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Elsewhere

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.


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Reviews

19 Dec 2014

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.  »

Recently in Reviews

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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. »

01 Aug 2011

La Wally, Opera Holland Park, London

Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally is known for its arias, but the full opera is rarely performed. Expectations were high for this production at Opera Holland Park, London. »

31 Jul 2011

Die Liebe der Danae, Bard Summerstage

In the modern operatic world, respect for the oeuvre of any given composer, as well as his stylistic development and placement in operatic history, is sacrosanct.  »

31 Jul 2011

Rodelinda Triumphs at Iford Opera

Rodelinda is about as serious an opera as any that Handel wrote: attempted regicide and infanticide, violent death, betrayal and a marriage sorely tried.  »

29 Jul 2011

Rigoletto, Opera Holland Park

It’s always a good idea to ferret away a sure-fire winner amongst the rarities, and Opera Holland Park’s Rigoletto certainly meets, and in some aspects surpasses, expectations.  »

28 Jul 2011

Boston Midsummer Opera’s Italian Girl in Algiers

This year’s venture for the annual Boston Midsummer Opera is an elegant reading of Rossini’s fizzy masterpiece of 1813, l’Italiana in Algeri.  »

27 Jul 2011

Rigoletto, Miami Lyric Opera

There’s hell to pay for profligate publicity; Giuseppe Verdi and Francisco Maria Piave knew this to be true.  »

26 Jul 2011

Verdi’s Requiem, BBC Proms

Not only did Verdi’s Requiem make its debut, rather remarkably, in the church of San Marco in Milan but the performance was as a liturgical one; Verdi’s intentions were quite firmly to provide a memorial mass for the Italian patriot, Manzoni.  »

22 Jul 2011

The Sopranos — Dissecting opera’s fervent fans

I was feeling cowed by Herr Engels. The four of us had retired from the Stravinsky performance to a Billy Wilder-themed bar in Berlin, the least horrible late-night option in the high end mediocrity of Potsdamer Platz.  »

22 Jul 2011

Mignon and Saul at Buxton Opera Festival

Buxton, like Wexford, makes a point of offering its clientele the opportunity to sample works that are unjustly neglected by the major houses, and for his final festival as director, Andrew Greenwood served up a typical feast of operatic rarities reflecting the increasingly ambitious approach which has characterised his musical stewardship.  »

19 Jul 2011

Havergal Brian’s “Gothic” Symphony

The BBC Proms has given Havergal Brian’s Symphony no. 1 the best and most extensive exposure the composer has ever enjoyed.  »

18 Jul 2011

Guillaume Tell, BBC Proms

Operatic fashions are fickle and, more to the point, often plain wrong. We all have our grievance lists of works that are ‘scandalously neglected’.  »

16 Jul 2011

First Night of the 2011 BBC Proms

The First Night of the Proms seems to be edging back, if a little hesitantly, from the strange, unsatisfying ‘tasting menu’ approach adopted for a few years.  »

15 Jul 2011

Seven Angels, London

Luke Bedford’s first opera, Seven Angels, had its London premiere at the Linbury Studio Theatre, London.  »

13 Jul 2011

Rinaldo at Glyndebourne

Handel’s Rinaldo at the Glyndebourne Festival is a triumph in musical terms. Don’t miss it when it appears at the BBC Proms this summer in concert performance, because some of the singing is very good indeed. »

12 Jul 2011

Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Commemorates Gustav Mahler

To commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra gave in early July two performances of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde featuring the vocal soloists Alexandra Petersamer and Christian Elsner.  »

12 Jul 2011

La rondine, Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park’s unique selling point has always been a devotion to the more obscure works of Puccini and his Italian contemporaries.  »

12 Jul 2011

Cendrillon, Royal Opera

Words, stories, books — the gateway to a world of fantasy in which anything is possible.  »

12 Jul 2011

Guillaume Tell, Caramoor Festival

For classical music fans, summer means only one thing: summer festivals. The goal of these festivals is to showcase a wide range of repertory with thought provoking creativity. »

10 Jul 2011

Faust Reaches Santa Fe Opera — And How!

The celebrated New Mexico opera festival has, in its fifty-fifth season, created a production of Charles Gounod’s 1859 masterpiece Faust, its first ever.  »

07 Jul 2011

The Marriage of Figaro, Opera Holland Park

Even before a note was sounded at Opera Holland Park on Saturday evening, the still summer evening was ruffled by a breeze of unease.  »

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

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten

I recently got the chance to see Juan, the Kaspar Holten film version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, at the Seattle International Film Festival.  »

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). »

30 Jun 2011

Summer Treats in Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of St. Louis has demonstrated yet again that it is an indispensable summer festival to be counted on for adventurous programming, thought-provoking productions, and exciting talent discoveries. »

29 Jun 2011

Sensitive, intelligent Madama Butterfly, Royal Opera

This Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the depth and intelligence of the human story Puccini might be trying to tell us, beneath the surface gloss. »

26 Jun 2011

Two Boys, ENO

You would have had to be deaf and blind — or perhaps just a very wise monkey — not to have been aware that a young American composer called Nico Muhly was about to open at the English National Opera in London last night with a work called Two Boys.  »

