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Elsewhere

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.


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Reviews

Sir Edward Elgar
20 Jul 2014

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.  »

Recently in Reviews

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07 Jul 2007

Love and death among battlements

In 2003, at Cagli’s Accademia del Teatro, Elisabetta Courir directed a compelling Così fan tutte, minimalist, sophisticated and low-budget; quite unlike Daniele Abbado, whose Lohengrin for Bologna’s Teatro Comunale integrated “hard” scenery, video projections and historically informed costumes into a dream-like pageant. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Don Pasquale

An ingenious and handsome staging, in the proper period and full of delicious color, fashion and furnishings, a production that honors the compatibility of tradition with good fun, and four singers who look their parts, play the farce, and are as easy on the ears as on the eyes — what more could you want from a Don Pasquale? »

04 Jul 2007

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz

The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is one of more engaging composers of the early twentieth century. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal

When hearing the final work of a composer whose life was cut short, one can not help but wonder, “What if?” »

27 Jun 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 8 (rev. version, Nowak ed.)

Established in 1985 by the United Nations, the World Philharmonic Orchestra gave its inaugural concert on 12 December 1985 under the auspices of UNICEF and the Konserthus, Sweden. »

27 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: La Scala di Seta

La Scala di Seta, composed in Venice in 1812 (Rossini was 20; Tancredi and fame were a year off; Barbiere and immortality were four years down the road), shares the fortune of La Gazza Ladra: that is, until recently, the public knew the overture quite well but nothing else from the opera which, indeed, lacks the spectacular arias and hilarious ensembles that might have kept it on the boards. »

25 Jun 2007

WEBER: Der Freischütz

Produced by Rolf Lieberman and directed for television by Joachim Hess, this 1968 studio recording of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz has much to recommend as a traditional production of the opera. »

25 Jun 2007

San Francisco underscores complexity of “Rosenkavalier”

Just whose opera is “Der Rosenkavalier” anyway? The title — to begin with the obvious — says it’s youthful Octavian, pinpointing his role as the bearer of the rose that is to seal the marriage contract of Ochs and child-like Sophie. »

24 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Il Viaggio a Reims was a pièce d’occasion, part of the official tributes to Charles X of France on his coronation in 1825, but unlike most such creations – which tend to dreary platitudes of the Oscar speech variety – Viaggio has a cheeky personality and delicious music from Rossini at the top of his game, music he planned to recycle in subsequent operas – which he did. »

24 Jun 2007

STRAVINSKY: Histoire du soldat (Suite); Renard

As indicated in the copy on the CD, itself this is indeed a “unique collection of mostly short works” by Igor Stravinsky. »

24 Jun 2007

Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral

In charting the history of music in the West, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Paris loom large as a golden age of innovative polyphony, a golden age that is much the fruits of two composers, Leoninus and Perotinus. »

22 Jun 2007

Concilium musicum Wien on authentic instruments

This live concert recording assembles a trio of late eighteenth-century Viennese composers; the program is strong in evocation of time and place, but admittedly less so in substance. »

21 Jun 2007

Lully’s Psyché at Boston Early Music Festival

There’s not much point in presenting Lully’s Psyché (in its North American premiere no less) unless you’re going to give it something vaguely like the grandeur Louis XIV could command in 1678. »

19 Jun 2007

La Clemenza di Tito – English National Opera

An increasing lack of substance and imagination behind ENO’s season scheduling means that a revival of a theatrically impressive recent production of a repertoire piece is to be welcomed, especially when that production comes with a cast of superior calibre. »

18 Jun 2007

Leipzig Bachfest explores early opera

When opera is the subject, there’s an uneasy embarrassment at Leipzig’s annual 10-day Bach Festival, for opera is a genre that the city’s most famous musical son never embraced. »

17 Jun 2007

BRITTEN: Death in Venice

Two productions of Death in Venice within a month : one high budget and glamorous at the ENO and the other at Aldeburgh with a much more humble pedigree. »

17 Jun 2007

LASSUS: Psalmi Davidis pœnitentiales

Among Lasso’s vast output there are few works more imposing than his collected settings of the seven penitential psalms. »

17 Jun 2007

WAXMAN: Joshua

Franz Waxman was working with librettist James Forsyth on an opera, Dr. Jekyll, when the composer’s wife died. »

17 Jun 2007

MAHLER: Urlicht

Mahler: Urlicht is a recording of selected songs for voice and piano from various collections of the composer’s Lieder, including his early settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the later Wunderhorn Lieder that Mahler set in the 1890s in versions with both orchestral and keyboard accompaniment, and also his Rűckert-Lieder, performed by the young mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn accompanied by Julius Drake. »

11 Jun 2007

VIVALDI: Arie per basso

In 2001 the recording company Naïve and the Istituto per beni musicali in Piemonte began a large-scale undertaking of recording the vast holdings of Vivaldi’s musical library. »

11 Jun 2007

Italiana restored: Rossini’s afterthougts staged in Vicenza

Vicenza’s Teatro Olimpico, a jewel of Renaissance architecture inaugurated in 1585 and seating around 500, hosted in early June a run of three performances of Rossini’s Italiana in Algeri. »

