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Elsewhere

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?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.


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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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02 Jul 2012

Susan Graham, Wigmore Hall

Embodying a range of iconic female characters from history, literature and song — both the ‘good’ and the ‘not-so-good’ — Susan Graham delivered a wonderfully suave and entertaining performance before a delighted Wigmore Hall audience. »

27 Jun 2012

Les Troyens, Royal Opera House London

A sensational Les Troyens at the Royal Opera House, London. Berlioz, who understood theatrical gestures so well, builds his opera around the most audacious dramatic device in ancient history: the Trojan Horse.  »

15 Jun 2012

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

A feast for the eyes, a feast for the ears, a Flute from America’s heartland that goes directly to your heart. »

08 Jun 2012

Almira, operamission

There are many different ways to analyze the health of New York City. My personal measurements judge the town thus: How many aspiring artsy kids are forced to share a single apartment in an outer borough while they “find themselves” and how many small but immensely able opera companies are functional at any given time.  »

04 Jun 2012

Detlev Glanert’s Caligula, ENO

Detlev Glanert’s Caligula at the ENO shows how powerful modern opera can be. Caligula was a tyrant, but this opera isn’t sensationalist.  »

26 May 2012

Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Director David Freeman tells why this is an event worth experiencing in the Olympic year.  »

19 May 2012

Damrau Dazzles in Geneva

It is not long into Act One of Mignon at Geneva’s Grand Theatre when Diana Damrau glides on stage as Philine, commands our rapt attention, and sweeps all before her. »

26 Apr 2012

Manon, Metropolitan Opera

Massenet’s Manon succeeds in the theater when the soprano has a real sense of the role and how she wants to present it.  »

19 Apr 2012

Armide, Opera Atelier

I have to rethink my week, because somehow I have to get to see Opera Atelier’s production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide again.  »

13 Apr 2012

Lulu by Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona

Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.  »

31 Mar 2012

Elmer Gantry the Opera

The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.  »

19 Mar 2012

Don Pasquale, San Diego

You can’t keep a good opera buffa down. And Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is about as good as opera buffa gets.  »

05 Mar 2012

Zurich’s Magnificent ‘Other’ Moor

Right to the musical ‘score’ board: Zurich Opera stared down the mighty challenge posed by Rossini’s Otello ossia il moro di Venezia, and knocked it out of the ballpark. »

20 Feb 2012

Erwin Schrott’s Don Giovanni, ROH

Erwin Schrott triumphed as Don Giovanni in the Mozart/da Ponte series at the Royal Opera House, overcoming the limitations of the staging.  »

03 Feb 2012

An Aria of Lincoln Center — The Metropolitan Opera

To the dismay of New York opera fans, the original Metropolitan Opera House, located at Broadway and 39th Street, was to be torn down and replaced by a new hall a mere 30 blocks away. »

25 Jan 2012

Otello in Zürich

War and destruction is everywhere these days, not least in Pesaro where Graham Vick staged a lethal Mosé in Egitto last August, nor less so in San Francisco where baritone Thomas Hampson perished as Rick Rescorla in Heart of a Soldier last September. »

30 Dec 2011

Vivica Genaux — An Interview

I spoke with Vivica Genaux in December 2011, when she stopped in New York at the end of one of her concert tours.  »

19 Dec 2011

Operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau, an organist and music theoretician, was active for much of his life in musical centers distant from the cultural juggernaut of Paris.  »

13 Dec 2011

Amsterdam’s Adventurous Idomeneo

Straight to the point: Netherlands Opera has mounted as luminous and emotionally engaging an Idomeneo as is imaginable. »

02 Dec 2011

Faust, Metropolitan Opera

At one point in The Met’s history, Faust was performed so frequently that one critic in mocking reference to Wagner’s opera house at Bayreuth coined the theater Faustophilhaus.  »

25 Nov 2011

Xerxes in San Francisco

No cuts, not a single one, nearly four hours of non-stop arias, and its only hit tune happens within the first five minutes. »

15 Nov 2011

Eugene Onegin, ENO

Deborah Warner’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is an evocative and lyrical depiction of elegiac passion.  »

01 Nov 2011

Anna Bolena, Metropolitan Opera

It’s very unusual for the Met these days—or any major opera house, in any era—to present a glossy new production with two different stars in the leading role.  »

23 Oct 2011

Intertwining facets of Italian High Baroque

‘Erotic oratorio’ is the odd-sounding definition devised by modern scholars, such as Howard E. Smither, for those pious music dramas employing sex-laden plots from the Bible, the Apocrypha or the lives of Saints in order to give the audience moral instruction in a quasi-operatic, if generally unstaged, form.  »

12 Oct 2011

Threepenny Opera, Brooklyn

Should I wait until the end of this review to tell you how much fun, how much of a theatrical whoopee cushion Robert Wilson’s production of Die Dreigroschenoper has been at BAM last week?  »

28 Sep 2011

Lucrezia Borgia in San Francisco

Bad news travels fast. Though you are about to read another version of how American diva Renée Fleming failed to bring Lucrezia Borgia alive, let us begin by discussing a few other things you already know. »

21 Sep 2011

Il Trittico, Covent Garden

What do a ferociously violent melodrama, an ecstatic spiritual revelation and an ironic black farce have in common?  »

06 Sep 2011

Ruhrtriennale’s Luminous Tristan

Bochum’s Jahrhunderthalle, a massive, re-purposed industrial building, seemed an unlikely location to contain and frame the transcendent, unbounded spiritual journey of Wagner’s masterpiece Tristan und Isolde. »

