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Elsewhere

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

Mark Padmore reflects on Britten's Death in Venice

“At the start, one knows ‘bits’ of it,” says tenor Mark Padmore, somewhat wryly, when I meet him at the Stage Door of the Royal Opera House where the tenor has just begun rehearsals for David McVicar’s new production of Death in Venice, which in November will return Britten’s opera to the ROH stage for the first time since 1992.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

Annilese Miskimmon appointed as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

English National Opera has appointed Annilese Miskimmon as Artistic Director.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.


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Reviews

21 Oct 2019

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.  »

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20 Mar 2005

Dvorák's Requiem in Munich

Schön ist, dass sich das Werk Einordnungen entzieht. Monumentalen Aufgipfelungen wie im “Tuba mirum” steht ein opernhafter Gestus gegenüber, volkstümliche Ausgelassenheit (“Quam olim Abrahae”) kontrastiert zu einem charakteristischen, herbstlich verhangenen Tonfall. Und verklammert wird alles durch ein immer wiederkehrendes, kurzes Motiv. Eine Umspielung des Tones “F”, Seufzer und sehnsuchtsvolle Gebärde zugleich. »

20 Mar 2005

Giordano's Andrea Chenier in Glasgow

IN this splendid concert version of Giordano’s most widely performed opera, Sir Richard Armstrong, the orchestra and chorus of Scottish Opera and an outstanding team of soloists provided some of the best moments of operatic verismo I have heard in an age. »

20 Mar 2005

Madama Butterfly at New York City Opera

The central image in Mark Lamos’s production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” is a traditional Japanese house, magnified to the size of the New York City Opera stage. With its sliding doors, clean lines and open spaces, this set, designed by Michael Yeargan, is the very picture of clarity. And for Butterfly, everything within it – her life with Pinkerton, then the memory of that life and the promise of its resumption – is entirely clear. It’s the more complicated world outside that has turned murky, and by avoiding the clutter that often accrues to a “Butterfly” staging, Mr. Lamos has emphasized that tragic delusion. »

19 Mar 2005

Parsifal at La Fenice

Une tristesse flottait sur Venise en ce jour de la première de Parsifal à La Fenice, nouvelle production du chef-d’œuvre wagnérien depuis celle de Pier Luigi Pizzi en 1983. Temps instable au-dehors, vent de la révolte à l’intérieur : le syndicat autonome Libersind et les personnels du théâtre appelaient à la grève générale, le mardi 15 mars, pour protester contre leurs conditions de travail. »

17 Mar 2005

Faust at Opéra de Lille

Dans le Faust à l’affiche de l’Opéra de Lille, le véritable diable, c’est le metteur en scène écossais David McVicar. Grâce à son habileté méphistophélique, sa production peut plaire à tout le monde : à ceux qui rêvent de voir l’histoire racontée comme au bon vieux temps, sans relecture conceptuelle, et à ceux qui pensent qu’un tel morceau de patrimoine a besoin du second degré pour ne pas basculer dans le kitsch. Car dès le début de sa mise en scène, l’ironie règne en maître, même si l’on n’en prend conscience qu’à mesure que son bel univers se dérègle. Une loge de l’Opéra de Paris fait face à une tribune d’orgue d’église gothique : nous sommes bel et bien au théâtre, et si Méphisto a effectivement «la plume au chapeau et l’épée au côté», il les réajuste devant un miroir en pied avant de jouer ses tours. Des sortilèges qu’il extrait d’une malle à accessoires, tandis que Faust change d’aspect dans sa loge, face à une coiffeuse éclairée par des ampoules. »

17 Mar 2005

Martin's Golgotha in Vienna

Zuerst viele Jahre lang Schweigen. Dann einige Aufführungen hintereinander: Frank Martins Schicksal ist symptomatisch für die Repertoire-Restriktionen in Wien. Immer dieselben Dinge verkaufen sich. Bei einem Werk wie Martins Passions-Oratorium “Golgotha” verlassen Abonnenten den Goldenen Musikvereinssaal bei erster Satzpausen-Gelegenheit. Die Bereitschaft, sich zur gegebenen Zeit mit anderem als den Bach-Passionen auseinander zu setzen, ist enden wollend. »

17 Mar 2005

Les Travailleurs De La Mer: Ancient songs from a small island

Cast off the shores of Normandy, the tiny isle of Guernsey lies isolated between the two European powers of England and France. Guernsey, however, has remained independent since 1204, and its government, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, comprises the inhabited islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou. Rich in an abundant culture and history, Guernsey is well-known for its sea ports, mystic pagan rituals, potent cider, and poetry. »

16 Mar 2005

Per Questa Bella Mano at the Barbican

You don’t expect absurdity in a concert of Mozart arias and instrumental music, but in bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff’s concert with the period-instrument Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the highlight was a work of Pythonesque weirdness. »

16 Mar 2005

On Tour with William Christie

HOW refreshing, you think, as Les Arts Florissants bounds on stage, to see an early-music combo whose contracts appear to contain no clauses forbidding visits to hairdresser, shoe-shop and dressing-table, no injunctions to wear nothing but sacking and zit cream. How delightful, how French. With William Christie’s band, as Emcee in Cabaret might say, “Even ze orgestra is beaudiful.” »

15 Mar 2005

Carmen with a South African Twist

British director Mark Dornford-May’s daring transposition of Bizet’s opera to a South African township has landed him a major film award – and a new wife. He talks to Jasper Rees »

