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The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.



05 Oct 2015

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.  »

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01 Dec 2011

Salome, Manitoba Opera

Opera has never been an art form to hold anything back. But even within the genre itself, Salome is — literally — one tough, depraved act to follow. »

28 Nov 2011

François Couperin by Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

Although François Couperin won his reputation as an esteemed composer at the ostentatious and vainglorious court of Versailles, under the patronage of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, his work is often surprisingly discreet and intimate.  »

27 Nov 2011

Tosca, ENO

The swift return to the Coliseum of Catherine Malfitano’s production of Tosca, premiered in 2010, contrasts strongly with the increasingly disposable nature of many recent ENO productions.  »

25 Nov 2011

Saul, Barbican Hall

Handel’s oratorio Saul was the first dramatic oratorio that he wrote with a strong libretto.  »

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. »

23 Nov 2011

The Queen of Spades, Opera North

Opera North holds a special place in my affections: my first full opera in the theatre was the company’s Wozzeck, which I saw as a schoolboy at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield.  »

22 Nov 2011

Hugh the Drover Over the Pub

Imagine a tuneful eighteenth-century “ballad opera” of country life, say Stephen Storace’s enduringly popular No Song No Supper, cross it with Cavalleria Rusticana, throw in a bit of Rocky for good measure, and you have some idea of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s first opera, Hugh the Drover, a “Romantic Ballad Opera.” »

20 Nov 2011

Turandot in San Francisco

The magnificent David Hockney Turandot production burst again onto the War Memorial stage with a new cast and conductor that recaptured its potential to make this fairytale into great opera. »

18 Nov 2011

Lucia di Lammermoor, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor as its second production of the current season with Susanna Phillips taking on the role of the heroine torn between romantic love and familial pressures.  »

17 Nov 2011

Tricks and Treats, New World Symphony

If this generation were to stake a claim to its own classical vocal music “Golden Age,” Christine Brewer presents a strong case.  »

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.  »

14 Nov 2011

Dark Sisters, New York

They’re no longer just door-to-door missionaries with a science fiction theology and strange underwear! What with a presidential candidacy and a hit Broadway musical, the Mormons are having their breakout season in New York.  »

14 Nov 2011

Carmen in San Francisco

Déja vu. Well, sort of. Last time around (2006) there was a Carmen and then another who canceled leaving San Francisco Opera in the lurch.  »

13 Nov 2011

Jonas Kaufmann as Werther and Cavaradossi

For some years now the opera world has reveled in the appearance of many fine lyric tenors, with Juan Diego Florez leading the charge.  »

13 Nov 2011

Adriana Lecouvreur, Carnegie Hall

What could be more appropriate for the Samhain season than a return from near-death?  »

09 Nov 2011

Tales of Hoffmann, Chicago

For its first production of the new season, Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Lyric Opera of Chicago assembled a distinguished roster of soloists with the Lyric Opera Orchestra under the direction of Emmanuel Villaume.  »

09 Nov 2011

David Alden directs Cavalli’s Ercole Amante for Amsterdam, 2009

The operas of a composer born before the settlement of Jamestown face dim prospects of getting staged at the larger American houses.  »

09 Nov 2011

Roméo et Juliette, LA

Love and gloom at the Los Angeles Opera.  »

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. »