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Elsewhere

Cave: a new opera by Tansy Davies and Nick Drake

Opera seems to travel far from the opera house these days. Alongside numerous productions in community spaces and pub theatres, in the last few years I’ve enjoyed productions staged on the shingle shore of Aldeburgh beach, at the bottom of the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe, and in a renovated warehouse in Shoreditch on the roof of which perch four ‘creative studios’ in the form of recycled Jubilee line train carriages and shipping containers.

Götterdämmerung in San Francisco

The truly tragic moments of this long history rich in humanity behind us we embark on the sordid tale of the Lord of the Gibichungs’s marriage to Brünnhilde and the cowardly murder of Siegfried, to arrive at some sort of conclusion where Brünnhilde sacrifices herself to somehow empower women. Or something.

Siegfried in San Francisco

We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.

Boris Godunov in San Francisco

Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles.

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.


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Photo by Christian Dresse courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille
23 Jun 2018

Boris Godunov in San Francisco

Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles. »

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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. »

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. »