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Elsewhere

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

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?


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Reviews

27 Jul 2014

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.  »

Recently in Reviews

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18 Dec 2009

Pénélope in Manhattan

The one thing certain about the judgment of history is that history will change its mind.  »

15 Dec 2009

Zürich’s Riveting ‘Corsaro’

Il Corsaro, the Verdi rarity currently on display at Zürich Opera, is the best of both possible worlds. »

11 Dec 2009

Puccini Romance

This disc faces a marketplace already crowded with similar compilations from major companies who can raid their archives to offer competitive interpretations at bargain prices.  »

11 Dec 2009

Emma Matthews in Monte Carlo

Emma Matthews is an English born soprano currently resident in Australia where she has sung with the state based opera companies as well as the national company Opera Australia where she is currently a soloist.  »

11 Dec 2009

Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the MET

The Tales of Hoffmann is a cruel piece, for all the wit of the macabre tales on which it is based and the sparkle the dying Offenbach put into his last and grandest score.  »

11 Dec 2009

A Streetcar Named Desire at Opera Australia

Musically, Australia looks to Britain and Europe, especially for its operatic diet and America’s considerable operatic output has been overlooked.  »

10 Dec 2009

Der Rosenkavalier - Royal Opera House, London

In dark, damp December we need good cheer, and Der Rosenkavalier at the Royal Opera House, delivers colour and spectacle. in abundance. It's a revival of the John Schlesinger production from 1884, and somewhat antiquated, but that's no disadvantage, for the passage of time haunts Der Rosenkavalier.  »

08 Dec 2009

Tchaikovsky’s Sure-Footed ‘Slippers’

Spearheaded by a stunning design concept for The Tsarina’s Slippers, London’s Covent Garden served up as delectable a production as could be desired, and introduced its lucky patrons to a jewel of an under-performed comic opera in the bargain. »

06 Dec 2009

A Faust of Distinction at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the 2009-10 season Lyric Opera of Chicago staged a revival of Charles Gounod’s Faust, last seen here in 2003-04.  »

04 Dec 2009

Le Nozze di Figaro at the MET

The best news about the Met’s eleven-year-old Jonathan Miller production of Le Nozze di Figaro is that it has been restaged by Gregory Keller, more tautly spun, many elegant jokes or character moments inserted, several idiocies discarded and with plenty of room remaining for singers with a flair for it (such as Luca Pisaroni and Isabel Leonard) to invent comic business of their own. »

02 Dec 2009

Otello in San Francisco

Sir Peter Hall created this production of Otello at Chicago Lyric Opera in 2001.  »

01 Dec 2009

No need to rise for this Hallelujah Chorus

ENO did not exactly ‘import a choir of Heathens’ to encourage the Shaws of this world to ‘hasten’ to its version of ‘Messiah’ ‘if only to witness the delight of the public and the discomfiture of the critics,’ the contribution of ‘Heathens’ in musical terms being limited to representing the populace of an initially grey Britain (or so I assume) but for every critic who was discomfited — most of us — there were hundreds of audience members who loved it, so it’s fairly safe to predict a considerable hit. »

30 Nov 2009

Mark Padmore at Wigmore Hall

Mark Padmore and The English Concert took us on a journey from the dark depths of melancholy to the ethereal transcendence of joy, in a display of consummate artistry at the Wigmore Hall. »

27 Nov 2009

Esther at NYCO

The question that puzzled me when attending Esther was Why.  »

24 Nov 2009

Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections

Ralph Locke’s recent book on Musical Exoticism is both an historical survey of aspects of the exotic in Western musical culture and a discussion of paradigms of the exotic and their relevance for musicological understanding.  »

24 Nov 2009

Così fan tutte, Opera Australia

Like most opera companies, the Mozart/da Ponte trifecta of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte are central to Opera Australia’s repertoire.  »

24 Nov 2009

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

There was a certain inevitability about the build-up to Iestyn Davies’ recital at the Wigmore Hall in London last Wednesday.  »

17 Nov 2009

Lorin Maazel conducts Verdi and Puccini at La Scala

In the mid-1980s (just before the Riccardo Muti era began), Lorin Maazel often ruled the conductor's roost at La Scala.  »

17 Nov 2009

From the House of the Dead at the MET

Leoš Janáček’s From the House of the Dead is a very odd duck to find on the stage of a grand opera house.  »

15 Nov 2009

Die Rheinnixen by New Sussex Opera

London has long been spoiled in the operatic rarity department, thanks to companies like Opera Rara, Chelsea Opera Group and University College Opera populating various areas of the Venn diagram that is obscure repertoire.  »

12 Nov 2009

Hindemith’s Das Marienleben — Soile Isokoski

Hindemith’s Das Marienleben has a formidable reputation, but is rarely heard. Soile Isokoski could change all that. This cycle is a tour de force, but tours de force need singers capable of achieving them.  »

11 Nov 2009

Schubert: Fierrabras

The worlds of lieder and opera seem to share the same galaxy, while being countless light years apart.  »

11 Nov 2009

Lohengrin in Houston: A long-awaited return

Wagner was last on stage in Houston’s Wortham Theater Center in 2001, when the Houston Grand Opera staged Tannhäuser.  »

11 Nov 2009

Muti conducts Domingo in Verdi's Otello

The December opening of the La Scala season requires a notable production, and in 2001 a gorgeous new production of Verdi's Otello fit the bill.  »

10 Nov 2009

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at ENO

This grueling production of Bartok’s operatic masterpiece, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, clearly did not set out to retain any of the ambiguity and mystery of the fairytale which inspired it.  »

