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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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02 Aug 2009

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia

Of Donizetti's 55 operas, four to five hold on to secure places in the repertory, a much greater number are all but unknown, and in the middle come the titles that see occasional revivals, as flawed but fascinating rarities.  »

02 Aug 2009

Verdi: La Forza del Destino

This looks like a winner, with an esteemed conductor (Zubin Mehta), top-rank cast (Violeta Urmana, Marcello Giordani, Carlo Guelfi), and a production directed by Nicholas Joël that originated at the Opernhaus Zürich, a house that takes some chances and scores some successes.  »

01 Aug 2009

‘Opera Noir’ Entertains at Santa Fe

Can a famously successful movie be made into an effective opera? A quick answer is: yes! »

29 Jul 2009

Schubert bounces along at Wigmore Hall

The performance of lieder is a partnership between singer and pianist. In May I heard Julius Drake redeem an indifferent recital by the sheer beauty of his playing. I’ve been listening to him for more than 15 years. He’s a favorite. So I was completely taken by surprise by this recital »

29 Jul 2009

Busoni: Doktor Faust

The legacy of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) includes some notable compositions, and among them is his unique setting of the Faust story.  »

27 Jul 2009

An Evening at Père Lachaise [Or, Natalie Dessay Attempts Violetta]

A fine-sounding Santa Fe Opera orchestra, excellently conducted by Frédéric Chaslin, was barely into the haunting, delicate prelude to Act I of La traviata, when a funeral procession, wet umbrellas unfurled, arrived to wend its way though a stage full of big grey marble rectangular boxes, handsomely abstracted tomb shapes, soon to be the courtesan Violetta Valéry’s destination. So much for the Prelude to Act I. »

22 Jul 2009

Bought and Paid-for Magic — Bernstein Tahiti in Munich’s Cuvilliès Theater

There she is, in her inch or two of sarong, floating, floating…Oh, excuse me, where was I? »

22 Jul 2009

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

The strategies of non-traditional opera directors are becoming as predictable and formulaic as the stuffy, static traditional productions that they work so hard not to emulate.  »

21 Jul 2009

A knock-out Ariadne auf Naxos at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera Festival

There are rare times when a critic can just enjoy, and say “Wow!”  »

21 Jul 2009

Tosca at the Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Tosca is the quintessential Roman opera, with a plot located in three infamous landmarks of Rome, its 1900 premiere in Rome was bound to be enormously successful.  »

20 Jul 2009

Rossini: Il Turco in Italia

If the economic downturn has canceled some opera lovers plans to attend any of the appealing European summer festivals, perhaps a trip online will find a DVD of a production from a recent year.  »

20 Jul 2009

Munich's Re-constructed Lohengrin

Were someone looking to assemble a musical Dream Team to thrill us to the core with Wagner’s Lohengrin, one would need look no further than the assembled forces currently on stage at Munich's Bavarian State Opera. »

19 Jul 2009

Alice Coote stars in the First Night of the BBC Proms 2009

The Proms reach people all over the world, bringing them together for a kind of international street party, celebrating a shared love of music. If the arts make us more human and humane, then the BBC Proms are a force for good.  »

19 Jul 2009

Festival Aix-en-Provence by Stéphan Lissner

The Aix Festival imagines itself one of Europe’s great festivals, defining itself as the crossroads of European culture.  »

19 Jul 2009

Götterdämmerung at Aix-en-Provence — A Human Symphony

This year’s program at the Aix-en-Provence Festival includes Götterdämmerung, the much-anticipated final installment of the Ring co-sponsored by Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Osterfestspiele Salzburg.  »

19 Jul 2009

Mozart Mistreated at Aix-en-Provence Festival

At the festival of Aix-en-Provence, now in its sixty-first year, the final installment of Wagner’s “Ring,” with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, has hogged the spotlight.  »

19 Jul 2009

Prom 2 — Haydn: The Creation

‘I never left a theatre more contented, and all night I dreamed of The Creation of the world.’ — the view of one of those at the first performance of The Creation in 1799. »

19 Jul 2009

Amsterdam: Old Wine in New Bull Rings

A roster of exciting young artists supported by the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the pit, ensured that Amsterdam’s Carmen worked its usual spell. »

15 Jul 2009

Magic Flutes & Enchanted Forests: The Supernatural in Eighteenth-Century Musical Theater

Readers may recognize the author of this book, David J. Buch, a specialist on the origins of the libretto to Mozart’s Magic Flute.  »

14 Jul 2009

Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Covent Garden

Music-masters, singing lessons and serenading bands all abound in Rossini’s comic masterpiece, Il Barbiere di Sivilglia, but at this performance it was the medical rather than the musical puns which drew the loudest laughs.  »

12 Jul 2009

Tosca at Royal Opera House

This revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production of Tosca brings to an end the ROH’s ‘Italian Season’ in fine style. »

09 Jul 2009

DONIZETTI: Don Gregorio

Like a baseball player with a low batting average but a propensity for home runs, Gaetano Donizetti composed dozens of operas, among which only a very few get frequent performances today.  »

09 Jul 2009

DVOŘÁK: Král a uhlíř (The King and the Charcoal Burner)

Years before Antonin Dvořák composed his most famous opera Rusalka (1900), he completed a series of works in the genre which contributed to his reputation and skill in this genre.  »

07 Jul 2009

Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was. . .

