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Elsewhere

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.


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10 Oct 2005

The Operatic Pushkin

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837) is generally considered Russia’s greatest poet. According to Andrew Kahn, his contemporaries held him “above all the master of the lyric poem, verse that is famous for its formal perfection and its reticent lyric persona, and infamous for its resistance to translation.” [Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades and Other Stories, trans. Alan Myers, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997] »

05 Oct 2005

Abbé Prévost's Manon Lescaut

The Story of the Chevalier Des Grieux and Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost stands as one of the great works of French literature. It first appeared in 1731 as an appendix to the series, Memoirs and Adventures of a Man of Quality. It was later revised in 1753 for independent publication under the title Les Aventures du chevalier Des Grieux et Manon Lescaut with illustrations by Pasquier and Gravelot. »

29 Sep 2005

New World Symphony

By Russell Platt [The Nation, 3 October 2005] Classical music in America, we are frequently told, is in its death throes: its orchestras bled dry by expensive guest soloists and greedy musicians unions, its media presence shrinking, its prestige diminished,... »

24 Sep 2005

SOUNDS FROM THE STUDIO

The EMI label’s new version of “Tristan und Isolde,” starring Plácido Domingo, has received weirdly apocalyptic advance publicity: it has been described as the final large-scale opera recording in history. »

22 Sep 2005

Tom Sutcliffe - Behind the scenes

Sheridan Morley, impressed with Michael Grandage's staging of Schiller's Don Carlos last February, turned to a fellow critic at the Gielgud Theatre and asked if they had known that it was such a terrific piece, adding jocularly that somebody ought to make an opera of it. »

16 Sep 2005

Myth, Muzak and Mozart

As the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth approaches, Proms director Nicholas Kenyon offers a personal guide to enjoying his work »

15 Sep 2005

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE

The bittersweet life of Harold Arlen. The composer Harold Arlen, a dapper man whose songs brought something both dashing and deep to the Republic, liked to tell a story about the time he danced with Marilyn Monroe. »

15 Sep 2005

Paul Kellogg to retire as New York City Opera’s General and Artistic Director at the end of the 2006-07 Season

Paul Kellogg, General and Artistic Director of City Opera, today announced that he will retire from the Company in June, 2007 at the end of the 2006-2007 season, his 12th with the company. »

14 Sep 2005

View from the Top — David Daniels, ten years on

The life of an opera singer is not for the faint-hearted. It’s one of dizzying highs and lows, a crazy roundabout of heart-warming praise and soul-piercing criticism. No-one gets off lightly — even the best in the world — and to survive just a decade of this madness is an achievement in itself. I’ve been following the progress of American star countertenor David Daniels for a while now, so when I was asked to write a ten year retrospective on his career it seemed to me that, with a lot written already about that career, the “how” would be more interesting to discuss than the “what” or “when”. And the viewpoint that would give the most insight into how this exceptional singer came to be where he was would be: his own. »

08 Sep 2005

The Met Broadcasts Have a New Sponsor

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Joseph Volpe announced today that Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder™, will be the corporate sponsor for the Metropolitan Opera Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts which will celebrate their 75th anniversary this season. The twenty-one radio broadcasts will run from December 17 of this year to May 6, 2006, and will be heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network, which comprises over 300 stations in the United States and reaches eleven million people in forty-two countries around the globe. The Annenberg Foundation and the Vincent A. Stabile Foundation will continue to provide generous support for this season’s broadcasts as part of their long-term commitments to the future of this program. -------- »

23 Aug 2005

SANTA FE — Second Thoughts

For an opera company that boasts a $30-million endowment, and has scheduled funding efforts expected to bring that largesse to $50-million by 2007, its fiftieth anniversary of summer opera performances, plus $10-million more for capital improvements, the question comes up: Santa Fe Opera can afford top quality, but are they providing it? The answer seems to be, sometimes. »

11 Aug 2005

Unearthed Vivaldi Aria Premiered in Australia

Today at the University of Melbourne, an excerpt from Vivaldi's newly discovered choral setting of Psalm 110 ("Dixit Dominus") received its modern premiere, marking an historic occasion not only for musicologists but for the field in general. »

11 Jul 2005

High Noon in Düsseldorf

Barely a month ago, Rotterdam and the music world generally celebrated the first performance of Vivaldi’s Motezuma since those held in Venice in 1733. Musicologist Steffen Voss reconstructed the opera’s score in large part from a manuscript he found while examining documents recently returned to the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin by the government of Ukraine. Kees Vlaardingerbroeck, the artistic director of Rotterdam’s De Doelen, declared, “This is the most important Vivaldi discovery in 75 years.” »

09 Jul 2005

On Art and Politics

You see a lot of plays when you’re a drama critic, and you don’t always get to pick them. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have a way of sinking deeper into the velvet-lined ruts of our own well-established tastes when left exclusively to our own devices. To be a working drama critic, on the other hand, is to engage with what’s out there, good and bad alike. Just because I expect to be exasperated by a show, or bored silly, doesn’t mean I can afford to pass it by. Besides, I’ve been a critic long enough to know that only a fool writes his review on the way to the show. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been surprised at the theater – both ways. »

