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Wigmore Hall has announced the 25 young singer and pianist duos from around the world who have been shortlisted for this prestigious competition, which takes place at Wigmore Hall in September with the generous support of the Kohn Foundation. Details were announced on 27 April during a recital by Milan Siljanov, who won top prize in the 2015 Competition.
Garsington Opera's thrilling new commission for the 2017 Season, Silver Birch, will feature over 180 participants from the local community aged 8-80, including students from primary and secondary schools, members of the local military community, student Foley artists under the guidance of Pinewood Studios and members of Wycombe Women’s Aid.
Opera San Jose has capped a wholly winning season with an emotionally engaging, thrillingly sung, enticingly fresh rendition of Puccini’s immortal masterpiece La bohème.
On Saturday evening April 22, 2017, San Diego Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata at the Civic Theater. Director Marta Domingo updated the production from the constrictions of the nineteenth century to the freedom of the nineteen twenties. Violetta’s fellow courtesans and their dates wore fascinating outfits and, at one point, danced the Charleston to what looked like a jazz combo playing Verdi’s score.
Thomas Adès’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, is a dizzying, sometimes frightening, palimpsest of texts (literary and cinematic) and music, in which ceaseless repetitions of the past - inexact, ever varying, but inescapably compulsive - stultify the present and deny progress into the future. Paradoxically, there is endless movement within a constricting stasis. The essential elements collide in a surreal Sartrean dystopia: beasts of the earth (live sheep and a simulacra of a bear) roam, a disembodied hand floats through the air, water spouts from the floor and a burning cello provides the flames upon which to roast the sacrificial lambs. No wonder that when the elderly Doctor tries to restore order through scientific rationalism he is told, “We don't want reason! We want to get out of here!”
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.
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
Following Garsington Opera for All’s successful second year of free public screenings on beaches, river banks and parks in isolated coastal and rural communities, Handel’s sparkling masterpiece Semele will be screened in four areas across the UK in 2017. Free events are programmed for Skegness (1 July), Ramsgate (22 July), Bridgwater (29 July) and Grimsby (11 October).
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 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.
Details of the Royal Opera House's 2017/18 Season have been announced. Oliver Mears, who will begin his tenure as Director of Opera, comments:
“I am delighted to introduce my first Season as Director of Opera for The Royal Opera House. As I begin this role, and as the world continues to reel from social and political tumult, it is reassuring to contemplate the talent and traditions that underpin this great building’s history. For centuries, a theatre on this site has welcomed all classes - even in times of revolution and war - to enjoy the most extraordinary combination of music and drama ever devised. Since the time of Handel, Covent Garden has been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists of every era. And for centuries, the joyous and often tragic art form of opera has offered a means by which we can be transported to another world, in all its wonderful excess and beauty.”
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.
18 Feb 2017
Anna Bolena in Lisbon
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.
Just now, in this twenty-first century, it returned for five performances, its long absence(s) due to the 150 years the operatic public has preferred operas it finds dramatically more engaging.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (the first of his famous three queens) does however introduce a sense of real drama to opera, as his voices explore their personal passions in a flow that almost overrides the divisions of narrative into “numbers” i.e. separate musical pieces — this considered a first, Donizetti’s breakthrough. The passions are hugely powerful, most notably of course in the protagonist who is no longer loved, wrongfully accused and then, no longer a queen, a sore loser. It flows from her first startlingly difficult aria “Come, innocente Giovine” where she expounds that her position as queen is threatened, to her final cabaletta condemning the new queen, Jane Seymour as she, Anna, proudly marches to her beheading.
Elena Mosuc as Anna Bolena and Leonardo Cortellazzi as Percy
There were many, many more passions that are brilliantly laid out by Donizetti over the long, very long evening — by the queen-to-be Jane Seymour, Henry VIII, Percy (Anna’s former lover) and his friend Lord Rochefort (Anna’s brother), plus the page Smeton in seemingly countless arias and duets —the extraordinarily beautiful Act II duet of Percy and Lord Rochefort was indeed notable. Plus a plentitude of trios, quintets and finales with chorus.
It falls to the ambitious queen Anna Bolena to hold all this together by sheer force of artistry and personality. If 53 year-old Romanian/Swiss soprano Elena Mosuc seemed tentative in her first aria (the usual reaction of critics to this aria in performance) by the end of the opera she had found the histrionic and vocal depth and beauty of tone to thrill us first with her quiet, splendidly vocal reminiscences (usually said to be her madness) and then her full fury in “Coppia iniqua."
La Mosuc is an accomplished bel canto heroine of rich low notes, a full middle voice and beautiful high notes, notably a resplendent high E-flat that we heard over and over throughout the evening. You might wish for more dramatic heft and particularly for ornamentation that arises more naturally out of the vocal line, nonetheless her Anna Bolena was a satisfying tour de force.
Young American soprano Jennifer Holloway as Jane Seymour well held her own amidst a regional European cast, notably fine Italian tenor Leonardo Coretllazzi as Percy and Portuguese baritone Luis Rodrigues as Lord Rochefort. Turkish bass-baritone Burak Bilgili cut the imposingly wide figure of Henry VIII well enough without establishing a force of personality, histrionically or vocally to ground his participation in this passionately complicated (long) story.
Giampaolo Bisanti, music director of Bari’s Teatro Petruzzelli, led Teatro São Carlos’ willing orchestra, the house acoustic itself adding a roughness of tone that added a pleasing sense of times past to this old opera. This maestro, well traveled to Europe’s major stages in standard nineteenth century repertory, drove Donizetti’s music relentlessly seldom relaxing into the style and only rarely finding the soaring beauty of bel canto.
The 2007 production came from Verona’s Teatro Filarmonico, staged by Graham Vick and his designer Paul Brown. Mr. Vick based his staging on his assessment that the two women (Anna and Jane) use the bed to get themselves to the throne and the king (Henry VIII) uses the throne to get to the bed. Thus there was first a huge baldaquin bed, then later a huge sculpted head of blindfolded Justice followed by a huge (stage wide) sword that fell, and finally a crown of thorns, etc. — all unifying symbols to pull us through the numbers, which is to say fuse the musical pieces into a compelling narrative. A gratuitous visual quote was the enactment of the famous portrait of Henry VIII and Anna Bolena on horseback that hangs in London’s National Gallery.
No amount of staging or dramatic intelligence can obliterate the fact that this bel canto opera is purely and simply beautiful singing into which you must be able to immerse yourself, and that Donizetti’s first queen Anna Bolena will always sit uneasily if restlessly on the fringes of the repertory.
Cast and production information:
Henry VIII: Burak Bilgili; Annad Bolena: Elena Mosuc; Jane Seymour: Jennifer Holloway; Lord Rochefort: Luis Rodrigues; Lord Richard Percy: Leonardo Cortellazzi; Seeton: Lilly Jorstad; Sir Hervey: Marco Alves dos Santos. Chorus of the Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos. Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa. Conductor: Giampaolo Bisanti; Stage Director: Graham Vick; Sets and Costumes: Paul Brown; Lighting: Giuseppe Di Iorio.Teatro São Carlos, Lisbon, Portugal, February 9, 2017.