06 Sep 2011

Macbeth from Paris and Parma

Superstitions surround theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy.  »

27 Aug 2011

Santa Fe Musical Delights

Musical excellence was the centerpiece of three of Santa Fe Opera’s annual offerings. »

20 Aug 2011

Donizetti’s Marino Faliero at the 2008 Bergamo Music Festival

Gaetano Donizetti is arguably the established opera composer with the highest ratio of failures to successes.  »

13 Aug 2011

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi

Great characters are at the center of all operatic masterpieces, yet opera almost never treads into “operatic biography” territory.  »

01 Aug 2011

La traviata at the Aix Festival

An appreciation of La traviata plus La clemenza di Tito and Le Nez/The Nose at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. »

22 Jul 2011

G. F. Handel: Athalia

Athalia: Oratorio (sacred drama) in 3 acts »

07 Jul 2011

Scenes from Two Marriages

By 1825, as Rossini’s operatic vein was approaching exhaustion, the Neapolitan Saverio Mercadante ranked as a front-runner for his succession alongside Bellini and Donizetti; much more so, however, in the field of serious drama than in opera buffa.  »

06 Jul 2011

Der Ring des Nibelungen in San Francisco

Some of the experts said it was the best Ring ever, others merely said it was one of the best (these were lecturers at a Wagner Society symposium). »

22 Jun 2011

Will Crutchfield: Interview with the Director of Opera for the Caramoor Festival

Will Crutchfield made his name as a writer and musicologist in the mid-1980s, becoming the youngest music critic in the history of The New York Times.  »

06 Jun 2011

Phaedra in Philadelphia

The U.S. premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Phaedra at the Opera Company of Philadelphia may well be the most important and ambitious new work presented by any American company this season. »

22 May 2011

Liudmyla Monastyrska — An Interview

Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska certainly knows how to make the most of every opportunity.  »

18 May 2011

Orfeo ed Euridice, Metropolitan Opera

Gluck’s Orfeo is, intentionally, free of clutter. If you cut out the scenes of balletic rejoicing just before the finale (and I can’t think of any good reason not to do so), it’s less than ninety minutes of music.  »

29 Apr 2011

Anne Sofie von Otter, Wigmore Hall

For the second time in a matter of just a few weeks, the Wigmore Hall audience were treated to an evening of seventeenth-century song and dance. »

24 Apr 2011

Sumeida’s Song

It has long been my belief that the problems of the planet would be resolved (or move on to their next stage) if only the folk of every ethnicity (nation, faith, historic minority, tribe) would devote their energy to creating opera—and perhaps theater or dance—out of its musical and mythical traditions.  »

14 Apr 2011

Katarina Karnéus, Wigmore Hall

In Britain, Katarina Karnéus is closely associated with Grieg and Sibelius. Indeed, her career has almost been defined by her recordings of their songs for Hyperion. »

28 Mar 2011

Le Comte Ory, Metropolitan Opera

Rossini’s penultimate stage work, Le Comte Ory, belongs to the tradition of sexy scoundrel operas, along with such works as Don Giovanni, Zampa, Fra Diavolo, Barbe-Bleu, Les Brigands and Threepenny Opera.  »

24 Mar 2011

Sarasota Opera Winter Festival 2011

Opera is alive and well in Sarasota. “It feels like it did before,” says Communications Officer for Sarasota Opera Patricia Horwell. »

15 Mar 2011

Aida, London

Strict courtly hierarchies and the repressed formality of ritual juxtaposed with violent sexual jealousy and lurid erotic excess … a stage-world more suited to the Straussian insalubrity of Salomé than to the epic grandeur of Verdi’s Aida, perhaps?  »

06 Mar 2011

L’Africaine, OONY

Eugène Scribe and Giacomo Meyerbeer were in the business of creating proto-cinematic spectacles of drama and music, the formula being to take a historical incident in some exotic country or era, put in a tormented love story to hold our attention, and resolve the whole in catastrophe. »

18 Feb 2011

Anna Nicole, London

From the sublime (Parsifal, the night before) to the not-even-ridiculous.  »

07 Feb 2011

Nixon in China, New York

Preparing for the Met premier of Nixon in China, I resolved to forget—or place on hold—everything I remembered, or thought I remembered, about the real persons who are characters in this opera,  »

31 Jan 2011

Elizabeth Futral — An Interview

Elizabeth Futral has established herself as one of the major coloratura sopranos in the world today. With her stunning vocalism and vast dramatic range, she has embraced a diverse repertoire that includes Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Glass, and Previn. »

16 Jan 2011

Tosca, Metropolitan Opera

They have been fiddling with Luc Bondy’s staging of Tosca. Scarpia doesn’t masturbate on the Madonna; he just sort of pinches her erotically.  »

31 Dec 2010

Pelléas et Mélisande, New York

Pelléas et Mélisande, Debussy’s impressionist drama closely based on Maeterlinck’s eerie, symbolist play, is not a terribly vocal opera; it calls more for the subtlety of art song style than the belting of great divas and divos. »

19 Dec 2010

La Fanciulla del West, New York

La Fanciulla del West is Puccini’s love letter to an America that had acclaimed him joyously on his triumphant visit of 1907 to attend the Met premieres of Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly.  »

11 Dec 2010

Die Walküre at La Scala

The opening night of the new season at Teatro alla Scala Milan is a gala event, the most glamorous in the entire Italian opera year.  »