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Elsewhere

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.

Die Frau ohne Schatten at Munich

It was fascinating to see — and of course, to hear — Krzysztof Warlikowsi’s productions of Die Gezeichneten and Die Frau ohne Schatten on consecutive nights of this year’s Munich Opera Festival.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

<em>The Merchant of Venice</em>, WNO at the Royal Opera House
21 Jul 2017

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions. »

Recently in Reviews

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02 Aug 2012

Santa Fe Opera, Karol Szymanowski : King Roger

The gifted Polish composer Karol Szymanowski wrote his three-act King Roger, in the 1920's. It is an allegorical tale of honor vs. pleasure set to quite beautiful music, especially in the orchestral writing, which Santa Fe chose to play in the same season as the Rossini in a wide tip of the hat to unknown but worthy repertory.  »

01 Aug 2012

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, Opera Holland Park, London

This was unquestionably the best all-round performance I have yet seen from Opera Holland Park, staging and musical performances alike often putting august metropolitan houses from around the world to shame.  »

30 Jul 2012

Exquisite Juxtapositions : Ian Bostridge, Wigmore Hall

Although John Cage’s Seven Haiku for piano are all about chance and accident, this final concert in Ian Bostridge’s Ancient and Modern series was a masterpiece of meticulous planning and execution. »

30 Jul 2012

Beethoven Ninth Symphony, Daniel Barenboim, BBC Prom 18

Few composers seem as remote and yet as necessary to our age as Beethoven, and perhaps the symphonic Beethoven in particular. Irony is a foreign word to him; blazing affirmation and indeed intensity of struggle seem too much for us.  »

27 Jul 2012

Pierre Boulez : Le marteau sans maître BBC Proms

Pierre Boulez Le marteau sans maître is important as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, says conductor François-Xavier Roth, who conducted it with members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in BBC Prom 17.  »

23 Jul 2012

Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens (concert performance, BBC Proms)

Hearing The Trojans in concert at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Proms was, for me at least, a much happier experience than when it laboured under the crowd-pleasing would-be-musical-comedy served up by David McVicar’s production for the Royal Opera. »

22 Jul 2012

Verdi Falstaff Opera Holland Park

“It is as sunny as the composer’s garden at Busetto, clear as crystal in construction, tender and explosive by turns, humorous and witty without a touch of extravagance or a note of vulgarity.” So wrote Charles Stanford on the occasion of the first performance of Verdi’s final opera, in 1893. »

20 Jul 2012

Rossini Il viaggio a Reims, Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists programme is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their annual Summer Performance.  »

19 Jul 2012

David et Jonathas at the Aix Festival

Rare, very rare repertory that is not even opera stole the show at the sixty fourth Aix Festival. »

18 Jul 2012

Le Nozze di Figaro in Aix-en-Provence

You pay your money, you takes your chances — that is festival life at its best. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. The fun is in the risk, so the riskier the better.  »

18 Jul 2012

Christoph Prégardien, Wigmore Hall

Seriousness, elegance and insight characterised this recital of nineteenth-century German song in which Christoph Prégardien and his accompanist, Julius Drake, conducted a moving musical dialogue, perfectly matching each other in the depiction of unbending obsession and unfulfilled aspiration. »

17 Jul 2012

BBC Prom 3: Pelléas et Mélisande

21st-century opera played on period instruments; a ‘drama-less’ opera; a Dali-esque crimson chaise longue, stranded on the platform of the Royal Albert Hall.  »

15 Jul 2012

Otello, Royal Opera

Elijah Moshinsky’s Otello, first seen at Covent Garden in 1987, and revived numerous times with a range of stellar casts, may be traditional and conservative, even — excepting the thunderous opening storm scene — somewhat uninventive;  »

11 Jul 2012

Triple Delights in the City of Light

Paris Opéra seems to have saved the best for last as they wind up the current season with a trio of diverse and well-judged productions. »

09 Jul 2012

Written on Skin at the Aix Festival

Not about tattoo art, not an evocation of the Holocast, and let us not even try to put our finger on what it is about. »

09 Jul 2012

‘Ancient & Modern’ with Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge

Ian Bostridge’s thought-provoking ‘Ancient and Modern’ project at the Wigmore Hall is drawing to a close and this penultimate instalment brought together Renaissance sensuality and Neo-classical restraint in a meticulously executed performance.  »

02 Jul 2012

Susan Graham, Wigmore Hall

Embodying a range of iconic female characters from history, literature and song — both the ‘good’ and the ‘not-so-good’ — Susan Graham delivered a wonderfully suave and entertaining performance before a delighted Wigmore Hall audience. »

02 Jul 2012

The Marriage of Figaro in Montpellier

Perfection. A seldom used term in critiques of opera performances. There it was, almost (and will be, maybe). »

28 Jun 2012

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio

Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.  »

28 Jun 2012

Stanisław Moniuszko: Flis

Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865). »

28 Jun 2012

Stanisław Moniuszko: Pieśni Songs

The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.  »

27 Jun 2012

St. Louis in Fine Festival Form

Forget about picking a desert island opera, I want Opera Theatre of St. Louis as my desert island opera company.  »

27 Jun 2012

Les Troyens, Royal Opera House London

A sensational Les Troyens at the Royal Opera House, London. Berlioz, who understood theatrical gestures so well, builds his opera around the most audacious dramatic device in ancient history: the Trojan Horse.  »