15 Mar 2005

Countertenors Victorious in Copenhagen

Last week in the Danish capital city, still chilly after freezing weather and heavy snow, the spirits were raised by two contrasting but equally fulfilling events in the shape of the Danish Royal Opera’s revival of Francisco Negrin’s production of Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” featuring the return of star European countertenor Andreas Scholl in the title role, and the debut appearance in the city of his American counterpart, David Daniels, in a concert performance of Bach and Vivaldi. Both singers were in fact enjoying indulging their talents in their less well known fachs: Scholl is rarely seen on the opera stage and admits to feeling less than completely at home there. Daniels, on the other hand, fresh from yet another Handelian triumph at the Metropolitan Opera (Bertarido in the sumptuous new production of “Rodelinda”) is not known as a Bach specialist, but was essaying his second concert performance in Europe of the great cantata BWV82, “Ich Habe Genug”, reviewed elsewhere. »

13 Mar 2005

Bernstein's On the Town at ENO

IT IS easy to sniff at English National Opera’s decision to stage Leonard Bernstein’s first, unashamedly Broadway musical. Unlike some of his later work it has no “operatic” pretensions. But the Broadway musical was a continuation of opera by other means, and Bernstein maintained to the end of his life that, if opera had a future (which he doubted), it would be intimately tied up with the Broadway idiom that he helped to create. »

13 Mar 2005

Leo Slezak sings arias by Wagner, Verdi and Meyerbeer

Leo Slezak is generally regarded as a German tenor, although he was actually born in what is now the Czech Republic. But, Moravia, where he is from, was Austrian at the time, and had a significant German speaking population, with German the dominant language of the middle and upper classes. He made his debut in Brno (then Brunn), at a time when most opera performances were sung in German, and, to the best of my knowledge, all of his recordings were in that language or Italian (the great majority being in German). He made over 400 records from a wide repertory of German, Italian and French operas, as well as many Lieder and some operetta. His two published discographies list no records from Czech operas. The arias he recorded most frequently include 11 versions each of the Preislied and “Celeste Aida”, nine of the “Ah, fuyez douce image” and seven of the “Roi du ciel” from Le prophète. His stage repertory could probably be divided into four more or less equal parts. Verdi predominated, with 133 performances of Radames, 130 of Otello, 91 of Manrico, and at least 41 of Riccardo. He also sang Ernani and the Duke in Rigoletto. Wagner and grand opera (comprising Elèazar, Raoul, Jean in Le prophète and Assad), were probably tied for second and third, with other composers, including Mozart, Boieldieu, Gounod, Puccini, etc. coming in fourth. His career was largely centered on Vienna, but also included an important stint at the Met, some stays in Brno, Breslau and Berlin during his youth, and guest appearances in many other centers. He has been described as everything from a “Heldentenor” (in many sources) to a large voiced lyric tenor (by Michael Scott, in his books on great singers). I would split the difference, calling him the German equivalent of a French “fort tenor”, who could sing everything from Mozart to the lighter Wagner roles, and did. »

12 Mar 2005

St. Matthew's Passion at Notre Dame

Il existe des appartements où vous ne pouvez brancher à la fois la machine à laver, le téléviseur et le sèche-cheveux sans faire tout disjoncter. C’est un peu l’impression que l’on avait jeudi soir à Notre-Dame, pour la Passion selon saint Matthieu, dirigée par John Nelson. A peine le chef avait-il salué le public, que les projecteurs s’éteignirent soudain. Il fallut une demi-heure pour les rallumer un par un, et lorsqu’à 20 h 33, le dernier spot fut enfin rétabli, le courant sauta derechef ! Ce n’est qu’à 20 h 40 que le grandiose double choeur introductif put faire résonner les colonnes de Notre-Dame. On n’a pu qu’admirer le sang-froid des artistes, restés en scène tout du long, soumis à une pression que certains exorcisaient en plaisantant, d’autres en maintenant leur instrument au chaud ou en se concentrant. »

12 Mar 2005

Something Alien in Baltimore

Nearly a century ago, the great pianist and intriguing composer Ferruccio Busoni declared that the duty of the performer is to liberate music “from the deadness of the printed page and bring it to life again.” »

12 Mar 2005

Stravinsky's The Nightingale in Toronto

If you’re going to attend one Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert this year, make it this one. There’s nothing like leaving Roy Thomson Hall with your feet six inches off the ground — especially when it’s snowing. »

11 Mar 2005

BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Nocturne; Phaedra

A spare and yet splendid masterpiece, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings doesn’t seem to make it into concert halls as often as it deserves. In the recording studio, however, it has fared well. Besides the classic recordings from the composer and his partner Peter Pears, esteemed versions from Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Robert Tear, Ian Bostridge, and others have a place in the catalogue. »

11 Mar 2005

Tale of Tsar Saltan at the Mariinsky

The new production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tale Of Tsar Saltan, which premiered at the Mariinsky Theater on Tuesday, is like a happy child’s dream: placid, multi-colored, entertaining – and it has a happy ending. »

11 Mar 2005

Cav and Pag in Cardiff

The Mascagni and Leoncavallo double bill was the very first staging ever undertaken by Welsh National Opera in 1946 and sentiment decreed that it should be played in the company’s inaugural season at its new home. Elijah Moshinsky’s production was created for WNO’s jubilee and has done sterling duty. It has proved a glorious vehicle for both chorus and orchestra. And the moment when the battered truck that brings Pagliaccio’s touring troupe on to the stage is emblematic. »

10 Mar 2005

Bernstein's Candide in New York

Anna Christy plays Cunegonde in NYC Opera’s ‘Candide.’ Monty Python fans waiting for “Spamalot” tickets can warm up happily at “Candide,” City Opera’s spring season opener at Lincoln Center. »