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Elsewhere

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.


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Commentary

Photo by Richard Lobell
19 Oct 2014

On The Death of Klinghoffer

This is a revised version of my review of the Sept 5th 1991American premiere of The Death of Klinghoffer, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The opera was first performed at Brussels’ La Monnaie the previous spring.  »

Recently in Commentary

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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). »

24 Jan 2005

Le Figaro Interviews Marc Minkovski

A 20 ans, Marc Minkovski fondait les Musiciens du Louvre et, très vite, imprimait sa sensibilité gourmande sur le répertoire baroque, puis sur des Offenbach qui ont fait mouche à Lyon, Grenoble et Paris. On se souvient d’un grand Couronnement de Poppée à Aix-en-Provence, d’un admirable Pelléas et Mélisande, salle Favart, pour le centenaire de l’oeuvre en 2002. A l’Opéra de Paris, Gérard Mortier en fait aujourd’hui un pilier de ce qui ne ressemble pas à de la sagesse : le voici aux commandes musicales d’une nouvelle Flûte enchantée venue du Festival de la Ruhr, et donnée en pâture au délirant groupe catalan La Fura del Baus. Le chef, lui, s’occupe surtout de Mozart. »

21 Jan 2005

John Eliot Gardiner Goes It Alone — Take Two

What is it that urges an eminent musician to spurn the mainstream record industry and set up on his own? Some orchestras have been doing it for quite a while, bypassing the major companies and releasing competitively priced discs of live performances that regularly lead the market and at the same time help to promote the orchestras’ image. Where the London Symphony Orchestra led the way in that field, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who already has a formidable backlist of recordings to his credit, is now blazing a trail for the individual artist by launching his own label, Soli Deo Gloria, the first two albums of which have just gone on sale. »

21 Jan 2005

So Much For Einstein's Theory

For many years Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s operatic work Zaide was regarded as a fragment. More than an hour of music was preserved but that was only the arias. Originally they were linked by spoken text, none of which survived. The German musicologist and conductor Andreas Kroeper, who now lives in the Czech Republic, says he has found the missing text and has proved it belonged to Zaide. Mozart started to compose the two-act Singspiel, set in a Turkish harem — a popular setting at that time, some time around 1780 in Salzburg. The libretto, developing similar plots of the period, was written by the Salzburg court musician Johann Andreas Schachtner. But Mozart soon realised a serious piece like that would not go down well with the Viennese audience whose tastes had turned to comic operas. »

18 Jan 2005

More Than 2,000 Say Goodbye to Victoria de los Ángeles

The coffin of Spanish Victoria de los Angeles, a distinctive soprano who sang most of the great lyric roles in most of the world’s opera houses, is placed inside the cathedral Nostra Senora del Mar during her funeral in Barcelona, January 17, 2005. Victoria de los Angeles died in hospital on Saturday at the age of 81. »

18 Jan 2005

Fidelio at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Among history’s crowded pantheon of tormented genius-artists, Beethoven holds an honored spot. Often he composed quickly and with little apparent struggle. But he was no Mozart, who typically composed with a facility and speed that some music scholars have described as “taking dictation from God.” Beethoven filled sketchbooks with musical fragments, doggedly reworking and refining them like a miner scratching for diamonds in a black-walled shaft. With his wild hair, scowling gaze, deafness—a particularly cruel infirmity for a musician—and volcanic temper, he is the very model of a modern angst-ridden artist. »

18 Jan 2005

Mozart's Mass in C Minor Completed

Mozart left comparatively few major (or potentially major) works unfinished, and while it may seem daunting – presumptious even – for another musician to complete these scores, the lure of making an incomplete work whole is clearly too great to resist. Can the results ever be more than hyphenated Mozart? Probably not. A musicologist steeped in Mozart’s musical moves may project what the composer might have done at any point in a work, based on what he did in similar scores, and the completion may sound thoroughly Mozartean. But Mozart often came up with solutions that are completely surprising. Part of what made him Mozart – in fact, part of what makes any great composer great – is unpredictability. »

