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Elsewhere

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?


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08 Jul 2017

Erismena at the Aix Festival

An incredible feat! The Aix Festival opened five operas, all new productions, on five consecutive evenings. The fifth was Francesco Cavalli’s 1655 drama per musica, Erismena! The compulsive intellectualism of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643) long since thrown in the canals, Cavalli dissolves Venetian opera into purest, mindless hedonism.  »

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29 Sep 2013

Die Schuldigkeit Des Ersten Gebots

Last week I enjoyed the opportunity to see Bampton Classical Opera’s light-hearted, witty production of Mozart’s earliest opera — La finta semplice — a work which, despite lacking the melodic variety and texture dynamism of the later operas, is still a remarkably accomplished achievement for a boy of merely twelve years of age.  »

22 Sep 2013

Dolores Claiborne in San Francisco

Dolores Claiborne, the heroine of the book Dolores Claiborne (1992), is a figment of the imagination of prolific pulp horror novelist Stephen King.  »

09 Sep 2013

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.   »

30 Aug 2013

Patricia Racette on Dolores Claiborne

On a personal level, I feel that Dolores is almost like Emmeline grown up. Their circumstances are not exactly parallel, but they are both women at very different points in their lives whose stories involve dilemmas with life-changing outcomes.  »

27 Aug 2013

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.  »

19 Aug 2013

Grand Duchess of Gerolstein at Santa Fe

On Wednesday August 7, Santa Fe Opera presented an energetic, fun-loving production of Jacques Offenbach, Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy's The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein.  »

13 Aug 2013

Un ballo in maschera at Orange

A massive antique Roman theater where stadium opera is always grand opera and often good opera as well. »

08 Aug 2013

A Very Real Traviata

Conductor Leo Hussein, like many of the artists in the production, was making his debut. His take on the story was immediately ascertainable when he played parts of the overture with an earthy tone. This was Violetta’s world, where otherwise refined men wined, dined, and cavorted with the most expensive Parisian courtesans.  »

06 Aug 2013

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.  »

30 Jul 2013

The Aix Festival 2013

Don Giovanni — the coup de coeur. Elektra — a masterpiece. Rigoletto — a hit and a miss. »

23 Jul 2013

Elena and The House Taken Over

That’s Helen (of Troy) by Cavalli, so maybe you are interested after all, though the more engaging experience was The House Taken Over by Vasco Mendonça. »

16 Jul 2013

Opera from Cambridge University Press

Although part of a series entitled Cambridge Introductions to Music, Robert Cannon’s wide-ranging, imaginative and thought-provoking survey of opera is certainly not a ‘beginners’ guide’.  »

10 Jul 2013

Central City Opera: Rocky Mountain High

Central City Opera’s meticulous staging of Our Town makes as good a case as is likely possible for Ned Rorem’s operatic version of that classic play.  »

05 Jul 2013

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.  »

20 Jun 2013

St. Louis: Winner and Still Champion

With the world premiere of Champion, the enterprising Opera Theatre of Saint Louis set the bar very high indeed for the summer festival season. »

16 Jun 2013

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?  »

09 Jun 2013

Les Contes d’Hoffmann in San Francisco

Just when you thought the protagonist was Hoffmann! Who, rather what stole the show? »

03 Jun 2013

Lohengrin, Welsh National Opera

Wagner’s Lohengrin is not an unfamiliar visitor to the UK thanks, in the main, to Elijah Moshinsky’s perennial production at Covent Garden. »

30 May 2013

Alessandro Scarlatti’s Il Trionfo dell’Onore

Just when you imagine you’ve got the operatic time-line fixed in your mind in a clean sweep of what goes where and when and how, you hear another work from another forgotten corner of the repertory that upends one’s conclusions. »

16 May 2013

Parsifal, Bayreuth 2012 Live

Parsifal. Bühnenweihfestspiel (“stage dedication play”) in three acts. »

14 May 2013

Wozzeck at ENO

“Man is an abyss. It makes one dizzy to look into it.” So utters Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, repeating what was also a recurring motif in the playwright’s own letters.  »

01 May 2013

Kate Lindsey at Glyndebourne

It would seem a logical step for the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey to take on the role of the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. »

01 May 2013

The Damnation of Faust, London

Hector Berlioz's légende dramatique, La Damnation de Faust, exists somewhere between cantata and opera. Berlioz's flexible attitude to dramatic form made the piece unworkable on the stages of early 19th century Paris and his music is so vivid that you wonder whether the piece needs staging at all.  »

16 Apr 2013

Kaufmann Wagner

The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal. Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms do occur.  »

31 Mar 2013

Nabucco, Royal Opera House, London

“Gli arredi festivi giù cadano infranti, Il popol di Giuda di lutto s’ammanti!”. Verdi’s Nabucco at the Royal Opera House respected the spirit of the opera. »

18 Mar 2013

Götterdämmerung at the Staatsoper Berlin

In the final of scene of Götterdämmerung in a new production at the Staatsoper Berlin, Brünnhilde appears in a flowing pink gown just as the music has modulated and penetrates the hall of the Gibichungs, represented by rows of glowing translucent boxes that preserve the dismembered limbs of their victims.  »

