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Elsewhere

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.


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Reviews

Sir Edward Elgar
20 Jul 2014

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.  »

Recently in Reviews

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05 Nov 2011

Lieberson’s Neruda Songs and Theofandis’s Symphony No. 1

In 2006 classical music lost one of its great singers — American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, taken at the height of her career.  »

05 Nov 2011

La sonnambula, Royal Opera

Bellini’s La sonnambula does not have the most gripping or convincing of opera plots: a young girl sleepwalks into a stranger’s room, where she is discovered by her fiancé; disbelieving her pleas of innocence, he jilts her and plans to wed another; but, she is vindicated when she is spied on a nocturnal wander, and the lovers are reconciled.  »

05 Nov 2011

Bluebeard’s Castle, Royal Festival Hall

Bartók’s only opera, a masterpiece to rank with other sole works in the genre such as Fidelio and Pelléas et Mélisande, was chosen for the climax of the Philharmonia’s year-long series, ‘Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók’.  »

05 Nov 2011

Wily Wexford Stays the Course

Wexford Festival Opera made a boldly calculated choice sixty years ago when it eschewed bread-and-butter titles, and instead raided the dusty closet where forgotten pieces by some famous (and mostly non-) composers were (at best) consigned to history. »

04 Nov 2011

Heart of Darkness, Royal Opera

There are some literary texts which, by dint of their intense compression of incident, their creators’ firm control of structure, and the precision of linguistic nuance, do not naturally seem to lend themselves to operatic treatment.  »

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.  »

01 Nov 2011

Castor & Pollux, ENO

Daring dramas which probe dark psychological depths; music that embodies visceral emotional conflicts, and stirs heated, often contradictory, passions; the text and score shaped into radical musico-dramatic structures, employing shockingly inventive harmonic language and orchestral timbres.  »

27 Oct 2011

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Exactly what makes this entertaining, handsome video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming in concert an “odyssey”?  »

27 Oct 2011

Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera

Luciano Pavarotti died in September 2007, just short of his 72nd birthday and only a few years after his last performance at the Metropolitan Opera, in Tosca.  »

27 Oct 2011

Carmen returns to the Opéra Comique

“Historically Informed Performance” sure has a nice ring — not only does the acronym capture the trendiness of the movement (“HIP”), but one has to admire the subtle put-down the term encapsulates. »

27 Oct 2011

Béatrice et Bénédict, Opera Boston

How is one to write a Romantic opera?  »

26 Oct 2011

Don Giovanni, Metropolitan Opera

According to legend, when composing Don Giovanni, Mozart completed the overture last. It was written the night before the opera’s premiere, while his wife Constanze, a fervent taskmaster, plied him with food and drink to make sure he stayed awake.  »

26 Oct 2011

A Portrait of Manon — Young Artrists at the Royal Opera House

Without young artists, no art form will thrive or grow. The Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists scheme nurtures the best from its young artists that their performances attract thoughtful audiences.  »

26 Oct 2011

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

Ossia Maestro Watching in Fog City. Ten years ago it was German provincialism, now it is the Italian sort wanting to take root in the War Memorial Opera House.  »

24 Oct 2011

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

Wagner’s Flying Dutchman returns to the Royal Opera House, London. »

23 Oct 2011

Renata Pokupić, Wigmore Hall

In this appealing lunchtime recital programme, Croatian soprano Renata Pokupić demonstrated a rich, varied tonal palette and strong communicative skills as she spanned one hundred years of European song.  »

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

Britten’s War Requiem, London

‘Requiescant in pace. Amen.’  »

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?  »

12 Oct 2011

Simon Rattle’s Mahler 9

Recorded between 24 and 27 October 2008 at the Philhamonie in Berlin, this release offers the dynamism of a concert performance with the sound quality associated with EMI’s fine recordings.  »

12 Oct 2011

Sallinen’s The Red Line at Finnish National Opera, 2008

Some opera masterworks are admirable more than lovable — a distinction usually best revealed by the number of performances the work gets.  »

12 Oct 2011

La Traviata and the Credit Crunch

One way of thinking about La Traviata is to consider it as a portrayal of bubble wealth that makes artistic capital from the shimmering, rainbow hues of the surface rather than showing any interest in what sustains the bubble.  »

12 Oct 2011

Mahler 8, Royal Festival Hall

Following Lorin Maazel’s lifeless first movement from Mahler’s Tenth Symphony  »

10 Oct 2011

Così fan tutte, Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Opera Company’s charmingly understated new production of Così fan tutte will please your eyes and delight your ears, but its story might grieve your romantic soul. »

07 Oct 2011

Carmen, Philadelphia

There are two ways to sing the role of Carmen: as a “grand opera” heroine and as a character from opéra-comique.  »

05 Oct 2011

Menotti in German

As long as one keeps in mind that historical value is not the same as aesthetic quality, this DVD of early 1960’s live German TV performances of two short Gian Carlo Menotti operas makes for fascinating viewing. »

03 Oct 2011

The Inaugural Cambridge Handel Festival: a rosy dawn?

