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Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese

Strong music values in 1940's setting for Handel's opera examining madness

As part of their Madness season, presenting three very contrasting music theatre treatments of madness (Handel's Orlando, Bellini's I Puritani and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd) Welsh National Opera (WNO) presented Handel's Orlando at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 3 October 2015.

Bostridge, Isserlis, Drake, Wigmore Hall

Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

Falstaff at Forest Lawn

Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare: the two Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Music and Drama Interwoven in Chicago Lyric’s new Le nozze di Figaro

The opening performance of the 2015-2016 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago was the premiere of a new production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro under the direction of Barbara Gaines and featuring the American debut of conductor Henrik Nánási.

La traviata, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia mixes boutique performances of avant-garde opera in a small house with more traditional productions of warhorse operas performed in the Academy of Music, America’s oldest working opera house.

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season



11 Oct 2015

Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.  »

Recently in Commentary

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03 Mar 2005

Mozart? Maybe Not.

01. März 2005 Ein Rokokoherr mittleren Alters, Frack, Spitzenjabot, gepudertes Haar – könnte das nicht Mozart sein? Niemand weiß, wie der Komponist wirklich ausgesehen hat. So galt es denn als „Weltsensation”, als die Berliner Gemäldegalerie ihren bisherigen „Herrn im grünen Frack” vor wenigen Wochen aufgrund einer computergestützten Analyse des Musikliebhabers Wolfgang Seiller als neu entdecktes Mozart-Porträt präsentierte. Gemalt hatte es der seinerzeit renommierte Münchner Porträtist Johann Georg Edlinger „vor 1790”, was aber nun auf „um 1790” umfunktioniert wurde. »

02 Mar 2005

James Levine and the 21st Century

We’re undeniably in the era of James Levine. The Cincinnati-born, 61-year-old conductor is right now art music’s Great Enabler. As music director of the Metropolitan Opera for nearly the last 30 years and in the home stretch of his first season as chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, his potential for goosing the possibilities of 21st-century classical music performance is unique. »

26 Feb 2005

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at Berlin Cathedral's 100 Year Jubilee

Der Berliner Bariton Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau gehörte über Jahrzehnte hinweg zu den weltweit gefeierten Liedsängern. Der fast 80jährige ist nach wie vor als Dirigent, Maler, Buchautor, Ehrengast aktiv – und wird heute im Konzert des Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchesters Berlin zum 100jährigen Jubiläum des Berliner Doms als Sprecher auftreten. Volker Blech sprach mit Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. »

26 Feb 2005

Nikolaus Harnoncourt at Zurich Opera

It is the day before the opening night. Zurich is agog for the new production of Monteverdi’s opera L’incoronazione di Poppea, but there is a snag. The Poppea has gone sick. A new one has had to be flown in from Frankfurt, and in only a matter of hours has had to be acclimatised to the radical staging and familiarised with the edition of the score that Zurich Opera is using. »

23 Feb 2005

Die Welt Interviews Rolando Villazón

Der 32-jährige Mexikaner Rolando Villazón hat sich in seinen wenigen Karrierejahren bereits als eine der größten Tenor-Hoffnungen erwiesen. Ein Interview mit dem nie stillsitzenden Lockenkopf ist wie eine Bühnenvorstellung. Manuel Brug hat es erfahren. »

18 Feb 2005

A Star Is Born

Phumzile Sojola got the call less than 36 hours before the concert. University of Kentucky alum Gregory Turay, who was set to be the featured soloist on the Lexington Philharmonic’s Feb. 4 concert, was sick and might not be able to sing. The orchestra needed a tenor in the wings. OK, Sojola thought. He knew the scheduled arias. »

18 Feb 2005

Le Figaro Profiles Valery Gergiev

Pas facile à coincer, Valery Gergiev. Le chef russe le plus charismatique de sa génération a voué sa vie au Kirov de Saint-Pétersbourg, dont il a fait l’un des théâtres lyriques les plus recherchés du monde. Mais il anime aussi trois festivals : les Nuits blanches de Saint-Pétersbourg, le Festival de Pâques de Moscou et celui de Mikkeli en Finlande. N’oublions pas non plus qu’il est directeur musical de l’Orchestre philharmonique de Rotterdam, premier chef invité du Metropolitan Opera de New York, et l’un des maestros préférés du Philharmonique de Vienne, qu’il dirige tant au Musikverein qu’au Festival de Salzbourg et en tournée. Avec un tel calendrier, guère de place pour des invitations à droite et à gauche, et s’il a fait récemment ses débuts aux «Proms» de Londres avec l’Orchestre symphonique de la BBC, c’était une exception dont on se demande si elle va se généraliser, donnant un nouveau tour à une carrière jusqu’ici focalisée sur quatre orchestres. »