17 Jan 2005

Le Monde on Victoria de Los Angeles

Elle s’en est allée rejoindre les anges, dont elle portait si bien le nom. Victoria de Los Angeles s’est éteinte samedi 15 janvier, à l’âge de 81 ans, à la clinique Teknon de Barcelone, où elle avait été hospitalisée, à la suite de troubles cardio-pulmonaires, le 31 décembre 2004. Née le 1er novembre 1923 dans la capitale catalane, Victoria Gómez Cima (ou Garcia Lopez), dite Victoria de Los Angeles, avait grandi dans une Espagne meurtrie par les guerres. La fille du concierge de l’université, qui travaillait sa voix dans les salles de cours vides, avait conquis le monde de l’opéra dès 1947 en remportant le grand Concours international de Genève, qui lui valut de débuter l’année suivante à la BBC dans le rôle de Salud de La Vie brève de De Falla. »

15 Jan 2005

Victoria de los Ángeles Has Died

Barcelona.—La decana de los cantantes líricos españoles, Victoria dels Ángeles, ha fallecido hoy a los 81 años en la Clínica Teknon de Barcelona, donde se encontraba ingresada desde el 30 de diciembre como consecuencia de una afección respiratoria. La familia de la soprano ha comunicado que la capilla ardiente se instalará mañana en el Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, entre las 12.00 y las 19.00 horas. El funeral de la cantante, nacida en Barcelona el 1 de noviembre de 1923, tendrá lugar en la Basílica de Santa María del Mar, el lunes a las 11.00 horas. »

14 Jan 2005

Mozart's Portrait — Doubts Emerge

Nur wer mit den Eigentümlichkeiten Wiens und seiner Bewohner, ihren Empfindlichkeiten und Ab grenzungen, vor allem im Umgang mit den einverleibten Idolen, einigermaßen vertraut ist, kann ermessen, welch empfindlichen Nerv die Nachricht treffen musste, die am Dreikönigstag aus Berlin, ausgerechnet Berlin, verbreitet wurde, dass in der Berliner Gemäldegalerie ein bisher unbekanntes Mozart-Porträt aufgetaucht sei. Zwar wurde zugleich eine elektronische Kopie dieses Bildnisses mitgeliefert, auch der Name des Malers, Johann Georg Edlinger, genannt und mitgeteilt, es sei 1790 bei Mozarts letztem Aufenthalt in München entstanden, alles Nähere jedoch soll erst bei einem Vortrag am 27. Januar 2005 durch den Oberkustos der Berliner Gemäldegalerie, Rainer Michaelis, bekannt gegeben werden. Also just an Mozarts 249. Geburtstag. »

11 Jan 2005

Going It Alone

The conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner — for 20 years one of the most famous names contracted to the recording company Deutsche Grammophon — has launched his own CD label, after recovering from the blow of the abrupt severance of his contract with DG. Sir John faced a crisis when the company pulled the plug just as he was planning the gargantuan project of touring with and recording live the complete Bach cantatas throughout the year 2000, which would have resulted in over 50 CDs. »

07 Jan 2005

A Lost Portrait of Mozart Recovered?

Musikgenie zwischen Verschwendungssucht und verhärmter Armut — doch aus Mozart-Porträts spricht auch Lebensfreude, Lust am Genuß und tödliche Krankheit. Höchste Zeit, über Amadeus-Legenden nachzudenken. War Mozart dicklich und wohlgenährt? Ein neu aufgetauchtes Bildnis zeigt den Salzburger Meister in seiner späten Zeit, im Jahre 1790. Mozart war 34 Jahre alt und hatte noch gut ein Jahr zu leben. Die Sensation: Pausbäckig und jovial, den Jackenknopf mühsam über dem Bäuchlein geschlossen, bietet Mozart einen Anblick gesunder Lebensfreude und jovialer Genußfähigkeit. »

29 Dec 2004

Salieri Redux

For Mozart's Archrival, an Italian Renaissance By JASON HOROWITZ MILAN - For more than 200 years, Antonio Salieri's obscure opera "Europa Riconosciuta" ("Europa Revealed") was forgotten. Before its return to La Scala this month, the opera had not been performed... »