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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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01 Mar 2005

Whither Classical Music?

EXACTLY 100 years ago Sir Edward Elgar delivered his first lecture at the University of Birmingham, where he had been persuaded to become the professor of music. With the Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance Marches being played everywhere, the 47-year-old composer was at the pinnacle of his fame and creative powers. So anything he said was bound to resonate. »

27 Feb 2005

Outsourcing Hits Wexford Festival

RIP-OFF Ireland has reached the opera house. Wexford Festival is hiring an eastern European orchestra because it says that the local equivalent is €150,000 more expensive. »

26 Feb 2005

More Fallout from Dismissal of Fontana

ROME – Milan’s La Scala opera house has fired its top administrator, sparking angry protests from employees who have threatened to bring the curtain down on more performances, news reports said. La Scala’s board of directors on Thursday dismissed Superintendent Carlo Fontana, who had a rift with conductor Riccardo Muti, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported. Fontana’s post will be taken over by Mauro Meli, director of La Scala’s theatrical division. »

26 Feb 2005

Lyric Workshop Opens at the Paris Opéra

Il y a eu l’Opéra studio de Louis Erlo, l’Ecole d’art lyrique immortalisée par Michel Sénéchal, puis le Centre de formation lyrique : à chaque nouveau directeur, la structure pédagogique de l’Opéra de Paris où sont encadrés les jeunes chanteurs change d’appellation. Gérard Mortier a annoncé récemment à la presse la création de l’Atelier lyrique, dont il a confié la direction à Christian Schirm, ancien adjoint d’Hugues Gall à Genève et à Paris. Comme l’a souligné Mortier avec un mélange de malice et d’affection, Schirm aspirait à prendre la direction d’un théâtre d’opéra : la mission qu’il lui a confiée pourrait être une préparation idéale à cette future tâche… »

25 Feb 2005

La Scala Dismisses Fontana

MILANO – Il sovrintendente del Teatro alla Scala, Carlo Fontana, è stato rimosso. Lo ha stabilito il Cda della teatro che in una nota rilasciata al termine della riunione fa sapere di aver revocato «con effetto immediato, il Sovrintendente dottor Carlo Fontana, affidando l’incarico al direttore della Divisione Teatro alla Scala, maestro Mauro Meli». »

24 Feb 2005

Richard Strauss Festival Begins 27 February at the Semperoper

The Saxonian capital of Dresden has long been associated with the operas of Richard Strauss, many of which were originally premiered at the city’s exquisite Semper Opera during Strauss’s lifetime. . . . [N]o less than six all-Strauss performances in late February and early March, encompassing four towering operas, an orchestral concert, and a Recital by Dame Felicity Lott. The operas will be Salome, Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau Ohne Schatten, with stellar casts including such important international artists as Luana DeVol, Susan Anthony, Sumi Jo, Evelyn Herlitzius, Gabriele Schnaut, Petra Lang, Reinhild Runkel, Sophi Koch, Stephen Gould, Günter Neumann, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, and Alan Titus. The experienced conductors will be Kent Nagano, Wolfgang Rennert, and Michael Boder. In addition to this operatic feast, an orchestra concert under the baton of Ion Marin will offer several works representative of ‘The Young Richard Strauss’ (Macbeth, the Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra, and Aus Italien). Finally, the radiant British soprano Dame Felicity Lott will be the soloist in a Recital showcasing her peerless interpretation of Strauss’ soaring melodic style. »

23 Feb 2005

Katharina Wagner and Doris Dörrie Receive Harsh Treatment in Munich

Zwei Frauen dominierten das Münchner Kulturgeplauder der beiden vergangenen Tage: Wagner-Urenkelin und Bayreuther Wunschmaid Katherina [sic] Wagner inszenierte am Gärtnerplatztheater Lortzings “Waffenschmied”, und “Männer”-Filmemacherin Doris Dörrie brachte einen Abend darauf an der Staatsoper Verdis “Rigoletto” heraus. »

21 Feb 2005

Scottish Opera on the Cutting Edge?

With the major success of his latest opera for Chicago, William Bolcom is America’s musical man of the moment. Yet in Britain he is scarcely a name. A Wedding, his new hit, is based on Robert Altman’s famous film of the same title, then at least we should be aware that he is aslo the composer of A View from the Bridge, an opera inspired in 1999 by the original blank verse version of the play by Arthur Miller who died last week. »

21 Feb 2005

WNO Moves In

When conductor Carlo Rizzi stepped forward at the end of La Traviata to address a delighted audience in his Italian-accented Welsh, he was marking a piece of history. Welsh National Opera had, after 60 years of peripatetic homelessness, for the first time performed on a stage it could call its own. »

21 Feb 2005

Changes in the Recording Industry

Over the past five years, just about everybody in my line of work (including me) has weighed in on the decline of classical-music recording. Norman Lebrecht, the English critic and high-culture gadfly, went so far as to write the industry’s obituary last fall and begin compiling a retrospective list of its 100 greatest achievements. As of last week, his list was up to 23 discs. (It can viewed online at www.scena.org.) »

21 Feb 2005

Classical Music in the Blogosphere

In a post last month on his popular blog about classical music, Alex Ross wrote that the music he loves ``exists off the radar screen of the major media’’ these days. But ``it’s actually kind of exciting,’’ he added. ``If I were in the business of marketing classical music to younger audiences, I’d make a virtue of this. Classical music is the new underground.’‘ »