17 Feb 2005

Marcello Viotti Has Died

BERLIN – Marcello Viotti, the music director of Venice’s famed La Fenice Theater who also conducted at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and other leading houses, died at a German hospital after falling into a coma. He was 50. Viotti died Wednesday night after being in a coma for several days at a clinic in Munich, Germany, his agent, Paul Steinhauser, said by telephone from Vienna, Austria. »

15 Feb 2005

L'Express Interviews Natalie Dessay

Il y a un miracle Natalie Dessay. Sa Reine de la Nuit (dans La Flûte enchantée, de Mozart) ou son Olympia (des Contes d’Hoffmann, d’Offenbach), irrésistibles de présence et de drôlerie, ont déjà marqué l’histoire de l’opéra. On se régale de sa présence sur scène, de son tempérament explosif, on admire sa voix de soprano léger à la virtuosité sans limites, et on respecte la femme, diva humble et sincère. On aime Natalie, on croit la connaître, mais elle reste un mystère. Après une saison triomphale, couronnée par un enregistrement (Amor, consacré à la musique de Richard Strauss, chez Virgin Classics) et une victoire de la musique, soudain, patatras! Comme il y a deux ans, une opération des cordes vocales oblige la chanteuse à annuler des représentations. Le doute et la peur viennent ébranler ce petit bout de femme d’ordinaire débordant d’énergie. Pourquoi? Natalie Dessay s’en explique ici »

11 Feb 2005

A Profile of Rolando Villazon

Rolando Villazon has the opera world on a string. The young Mexican tenor has just completed a fairy tale year, with acclaimed debuts at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden in London and the Staatsoper in Berlin. He released his first CD, a collection of Italian arias; several critics ranked it among the best classical recordings of 2004. And his face graced the covers of a number of opera periodicals. »

09 Feb 2005

Il Gazzettino Interviews Claudio Scimone

Maestro Scimone, cosa rappresenta per lei questo riconoscimento del consiglio regionale che la indica come come ambasciatore della cultura veneta nel mondo? «In un primo momento, oltre che commosso, sono rimasto anche un po’ stupito soprattutto considerando il libro d’oro molto ristretto di questo premio, assegnato sinora solo a un Patriarca di Venezia e a un eroe. Poi ho pensato che il significato di questa scelta del consiglio regionale è il riconoscere come sia importante per la nostra regione l’arte e la cultura che sono l’elemento di identificazione più importante del Veneto». »

06 Feb 2005

Roll Over Stockhausen

When did the music die? And why? It will be 30 years in August since the death of Dmitri Shostakovitch. Next year also marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Benjamin Britten. Aaron Copland, older than both of them, lived on until 1990 and Olivier Messiaen until 1992. But apart from these? I can see them already. The protestations on behalf of the half-forgotten and semi-famous, the advocates of Henze and Berio, the followers of Tavener and Adès. Perhaps there will be a good word for Golijov or Gubaidulina, for Piazzola or Saariaho (enthusiasms I share). And maybe, even now, there remains someone who believes that Stockhausen should be mentioned in the same breath as Bach, the last of the true believers clinging to the shipwreck of modernism. »

02 Feb 2005

Jirí Belohlávek Named to Head BBCSO

The BBC Symphony Orchestra confirmed yesterday that its new chief conductor from the first night of the 2006 Proms will be the Czech maestro Jirí Belohlávek. It was known two and a half years ago that Leonard Slatkin would be standing down from the job at the end of last season’s Proms, so the announcement about his successor has been a long time coming, but the welcome news of Belohlávek’s appointment is not a surprise. I floated him as the most likely choice in an article on these pages back in July last year. It was a hunch, but one based on a reasoned study of the form book, since he seemed to have precisely the qualities that the BBC should be looking for. »

