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Elsewhere

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.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.


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22 Jan 2006

WAGNER: Parsifal

Parsifal. Bühnenweihfestspiel ("stage dedication play") in three acts.Music and libretto by Richard Wagner. »

15 Jan 2006

MOZART: La clemenza di Tito

La clemenza di Tito. Opera seria in due atti (K. 621).Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Caterino Mazzolà based on a text by Pietro Metastasio. »

08 Jan 2006

MOZART: Idomeneo

Idomeneo, rè di Creta. Dramma per musica in tre atti (K. 366).Music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Giovanni Battista Varesco after Idomenée by Antoine Danchet. »

28 Dec 2005

GOUNOD: Faust

Faust, Opéra en cinq actesMusic composed by Charles Gounod. Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré after Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe »

25 Dec 2005

BERLIOZ: La damnation de Faust

La damnation de Faust, Légende dramatique en quatre partiesMusic composed by Hector Berlioz. Libretto by Hector Berlioz, Almire Gandonanière and Gérard de Nerval after Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe »

16 Dec 2005

BOITO: Mefistofele

Mefistofele, Opera in un prologo, quattro atti e un epilogoMusic and libretto by Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), based on Faust: Eine Tragödie by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe »

11 Dec 2005

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

La Forza del Destino, a melodramma in quattro attiMusic composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave based on the drama Don Alvaro o La fuerza del sino by Angel Perez de Saavedra »

04 Dec 2005

FLOTOW: Martha — Berlin 1944

Martha, an opera in four acts.Music composed by Friedrich von Flotow. Libretto by Wilhelm Friedrich.First performance: 25 November 1847 at Theater an der Wien, Vienna. »

01 Dec 2005

PERGOLESI: La serva padrona

La serva padrona, intermezzo in two partsMusic composed by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Libretto by Gennar'antonio Frederico.First performance: 28 August 1733, Teatro San Bartolomeo, Naples. »

27 Nov 2005

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio — Munich 1978

Fidelio, an opera in two acts »

24 Nov 2005

Maria Callas Performs Lady Macbeth

Here we offer three selections from Macbeth with Maria Callas performing the role of Lady Macbeth. These are from a live performance given on 7 December 1952 at La Scala. Victor de Sabata conducts the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano. »

20 Nov 2005

VERDI: Macbeth

VERDI: Macbeth, melodramma in quattro parti.Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by William Shakespeare. »

12 Nov 2005

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Music composed by Johann Strauss II.Libretto by Richard Genée based on Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy/Karl Haffner.First performance: 5 April 1874 at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna. »

29 Oct 2005

GIORDANO: Fedora

Fedora, a melodrama in three acts.Umberto Giordano, composer. Arturo Colautti, librettist, based on the play with the same name by Victorien SardouFirst performance: 17 November 1898 at Teatro Lirico Internazionale, Milan »

24 Oct 2005

PUCCINI: Tosca

Tosca, a melodrama in three acts Giacomo Puccini, composer. Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou. First performance: 14 January 1900 at Teatro Costanzi, Rome »

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!" »

22 Oct 2005

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Mozart and Salieri

Mozart and Salieri, an opera in one act consisting of two scenes. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), composer. Libretto derived from Alexander Puskhin's play of the same name. First performance: 7 December 1898 in Moscow. »

19 Oct 2005

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov

Boris Godunov, an opera in four acts with prologue Modest Mussorgsky, composer. Libretto by the composer, based on Alexander Pushkin's drama Boris Godunov and Nikolai Karamazin's History of the Russian Empire First performance: 8 February 1874 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg »

15 Oct 2005

TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin, lyrical scenes in three acts and seven tableaux. Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, composer. Libretto by the composer, based on the verse novel by Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. First performance: 29 March 1879 at the Maliy Theatre, Moscow. »

10 Oct 2005

TCHAIKOVSKY: The Queen of Spades

The Queen of Spades (Pique Dame), an opera in three acts. Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, composer. Modest Tchaikovsky and composer, librettists. First performance: 19 December 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. »

05 Oct 2005

PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut, dramma lirico in quattro atti Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), composer. Luigi Illica and Domenico Oliva, librettists. First performance: 1 February 1893 at Teatro Regio, Turin. »

25 Sep 2005

Ariadne auf Naxos

Only a few months following the premiere of Der Rosenkavalier, Hugo von Hofmannsthal proposed a new opera to Richard Strauss based on Molière’s comedy-ballet, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (in German, Der Bürger als Edelmann). »

18 Sep 2005

An Introduction to Pacini’s Saffo

By early 1835 Giovanni Pacini had written almost fifty operas during the course of a career launched in 1813. He was tired and he was discouraged. Not only had his earlier works been overshadowed by the force of Rossini’s musical personality, but even after the departure of the Pesarese from Italy in 1823, Pacini’s star did not shine brighter. In his fascinating Memoirs, the composer examined these years and acknowledged his own limitations. Though the first performances of his Irene, o L’assedio di Messina (Naples, Teatro San Carlo, 30 November 1833) were largely rescued by the singers, Pacini knew the creative vein he had been mining was empty. Maturing under the spell of Rossini, he had not yet shown himself to be more than an able follower: “I began to realize that I should withdraw from the field.—Bellini, the divine Bellini, and Donizetti had surpassed me.” »

11 Sep 2005

Das Rheingold — An Overview

Das Rheingold is the first of the four works that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen. On the title page of Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wagner refers to Das Rheingold as a Vorabend (a preliminary evening). Nevertheless, Das Rheingold sets the foundation on which the remainder of the Ring is built. »

11 Sep 2005

Das Rheingold

Experienced listeners gain nothing but lose very little when a mediocre, even bad performance of Wagner’s stage works is released on DVD.  »