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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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29 Apr 2011

Rigoletto, New York

Rigoletto is the perfect opera. Even Verdi, who wrote so many wonderful scores, never created anything more flawless.  »

29 Apr 2011

Séance on a Wet Afternoon

Saturday, April 23 was indeed a rainy afternoon in New York City.  »

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.  »

22 Apr 2011

The Magic Flute, Manitoba

It’s hard to go wrong with The Magic Flute. Mozart’s final opera contains every audience-pleasing feature in spades: beautiful music, a fairy tale story, romance, laughter, villains, heroes/heroines, and for most — a happy ending. »

22 Apr 2011

Minnesota Opera rescues Herrmann work

There’s more Byron than Brontë in Bernard Herrmann’s 1951 Wuthering Heights.  »

22 Apr 2011

Otello, Carnegie Hall

By the time he emerged from retirement with Otello, his twenty-seventh opera, at 73, there wasn’t much Giuseppe Verdi didn’t know about how to make an orchestra do his bidding, set the mood of each line of a good story, piling excitement on excitement and letting the tension mutate to something gentler at the right times in order to make the outburst to follow the more demoniac.  »

22 Apr 2011

Cyrano, Florida Grand Opera

To enter into David DiChiera’s space as he talks opera shop is to risk being pulled into his world, rapt by a tractor beam emitting a constant flow of music theater load.  »

22 Apr 2011

A Dinner Engagement

Trust Winnipeg’s resourceful Little Opera Company to come up with a little known, yet charmingly entertaining spring production.  »

19 Apr 2011

Handel’s Hercules when the Music is Paramount

In Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Handel’s Hercules there is an undeniable interpretive strategy which prompts the viewer to consider recurring elements of human emotion, e.g. jealousy, rage, pity, among others.  »

19 Apr 2011

Americans define new territory for songs

They all wrote songs — lots of them: Ives, Bernstein, Rorem. In recital, however, the American product has never found a place on the perch claimed by Schubert and Schumann.  »

19 Apr 2011

Ian Bostridge, Wigmore Hall

The most remarkable aspects of this fresh, illuminating performance of Schubert’s Winterreise by Ian Bostridge and Mitsuko Uchida were the masterly control of dramatic form and the insightful, quite original, shaping of emotional content. »

19 Apr 2011

Akhmatova in Paris

The very name Mantovani strikes musical terror in the hearts of high minded Americans and Brits of a certain age. Now the same surname is evidently terrorizing Parisians. »

18 Apr 2011

The Tsar’s Bride, Royal Opera House

In Russian-speaking countries, Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride is much loved. In the west, it’s known mainly for its Overture. The Royal Opera House’s production is the first major production of the full opera in Britain. »

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. »

13 Apr 2011

Dallas Boris a monument to Tarkovsky

In those dark days before VCR and DVD, knowledgeable film buffs craved the return of Solaris and Stalker to a local art house screen. »

13 Apr 2011

Christopher Maltman, Wigmore Hall

A Frenchman, three Germans and a Venezuelan-born French national: musical responses to Venice.  »

08 Apr 2011

Tosca, NI Opera

“Show goes on despite fresh bomb scare”. Not exactly the sort of headline a new opera company might have dreamt of for its inaugural production. »

06 Apr 2011

Capriccio, Metropolitan Opera

Richard Strauss, nearly eighty years old and past caring what anybody thought (Pauline aside), ignored the Second World War happening just down the street and collaborated with his longtime conductor Clemens Krauss in an arch libretto about the feud for primacy between poetry and music, concluding with their synthesis in opera.  »

04 Apr 2011

Monodramas, NYCO

New York City Opera’s evening of “Monodramas” (under that general title) may not appeal to the opera-goer who prefers such typical fare as the company’s other offering this week, Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, but I found it a devilish and delightful exploration of the depths of inner consciousness. »

04 Apr 2011

L’Elisir d’Amore

Donizetti described to his father the premiere cast of L’Elisir in terms of lukewarm praise—the tenor only “passable” the soprano’s voice “pretty” and the bass “a little hammy.”  »

04 Apr 2011

Lawrence Zazzo, Wigmore Hall

In this intriguing and unpredictable recital, American countertenor, Lawrence Zazzo, and his accompanist, Simon Lepper, presented a dynamic sequence of American song from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  »

04 Apr 2011

Literalism and Truth: Fidelio, Royal Opera

Proof that literalism isn’t truth: Jürgen Flimm’s production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, first heard at the Met and at the Royal Opera House, London in 2007. »

03 Apr 2011

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau gave the finest recital so far in the Wigmore Hall’s decade by decade series of German Song.  »

03 Apr 2011

Tosca, Palm Beach

Victorien Sardou wrote the melodrama La Tosca, a play subject to all sorts of incidental drama and off-stage intrigue, for Sarah Bernhardt.  »

