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Elsewhere

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

A Donizetti world premiere: Opera Rara at the Royal Opera House

There may be sixty or so operas by Donizetti to choose from, but if you’ve put together the remnants of another one, why not give everyone a chance to hear it? And so, Opera Rara brought L’Ange de Nisida to the concert stage last night, 180 years after it was composed for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, conductor Sir Mark Elder leading a team of bel canto soloists and the Choir and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a committed and at times stirring performance.

A stellar Ariadne auf Naxos at Investec Opera Holland Park

Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is a strange operatic beast. Originally a Molière-Hofmannsthal-Strauss hybrid, the 1916 version presented in Vienna ditched Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which had preceded an operatic telling of the Greek myth of Ariadne and Theseus, and replaced it with a Prologue in which buffa met seria as competing factions prepared to present an entertainment for ‘the richest man in Vienna’. He’s a man who has ordered two entertainments, to follow an epicurean feast, and he wants these dramatic digestifs served simultaneously.

PROM 5: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Stefan Herheim’s production of Debussy’s magnificent 1902 opera for Glyndebourne has not been universally acclaimed. The Royal Albert Hall brought with it, in this semi-staged production, a different set of problems - and even imitated some of the production’s original ones, notably the vast shadow of the organ which somewhat replicates Glyndebourne’s 1920’s Organ Room, and by a huge stretch of the imagination the forest in which so much of the opera’s action is set.

Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

Sopranos Elise Brancheau and Shannon Jones, along with pianists Martin Néron and Keith Chambers, presented a thrilling evening of French-themed music in an evening entitled: “Salut à la France,” at the South Oxford Space in Brooklyn this past Saturday, July 14th.

Dido in Deptford: Blackheath Halls Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty. The artistic director of Longborough Festival Opera has overseen a production which brings together professional soloists, students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and a cast of more than 80 south-east London adults and children for this, the 12th, annual Blackheath Halls Community Opera.

Summer madness and madcap high jinxs from the Jette Parker Young Artists

The operatic extracts which comprised this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance seemed to be joined by a connecting thread - madness: whether that was the mischievousness of Zerbinetta’s comedy troupe, the insanity of Tom Rakewell, the metaphysical distress of Hamlet, or the mayhem prompted by Isabella’s arrival at Mustafà’s Ottoman palace, the ‘insanity’ was equally compelling.

Mefistofele at Orange’s Chorégies

This is the one where a very personable devil tells God that mankind is so far gone it isn’t worth his time to bother corrupting it further.

Mascagni's Isabeau rides again at Investec Opera Holland Park

There seemed to me to be something distinctly Chaucerian about Martin Lloyd-Evans’ new production of Mascagni’s Isabeau (the first UK production of the opera) for Investec Opera Holland Park.

The 2018 BBC Proms opens in flamboyant fashion

Anniversaries and commemorations will, as usual, feature significantly during the 2018 BBC Proms, with the works of Leonard Bernstein, Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger all prominently programmed during the season’s myriad orchestral, vocal and chamber concerts.

Banff’s Hell of an Orphée+

Against the Grain Theatre brought its award winning adaptation of Gluck’s opera to the Banff Festival billed as “an electronic baroque burlesque descent into hell.”

A Choral Trilogy at the Aix Festival

What Seven Stones (the amazing accentus / axe 21), and Dido and Aeneas (the splendid Ensemble Pygmalion) and Orfeo & Majnun (the ensemble [too many to count] of eleven local amateur choruses) share, and virtually nothing else, is spectacular use of chorus.

Vintage Audi — Parsifal, Kaufmann, Pape

From the Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Wagner Parsifal with a dream cast - René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Nina Stemme, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, directed by Pierre Audi. The production is vintage Audi - stylized, austere, but solidly thought-through.

Flight Soars High in Des Moines

Jonathan Dove’s innovative opera Flight is being lavished with an absolutely riveting new production at Des Moines Metro Opera’s resoundingly successful 2018 Festival.

Fledermaus Pops the Cork in Iowa

Like a fizzy bottle of champagne, Des Moines Metro Opera uncorked a zesty tasting of Johan Strauss’s vintage Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

A spritely summer revival of Falstaff at the ROH

Robert Carson’s 2012 ROH Falstaff is a bit of a hotchpotch, but delightful nevertheless. The panelled oak, exuding Elizabethan ambience, of the first Act’s gravy-stained country club reeks of the Wodehouse-ian 1930s, but has also has to serve as the final Act’s grubby stable and the Forest of Windsor, while the central Act is firmly situated in the domestic perfection of Alice Ford’s 1950s kitchen.

Down on the Farm with Des Moines’ Copland

Ingenious Des Moines Metro Opera continued its string of site-specific hits with an endearing production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land on the grounds of the Maytag Dairy farm.

Des Moines’ Ravishing Rusalka

Let me get right to the point: This is the Rusalka I have been waiting for all my life.

L'Ange de feu (The Fiery Angel)
in Aix

Prokofiev’s Fiery Angel is rarely performed. This new Aix Festival production to be shared with Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki exemplifies why.

Ariane à Naxos (Ariadne auf Naxos) in Aix

Yes, of course British stage director Katie Mitchell served up Richard Strauss’ uber tragic Ariadne on Naxos at a dinner table. Over the past few years Mme. Mitchell has staged quite a few household tragedies at the Aix Festival, mostly at dinner tables, though some on doorsteps.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Raymond and Agnes  by Edward Loder {Retrospect Opera RO005 [2CDs]}
22 Jul 2018

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire. »

Recently in Commentary

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23 Oct 2005

The twists and trysts of Tosca

A few years ago, I had the rare experience of attending a performance of Tosca in a small farm community where opera was a fairly new commodity. After the second act ended, with Scarpia's corpse lying center stage, I happened to overhear a young, wide-eyed woman say to her companion, "I knew she was upset, but I didn't think she'd KILL him!" »

17 Oct 2005

Alex Ross on City Opera’s fall season

New York City Opera opened in February, 1944, at the height of the battles of Anzio and Truk. If skeptics thought it frivolous to start an opera company in the middle of a world war, Fiorello LaGuardia straightened them out: the music-loving Mayor believed that opera was essential to city life, and he wanted lower- and middle-class New Yorkers to have it at affordable prices, without pretension. »

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. »