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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.
25 Feb 2017
Boris Godunov in Marseille
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.
Only the frieze above the stage is said to remain of the original theater.
While the current theater does not have a pit of sufficient size to host full-scale Romantic orchestras (to compensate harps and percussion instruments are placed in the baignoires (boxes stage level) over the pit often resulting in bizarre acoustics. At the same time this opera house boasts an amazing stage/spectator rapport that may be unequalled anywhere in the world — words flowing from the stage are clearly audible with no loss of the clarity and volume of orchestral sound. This theater like no other offers the possibility of achieving the epitome of the operatic ideal.
There were fortunately a few splendid moments to be savored in the recent production of Mussorgsky’s 1969 (first version) Boris Godunov, notably the sly Boyar Shuisky fueling Boris’ fears with his description of the dead Dimitri, the old monk Pimen’s recounting of the miracle at Dimitri’s tomb (a blind man praying recovered his sight), and finally Boris admonitions to his son Feodor to rule justly, delivered in his dying breaths.
These moments occurred in the few, very few periods when the frenetic movement on the stage relaxed somewhat, when storytelling phobia quieted a bit, when the singers could remain still long enough to expound the Pushkin story in the glories of the play of Russian phonemes.
Italian conductor Paolo Arrivabeni well supported these successful soliloquies in a somewhat restrained reading of the score. Perhaps he was attempting to mitigate the scenic hyperventilation.
Marseille fielded a respectable cast to tell Mussorgsky’s story, most notably the Boris of Russian bass Alexey Tikhomirov who had replaced Ruggiero Raimondi in this same production from Liège in 2010. Mr. Tikhomirov is of imposing stature and imposing voice. He finds much subtlety in the Boris personage, and as well assumes much of the stature needed to illuminate such a conflicted ruler. Tenor Luca Lombardo brought a blatantly evil spirit into his character portrayal of Shuisky. Of the principles 44 year-old French bass Nicolas Courjal made the most effect as the old monk Pimen, illuminating the Boris/Dimitri mysteries in a beautiful and clear tonal language that filled the theater.
Nicolas Courjal as Pimen, Jean-Pierre Furlan as Gregory
Mezzo Marie-Ange Todorovitch did double duty as the innkeeper and the Boris children’s nurse, both roles delivered with pleasurable linguistic gusto. Soprano Ludivine Bombert made beautiful sounds in her laments as Boris’ daughter Xenia. Bass Wenwei Zhang enacted a splendid Varlaam, the drunken friar.
More problematic were the roles of Boris’ son Feodor, nicely sung by diminutive mezzo Caroline Meng. For the role to achieve its full and intended effect it must be sung by a young boy. Tenor Jean-Pierre Furlan embodied a ribald, ambitious, rough-voiced Grigory — a nervous wreck. This Grigory was definitely not a subtle schemer who you might believe could rally revolutionary forces. The Innocent, sung by tenor Christophe Berry, was in strident tone and grotesquely staged body movements.
Dimitri, Czar of Russia 1605-1606, the final image of the Ionesco production of the 1869 Boris Godunov
Stage director and designer Petrika Ionesco deconstructed a Russian Orthodox fresco into George Braque-like, i.e. cubistic shapes, adding solid blocks of colored lights in open places. Scene changes were long, noisy and off-putting in this two and one-half hour sitting (no intermission). Evidently Mr. Ionesco was taken by the intense poses he found in Russian frescos, poses that he induced his actors and the chorus to imitate. This came across as blatantly naive, caricatured acting in incessant movement. It was laughable until it became unwatchable.
Cast and production information:
Boris Godounov: Alexey Tikhomirov; Pimène: Nicolas Courjal; Gregori / Dimitri: Jean-Pierre Furlan; Chouisky: Luca Lombardo; Xénia: Ludivine Gombert; Fiodor: Caroline Meng; La Nourrice / L’Hôtesse: Marie-Ange Todorovitch; Varlaam: Wenwei Zhang; L’Innocent: Christophe Berry; Andrei Tchelkalov: Ventseslav Anastasov; Missail: Marc Larcher; Nikitch / Officier de Police: Julien Veronese; Mityukha: Jean-Marie Defpas. Orchestre et Chœur de l’Opéra de Marseille; Maîtrise des Bouches-du-Rhône. Conductor: Paolo Arrivabeni; Mise en scène / Décors Petrika Ionesco; Lumières: Patrick Méeus. Opéréa Municipal, Marseille, February 21, 2017.