29 Mar 2011

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, ENO

Benedict Andrews’ thought-provoking new production of Claudio Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, the latest of English National Opera’s innovative stagings at the Young Vic, juxtaposes images of unremitting modernity with a tapestry of archaic aural colours, all placed within an antique frame which resonates with universal emotions. »

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.  »

27 Mar 2011

Orlando Furioso, London

Adapting an extended literary work for the stage remains a challenge today and was no less so in the baroque era. Ariosto’s enormously long poem Orlando Furioso was extremely popular and inevitably his highly coloured characters found their way onto the operatic stage. »

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. »

23 Mar 2011

The Turn of the Screw at LA Opera

An operatic work by an esteemed composer, with a libretto adapted from a great author’s story, staged in an intelligent and well-designed production, featuring singers of the top caliber and a conductor with a deep commitment to the composer’s music, leading a chamber-sized group of his orchestra’s best players — magic in the opera house, right?  »

23 Mar 2011

Machover, Death and the Powers

This is an opera written with a cannon and a feather. There is sensory overload—an overload of sensory overload: lights that shine into your face in the manner of an ophthalmologist scanning your retina; eerie, too-loud sounds that invade you from every direction; dancing patterns of light that may resolve into huge words or huge faces; a great chandelier-harp that sometimes descends to be played, a strumming like the sounds of the sirens in Plato’s parable of the concentric crystalline spheres. »

23 Mar 2011

Philip Glass’s Orphée

With voices of doom predicting the end of the CD format — supposedly to be replaced by downloading — the ancillary art of CD packaging also faces a grim future.  »

18 Mar 2011

Bellini’s I Puritani in Bologna

Vincenzo Bellini’s operas are pure bel canto, with beautiful singing placed above all other considerations.  »

18 Mar 2011

Roméo et Juliette, New York

Is Guy Joosten’s staging of Roméo et Juliette the best-looking production in the Met’s current repertory or what?  »

16 Mar 2011

Magnificent Mahler by Shanghai Symphony

It was, of course, only a coincidence, but a week of ideal spring weather — no rain and low humidity — found Shanghai in a perfect mood for an all-Mahler program by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on March 12.  »

15 Mar 2011

The Queen of Spades, New York

Tchaikovsky’s Pikovaia Dama (The Queen of Spades) is the longest Mad Scene in opera. Ghermann is already half nuts when we meet him in the park in St. Petersburg on a windy day, and he gets crazier from scene to scene.  »

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?  »

15 Mar 2011

Lucia, New York

It costs a lot to look cheap. And it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of the Metropolitan Opera’s current revival of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, it takes a lot of talent to produce underwhelming opera.  »

12 Mar 2011

Gheorghiu and Domingo in Giordano’s Fedora

A major label release of a new studio recording of a full opera — with the traditional booklet/libretto — wanders onto the scene almost like a lost and lonely unicorn.  »

10 Mar 2011

Cecilia Bartoli in Halévy’s Clari

A key measure of operatic star power is the ability to get an obscure work staged — think Joan Sutherland and her run in Massenet’s Esclarmonde, an outlandish wallow in orchestral excess ladled over a libretto of unfathomable goofiness.  »

10 Mar 2011

La Traviata, Phoenix

Francesco Maria Piave’s Italian libretto for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata is based on the French play La Dame aux Camélias.  »

10 Mar 2011

Two Troubled Girls in Paris

Commanding soprano performances of put-upon heroines securely anchored two recent evenings at the Bastille Opera House.  »

09 Mar 2011

Déodat De Séverac: Le Coeur du Moulin

Interesting recordings continue to be produced in the classical music business by smaller labels with particular niche markets. For the label Timpani, their specialty tends to be rarer French repertoire.  »

09 Mar 2011

Luca Pisaroni at the Wigmore Hall, London

After hearing his stunning Leporello at Glyndebourne and his Figaro at Salzburg, there was no way I was going to miss Luca Pisaroni’s concert with Wolfram Rieger at the Wigmore Hall, London. But I was delighted by how wonderful he sounded close up in recital. »

06 Mar 2011

Dialogues des Carmélites, Guildhall, London

Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is an unusual opera, but much sensitive musical thinking has gone into this production at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. »

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. »

06 Mar 2011

Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado

The front leg of the grand piano may rest at a rather precarious angle, and the out-sized martini glass lean a trifle askew, but Jonathan Miller’s 1986 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado wears its twenty-five years lightly — as do Stefanos Lazaridis’ eye-wateringly white, gleaming sets.  »

06 Mar 2011

Roderick Williams, Wigmore Hall

Relaxed, confident and composed, baritone Roderick Williams, accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch, gave a polished and performance before a warmly appreciative Wigmore Hall audience, performing an interesting selection of songs by Wolf, Korngold, Mahler and Schumann. »