09 Nov 2009

Salome in San Francisco

If Herbert von Karajan conducted Madama Butterfly and Maria Callas sang Isolde it follows that Nicola Luisotti should conduct Salome.  »

09 Nov 2009

Philip Langridge at Wigmore Hall

As an interpreter of Benjamin Britten, Philip Langridge has long been esteemed as the natural successor to Peter Pears;  »

04 Nov 2009

A View from the Bridge by Vertical Player Repertory

Unlike many contemporary composers — who too often derive their operas from full-length novels — William Bolcom (whose first opera, to be fair, was the novel-based McTeague, which I do not know) based his second,  »

04 Nov 2009

The 18th Bienal of Contemporary Brazilian Music, 2009

Rio de Janeiro, which has had a string of winning luck in recent days — not only will it host the 2014 World Cup of soccer, but also the 2016 Olympic Games — continues a laudable and venerable tradition in the arts — the Biannual Festival of Contemporary Brazilian Music, now in its 18th edition.  »

03 Nov 2009

Flavio and Alcina by ETO

In celebration of their 25th birthday and the 250th anniversary of the death of Handel, English Touring Opera has devised Handelfest, an extravaganza of five operas (Flavio, Teseo, Tolomeo, Alcina and Ariodante) and a wide variety of masterclasses and workshops taking in several of the company’s usual touring venues.  »

03 Nov 2009

Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes — Baroque Hyperbole

Thomas Arne's masterpiece, Artaxerxes, was a huge hit after its 1762 debut. Yet the work is now a rarity. This spectacular performance at the Linbury Studio Theatre, will certainly raise its public profile.  »

03 Nov 2009

Paris: Off and Running

The Paris Opera season started with ‘un boum,’ scoring decisive successes with two infrequently performed stage pieces. »

30 Oct 2009

Tancredi by Opera Boston

At the time of the premiere of Tancredi in 1813, Rossini, not quite twenty-one years old, had been composing works for the stage for three years and was still not world famous.  »

30 Oct 2009

Verdi's ”Trilogy“ at Parma

For Italy’s opera community, October is Verdi’s month. The composer was born near Busseto (now part of Parma Province) on October 10, 1813.  »

29 Oct 2009

Ned Rorem premiere at Oxford Lieder Festival

Ned Rorem's Evidence of Things Not Seen received its European premiere at the Oxford Lieder Festival.  »

26 Oct 2009

The Turn of the Screw at ENO

Shadows and reflections flicker and dart alarmingly across Tanya McCallin’s dark, gloomy sets for David McVicar’s The Turn of the Screw, first seen in 2007, in a disturbing production that chillingly conveys both infinite mystery and claustrophobic terror. »

26 Oct 2009

Ravel and L’Heure Espagnole at Covent Garden

Greed, lust and folly … Richard Jones’ comic double bill, first seen in 2007 and faithfully revived here by Elaine Kidd, certainly sharpens the spotlight on those eternal human foibles.  »

26 Oct 2009

Der Rosenkavalier at the MET

The Met’s production of Der Rosenkavalier still arouses gasps from audience members as the curtain rises on each set — and laughter at appropriate moments — and tears at others.  »

26 Oct 2009

Pascal Dusapin: Faustus, the Last Night

Pascal Dusapin (b. 1955) is an engaging composer, and his recent works includes a chamber opera entitled Faustus, the Last Night, a unique setting of the legend and a fine contribution to modern opera.  »

25 Oct 2009

Baldassare Galuppi: Jahel

Dr. Charles Burney, who in August 1770 heard Galuppi’s singing girls at the Incurabili, one of Venice’s four competing Ospedali or musical orphanages, admired both their excellent performing standard (“indeed all were such as would have merited and received great applause in the first operas of Europe”), and the quality of the music that the aging maestro was still able to write for them: “ it is generally allowed here that his last operas, and his last compositions for the church, abound with more spirit, taste, and fancy, than those of any other period of his life”. »

25 Oct 2009

La Fille du Régiment in San Francisco

There is a buzz of excitement in the War Memorial Opera House on Friday nights that is akin to the Saturday afternoon buzz at the Met.  »

25 Oct 2009

Ruxandra Donose stars in L'heure Espagnole at the Royal Opera House

Ruxandra Donose sings Concepción in Ravel's L'heure Espagnoie in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi at the Royal Opera House. Concepción is an unusual personality, so Miss Donose's characterization is interesting.  »

25 Oct 2009

Achim Freyer's production of Wagner's Siegfried at Los Angeles Opera

Saturday October 17th found the Los Angeles Dodgers out of town for the weekend, but traffic still clogged the freeways leading to their stadium.  »

20 Oct 2009

Brilliantly Simple 'Tolomeo' by ETO

ETO’s production of Tolomeo for one night only at the Britten Theatre, capitalizes brilliantly on the necessary simplicity of this chamber-like opera, written at a time when Handel could no longer call upon fabulous sets and stunning effects, relying only upon great singing - and what singers he wrote it for, in fact the grand trio of Senesino, Cuzzoni and Bordoni. »

19 Oct 2009

Tosca at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For the first production of its 55th season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged a revival of Puccini’s Tosca with a cast of notable singers led by music director Sir Andrew Davis.  »

16 Oct 2009

Fervaal by Vincent d’Indy

Vincent d’Indy lived eighty years and, when not composing, spent his time revising the teaching of music in France or simply annoying everybody. »

15 Oct 2009

Aida at the MET

Noblesse oblige: The Met feels it must present Aida — and Tosca — and La Bohème — and certain other gaudy spectacles — because it’s the Met and everyone expects the grandest of the grand.  »