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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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15 Sep 2009

Wigmore Hall Song Competition

‘It’s a personal choice’ / ‘Of course he won - he was the only one who sang songs’ / ‘I’ll be happy if anyone but the first one wins’ (he won) / ‘There’s only one possible choice - the third one’ (he came second) »

15 Sep 2009

Handel/arranged by Mendelssohn: Israel in Egypt

If, dear reader, a desire has ever swept over you (a desire such as a pregnant woman's craving for vanilla ice cream with pickles) to hear music reminiscent of both Messiah and the Fingal's Cave overture, CPO is just the musical ice cream parlor/deli for you.  »

10 Sep 2009

Verdi: La battaglia di Legnano

The true opera fan devotes almost as much time, if not more, to the "what might have been" careers as to those of the superstars.  »

10 Sep 2009

Richard Strauss: Elektra

Archival radio recordings of complete operas seldom have ideal sound, but the audio is usually sharper than that of a live performance while still carrying a comparable dramatic immediacy.  »

09 Sep 2009

Mahler: Symphony no. 1

Among the important recent cycles of Mahler’s symphonies is the one underway by Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra.  »

09 Sep 2009

Fidelio from Glyndebourne and Medici Arts

Beethoven’s Fidelio is actually several works combined — a rescue opera in the grand style of the French revolution, a sentimental comedy focusing on mistaken identity, and a tragédie bourgeoise involving a husband, a wife, and their efforts to re-unite despite the actions of a relentless and implacable foe.  »

09 Sep 2009

Danielle de Niese: The Mozart Album

After thoroughly enjoying Daneille de Niese’s recording Handel Arias, I jumped at the chance to review her new recording, The Mozart Album. Her Handel interpretation was full of coloratura, clarity and virtuosity, along with an organic fusion of music serving drama. So I was eager to hear her perform Mozart.  »

09 Sep 2009

Franco Corelli: The Tenor as Hero

This 4-CD set gathers together solo recital material and extracts from complete opera sets that Franco Corelli recorded between 1959 and 1968, the prime of his career.  »

06 Sep 2009

Christof Loy speaks about the new Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, London.

“Opera has so much to give” says Christof Loy, whose new production of Tristan und Isoldeopens at the Royal Opera House on 29th September. This opera is so familiar that everyone assumes they know it. But Loy’s approach involves going straight back to the score, and to the inherent drama in the music. “I don’t like superficial distractions". »

06 Sep 2009

Aspen stages a Don to die for

“Can it be?”“It can’t!”“But it is; he looks just like him…” »

06 Sep 2009

Mahler and Ligeti at the Proms?

On the surface, the theme of this Prom seemed to be Sci Fi movies at the Proms. Both Ligeti's Atmosphères and Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra became huge hits when Stanley Kubrick used them in 2001 : A Space Odyssey. So how did Mahler's *Kindertotenlieder* fit in ?  »

06 Sep 2009

Bayreuth: Multi-layered, Profound "Parsifal"

The Wagner Festspiel loves to provoke. »

06 Sep 2009

Seattle humanizes Wagner’s Ring

In 2001, when Seattle Opera completed its current production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, it seemed the company had taken a step backward. In appearance the new Ring — the third full SO staging since Glynn Ross set out to make the city the American counterpart to Germany’s Bayreuth — was traditional.  »

06 Sep 2009

The Dream of Gerontius: Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago

For the eighteenth program of its seventy-fifth anniversary season the Grant Park Music Festival under the direction of its principal conductor Carlos Kalmar gave two performances of Sir Edward Elgar’s monumental oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, The Dream of Gerontius.  »

30 Aug 2009

Gustav Mahler: Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Following from the fine collaboration between Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles on an ambitious collection of various sets of Mahler’s Lieder (Hyperion CD 67392), which includes some of the composer’s early settings of poetry from the anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the present recording contains thirteen later settings from that source.  »

30 Aug 2009

Bellini: Il Pirata

This 1958 RAI broadcast of Bellini's early masterpiece requires the accustomed aural compromise for maximum enjoyment.  »

30 Aug 2009

Central City Opera 2009

Central City stages luminous Lucia There’s the sextet, the greatest “hit” in all of opera when Caruso was in the cast, and there’s the “Mad Scene,” that exercise in vocal acrobatics that brought new glory to bel canto when the opera was new in Naples in 1835.  »

30 Aug 2009

Verdi's Macbeth at the Sferisterio Opera Festival

The opera venue at Macerata shares some features with its famous counterpart in Verona: both are outdoors, with huge stages that can accommodate spectacular productions.  »

30 Aug 2009

Fidelio at the Proms

Fidelio is not just any opera. But then, Beethoven is not just any composer. His only opera — unless one counts Leonore as a work in itself — confounds bureaucratic expectations.  »

30 Aug 2009

Manon Lescaut at the Festival Puccini di Torre del Lago

Each year, the tiny Tuscan village Torre del Lago hosts a festival dedicated to its favorite son, Giacomo Puccini. This year’s Puccini Festival (10 July - 30 August) featured a “new” Manon Lescaut (a co-production with Opera del Nice Theater), its premiere garnering standing ovations for Marcello Giordani and Martina Serafin and accolades for Alberto Veronesi, the artistic director of the Festival.  »