03 Mar 2013

Bel Canto Queen Jessica Pratt

When the soprano Jessica Pratt first arrived in Italy, she had yet to learn the language or sing in a staged opera.  »

02 Mar 2013

Samson and Delilah, San Diego Opera

Samson and Delilah is the only opera by Camille Saint-Saens that is still regularly performed. He had written two previous operas and would write several more, along with a long list of instrumental pieces including The Carnival of the Animals. »

26 Feb 2013

Rigoletto at the Met

Michael Mayer’s glitzy neon lights production, set in Rat Pack-era Sin City, proves a fitting backdrop for an opera about a curse »

10 Feb 2013

Joyce DiDonato: Drama Queens

Joyce DiDonato brought her Drama Queens tour to the Barbican Hall last night, 6 February 2012. Accompanied by Il Complesso Barocco, directed by Dmitry Sinkovsky, she enabled us to hear a wide range of arias by mainly Italian baroque composers from Monteverdi to Handel, by way of Porta, Cesti, Orlandini and Hasse. »

06 Feb 2013

Fille du Regiment from San Diego Opera

Born to a very poor family in 1797, Gaetano Donizetti was lucky enough to become the pupil of Johann Simone Mayr, the Maestro di Capella of his native city, who recognized his talent and made sure he received appropriate instruction.  »

01 Feb 2013

Maria Stuarda at the Met

The Met’s opulent and well-sung Maria Stuarda cannot overcome its insipid libretto. »

15 Jan 2013

L’Italienne à Alger in Marseille

Once a mainstay of the repertory L’Italiana in Algeri now usually gives way to Il Turco in Italia when an opera company wants to give Il barbiere di Sivigllia and La cenerentola a rest.  »

23 Dec 2012

Subject: Aimez-vous Meyerbeer?

Well, so many don’t nowadays, it appears to me, judging by the critical reception of Robert le Diable at the ROH. Rum-ti-tum? We recall Macbeth, Rigoletto, Trov and even Trav being characterised thus, popular fare but risible or blush- making, yet those works now command the highest respect.  »

14 Dec 2012

Vienna: the window to modernity

This recital, which focused on a narrowly specific time and place — 1888-1933 Vienna — paradoxically illuminated not only the musical scope and richness of that epoch but also, as Renée Fleming notes in her prefatory programme article, the extraordinary extent of the diversity, transformation and flux, both historical and cultural, that characterised the era. »

05 Dec 2012

WNO proves a point with Handel’s Jeptha

They say that there’s nothing worse than a musically-obtuse staging of any opera to put a rookie opera-goer off a composer (or even opera itself) for life.  »

18 Nov 2012

More Tosca in San Francisco

Who is Patricia Racette? Sexually ripe Nedda, maternal Cio-Cio-San, neurotic Sister Angelica? But now the jealous Tosca? And without question Mme. Racette has again proven herself the Puccini heroine par excellence of this moment. »

10 Nov 2012

Michael Spyres: Star Ascendant

When tenor Michael Spyres takes the stage at Carnegie Hall on December 5th, he will be in heady company. »

10 Nov 2012

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Pilgrim’s Progress

After a slow, long period of gestation, commencing with a short dramatization at Reigate Priory in 1906 and spanning more than 40 years, the first performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress took place at Covent Garden on 26 April 1951, as part of the Festival of Britain. »

24 Oct 2012

Parsifal bears its own Cross

Parsifal, with its heavy dose of religiosity and strains of racial supremacy, remains at once the most mystical and historically burdened of Wagner’s operas.  »

17 Oct 2012

Albert Herring at Covent Garden

Labelled a “parable of oppression” by the late musicologist, Philip Brett, Britten’s provincial comedy, Albert Herring, is a tough nut to crack.  »

12 Oct 2012

Moby Dick in San Francisco

Forget Herman Melville, forget struggling with deep human complexities. At least those that possessed nineteenth century Americans. »

09 Oct 2012

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in San Francisco

Give me good verses, I’ll give you good music, said Bellini to his librettist Felice Romani. Give me a good director and I’ll give you good opera surely thought San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley. »

27 Sep 2012

Santa Fe 2012

The venerable Santa Fe Opera served up a richly eclectic mix of high-caliber offerings that surely is one of their best festivals in recent seasons.  »

28 Aug 2012

La bohème at the Salzburg Festival

It is difficult to speak with excessive enthusiasm of the programming of a Salzburg Festival that included both Carmen and La bohème, though it would subsequently be redeemed in part by a staging of Die Soldaten.  »

20 Aug 2012

Ariadne auf Naxos, Salzburg Festspiele

When announced in November, this was trailed as the original version of Ariadne auf Naxos, a rare treat indeed.  »

15 Jul 2012

Otello, Royal Opera

Elijah Moshinsky’s Otello, first seen at Covent Garden in 1987, and revived numerous times with a range of stellar casts, may be traditional and conservative, even — excepting the thunderous opening storm scene — somewhat uninventive;  »

09 Jul 2012

Written on Skin at the Aix Festival

Not about tattoo art, not an evocation of the Holocast, and let us not even try to put our finger on what it is about. »