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.
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.
Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray. The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts:, Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.
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.
Applications are now open for the Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.
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).
Handel’s Partenope (1730), written for his first season at the King’s Theatre, is a paradox: an anti-heroic opera seria. It recounts a fictional historic episode with a healthy dose of buffa humour as heroism is held up to ridicule. Musicologist Edward Dent suggested that there was something Shakespearean about Partenope - and with its complex (nonsensical?) inter-relationships, cross-dressing disguises and concluding double-wedding it certainly has a touch of Twelfth Night about it. But, while the ‘plot’ may seem inconsequential or superficial, Handel’s music, as ever, probes the profundities of human nature.
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.
A skewering of the preening pretentiousness of the Pre-Raphaelites and Aesthetes of the late-nineteenth century, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta Patience outlives the fashion that fashioned it, and makes mincemeat of mincing dandies and divas, of whatever period, who value style over substance, art over life.
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught demonstrated a relaxed, easy manner and obvious enjoyment of both the music itself and its communication to the audience during this varied Rosenblatt Series concert at the Wigmore Hall. Erraught and her musical partners for the evening - clarinettist Ulrich Pluta and pianist James Baillieu - were equally adept at capturing both the fresh lyricism of the exchanges between voice and clarinet in the concert arias of the first half of the programme and clinching precise dramatic moods and moments in the operatic arias that followed the interval.
This Sunday the Metropolitan Opera will feature as part of the BBC Radio 3 documentary, Opera Across the Waves, in which critic and academic Flora Willson explores how opera is engaging new audiences. The 45-minute programme explores the roots of global opera broadcasting and how in particular, New York’s Metropolitan Opera became one of the most iconic and powerful
producers of opera.
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.
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!”