26 Jun 2011

Viva Vivaldi — Garsington Opera 2011

Garsington Opera — in its superb new home on the Wormsley estate in rural Oxfordshire — has yet again confirmed the merit of its decision to promote Vivaldi’s long-ignored operas.  »

24 Jun 2011

Lehnhoff takes on Fanciulla for Netherlands Opera

It can be fascinating, although not necessarily pleasant, to see oneself through the eyes of others. »

23 Jun 2011

The Cunning Little Vixen, New York

One of Richard Wagner’s most enduring contributions to music history is a concept known as gesamtkunstwerk.  »

23 Jun 2011

Peter Grimes, Covent Garden

Willy Decker’s production of Peter Grimes, first seen at Covent Garden in 2004, should perhaps be renamed The Borough.  »

21 Jun 2011

Swiss Odyssey

A funny thing happened on the way to Anna Bolena… »

20 Jun 2011

Geneva’s Juicy Oranges

Need something remedial for “what ails you?” »

20 Jun 2011

Boston Early Music Festival: Niobe, Regina di Tebe

The Boston Early Music Festival (hereinafter BEMF) has grown up.  »

20 Jun 2011

Don Pasquale, Opera Holland Park

As it turned out, it was a mild and mainly dry evening.  »

16 Jun 2011

Wagner’s Rienzi in Berlin

The Voltaire maxim usually given in English as “The perfect is the enemy of the good” illuminates the artistic conflicts surrounding many a Wagner production.  »

15 Jun 2011

Israel Opera cuts wide swath at festival

Israel Opera’s summer festival grew astonishingly in the year following its 2010 inaugural season.  »

14 Jun 2011

Simon Boccanegra, ENO

It would seem that in his preparations for this new production of Simon Boccanegra, the acclaimed Russian director, Dmitri Tcherniakov, has been familiarising himself Jonathan Miller’s previous ENO efforts.  »

14 Jun 2011

L’amico Fritz, London

Think verismo and one imagines melodramatic, often violent plots which peer unflinchingly into the soul of every character.  »

12 Jun 2011

Tosca, Covent Garden

The current Tosca at the Royal Opera House is something of a classic, revived four times in five years. It’s now being filmed for cinema to be released in November 2011. »

09 Jun 2011

Karlsruhe “Gioconda” Unintentionally ‘Konzertant’

It was a lucky happenstance that glorious vocalism characterized Badisches Staatstheater’s La Gioconda, for effective stagecraft was nowhere in evidence…but, oh, what singing!  »

09 Jun 2011

Andreas Scholl, Wigmore Hall

A capacity crowd at the Wigmore Hall eagerly awaited the arrival of Andreas Scholl and Tamar Halperin on the platform on Tuesday evening.  »

07 Jun 2011

Candide, Barbican Centre

‘Glitter and be gay!’ cries Cunegonde, determined to overcome the bitter circumstances in which she finds herself in sordid, downturn Paris. »

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. »

03 Jun 2011

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live on DVD

Since 2006, movie cineplexes across the USA have attracted a somewhat unlikely crowd for Saturday matinees, from fall to spring.  »

01 Jun 2011

Brahms Liebesliederwalzer, Wigmore Hall, London

Any performance of Brahms and Schumann four part songs is an occasion.  »

31 May 2011

Bach Cantatas, volume 11

Pilgrimages, I suspect, derive a degree of their fruitfulness from the slowness of the journey, a pace born of desire or necessity, that removes the journey from the quotidian, brings the purpose into greater focus, and allows for a richer savoring of the experience. »

31 May 2011

Le Royaume Oublié: La Tragédie Cathare

Before a single track has been heard, Jordi Savall’s The Forgotten Kingdom impresses with its scale: a three-CD set packaged in a lavish, bound book that contains fifty dense pages of English commentary by nine different authors; adding the multiple translations, beautiful illustrations, and song texts, the book itself luxuriantly sprawls over 500 pages. »

30 May 2011

Ian Bostridge, Wigmore Hall

“Music, music for a while/ Shall all your cares beguile,” vowed Ian Bostridge at the opening of this recital with his regular accompanist, Julius Drake.  »

30 May 2011

Les Noces de Figaro in Paris

This is the one by Giorgio Strehler that opened at Versailles in 1973 and since has endured twenty-three incarnations, first at the Garnier and later at the Bastille.  »

27 May 2011

James Bowman, The Last London Recital

It’s easy to slip into platitudes when eulogising the last London recital performance of a singer commonly lauded as the outstanding countertenor of his generation.  »

26 May 2011

I Compagnacci and Il Re, Teatro Grattacielo

Teatro Grattacielo gives concert performances of Verismo operas that range from the obscure to the unheard-of.  »

26 May 2011

Macbeth, Royal Opera

Phyllida Lloyd’s reading of Verdi’s Macbeth – first seen in 2002 and here revived for the second time – could certainly not be described as ‘subtle’, either dramatically or visually. »

24 May 2011

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne

Glorious sunshine for Glyndebourne Opera’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg on the eve of Richard Wagner's birthday. »

23 May 2011

Richard Coeur-de-Lion, New York

André-Modeste Grétry, the greatest opera composer ever to come from Belgium, made his way to Paris in 1767 at the age of 26.  »

23 May 2011

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ENO

On my travels, I often hear occasional opera-goers complain about having wasted time and money on a production that, on the night, bears no relation to their expectations.  »