21 Feb 2005

Survey Reveals Arts More Popular Than Sports

Music, drama and the visual arts really are second nature to the English, a national survey has conclusively shown. While news from Italy this weekend that the United Kingdom is regarded as the most cultured nation in Europe has been met with scepticism, it seems we should have a higher opinion of our chief pastimes on this island. DIY shops, fast food outlets and soccer violence are not even half the picture, it is now clear. »

19 Feb 2005

Troubles at La Scala

MILANO – I lavoratori della Scala scendono in campo dopo che il Cda ha dato mandato al sindaco di «risolvere consensualmente» entro la prossima settimana il rapporto con il sovrintendente Carlo Fontana e proclamano uno sciopero per martedì prossimo, il giorno in cui agli Arcimboldi avrebbe dovuto debuttare La Dama di Picche di Ciaikovski (i possessori del biglietto potranno chiederne il rimborso alla Biglietteria del teatro alla Scala, ndr). »

19 Feb 2005

Merkur Interviews Film Director Doris Dörrie — Rigoletto at Bayerischen Staatsoper

Das kann ja schon mal passieren: Die eigene Tochter verliebt sich ausgerechnet in den blödesten Affen der Welt. Eine Vorstellung zum Verzweifeln. Filmregisseurin Doris Dörrie will ganz bewusst solche Assoziationen wecken – und zwar mit ihrer ersten Münchner Operninszenierung. “Rigoletto”, sagt sie, “ist ein so egoistischer Vater. Aber ich kann ihn verstehen. Auch heute würde jeder von uns, der eine 15-jährige Tochter hat, sie am liebsten wegsperren.” Am kommenden Montag hat im Münchner Nationaltheater Giuseppe Verdis “Rigoletto” Premiere. Es singen u. a. Diana Damrau (Gilda), Mark Delavan (Rigoletto), Ramon Vargas (Herzog). Zubin Mehta dirigiert. »

18 Feb 2005

Oleg Caetani New Music Director at ENO

English National Opera has appointed Oleg Caetani as its next music director. He will begin the position in September 2006, succeeding Paul Daniel who leaves in July this year after eight years in the role. Caetani will divide his time between London and Melbourne, where he is chief conductor and artistic director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – a role he began last month on a four-year contract. He plans to take up residence in London. »

18 Feb 2005

The 12th BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition

Contestants from 25 countries have been selected to battle it out in what many consider to be one of the world’s premier singing competitions. »

17 Feb 2005

British Opera's Immigration Problem

The almost constant touring by east European opera and ballet companies continues to be a significant feature of the British cultural scene, and one that requires a little attention. We ought to be aware that the artists involved are working an exhausting schedule in difficult circumstances that British unions rightly would not tolerate. And there is no doubt that their one-night-stand activities steal audiences away from our own subsidised organisations. »

17 Feb 2005

Daily Telegraph Interviews Lisa Gasteen

Australian soprano Lisa Gasteen, who plays Brünnhilde in the second part of the Royal Opera’s ‘Ring’ cycle next month, talks to Rupert Christiansen about her tempestuous route to the top When she was a teenager, Lisa Gasteen was thrown out of a school folk group for singing too loud. Now, established as one of the world’s premier Wagnerian sopranos, her ability to turn up the volume comes in handy. In 2001, she made a triumphant debut at Covent Garden as Isolde; next month, she returns to halloo “Hojotoho” as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, the second instalment of the Royal Opera’s new production of the Ring, conducted by Antonio Pappano. »

17 Feb 2005

Edinburgh International Festival Confronts Cash Crunch

This year’s Edinburgh International Festival was facing a cash crisis last night after the postponement of a £600,000 emergency funding package. Last week, it emerged that Brian McMaster, director and chief executive of the EIF, had requested the money from Edinburgh City Council and EventScotland because the festival’s funding was “meeting the buffers”. »

17 Feb 2005

Classical Music — It's No Longer A Man's World

Since the time of Claudio Monteverdi, the Italian composer who lived from 1567 to 1643, classical music has been a man’s world. With some exceptions — such as 19th Century pianist-composer Clara Schumann — women achieved lim-ited prominence in the centuries-old art form. That is changing, and although they are still in the minority, women are appearing more frequently at the highest levels of classical music. »

15 Feb 2005

Importing Western Productions to the Bolshoi

Operatic and ballet productions imported from the West are becoming increasingly prominent on the repertory of the Bolshoi, Russia’s largest music theater. Local audiences met such imports with circumspection, but are now growing to like them. »

12 Feb 2005

Public Radio's Flagship Runs Aground

WETA-FM listeners who had hoped to prevent the widely anticipated decision by the public broadcasting station’s board of directors to drop classical music programs left its Shirlington offices disappointed last night. By an overwhelming majority, the board approved a resolution to focus on news and public-affairs programming. »

12 Feb 2005

Welsh National Opera Moves to Millennium Centre

This is Welsh National Opera’s big chance. Fifty-nine years after its birth, as the brilliant artistic reputation that it enjoyed in the 1980s falters along with attendances, the company has moved into a new home in the Wales Millennium Centre, a vast cultural emporium at the heart of the redeveloped Cardiff Bay. »

11 Feb 2005

Early Opera in Seattle

The Early Music Guild, an indispensable part of Seattle’s period-music scene for more than two decades, every once in a while steps back from presenting the best and the brightest musicians from around the world and produces extravaganzas of its own. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, in 1997, the guild presented a stellar reading of Handel’s “Carmelite Vespers” at St. James Cathedral, with Andrew Parrott leading the large forces. More recently was a weekend of Monteverdi chamber operas. »