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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 Oct 2010

Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder, Preludes and Overtures

A great vintage Mercury album of Antal Dorati conducting Wagner overtures and preludes featured as a cover a close-up of a medieval chalice, undoubtedly meant to reference the Parsifal excerpt on the enclosed disc.  »

29 Oct 2010

New York Festival of Song

“Don’t I have the coolest job in the world?” said Steven Blier.  »

28 Oct 2010

Kafka at the Opera: Bartlett Sher’s Production of Hoffmann at the Met

We all come to the opera for different things. To escape, to elevate, to laugh, to cry, or perhaps because someone else bought the tickets.  »

27 Oct 2010

Piotr Beczala: Roméo et Juliette, Royal Opera

Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette is almost more musical than opera. Everyone knows the story, and it would be hard to compete with Shakespeare. Gounod wisely focused on music, rather than drama. »

24 Oct 2010

Boris Godunov, Metropolitan Opera

The last curtain call at the opera usually goes to the title character, the star of the work just performed. At the end of the Met’s new Boris Godunov, the calls begin with a solo call for the title character, René Pape as Boris, and conclude with one for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus all by themselves.  »

24 Oct 2010

Gilbert and Sullivan opens Arizona Opera

On 16 October 2010 in Tucson, Arizona Opera opened it’s 2010-2011 season with an operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.  »

24 Oct 2010

Divas and Divos Concert, Manitoba

It’s every opera director’s nightmare.  »

24 Oct 2010

Jerry Springer, The Opera in San Francisco

The fall opera season in San Francisco has been dealt a wild card — Jerry Springer, The Opera! Not exactly material for SF’s august opera company . . . »

24 Oct 2010

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991

The 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center is just a few years away, so, with something less than dispatch, a DVD of the 25th anniversary Gala appears.  »

24 Oct 2010

Il Postino at Los Angeles Opera

An American opera house premieres a new work by a Mexico-born composer, to his own libretto in Spanish based on a film in Italian by an English director about an unlikely friendship the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda found when in exile on a small Italian island. »

24 Oct 2010

La Bohème, ENO

ENO clearly expect high returns from Jonathan Miller’s La Bohème.  »

24 Oct 2010

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

“One of the most beautiful sets I have ever seen,” crows San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley over the airwaves, “directed by Broadway legend Hal Prince.” »

24 Oct 2010

Paris: La Saison a Commencé

Paris Opéra’s L’Italiana in Algeri had a lot going for it, including a star mezzo in her local debut, so why was I resistant to its merits?  »

24 Oct 2010

Kirsten Flagstad sings Wagner & Strauss

Kirsten Flagstad’s voice remains connected to the music of Richard Wagner through the recordings that continue to bring her performances to new audiences.  »

21 Oct 2010

Rameau’s Zéphyre, New York

In sports they say, “Winning isn’t the most important thing—it’s the only thing.” In the theater, getting the show on the boards out front is the key.  »

17 Oct 2010

Haendel: Water Music; Music for The Royal Fireworks

The “popular” Handel is firmly entrenched in the collective culture with a handful of pieces: the Christmas portion of Messiah, the “Largo” from Serse (in fact, “Larghetto,” but collective culture is hard to convince), and instrumental suites of the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks come immediately to mind.  »

16 Oct 2010

Jephtha, New York

Jephtha was Handel’s last work — he went blind while composing it, noting this on the manuscript, and though he lived another seven years, did not deign to dictate new music.  »

16 Oct 2010

Rigoletto at Covent Garden

Dame Joan Sutherland, ‘La Stupenda’, sang her first Gilda at Covent Garden in 1957 under the baton of Sir Edward Downes, and sang the role many times and to great acclaim on the ROH stage.  »

13 Oct 2010

Verdi’s Macbeth in a New Production at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A successful production of Verdi’s Macbeth relies not only on incisive vocal characterization as projected by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth but also on the interaction of these lead figures in order to vivify their descent into a world of destruction.  »

13 Oct 2010

Salome at the Washington National Opera

With its playbill half-empty, its general director Placido Domingo resigning, and the talk of a takeover by the Kennedy Center, Washington National Opera is in a dire need of good news this season. »

12 Oct 2010

Promised End — English Touring Opera

In the final scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear, faced with the dreadful sight of the distraught Lear cradling in his arms the body of his dead daughter Cordelia, the Earl of Kent asks: “Is this the promised end?”  »

11 Oct 2010

Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco (and Los Angeles)

No question that Nicola Luisotti is a conducting genius, and no question that genius runs amuck from time to time. In the case of Mo. Luisotti fairly often. »

11 Oct 2010

The Other ‘Marriage of Figaro’

The opening night of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, in Rome in 1816, was violently disrupted by vociferous protests from supporters loyal to Paisiello, whose own comic interpretation of Beaumarchais’ politically-charged play had appeared in 1782.  »

10 Oct 2010

Anonymous 4: The Cherry Tree

In the popular view, the modern celebration of Christmas seems to have begun with Charles Dickens’s revivifying A Christmas Carol (1843). »

10 Oct 2010

Rossini’s Otello at Rossini in Wildbad Festival, 2008

As good a performance of Rossini’s opera as this disc provides, for some equal entertainment value may potentially arise from the booklet essay by one Bernd-Rüdiger Kern (as translated into English by David Stevens).  »