01 Feb 2005

Teresa Berganza — Two Interviews

Le coeur des amoureux de bel canto va battre plus fort, mardi soir au Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. La série «Les Grandes Voix» de Jean-Pierre Le Pavec accueille l’une des plus grandes dames de l’histoire de l’opéra au dernier demi-siècle. A un mois de son soixante-et-onzième anniversaire, Teresa Berganza précise qu’il ne faut pas espérer entendre le Chérubin ou la Rosine des années 50 : avec sa voix d’aujourd’hui, elle se consacre maintenant au récital, faisant la part belle au répertoire ibérique, qu’il soit espagnol (de Falla) ou argentin (Piazzolla). Mais elle a toujours la même discipline, la même élégance, le même pétillement : un petit bout de femme vif-argent et intarissable, qui vous donne l’impression qu’on s’est toujours connus. Rencontre avec une immense artiste, qui a participé à l’âge d’or de l’opéra. »

30 Jan 2005

Mozart Here, Mozart There, Mozart Everywhere

Mozart-Tage in Wien, Mozartwoche in Salzburg. Und das alles 2005, wo doch das Mozartjahr erst 2006 droht. Vor lauter Ankündigungen und Vorausschauen, was die Welt, was Österreich im Besonderen im Jubiläumsjahr an Plänen ventiliert, droht Mozarts Musik zur Nebensache zu werden. Das ist ihr Glück. Denn so bleibt sie, während wohlbestallte Koordinatoren und Intendanten über Aktionen von hoch bezahlten Kasperln diskutieren, doch die Hauptsache. »

28 Jan 2005

Encountering David Daniels

``I’m Tom Brady’s best friend,’’ joked David Daniels. ``I’m sure he’d love to read that!’’ OK, the world’s leading countertenor isn’t really Brady’s bud. ``But I did meet him,’’ Daniels continued. ``It was when I sang (Handel’s) `Messiah’ in Ann Arbor.’’ Brady was quarterback for the University of Michigan football team when Daniels, now 38, was a graduate student there. ``A lot of times the football players would come to concerts – they were always trying to enlighten them to the music world, arts and culture – and he came backstage and I got to shake his hand,’’ Daniels recalled. ``If you asked him, he might remember me as this guy who sang like a woman.’‘ »

28 Jan 2005

Denyce Graves Goes to the Treasure Coast

With a voice as strong and clear as the winter wind through the cherry trees, Denyce Graves sang for all America last week at President Bush’s inaugural ceremony. Graves, who was born and raised in Washington, D.C., is something of a musical emissary — she’s had the lead roles in opera houses all over the globe, and is considered one of the most dynamic mezzo-sopranos on the world stage. »

28 Jan 2005

Homage to Marian Anderson

Start buying pieces of fine art this week for 37 cents. The Marian Anderson first-class postage stamp, the 28th in the Black Heritage series, debuted Thursday in Washington, D.C. Richard Sheaff designed the stamp, which is based on an Albert Slark oil painting. Sheaff previously designed nine stamps that include Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes, Roy Wilkins and Patricia Harris. »

26 Jan 2005

Comparing Tebaldi and de los Angeles

According to popular legend, one great operatic soprano comes along every generation. The years directly following the end of World War II were singularly blessed with the emergence of no fewer than three great divas. The tempestuous and too-short life of Maria Callas, regarded by many as the greatest, ended in 1977. But her two greatest rivals lived into old age, by strange fate – the force of destiny? – dying within less than a month of each other. »

26 Jan 2005

Julia Jones Conducts at the Wiener Staatsoper

VIENNA, Jan. 23 -It was just eight years ago that the Vienna Philharmonic, which doubles as the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, officially admitted the first woman to its august ranks. On Jan. 12, there were at least six in the pit for “Parsifal.” On the 13th, there was one in the pit for “Don Giovanni.” On Saturday, there was one at the head of the orchestra: Julia Jones, an English conductor who made her debut here in 2001, has conducted a number of times here since, and who led a robust “Così Fan Tutte” during the house’s second annual “Vienna Mozart Days” (which ends with a final “Nozze di Figaro” on Jan. 29). »