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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
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.
The latest instalment of Wigmore Hall’s ambitious two-year project, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by German tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Julius Drake.
On March 10, 2017, San Diego Opera presented an unusual version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen called La Tragédie de Carmen (The Tragedy of Carmen).
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.
On February 25, 2017, in Tucson and on the following March 3 in Phoenix, Arizona Opera presented its first world premiere, Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
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.
The first production of Ryan Wigglesworth’s first opera, based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is clearly a major event in English National Opera’s somewhat trimmed-down season. Wigglesworth, who serves also as conductor and librettist, professes to have been obsessed with the play for more than twenty years, and one can see why The Winter’s Tale, with its theatrical ‘set-pieces’ - the oracle scene, the tempest, the miracle of a moving statue - and its grandiose emotions, dominated as the play is by Leontes’ obsessively articulated, over-intellectualized jealousy, would invite operatic adaptation.
Today, Wexford Festival Opera announced the programme and principal casting details for the forthcoming 2017 festival. Now in its 66th year, this internationally renowned festival will run over an extended 18-day period, from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 5 November.
A song cycle within a song symphony - Matthias Goerne's intriuging approach to Mahler song, with Marcus Hinterhäuser, at the Wigmore Hall, London. Mahler's entire output can be described as one vast symphony, spanning an arc that stretches from his earliest songs to the sketches for what would have been his tenth symphony. Song was integral to Mahler's compositional process, germinating ideas that could be used even in symphonies which don't employ conventional singing.
Gustav Mahler and fin-de-siècle Vienna will be the focus of the Oxford Lieder Festival (13-28 October 2017), exploring his influences, contemporaries and legacy. Mahler was a dominant musical personality: composer and preeminent conductor, steeped in tradition but a champion of the new. During this Festival, his complete songs with piano will be heard, inviting a fresh look at this ’symphonic’ composer and the enduring place of song in the musical landscape.
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.
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.