The haughty beauties that are the ancient colleges of Cambridge were definitely feeling the heat this past weekend, and not even the cooling streams of the Cam and its tributaries could assuage the heat of an Indian summer in the Fens of Eastern England.  »

02 Oct 2011

Eugene Onegin, Los Angeles

Kudos to the Los Angeles Opera Company for expanding its heretofore limited Russian repertoire and opening its 26th season with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The romantic work based on the novel in verse of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, is likely everyone’s favorite Tchaikovsky opera. »

30 Sep 2011

The music of Donnacha Dennehy

Love and Death is the name of one of Woody Allen’s earlier films, one built around parodies of Tolstoy and other Russian 19th century literary giants.  »

30 Sep 2011

Mahler, Royal Festival Hall

My response to much of this and last year’s Mahler anniversary bonanza has been to stay away: certainly not out of antipathy, nor out of boredom, nor on account of any other negative reaction to the music of a composer whom I admire as greatly as ever, but simply because there are too many unnecessary performances of that music on offer.  »

28 Sep 2011

Faust, Royal Opera House

When the Royal Opera House London does things well, it does them very well indeed. This Gounod’s Faust was a sizzler!  »

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. »

28 Sep 2011

Ioan Holender Farewell Concert

What better way for the long-reigning director of the Vienna State Opera, Ioan Holender, to celebrate the end of his time in the post than with a lengthy gala featuring such stars as Gergely Németi, Roxana Constantinescu, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Keith Ikaia-Purdy?  »

28 Sep 2011

Billy Budd at the Barbican

Among recent recordings of Britten’s opera Billy Budd, the recent release conducted by Daniel Harding has much to offer in terms of performance quality, interpretation, and also the quality of recording.  »

28 Sep 2011

Atys, Brooklyn Academy of Music

In 1989, William Christie’s ten-year-old Paris-based baroque troupe, Les Arts Florissants, brought a staged production to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the first time, Lully’s Atys.  »

26 Sep 2011

Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber presented Schubert’s song cycles at the Wigmore Hall, London.  »

23 Sep 2011

Beecham conducts Delius

Frederick Delius counts among those many composers whose reputations rely on their orchestral efforts, but who dearly wanted to make a lasting contribution to the opera repertory.  »

23 Sep 2011

Lawrence Zazzo, Wigmore Hall

Lawrence Zazzo’s last visit to the Wigmore Hall, in April earlier this year, saw him present an intriguing sequence of American song from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  »

22 Sep 2011

The Passenger, ENO, London

The circumstances behind Mieczysław Weinberg’s The Passenger at the ENO, London, are extraordinary.  »

21 Sep 2011

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, Chicago

In a program of Italian and French arias and duets Lyric Opera gave to Chicago audiences a preview of the first operas in its forthcoming season and an opportunity to hear familiar voices as well as those soon destined to grace the operatic stages of the world.  »

21 Sep 2011

Turandot in San Francisco

Los Angeles has been good to Turandot. The gritty 1984 Andre Serban production inaugurated an opera company in Los Angeles where a mere eight years later L.A. Opera bestowed the splendid Luciano Berio ending upon the world in an uber-pompous Gian-Carlo del Monaco production. »

21 Sep 2011

La tragedia di Tosca at the Washington National Opera

Whether or not one agrees with Joseph Kerman’s immortal definition of Tosca as a “shabby little shocker,” Puccini’s melodramma, the inaugural production of the Washington National Opera’s 2011-12 season, is intense, “blood-and-guts” kind of entertainment.  »

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?  »

21 Sep 2011

The Elixir of Love, ENO

It’s easy to dismiss the undoubted charms of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love with a wry smile and a dash of condescension.  »

21 Sep 2011

The Italian Girl in London, Bampton Classical Opera

As one of the most successful Italian opera composers of the late-eighteenth century, Domenico Cimarosa’s reputation lasted well into the following century during which his operas were staple repertoire in all the major European opera houses.  »

21 Sep 2011

Paris: A Thrilling Leap and Then a Stumble

Stylish, spirited vocalism that rang convincingly through the Palais Garnier was the hallmark of Paris Opera’s thrilling revival of one of Mozart's least appreciated mature operas.  »

21 Sep 2011

Willy Decker’s staging of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron

As a rule the celebrated incomplete operas of the repertory eluded completion due to the untimely death of the composer.  »

21 Sep 2011

Schiller: Ein Leben in Liedern, Wigmore Hall

While the music industry seems to be spiralling dementedly downmarket, the Wigmore Hall keeps standards extremely high.  »

21 Sep 2011

Heart of a Soldier, San Francisco

The house lights dimmed, SFO General Director David Gockley instructed us to stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner. This crucial moment revealed the intentions and complexities of this fine production at San Francisco Opera. »