharmonia Orchestra for one opera production each season for the next five years.
New work by the English artist Rachel Kneebone will be exhibited at Glyndebourne Festival 2017, which opens for public booking on 5 March.
The London-based artist has created three new sculptures inspired by two of the operas being staged at the Festival this summer - Cavalli’s Hipermestra and a new opera based on Hamlet by composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Baroque at the Edge: London Festival of Baroque Music, 12-20 May 2017
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
Baroque at the Edge, London Festival of Baroque Music, 12-20 May 2017
Artistic Director Lindsay Kemp said:
“This year’s two anniversary composers come from opposite ends of the
Baroque era, which got me thinking about ways in which musical styles
and tastes change over time. At times such as the transition from
Renaissance to Baroque around 1600, and from Baroque to Classical
around 1750, change can come quickly and different styles end up
jostling with each other. These corners of music history, and the whole
idea of blurred edges and crossed boundaries, is what has given us our
Festival theme this year.”
This year there are 13 concerts over 9 days, with highlights including
Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 from the stellar partnership of
Belgian vocal ensemble Vox Luminis and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra; the
Pergolesi Stabat mater with Early Opera Company under Christian
Curnyn with soloists Lucy Crowe and Tim Mead; Telemann’s cantataIno with Florilegium and Elin Manahan Thomas; Monteverdi'sOrfeo with I Fagiolini and Robert Hollingworth; Handel’s Jephtha with the Holst Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music
under Stephen Layton; string-ensemble music by Biber, Schmelzer and Fux
from Swiss ensemble Les Passions de l’Ame (with Turkish percussion!); and a
harpsichord recital (entitled ‘Le Vertigo’) by Jean Rondeau.
Monteverdi’s iconic Vespers of 1610 is a classic example of a work
at the edge, juxtaposing the newest musical techniques of the early Baroque
with the older methods of the Renaissance. Ultimately this makes it not
just a work of stylistic reconciliation but also one of unparalleled
expressive richness. On Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm, this glorious music will
be performed by two top-class ensembles, both of whom have made strong
impressions at the Festival in the past: Belgian vocal ensembleVox Luminis and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, coming together for the first
time for this project.
Like the Vespers, Monteverdi’s first opera Orfeo has one
foot in the world of Baroque vocal expression and the other in Renaissance
traditions, in this case those of court entertainment and madrigal. But it
is also music history’s first great opera, a work of power, depth and
beauty that never ceases to enthral. Written for Monteverdi's own regular
vocal ensemble, it will be performed on Thursday 18 May at 7.45pm at St John's Smith Square by Monteverdi masters I Fagiolini in
their 30th anniversary year, with the brilliant Matthew Long as the virtuosic demi-God of singing, and a full
cast of singers with a strong background in Monteverdi's secular and sacred
music. Directed by Robert Hollingworth, it is given in an
imaginative semi-staging by Thomas Guthrie that was first performed by I
Fagiolini in Venice in 2015.
Opening this year's festival on Friday 12 May at 7.30pm at St John's Smith
Square is the Early Opera Company, under the musical
direction of Christian Curnyn, with
Pergolesi’s exquisite and profoundly moving Stabat mater, with
soprano Lucy Crowe and countertenorTim Mead as soloists. Pergolesi was one of the 18 th century’s most influential and admired composers, and did
much to power the stylistic transition from the Baroque to the Classical
style in music. Curnyn and his superb ensemble also include more music from
the late Baroque cutting edge with fire-cracker modernistic orchestral
pieces by WF and CPE Bach.
On Saturday 13 May at 4pm at St Peter's Eaton Square, rising virtuoso Jean Rondeau
(‘One of the most natural performers one is likely to hear on a
classical music stage these days a
master of his instrument.’
Washington Post) explores the flamboyant, poetic and compelling fantasy
world of the French harpsichord repertoire, with character pieces, preludes
and dances music by two of its most brilliant exponents, Jean-Philippe
Rameau and Pancrace Royer.
On the evening of Saturday 13 May at 7.00pm at St John's Smith Square,
leading British ensemble Florilegium focus on one of
2017’s great anniversary composers, Georg Philipp Telemann. Their concert
puts Telemann the man of the High Baroque up against Telemann the
progressive with two works from his final decade, including a powerful late
masterpiece, the extraordinary and dramatic cantata Ino. This work
is rarely heard in concert so this is an exceptional opportunity to
experience it sung by Elin Manahan Thomas. Before it
Florilegium perform one of the enduring favourites of the Baroque concerto
repertoire - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.
The London Festival of Baroque Music's annual visit to Westminster Abbey on
Tuesday 16 May at 7pm honours Bach’s late masterpiece, his Mass in B Minor, compiled and adapted in his final years from
earlier works and seemingly devised as a summation of his life’s work as a
composer of sacred music. From joy to grief, celebration to supplication
and triumph to penitence this is one the great monuments of Western music.
It will be performed by The Choir of Westminster Abbey and St James's Baroque under James O'Donnell.
Swiss string ensemble Les Passions de l’Ame give their UK
full concert debut on Wednesday 17 May at 7.30pm at St John's Smith Square, under their violinist director Meret Lüthi. Their programme is entitled
‘Edge of Europe’, and presents string music from 17th-century
Austria, at that time Christian Europe’s interface with the Ottoman Empire.
The music, by Schmelzer, Biber, Fux and Walther is imaginative and often
quirky, enhanced in Les Passions de l’Ame’s performance by the colourful
addition of Turkish percussion.
There’s another meeting of cultures in the 9.30pm ‘Late o’Clock Baroque’
concert on Saturday 13 May at St John’s Smith Square, when harpsichordist
Jean Rondeau makes his second appearance of the Festival, this time in the
company of lutenist Thomas Dunford and classical Persian percussionist
Keyvan Chemirani. All three musicians are superb improvisers, and in a
project they have entitled ‘Jasmin Toccata’ they meld Persian percussion
and Baroque instruments in imaginative transformations of European masters
such as Scarlatti and Purcell and major composers from the Persian
tradition. The result (in their words) is ‘a vivid toccata that echoes the
sensuality of Jasmin’.
The Festival’s focus on young artists continues this year with three more
Future Baroque lunchtime concerts at St John’s Smith Square featuring some of the best new talent on the Baroque music scene. This year
there are concerts by two instrumental groups: Ensemble Molière in a
programme of music by Telemann and his French friends Blavet, Guignon and
Forqueray (Friday 12 May at 1.05pm); and Ensemble Hesperi, who will be introducing us to music from 18 th-century Scotland (Wednesday 17 May at 1.05pm). The third and final concert is a solo harpsichord recital by Nathaniel
Mander, who will perform works by English composers from Byrd to JC Bach
(Friday 19 May at
On Friday 19 May at
The Festival ends on Saturday 20 May at 7.00pm at St John’s Smith Square with a performance of Handel’s last, and in many people’s opinion best,
dramatic oratorio Jephtha. Stephen Layton
conducts the Holst Singers, the Academy of Ancient Music and a fine cast of young singers
led by Nick Pritchard as the Israelite warrior who lives to regret a rash
vow to God.
In addition to these concerts, the Festival also features 'Sing Baroque', a
special amateur choral workshop with conductor Robert Howarth on Sunday 14 May at
To quote Lindsay Kemp again:
“As ever it has been enormous fun to create a Festival around an
unusual theme, one that allows us to programme rarely heard but
deserving music alongside familiar works that reveal themselves in new
and particular contexts. It shows just how deep, complex and varied
Baroque music can be!”