05 Jun 2007

Pasatieri’s return to opera impressive

The June 2 world premiere of “Frau Margot” at the Fort Worth Opera might be regarded as “an historic return,” for this is Thomas Pasitieri’s first opera in 18 years. »

05 Jun 2007

BUSONI : Songs

Doktor Faust eclipses most of Ferrucio’s Busoni’s other work in terms of popularity. Surprisingly, though, he wrote little song. Only 40 pieces remain, many written in his youth. »

04 Jun 2007

The Jussi Björling Series: rare opera recordings from Stockholm

“We’ll discuss the greatest tenor in history, Jussi Björling, and his astounding voice.” »

04 Jun 2007

RUBINSTEIN: Il Demone

I was never much impressed by the Russian performances of this most famous of Rubinstein’s many operas. »

04 Jun 2007

“La Traviata” from the Volksoper Wien

In Verdi’s beloved opera, love does not conquer all but the sweet-taste of what “might have been” lingers on our lips forever when we think of the beautiful Violetta. »

03 Jun 2007

Arizona Opera's Susannah — A Naive Story Dilutes an Impressive Production

Arizona Opera ended its 2006/07 season with a tightly-knit, well-tuned presentation of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, his best known opera that has enjoyed numerous productions since its New York City Opera debut in 1956. »

31 May 2007

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains; The River

Naxos’s DVD venture has produced a fascinating document, the original documentary shorts The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, filmed by Pare Lorentz, with the Virgil Thomson scores re-recorded by the post-Classical Ensemble, led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez. »

31 May 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Given the fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Second Symphony on both CD and DVD, the release of Pierre Boulez’s performances from 26 and 27 March 2005 at the Philharmonie, Berlin, is a further contribution to the interpretations of this important work. »

31 May 2007

Death in Venice at ENO

Deborah Warner’s new production of Death in Venice is ravishingly beautiful, with stunning lighting designs by Jean Kalman who manages to capture the spirit of every facet of Venice and of the drama’s more general themes, from the misty eeriness of Aschenbach’s first gondola ride through to ominous darkening skies and blazing sunsets. »

30 May 2007

Die Zauberflöte at the Volksoper

Serpents, abduction, magic flutes, a sacred priesthood and, of course….love, are a few of the elements Mozart used to comprise his mason-influenced collaboration with Emanuel von Schikaneder. »

30 May 2007

MASSENET: Esclarmonde

Just as sausage can be best enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of its preparation and contents, one should slide slowly into the luxuriant bath that is Massenet’s Esclarmonde and leave the libretto far to the side. »

30 May 2007

ORFF: Carmina Burana

Released in early 2007, Marin Alsop’s performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is an exciting, new recording of this familiar and durable scenic cantata, based on medieval lyrics in Latin and German. »

30 May 2007

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Verboten und verbannt — forbidden and banned — a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust. »

30 May 2007

Angel Dances

Curmudgeons and aesthetes may have to fight their gag reflex to enjoy some luscious music-making on the latest disc, Angel Dances, from that hot studio band, The Twelve Berlin Philharmonic Cellists. »

29 May 2007

Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music

The interpretive reception of medieval music begins, as John Haines lays forth in the present investigation, already during the latter period of the Middle Ages. »

29 May 2007

BRITTEN : Gloriana

Towards the end of his life Britten became interested in the idea of developing the opera experience beyond the technical confines of the stage. He would have, I think, loved this film because it’s so intelligently sensitive to his fundamental ideas. It is, no less, a work of art built around a work of art. »

25 May 2007

Virginia Arts Festival celebrates “Pocahontas”

Norfork - It’s America’s biggest birthday since the 1976 bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence: »

20 May 2007

VERDI: Aida

This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense. »

20 May 2007

Simon Boccanegra — Opéra national de Paris

Chief attraction of the Paris Opera’s new production of Simon Boccanegra was Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role. »

20 May 2007

Anonymous 4: Gloryland

The quality packaging of Anonymous 4’s latest recording indicates the group’s importance to their label, Harmonia Mundi. »

09 May 2007

LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci

In the countless performances of Leoncavallo’s masterpiece Pagliacci since its 1892 premiere, there must have been times when the light tenor singing Beppe watched the other tenor, of heavier voice, in the lead role of Canio and wondered if someday he (the Beppe) would take on the dramatic role of the homicidal clown. »

09 May 2007

Audrey Stottler Sings Wagner

Audrey Stottler’s Wagner recital provides ample evidence of a voice with the range and heft for the challenging roles of Brünnhilde and Isolde, as well as Sieglinde, a role often sung by a vocalist with less firepower. »

09 May 2007

Alison Balsom: Caprice

Dare one assume that with this disc, Alison Balsom becomes the first artist to bring her lung power to both Norma’s “Casta Diva” and Die Zauberflöte’s “Der hölle rache” in the same recital? »

09 May 2007

Porgy and Bess at Los Angeles Opera

Premiered at Washington National Opera, director Francesca Zambello’s Porgy and Bess arrived in Los Angeles May 4th, for a run of 12 performances in just 17 days. »

09 May 2007

On The Town – English National Opera

In a season that will conclude with a new production of Kismet, ENO has once again come under criticism for the number of non-operatic works on the bill. »

03 May 2007

Franco Corelli: His Early Cetra Records

I often wonder who decides what records will be used to produce historical vocal issues. »