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Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

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.



Violeta Urmana as Azucena with chorus [Photo © Dutch National Opera, Photographer Ruth Walz]
09 Oct 2015

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.  »

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28 Mar 2010

A Composer Grows before his Work — The Grapes of Wrath at Carnegie Hall

Many congratulations and thanks are in order to the Collegiate Chorale for bringing Ricky Ian Gordon’s adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath to New York audiences this week.  »

28 Mar 2010

Christianne Stotijn at the Wigmore Hall

Unlike instrumental players, singers “are” their instrument. They aren't machines. Performance is affected by many shifting factors, which need to be understood.  »

28 Mar 2010

Angels in America, Eötvös at the Barbican for the BBC

Angels in America, Peter Eötvös’s opera based on the Tony Kushner plays, received its London premiere. This was very high profile. David Robertson conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance that will be broadcast internationally, online on  »

27 Mar 2010

Harrison Birtwistle: The Minotaur

Premiered on 15 April 2008, The Minotaur is Harrison Birtwistle’s latest opera, and it stands well with the composer’s other stage work.  »

26 Mar 2010

L’Etoile, NYCO

Mark Lamos’ production of Chabrier’s L’Etoile is perfectly ridiculous.  »

25 Mar 2010

Eva Marton in Puccini and Strauss

At one point in her career, Eva Marton appeared poised to be the true inheritor of Birgit Nilsson’s legacy roles: Wagner and Strauss’s most dramatic heroines, as well as key Italian roles (Puccini in particular).  »

23 Mar 2010

Genoveva — Schumann at UCL Opera, London

Genoveva and Lohengrin both premiered in the summer of 1850. Wagner disparaged Schumann, as he disparaged Mendelssohn (Schumann’s hero). Wagner’s opinions were influential. Genoveva has been eclipsed, saddled with a reputation for being hard to stage. »

22 Mar 2010

Regieoper with a twist in Dresden Ring

Yes, the complete Ring des Nibelungen currently on stage at Dresden’s Semper Opera qualifies as Regieoper, but it’s Regieoper with a twist.  »

22 Mar 2010

Changing conductors bring color to Dresden Ring

It was a bit of intrigue that recalled the Wagners at home back in Bayreuth’s Haus Wahnfried. »

21 Mar 2010

The Cunning Little Vixen, London

An enchanting evening at Covent Garden:  »

17 Mar 2010

The Saint of Bleecker Street, Marseilles

It takes some courage these days for an opera company to program a Gian Carlo Menotti opera. Nonetheless last month the Opéra de Marseille defied current sensibilities to give us a new production of The Saint of Bleecker Street.  »

17 Mar 2010

Les Troyens at Carnegie Hall

Les Troyens is the noblest grand opera ever composed by a Frenchman, one of those desert-island works of which it is impossible to tire because its depths can never be completely sounded.  »

17 Mar 2010

Concert of Arias by Arizona Opera

Advertised as ‘ A night of powerful music with today’s superstars,’ Arizona Opera’s concert of opera arias definitely lived up to those words.  »

17 Mar 2010

Katya Kabanova, London

Anguished, lacerating, irredeemably tragic, David Alden’s new production of Katya Kabanova presents a drama of unalleviated suffering and unremitting bleakness.  »

17 Mar 2010

Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Five years after the première of Pelléas et Mélisande, Wilhelm Worringer published the twentieth century’s first great treatise on abstraction in art: »

17 Mar 2010

Karl Böhm: In Rehearsal and Performance

For many, the fine recordings of Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Juan by the late Karl Böhm seem to have emerged full-spring from the baton of Karl Böhm and the playing of the various orchestras he led.  »

17 Mar 2010

Philip Glass: Satyagraha, ENO, London 2010

Philip Glass's Satyagraha at the English National Opera, at the Coliseum, London, proves that modern minimalism can be extraordinarily moving. The secret is to open your soul, as Gandhi did, when he searched the Baghavad-Gita for inspiration.  »

15 Mar 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by ETO

A silvery tree stretched its gnarled branches across the moonlit stage, and from the briar and bush spiky, feathered fairies wriggled and crept, intent on mischief and malevolence.  »

12 Mar 2010

The Nose, New York

When the orchestra re-tuned itself between the intermissionless acts of the Met premiere of The Nose last week, many in the audience were uncertain whether they were hearing practice or prelude.  »

11 Mar 2010

Verdi’s Attila, New York

The curtain rises on an enormous pile of crumbling reinforced concrete, broken wires sticking out every which way – an image that has replaced (at least in the minds of set designers) the romantic columned or castellated ruins that thrilled our ancestors, especially around the time, 1846, that Verdi composed Attila. »

09 Mar 2010

The Elixir of Love at ENO

As a medic with a keen knowledge of psychology, Jonathan Miller probably knows a thing or two about elixirs and placebos.  »

09 Mar 2010

The Gambler, London

The global credit crunch, with its painful exposure of the moral and literal bankruptcy of our own age, provides the perfect backdrop for this new production of Prokofiev’s The Gambler, the first ever staging of this opera at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.  »

08 Mar 2010

Love Triumphs in L’Elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its current revival of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production showcases the strengths and foibles of humanity, while assuring the ultimate triumph of love. »

08 Mar 2010

Puccini: La Rondine

Throughout his relatively long and decidedly successful career, Giacomo Puccini returned to those operas of his that had not, immediately or eventually, secured an important place in the standard repertory.  »

08 Mar 2010

Brilliant Schubert programme: Matthias Goerne, Wigmore Hall

This second of two recitals of Schubert songs by Matthias Goerne and Helmut Deutsch at the Wigmore Hall, London was superb, the programme created with exceptional intelligence and insight into the inner dynamics of Schubert’s music.  »

