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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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23 Dec 2008

The Play of Daniel — A Medieval Music Drama from Beauvais

Can we call The Play of Daniel an opera, or “music drama” (as this performance put it), when such terms did not exist, and would not exist for centuries to come when the piece was devised, around 1200, by the cathedral chapter of Beauvais?  »

22 Dec 2008

PAISIELLO: I Giuochi d'Agrigento

Dynamic offers devotees of classical era opera a rare and quite rewarding opportunity to hear I Giuochi d'Agrigento, a little-known opera by Giovanni Paisiello, best known as the man who composed a popular Barbiere di Siviglia before Rossini came along and eclipsed his predecessor.  »

22 Dec 2008

Best of Neujahrskonzert

An annual event televised around the world, the Vienna Philharmonic's Neujahrskonzert has become a classical music institution, and as such is impervious to criticism. But not beyond it. »

22 Dec 2008

Karita Mattila — Fever

Ondine provides a treasure of a booklet for Fever, Karita Mattila's traversal of some standards from the so-called "Great American Songbook," plus two Brazilian numbers. »

22 Dec 2008

Berg’s Lulu at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its new production this fall season of Alban Berg’s Lulu, Lyric Opera of Chicago has achieved a near ideal synthesis of music and drama.  »

22 Dec 2008

Hänsel and Gretel at Covent Garden

Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is titled a Märchenspiel — a Fairytale: and as twentieth-century psychologists and psychoanalysts have been eager to inform us, lurking beneath those familiar saccharine stories of sleeping princesses, defeated tyrants, love fulfilled and harmony restored, lie the dark shadows of the human heart — passionate, violent, unpredictable and unredeemed. »

22 Dec 2008

Thaïs: A Star Vehicle — In Overdrive

The Metropolitan Opera’s high-definition broadcast on radio and by satellite to movie theatres around the Nation, December 20 was Jules Massent’s 1894 star vehicle, Thaïs — the sadly ironic tale of a 4th Century Egyptian courtesan who grows tired of the long hours and demanding nature of her work, and is thinking of a career change.  »

18 Dec 2008

I mori di Valenza — Ponchielli’s Unfinished Opera

It almost seems as if every composer was entitled to have at least one unfinished work.  »

14 Dec 2008

Riders to the Sea — English National Opera, London Coliseum

Back in June, in my review of The Pilgrim’s Progress at Sadler’s Wells, I wrote about the valuable and unsurpassed work being done by Richard Hickox to champion the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams in the composer’s centenary year, a project of which this rare staging of Riders to the Sea for ENO was to be the culmination.  »

12 Dec 2008

Der Fliegende Holländer — London Lyric Opera, Barbican Hall

Much has been promised of London Lyric Opera. The newest company on the capital’s opera scene, it will collaborate with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to specialise in full-scale concert performances with high-profile soloists.  »

11 Dec 2008

When Water Sprites Go Bad in Brussels

Brussels’ reliably excellent De Munt/La Monnaie Opera served up a Rusalka that was theatrically vivid, musically resplendent, and cheered to the rafters at its premiere.  »

08 Dec 2008

Elektra, Avery Fisher Hall, New York

Elektra begins with an explosion and remains, with a few lyric interludes, on that extreme pitch throughout its two hours.  »

07 Dec 2008

Glyndebourne on Tour — Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Glyndebourne Touring Opera has long been bringing its wares to the further reaches of the southern United Kingdom and its current package of Hansel und Gretel, Carmen and The Magic Flute has been drawing good crowds from Norwich in the east to Plymouth in the south-west. »

05 Dec 2008

Tristan und Isolde at the MET

The bad luck of last season’s Tristans seems to be edging into the present one — but the curse now finds the house better prepared for trouble.  »

05 Dec 2008

London Philharmonic Orchestra — 75th Anniversary, Vol. 3: 1983-2007.

Released to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the three multi-disc sets of recordings makes available recordings that document the triumphs of the ensemble since its founding in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham.  »

05 Dec 2008

Barcelona: Figaro la, Figaro qua

Like Seville’s peripatetic barber, Gran Teatro del Liceu's new Marriage of Figaro is rather all over the place. »

02 Dec 2008

Porgy through a glass lightly

It was, of course, coincidence. When the Chicago Lyric Opera scheduled George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for the current season, not even the preludes to the 2008 presidential election had begun.  »

02 Dec 2008

Munich's Christmas Treasures: Massenet and Handel

Not all of Munich's holiday delights are to be found at the just-opened annual Christmas Market filling the Marienplatz and environs.  »

01 Dec 2008

Carmen at the Washington National Opera

From the director’s point of view, there are two ways to approach staging an opera.  »

01 Dec 2008

Verdi's Aida at La Scala

Can this truly be the production of Verdi's Aida that earned world-wide headlines in December 2007? »

01 Dec 2008

GIORDANO: Marcella

Alberto Cantù's booklet essay for the Dynamic release of Umberto Giordano's rare one-act opera Marcella quotes a review from the day after the 1907 premiere, which indicates that the premiere's audience's expectations of "greater originality of melodic invention" went unmet. »

28 Nov 2008

The Tales of Hoffmann at Covent Garden

The opening performance of the ROH’s seventh revival of John Schlesinger’s 1980 production of The Tales of Hoffmann was dedicated to the memory of Richard Hickox.  »

25 Nov 2008

Debussy’s Pelléas - a fine swansong for Independent Opera in London

Pelléas et Mélisande in a 200 seat theatre, with just 35 musicians and no pit?  »