10 Oct 2010

Schumann: The Complete Symphonies, Mahler Edition

Mahler’s well-known revisions of music he conducted include the four symphonies by Robert Schumann, and while these Retuschen have been performed from time to time, a recording of all four of them is now available from Decca.  »

10 Oct 2010

Technicolour Radamisto at ENO

Handel’s Radamisto came to the ENO at the Coliseum in glorious technicolour.  »

08 Oct 2010

El Gato con Botas: Gotham Chamber Opera

Haven’t you always secretly felt that singers who reach for high notes (and make them) ought to levitate and maintain themselves in mid-air when they do it?  »

08 Oct 2010

Das Rheingold, Metropolitan Opera

It will be no surprise to me, a year or five from now, when someone falls to her or his death from the guy-wires that configure so much of Robert Lepage’s new state-of-the-art (ah! But which art?) production of Der Ring des Nibelung.  »

07 Oct 2010

Bizet Les Pêcheurs de Perles - Royal Opera House

Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles is notoriously hard to stage. Because the plot’s so grandiose, the imagination works overtime, dwarfing the music, making it seem puny in comparison. There’s a lot to be said in favour of concert performances because they shift the balance back to Bizet. »

06 Oct 2010

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 5

Based on performances given on 18 and 21 October 2008 and 16 and 17 January 2009, this recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra offers its latest release of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a work associated with the group since the composer’s lifetime.  »

29 Sep 2010

Faust by ENO

Perhaps because the rather stolidly Victorian character of both its music and its morality, Gounod’s Faust has been out of fashion in the UK in recent decades, and owes a debt to David McVicar and his darkly Gothic production for the Royal Opera in 2004 (now, at last, available on DVD) for the restoration of its footing in the standard repertoire. »

28 Sep 2010

Orpheo ed Eurydice in Minnesota

Minnesota Opera pulled out all the stops for its 2010-2011 season with its production of Gluck’s Orpheo ed Eurydice.  »

27 Sep 2010

Tristan und Isolde at Royal Festival Hall

Almost irrespective of the results, it was quite a statement to open the Philharmonia’s London concert season with a performance of Nietzsche’s ‘opus metaphysicum of all true art,’ Tristan und Isolde.  »

26 Sep 2010

Niobe, Regina di Tebe, Royal Opera

The Royal Opera is hardly renowned for its commitment to baroque opera, and even the great Handel still gets short shrift in his adopted city’s major house.  »

24 Sep 2010

Werther in San Francisco

It has been twenty-five years since San Francisco Opera has staged a Werther. so it was high time that Massenet’s whiney, weepy masterpiece be given another chance.  »

23 Sep 2010

The Makropulos Case at ENO

In their programme note, Christopher Alden and Peter Littlefield explain the concept which informs this dark, dystopian production of Janáček’s penultimate opera, The Makropulos Case — a production first seen at ENO in 2004: »

21 Sep 2010

Aida in San Francisco

Opera as circus. The current San Francisco Aida comes from the English National Opera where an inspired and probably very excited administrator proposed a production by aging London fashionista Zandra Rhodes. »

20 Sep 2010

An experience In the Penal Colony

Kafka's In the Penal Colony set as an opera by Philip Glass? Against all expectations, it was a powerful and deeply moving experience.  »

19 Sep 2010

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Vocally impressive, Michael Tilson Thomas’s new recording of Gustav Mahler’s symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde merits attention for various reasons.  »

19 Sep 2010

Un ballo in maschera at the Washington National Opera

Verdi’s 1859 hit Un ballo in maschera is an inspired choice to open an operatic season.  »

16 Sep 2010

Hugo Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch at Wigmore Hall

In this recital of thirty-four songs selected from Hugo Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch, Ian Bostridge and Angelika Kirchschlager revealed the profound emotional intensity of Wolf’s art; the concentrated ardour of their performance intimated the heightened passion and expressive angst which, as well as driving Wolf’s creative spirit, also led to persistent depression and resulted in insanity and finally death in mental asylum at the age of 42. »

15 Sep 2010

Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House

This show, a revival of Jonathan Miller’s 2004 production (first seen at the Maggio Musicale in Florence) is certainly a feast for the eyes.  »

14 Sep 2010

The Rake’s Progress at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie

At some point it became a matter of honor for elite composers to have at least one go at a full length opera.  »

14 Sep 2010

Bayreuth’s Lohengrin: A ‘Rat’-ical Re-‘tail’-ing

It doesn’t take long for the summer’s new Lohengrin to reveal its entire bag of tricks as a large chorus of rats (yes, the chorus-as-rodents) scurries on at curtain-rise into the white science laboratory setting. »

13 Sep 2010

Così fan tutte, Royal Opera House

Everyone loves Mozart. The Royal Opera House's 2010-2011 season began with Così fan tutte, and simultaneous live international broadcast.  »

12 Sep 2010

Julius Röntgen: Aus Goethes Faust.

The release of Röntgen’s Faust setting on CPO makes available a recording of yet another composer’s perspective on Goethe’s famous dramatic poem.  »

08 Sep 2010

Unique Rigoletto live from Mantua

Realism never comes more authentic than this RAI Rigoletto filmed live on location in Mantua, Italy and broadcast simultaneously in 148 countries..  »