01 Jul 2005

An die Musik

In 1817, Franz Schubert set these words of the poet Franz von Schober to music in his song “An die Musik”: O gracious Art, in how many gray hours When life’s fierce orbit encompassed me, Hast thou kindled my heart to warm love, Hast charmed me into a better world. Oft has a sigh, issuing from thy harp, A sweet, blest chord of thine, Thrown open the heaven of better times; O gracious Art, for that I thank thee! Schubert’s song may well be the most beautiful thank-you note anyone has ever written, but it’s also something else. It’s a credo, a statement of faith in the wondrous powers of music, and by its very nature an affirmation of those powers. We may view it as a statement of expectations as well. The poet thanks Music for what it has done for him, but there is nothing in his words that would make us think that Music’s powers are exhausted, and indeed the noble, exalted character of Schubert’s music would lead us to believe that Music’s powers are, if anything, eternal, and eternally dependable. »

30 Jun 2005

When Copyright Law Gets It Wrong

When great music is silenced by law, who is truly wrong? Such is the nasty issue arising repeatedly in the low-stakes classical recording industry. So ephemeral is music that passionate minorities who appreciate it can't believe their luck when lesser-known... »

02 Jun 2005

Alex Ross: THE RECORD EFFECT — How technology has transformed the sound of music

Ninety-nine years ago, John Philip Sousa predicted that recordings would lead to the demise of music. »

21 May 2005

On Vanity Productions

On Sept. 29, 1855, the Brooklyn Daily Times ran an unsigned and startlingly exuberant review of a thoroughly obscure book of poetry. The anonymous critic quivered with admiration for the poet, as well as the verse. “Of pure American breed, of reckless health, his body perfect, free from taint top to toe,” he wrote. »

18 May 2005

On The Rise and Fall of Comic Opera

La ópera propiamente dicha nació seria, muy seria. Al fin y al cabo, a finales del siglo XVI, los selectos miembros de la aristocrática Camerata dei Bardi, en Florencia, imaginaban estar recreando nada más y nada menos que la tragedia griega. Pero, de forma paralela, y en el mismo contexto cultural, el madrigal dramático italiano estaba alcanzando su madurez con obras abiertamente cómicas. »

16 Apr 2005

The Diminishing Relevance of Critics

In the popular imagination, the art critic seems a commanding figure, making and breaking careers at will, but one hard look at today’s contemporary art system reveals this notion to be delusional.“When I entered the art world, famous critics had an aura of power”, recalls ArtBasel director Samuel Keller. “Now they’re more like philosophers—respected, but not as powerful as collectors, dealers or curators. Nobody fears critics any more, which is a real danger sign for the profession.” »

12 Apr 2005

An Interview With Michael Maniaci

Michael Maniaci has a fight on his hands. In the world of baroque opera he’s a young singer who seems to have it all: he’s intelligent, immensely talented, well-trained, committed and surprisingly wise for his 29 years. On top of that he’s already been successful in the USA winning prestigious competitions, and recently gaining significant roles at such proving grounds as Glimmerglass, New York City Opera and Santa Fe. »

10 Apr 2005

Thinking About Wagner

THERE are moments in “Die Walküre,” Wagner’s most humane opera, that never fail to dissolve me, even though I know they are coming. One occurs fairly early in the first act. »

07 Apr 2005

Le Figaro Interviews Peter Sellars

C’est l’événement lyrique de l’année à Paris. L’oeuvre, d’abord : le Tristan et Isolde de Wagner, véritable opéra impossible, monument visionnaire où tout est tourné vers l’intériorité, a toujours fasciné. La distribution, ensuite : Ben Heppner et Waltraud Meier sont tout simplement les plus grands. L’équipe artistique, enfin. Le chef finlandais Esa-Pekka Salonen, pour ses débuts à l’Opéra de Paris et son premier Tristan, retrouvera le metteur en scène Peter Sellars, dont la conception scénique s’appuiera sur l’univers visuel du vidéaste Bill Viola. L’occasion d’interroger Sellars sur sa vision de l’oeuvre : surpris en pleine répétition d’orchestre (il y assiste car pour lui la mise en scène procède de la musique), il nous répond avec une générosité, un sens de l’humain, une intelligence pédagogique qui font de lui un être d’exception. »

01 Apr 2005

Merkur Interviews Lawrence Zazzo

Als Nachwuchshoffnung wird der amerikanische Countertenor Lawrence Zazzo weltweit gehandelt. Sein Münchner Debüt ist also fällig. In der Wiederaufnahme der bereits 1997 bejubelten Inszenierung von Claudio Monteverdis “L’incoronazione di Poppea” der Bayerischen Staatsoper – unter der Regie von David Alden und der musikalischen Leitung von Harry Bicket – ist er nun als Ottone zu sehen. »

30 Mar 2005

Philippe Jordan at the Met

On Monday night, the Metropolitan Opera began another run of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” but without music director James Levine in the pit. He was at Carnegie Hall, directing his new band, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Conducting at the Met was Philippe Jordan, the sensational young Swiss. He is the son of the esteemed maestro Armin Jordan; indeed, they are the most noted father-son conducting pair since the Kleibers. But Philippe will far outpace Armin. That is the safe betting, at least. »