25 Nov 2008

Boris Godunov at ENO

There are two things which, in recent history, English National Opera has consistently done extremely well.  »

25 Nov 2008

La Bohème in San Francisco

The show curtain was an illustration of the typical Parisian skyline.  »

25 Nov 2008

Lulu-Palooza in the Windy City

Marlis Petersen, the much lauded "Lulu-du-jour," brought her well-traveled portrayal of Berg's complex heroine to Chicago Lyric Opera and she alone was almost worth the price of admission.  »

21 Nov 2008

Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opera House Zürich

This 2001 Zürich performance of Rossini's masterpiece Il Barbiere di Siviglia boasts one of the final performances of the great bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, who passed away in 2004. »

20 Nov 2008

MAYR: L’amor coniugale

Naxos, in conjunction with SWR, has been releasing recordings from the Rossini in Wildbad Festival, which focuses not just on the titular composer but also on his contemporaries. »

19 Nov 2008

Matilde di Shabran at Covent Garden

The rare Rossini opera which brought Juan Diego Flórez to international attention in Pesaro in 1996 was thrown together by the composer at the last minute to meet a deadline in February 1821, with a plot from one source and characters from another, and bits of the score filled in by Pacini.  »

18 Nov 2008

Doctor Atomic and Arjuna’s Dilemma

As Tom Stoppard put it, “There is an art to the building up of suspense.”  »

17 Nov 2008

Opera in Germany

Following a recent visit to Germany, Wes Blomster surveys the vibrant opera scene in Berlin and Magdeburg.  »

17 Nov 2008

La Damnation de Faust at the MET

The Met has not staged La Damnation de Faust in a hundred years, since 1906, when it clocked a mere five performances.  »

16 Nov 2008

La Traviata at the MET

When La Traviata had its first performance, in Venice in 1853, it was a scandal. »

16 Nov 2008

Lucrezia Borgia at the Washington National Opera

After a somewhat shaky start to the season, as my recently posted review of La traviata attests, Washington National Opera has added considerable luster to its roster this November with the infusion of spectacle and star power in two new productions.  »

16 Nov 2008

Wozzeck, Munich

Wozzeck stands ankle deep in water on the flooded stage of the Bavarian State Opera, above him hovers a huge, movable box – the dingy apartment he shares with Marie and their adolescent bastard – and he is surrounded by a freak-show worthy of a George Groszian nightmare and worse. »

16 Nov 2008

Great Operatic Arias with Sir Thomas Allen 2

The "2" in this disc's title indicates that this is the second Chandos recital for Sir Thomas Allen.  »

13 Nov 2008

Jean Baptiste Lully's Persée

At a time when it is the fashion for stage direction, sets, and costumes to have little, if anything to do with the ouvre presented on stage, this production of Jean-Baptiste Lully's Persée (1682) is candy for the eyes and ears, with adherence to what is known of the French Baroque operatic standards.1 »

13 Nov 2008

A powerful, poignant Elektra at the Royal Opera House, London

“This won’t be a total Schlacht of sound” said the director, Charles Edwards, of this production. Instead, it’s a strikingly intelligent interpretation, focusing on the deeper aspects of the drama. »

13 Nov 2008

Aïda – English National Opera, London Coliseum

It is incredibly unfashionable nowadays to stage opera straightforwardly. Welsh National Opera’s recent lavish staging of Otello prompted a dismissive reception from the critics.  »

09 Nov 2008

L’elisir d’amore in San Francisco

There are remnants of snobbery in San Francisco that are happiest when San Francisco Opera associates itself with the likes of Vienna State Opera and Covent Garden, and left positively frightened at the idea of a production from Opera Colorado/Fort Worth Opera/et al. on the War Memorial Opera House stage.  »

09 Nov 2008

Muti's La Traviata

EMI owns this recording, so if pride dictates they repackage it in the "Great Recordings of the Century" series, a dissenter shouldn't moralize. »

09 Nov 2008

Ernani and I Capuletti e I Montecchi on Dynamic DVD

Both these performances come from mid-2005. Teatro Regio di Parma presented the Ernani in May of that year; August saw I Capuletti e I Montecchi on stage at the Festival della Valle d'Itria di Martina Franca.  »

09 Nov 2008

Andrew Lloyd Webber — A Classical Tribute

Countless must be the number of true opera fans who have heard well-meaning acquaintances say, "Oh I just love opera! Especially Phantom of the Opera." »

07 Nov 2008

The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago

The current revival of Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers at Lyric Opera of Chicago (seen 25 October) brings together an exceptionally strong cast.  »

07 Nov 2008

Houston brushes up its Shakespeare

In 1830, three years after the death of Beethoven and two after Schubert’s untimely demise, Berlioz, 27, dazzled the world with his phantasmagoric — perhaps drug-inspired — Symphonie fantastique.  »

04 Nov 2008

Boris Godunov at San Francisco Opera

As performed just now by the San Francisco Opera Mussorgsky’s initial (1869), seven scene version of Boris Godunov revealed itself a finished masterpiece.  »

04 Nov 2008

Rusalka and La tragedie de Carmen by English Touring Opera

Of their two tours per year, English Touring Opera tends to channel the majority of the budget into the Spring season, and the Autumn tour – despite a focus in recent years on some high-quality Baroque chamber works, which lend themselves well to the size of the venues around the UK which the company visits – can be rather noticeably the poor relation.  »