30 Aug 2009

Lehär: Die Blaue Mazur

As the detail-filled booklet essay to this CPO set reminds its readers, Franz Lehär's operettas enjoyed widespread, though rarely lasting, success, with the music theater world of the time eager for each successive work.  »

30 Aug 2009

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten, Salzburg

Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten isn't the easiest opera to produce, with its grand effects, but this production comes close to being a perfect union between stage and music.  »

30 Aug 2009

Louis Andriessen De Staat at the Proms

De Staat is a seminally important work. So much modern music stems from it, not only “serious” classical music but progressive popular music too. It “is” music theatre, for it’s designed to be experienced live, the visual effect part of the action. »

23 Aug 2009

Zelmira in Pesaro

August is when Italians immerse themselves in the primal soup of all life. Hordes swarm to the Mediterranean shores and multitudes arrive in Pesaro on the Adriatic, where just then crowds of Rossinians from around the world arrive to partake of their primal operatic soup.  »

23 Aug 2009

Boito: Mefistofele

The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.  »

23 Aug 2009

Paul Hindemith: Die junge Magd, Op. 23, no. 2; Ernst Toch: Die chinesische Flöte, Op. 29.

Gustav Mahler was not alone in setting verses from Hans Bethge’s collection of Chinese-inspired poetry entitled Die chinesische Flöte, as he did in his symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde.  »

23 Aug 2009

The Full Monteverdi: A Film by John la Bouchardière

Although the cutesy title sounds like something conjured up by a community college marketing intern working for a mid-sized city orchestra’s ticket office—where every concert featuring Wagner and Brahms gets the sobriquet “Teutonic Titans”—don’t be put off by the moniker. This film is a brilliant adaptation of Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals that is totally faithful to the composer’s music. »

23 Aug 2009

Wagner's Tannhaüser at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden

Good directors don't always create good productions.  »

23 Aug 2009

Maconchy: The Sofa & The Departure

The two one-act operas - operettes? - on this disc play something like mediocre episodes of The Twilight Zone set to music, though without the quirky memorability of that show's opening theme.  »

23 Aug 2009

Stars Shine at Glimmerglass

Everyone once in a while, we veteran opera-goers are privileged to see a promising artist give a break-out performance that announces a giant step forward into major stardom.  »

17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Luisa Miller

On a good night an opera performance can come across with visceral excitement without a classy production, top-name singers, or the benefit of being of one of the more familiar titles.  »

17 Aug 2009

Mozart and Gluck — Mixed Results at Santa Fe

It is never easy to revive a success. Audiences will remember the first run of a show and consciously or not, compare a revival with earlier favorable impressions.  »

17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Falstaff

Those opera lovers prone to rage at the perceived dominance of the director in their beloved art form today may collapse in apoplexy at this first release from the company called SignumVision.  »

17 Aug 2009

And If The Song Be Worth A Smile — Songs by American Composers

The word "living" would be a fitting addition to the subtitle of this collection of "Songs by American Composers."  »

17 Aug 2009

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Mask of Orpheus at the Proms

What drives Harrison Birtwistle to Greek myth? Orpheus is a primal archetype. When he played his lyre he tamed wild beasts and made mountains move. But he suffered. He journeyed into Hades but could not bring Eurydice, his beloved, back to life. In some versions of the myth, his talent enraged the jealous who tore him apart. Yet even then, his head remained intact, still singing. He symbolizes the power of music, and the fate of an artist.  »

17 Aug 2009

Bellini: Norma

"An all-American Norma," Roger Pines calls this release in his entertaining booklet essay.  »

09 Aug 2009

Monteverdi: L’incoronozione di Poppea

This excellent production of Monteverdi’s final (premiered in 1643) and most problematic opera features first-rate singing and a very effective (and restrained) staging.  »

09 Aug 2009

Semiramide at Caramoor

You need three or, ideally, four top-flight bel canto specialists to do anything like justice to Rossini’s Semiramide, his last and grandest Italian score. Otherwise why go to the expense?  »

07 Aug 2009

Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music — Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

In the Euroarts series Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music: Documentary & Performance, the volume devoted to Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra stands out as a particularly accessible and well-executed release.  »

07 Aug 2009

Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

For adherents of the prima voce school of opera appreciation, this Laurent Pelly production of Donizetti's comic masterpiece may not hold that much appeal.  »

06 Aug 2009

On deception at Sferisterio Festival, Macerata, Italy

L’inganno is this year’s theme at the Sferisterio Festival in Macerata, Italy.  »

05 Aug 2009

Les Huguenots at Bard SummerScape 2009

Why — they always ask — why — present Les Huguenots?  »

03 Aug 2009

Vivaldi: La fida ninfa

Although Antonio Vivaldi’s instrumental compositions were highly popular in his lifetime, and have been held in high regard throughout the centuries, most of his operas have been — until recently — relegated to obscurity.  »

03 Aug 2009

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

EMI's publicity for this studio recording focuses on soprano Angela Gheorghiu and her portrayal of Cio-Cio-San.  »

02 Aug 2009

Paris: King Roger Goes Hollywood

Paris Opera seems to posit the question: Does anyone completely understand what Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger is about?  »