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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.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
On March 24, 2017, Los Angeles Opera revived its co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann which has also been seen at the Mariinsky Opera in Leningrad and the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia.
26 Mar 2017
Cast announced for Bampton Classical Opera's 2017 production of Salieri's The School of Jealousy
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.
Setting a sharply cynical libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, this opera buffa was written in Venice and first performed at the
Teatro San Moisè in 1778. It was selected to inaugurate the Emperor Joseph
II’s new Italian opera troupe at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1783, with an
outstanding cast including the star English soprano Nancy Storace (later
one of Mozart’s favourite sopranos and the first Susanna) as the Countess,
and Francesco Benucci (later Figaro and Guglielmo) as Blasio. Salieri
revised the score for these performances including new arias specially for
Nancy Storace, and the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte added some textual
adjustments. The opera made a huge impact and became one of the highlights
of Storace’s career.
La scuola de’ gelosi
was performed widely across Europe - from London to St Petersburg - for
several decades, and was praised warmly by Goethe. The opera’s great
success in Vienna almost certainly inspired Da Ponte and Mozart to create La scuola degli amanti which eventually became known by its
alternative title Così fan tutte and there are many narrative
parallels between the two. In both fidelity and honesty are tested by means
of dangerous games and deceits, and the manipulative Lieutenant in Gelosi is a counterpart to Don Alfonso.
It was the first of Salieri’s works to be performed in London, in 1786: The Herald judged “it is the first lyric drama that may be termed
strictly good, whether we advert to the poem itself, the music, or the
performance” and the Morning Post called it a “masterly
composition” that “does great honour to Salieri, whose reputation as a
composer must rise infinitely in the musical world, from this very pleasing
specimen of his abilities”. For performances in 1780 at the court theatre
at Esterháza, Haydn composed two insertion arias.
La scuola de’ gelosi
is enjoying a current revival across Europe, including performances this
year in Florence and Vienna and a recording by L’arte del mondo on Deutsche
Harmonia Mundi. Bampton has also selected the work to mark the bicentenary
of the death of Nancy Storace in 1817.
The Count Bandiera is a skilful philanderer, but takes a big risk when he
invites Ernestina, wife of a pathologically jealous businessman, out on a
shopping trip. A decidedly non-PC visit to a madhouse, fortune-telling
gypsies and the lessons taught by paintings are just some of the bizarre
situations encountered in this scintillating comedy of marital dis-harmony.
Countess Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano)
Ernestina Nathalie Chalkley (soprano)
Carlotta Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano)
Count Alessandro Fisher (tenor)
Tenente Thomas Herford (tenor)
Blasio Matthew Sprange (baritone)
Lumaca Samuel Pantcheff (baritone)
Bampton Classical Opera
was founded in 1993 by its artistic directors, Gilly French and Jeremy
Gray, and stages less familiar works from the late Classical period, many
of which might not otherwise be heard. The performances are of the highest
musical quality, yet are relaxed and welcoming with fresh and accessible
English translations, and can be enjoyed even by those with little opera
experience. The company also provides valuable performance opportunities
for the country’s finest young professional singers, and hosts a Young
Singers’ Competition every two years.
Bampton Classical Opera
stages productions in rural venues in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire as
well as regularly in London at St John’s Smith Square. Other significant
venues and festivals have included Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, Buxton
Festival, Cheltenham Festival and Theatre Royal Bath. Amongst their many
performances have been UK premières of Bertoni Orfeo, Marcos
Portugal The Marriage of Figaro, Paer Leonora, BendaRomeo and Juliet, Gluck Il Parnaso confuso,Philemon and Baucis, Salieri Falstaff and La grotta di Trofonio.
The delightful Deanery Garden at Bampton provides a
charming and picturesque venue for open-air opera, with an excellent
natural acoustic. Westonbirt School is a spectacular
Victorian mansion, with extensive Grade I listed gardens: the performances
take place in the Orangery Theatre. Audiences are encouraged to bring their
own garden chairs and enjoy a pre-performance or interval picnic.
St John’s Smith Square
is the most historic of London’s concert halls and provides an outstanding
and appropriately eighteenth-century setting for this performance.
The School of Jealousy
performances, with free pre-performance talks:
The Deanery Garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire OX18 2LL
7.00 pm Friday 21 and Saturday 22 July
The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8
5.00 pm Monday 28 August
St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA
7.00 pm Tuesday 12 September