08 Mar 2010

Tamerlano: Handel at the Royal Opera House, London

Handel’s Tamerlano, in the production by Graham Vick, is well known, but its run at the Royal Opera House is unusual because many of the cast are creating the roles for the first time. It isn't a live reprise of the DVD, but more challenging. »

05 Mar 2010

Karlsruhe: Rare Verdi, Well Done

The Baden State Theatre's new mounting of I Masnadieri may not completely be the production of one’s dreams. »

05 Mar 2010

Matthias Goerne at Wigmore Hall, London

In this, the first of two recitals with pianist Helmut Deutsch, baritone Matthias Goerne continued his very personal journey through the landscape of Schubert’s lieder, a passage which is currently being preserved on an outstanding series of discs by Harmonia Mundi.  »

05 Mar 2010

Ariadne auf Naxos, New York

As the first familiar themes of Ariadne came from the pit, I felt myself sinking — sinking from a tense, dreary, daily world into a sort of ecstatic fantasy — a place where all was happy, funny, romantic, inane, fateful and surprising all at once — Sarah Connolly superb, Kathleen Kim charming, Nina Stemme full-throated,  »

04 Mar 2010

Zürich mal Zwei

Zürich Opera’s poster for their new production of Idomeneo is a knockout. »

13 Feb 2010

Otello in Montpellier (version concert)

Concert opera has a long and glorious tradition in Montpellier. Each year the Orchestra National de Montpellier regales us with one or two during the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier (July). »

11 Feb 2010

Armide by Opera Lafayette

Gluck’s Armide, as semi-staged (costumed dancers but no scenery) at the Rose Theater by the Washington-based Opera Lafayette, was exactly what Gluck designed the piece to be: a supremely elegant entertainment. »

10 Feb 2010

Rossini: La Cenerentola

Michael Hampe seems to have been the director of choice in the 1980s for tastefully traditional Rossini productions.  »

07 Feb 2010

Donizetti revealed: Lucia di Lammermoor, ENO, London

Donizetti’s original concept of Lucia di Lammermoor is revealed in its true glory in this ground breaking production by the English National Opera, first heard in 2008. The opera is loved in its familiar form, but the new critical edition reveals the depth of Donizetti’s musical creation. »

07 Feb 2010

Manon Lescaut in Lyon

If you want Italian opera go to Italy and hope for the best — like conductor Daniel Oren’s Manon Lescaut two years ago in Genoa.  »

04 Feb 2010

Heidelberg’s Stumbling Spartaco at Schwetzingen Castle

For those who might be seeking a representational tale of the legendary Roman slave Spartacus, well, Gladiator this ain’t. »

02 Feb 2010

Così fan tutte, Covent Garden

First seen in 1995, and here receiving its seventh revival, Jonathan Miller’s Così fan tutte has lost none of its power to unsettle and discomfort.  »

02 Feb 2010

Parsifal on the Cote d’Azur

Parsifal had its first performances in Bayreuth in 1882 where it was soon seen by Wagner’s soul mate Friedrich Nietzsche. And there the friendship ended.  »

02 Feb 2010

Shohat’s The Child Dreams — A mature work

Gil Shohat, now 35 and Israeli’s top classical composer, was 15 when in the ‘80s he saw Hanoch Levin’s The Child Dream on stage in his native Tel Aviv. Shohat, of course, knew Levin’s work well, for throughout early decades in the history of Israel he — its outstanding dramatist — had served somewhat as the conscience of a nation tormented defining itself within its pain-wrought beginnings.  »

01 Feb 2010

Joyce DiDonato, Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall was bursting its seams in excited anticipation of this recital by the American mezzo-soprano, Joyce DiDonato.  »

29 Jan 2010

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s The Merry Widow

Melodic and scenic gaiety predominates in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow.  »

28 Jan 2010

Simon Boccanegra, New York

The Times used to have a music critic who seemed to feel that singing, especially in costume, didn’t count as serious music, though he reviewed opera anyway.  »

25 Jan 2010

London’s Rambunctious Rake

Covent Garden has revived director Robert Lepage’s popular and well-traveled version of The Rake’s Progress with often thrilling results. »

25 Jan 2010

Dido and Aeneas by Les Arts Florissants

We all wish Henry Purcell had written a few more operas like Dido and Aeneas — simple to cast, simple to stage, offering endless possibilities for either reserved or outrageous treatment, attractive to every sort of audience.  »

22 Jan 2010

Il Mondo della Luna (The World on the Moon)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, around 1777, the Empress Maria Theresa used to visit Prince Esterhazy’s summer palace at Esterhàza, where there was an opera house fully equipped with stage machinery, leading singers, an orchestra, and a guy named Joseph Haydn to compose on cue.  »

22 Jan 2010

Respighi — Works for solo voice and orchestra

While Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is best known to modern audiences for his colorful programmatic works associated with Italian locations, his vocal music is also engaging.  »

19 Jan 2010

Operatic Italian

Robert Stuart Thomson’s Italian language learning text, Operatic Italian, promises to become an invaluable textbook for aspiring operatic singers, voice teachers, coaches and conductors.  »

18 Jan 2010

Stiffelio at the MET

Stiffelio was composed just after Luisa Miller — an opera that has had little trouble holding its own in the repertory — and just before the magic trio of Rigoletto, Trovatore and Traviata, the first Verdi operas to take their immediate place on the stages of the world and hold them without a break from that day to this.  »

18 Jan 2010

Phaedra at the Barbican

Most musical of mourners, weep anew! Not all to that bright station dared to climb And happier they their happiness who knew Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time »