With its’ title taken from the composer’s Suite of English Folk Tunes, Op. 90, Tony Palmer’s film Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was… is a solid documentary assembled from interviews, rehearsal clips, photographs and other audio-visual materials to create a vivid portrait of the composer.  »

07 Jul 2009

Saariaho’s sumptuous L’amour de loin at the ENO, London

Absence of plot is by no means an impediment in opera.  »

04 Jul 2009

The Ravenna Festival: La scuola napoletana

Ravenna once served as the capital of the Roman Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.  »

03 Jul 2009

Porgy and Bess in San Francisco

For Americans of older generations Porgy and Bess is surely a primal experience, formed by the 1959 Otto Preminger film with Sammy Davis Jr. as Sportin’ Life, the audio recording derived from the 1952 London production with Leontyne Price as Bess, and a first encounter with Porgy and Bess as an opera in the artistically satisfying, and well traveled 1976 Houston production (was it twenty-five performances in the War Memorial Opera House?).  »

03 Jul 2009

Summer Nights with the Stars — OTSL’s 2009 Season Shines

The success of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 2009 festival season reflects the intelligent leadership of both the previous triumvirate (Charles MacKay, Colin Graham, and Stephen Lord) and the new recruits Timothy O’Leary and James Robinson.  »

02 Jul 2009

Carmen Triumphs (Again) at the Opéra Comique

Bizet’s famed heroine Carmen returned this June to the place where it all began, in a critically-heralded new production by Adrian Noble. Frank Cadenhead was on hand to experience the staging held at the opulent newly-renovated Opéra Comique. »

29 Jun 2009

Antonio Pappano and Friends — Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

It’s not often that the accompanist is given top billing in a vocal recital, even when he’s the venue’s musical director.  »

29 Jun 2009

Glyndebourne : a spectacular Purcell The Fairy Queen

Glyndebourne is the epitome of British opera festivals. Seventy-five years ago, John Christie founded the tradition of “country house opera”, where opera can be enjoyed in beautiful settings.  »

29 Jun 2009

Un ballo in maschera at Royal Opera House

On the whole, I’d prefer the conspirators to be sitting on toilets… »

26 Jun 2009

Gőtterdämmerung in Venice and Kőln — Sex and Politics Behind the Berlin Wall

With Götterdämmerung, a co-production with the Köln Opera House created by Robert Carsen (stage direction), Patrick Kinmonth (sets and costumes) and Jeffrey Tate (conductor), La Fenice approaches completion of the Ring cycle.  »

26 Jun 2009

La Traviata at Royal Opera House

Four years have passed since the most celebrated American soprano of recent times, Renée Fleming, graced the stage at Covent Garden, in Elijah Moshinsky’s classic production of Otello.  »

25 Jun 2009

Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre shocks Rome but only mildly

Le Grand Macabre is the only opera of György Ligéti, one of the major composers of the 20th century.  »

25 Jun 2009

SCHUBERT: Alfonso und Estrella

What is the worst opera with the best music?  »

24 Jun 2009

La Traviata in San Francisco

Much ink has been spilled over the failed Marta Domingo production of La Traviata that San Francisco Opera inexplicably imported for its blatantly audience baiting summer season (Traviata, Tosca, Porgy and Bess). »

24 Jun 2009

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

The Gala release of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony from Hamburg performances on 29 and 30 November 1954 serves to document further the composer’s presence in the concerto hall prior to the well-known Mahler-renewal in 1960.  »

24 Jun 2009

A Masked Ball by Brooklyn Repertory Opera

Amato Opera went to the netherworld of expired extravaganzas this spring, a one-man operation whose one man was weary. As New York’s oldest down-the-block and semi-pro company, it’s loss was regrettable — though it’s many years since Amato gave up doing interesting repertory. »

24 Jun 2009

Saint Louis: Reliably Excellent

It is quite possible that Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the leading summer opera destination in the United States. »

22 Jun 2009

Schwanengesang at Wigmore Hall

A performance of sublime authority from Goerne and Eschenbach »

21 Jun 2009

Madam Butterfly - English National Opera, London Coliseum

Following the death of the American film director Anthony Minghella, ENO were left with a gap in the season vacated by the new production which he had been engaged to direct, and what better way to do so than by bringing back his immensely popular 2005 staging of Madam Butterfly? Minghella’s widow, Carolyn Choa (who has worked on the production from its original conception) was charged with resurrecting the production in tribute. »

21 Jun 2009

Madame Says Farewell

Last week (May 27), “without further a-don’t,” as she adorably puts it, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh, the world’s reigning traumatic soprano — lately, she says, more of a soprano “spento” — bade a last, lingering, loving farewell to her adoring public in a sold-out concert at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  »

21 Jun 2009

Alceste by The Collegiate Chorale

The Collegiate Chorale (ably supported by the orchestra of the New York City Opera under George Manahan) chose Gluck’s Alceste, last heard in New York at the City Opera in 1982, for its annual spring concert opera — an excellent choice for a chorus eager to show its stuff. »

21 Jun 2009

Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Charms La Scala

Robert Carsen’s production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not new, as the La Scala playbill suggests.  »

21 Jun 2009

La Cenerentola at the MET

La Cenerentola runs third in popularity among Rossini’s comic operas — the Met didn’t get around to it at all until the present staging was created for Cecilia Bartoli.  »

21 Jun 2009

Claudio Abbado Introduces the Complete Pergolesi

Very little is known about Giovanni Battista Draghi (or Drago, according to certain sources), known as Pergolesi.  »