26 Jun 2012

Dr Dee, ENO

First staged at Manchester’s 2011 international festival, Dr Dee is a theatrical work based on the life of Renaissance cosmographer and charlatan, John Dee.  »

26 Jun 2012

Miah Persson, Wigmore Hall

At the Wigmore Hall, there’s long been a tradition of Swedish song. We’ve heard many of the greats, Anne Sofie von Otter, Barbara Bonney and others. Miah Persson and Roger Vignoles are in this constellation.  »

26 Jun 2012

Billy Budd, ENO

Billy Budd, foretopman — and self-styled ‘King of the Birds’ — may yearn for premonition to captain of the mizzen top, but there few spirits that fly afloat or soar in David Alden’s dark, oppressive new production of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. »

15 Jun 2012

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

A feast for the eyes, a feast for the ears, a Flute from America’s heartland that goes directly to your heart. »

15 Jun 2012

Oliver Knussen’s Sendak operas launch the Aldeburgh Music festival

Oliver Knussen’s two operas based on books by Maurice Sendak opened this year’s Aldeburgh Music Festival in exuberant style.  »

13 Jun 2012

Attila in San Francisco

Fanfares that celebrate soldiers with plumed helmets by a composer who donned a helmet (metaphorically) — Verdi the operatic father of the Risorgimento! »

11 Jun 2012

Così fan tutte, Holland Park

Are my expectations too high when it comes to Mozart’s operas in general, and to Così fan tutte in general? Probably. Should they be? Certainly.  »

09 Jun 2012

Nixon in China, San Francisco

John Adams’ Nixon in China is an amazing, riveting piece of music, and compelling theater to boot.  »

09 Jun 2012

L’olimpiade, Venice Baroque Orchestra

Over 60 composers (including Beethoven) wrote music inspired by Metastasio’s L’olimpiade.  »

09 Jun 2012

Don Giovanni, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

The pavilion at Garsington Opera at Wormsley is stunningly beautiful. Just being there is an experience, which is why the social aspect is so rewarding. »

08 Jun 2012

Almira, operamission

There are many different ways to analyze the health of New York City. My personal measurements judge the town thus: How many aspiring artsy kids are forced to share a single apartment in an outer borough while they “find themselves” and how many small but immensely able opera companies are functional at any given time.  »

05 Jun 2012

Bluebeard’s Castle, New World Symphony

“I can guess what you are hiding. Bloodstain on your warrior’s weapons. Blood upon your crown of glory. Red the soil around your flowers. Red the shade your cloud was throwing. Now I know it all, oh, Bluebeard.” »

05 Jun 2012

La Bohème, LA Opera

The Los Angeles opera company ended its 2011-2012 season with Giacomo Puccini’s long-loved La Bohème, in a long-lived production. What is it about this opera that keeps old loves alive?  »

04 Jun 2012

Detlev Glanert’s Caligula, ENO

Detlev Glanert’s Caligula at the ENO shows how powerful modern opera can be. Caligula was a tyrant, but this opera isn’t sensationalist.  »

04 Jun 2012

Don Giovanni, LA Philharmonic

Kudos to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and Gustavo Dudamel for their courageous plan to present semi staged performances of the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy of Italian operas with the assistance of outstanding set and costume designers and directors. »

04 Jun 2012

Salome, Royal Opera

In David McVicar’s staging of Strauss’s disturbing opera, first seen at Covent Garden in 2008 and now enjoying its second revival, Salome’s descent down the Stygian staircase is a literal drop into a subterranean slaughterhouse and an ethical fall into the delights and depravity of her of burgeoning yet deadly sexuality.  »

04 Jun 2012

Maria Padilla: Chelsea Opera Group

Donizetti’s Maria Padilla received a concert performance with the Chelsea Opera Group. »

04 Jun 2012

Handel and the Rival Queens: Lufthansa Baroque Festival

A fascinating evening of arias and readings on the theme of Handel’s “rival queens”, Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni.  »

04 Jun 2012

A Toronto Trilogy

Canadian Opera Company’s diverse May offerings included some superlatively sung Handel, a galvanizing star turn from a rising tenor talent, and a well-matched veristic double bill of tragedy and comedy. »

31 May 2012

Tristan und Isolde, Welsh National Opera

Yannis Kokkos originally directed and designed Tristan und Isolde as a co-production for Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera nearly 20 years ago. The production’s latest revival, directed by Peter Watson, was premiered at the Wales Millennium Centre on 19 May 2012.  »

30 May 2012

Glyndebourne Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen

Glyndebourne’s 2012 season started in great style with Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. Its rapturous reception would suggest that this could become a Glyndebourne perennial.  »

25 May 2012

Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge: Serate Musicali

Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  »

22 May 2012

History Repeating

Iestyn Davies’ Wigmore Hall recital, ‘History Repeating’, may have explored various composers’ engagement with, and reinterpretation and reinvigoration of, music of the past, but Davies himself is very much the countertenor of the moment, and undoubtedly an exciting and fulfilling future lies ahead. »

21 May 2012

Semele, Canadian Opera Company

You never can tell. I would never have predicted which opera would be my favourite of the seven operas programmed this season by the Canadian Opera Company.  »

19 May 2012

Billy Budd — Metropolitan Opera

The Met saved the best of the season for the end of it, revivals of their first-rate productions of two twentieth-century masterpieces, Jánaček’s Makropoulos Case and Britten’s Billy Budd.  »