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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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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


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


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. »

03 May 2007

Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo

For those who didn’t long ago purchased or exchanged this Salzburg recital via the pirate connections, this is a fine opportunity to get maybe the best testimonial of this artist. »

03 May 2007

American Choral Music

The commitment of Naxos to American music is substantial and admirable. »

02 May 2007

OFFENBACH: Orpheus in der Unterwelt (Orphée aux enfers)

Filmed for television in 1971, this performance of the German translation of Orphée aux enfers (1858) as Orpheus in der Unterwelt breaks the conventional wisdom that some espouse about the weaknesses of opera or opera when conceived for the small screen. »

02 May 2007

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 26 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday)

Among the virtues of hearing Bach cantatas performed in liturgical order—one of the hallmarks of John Eliot Gardiner’s stunning Cantata Pilgrimage of 2000—is the chance to savor Bach’s range of approach to unified text themes. »

02 May 2007

Delightful Organ at St Margaret’s Palm Desert

Who says an organ recital cannot be jolly good fun? »

01 May 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

Dynamic brought its cameras to the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, in August 2005 to record Bianca e Falliero, one of Rossini's so-called “serious” operas, and one that had only been rescued from many decades of neglect by the festival itself, in 1986. »

01 May 2007

Miami “Karenina” a dream come true

Colin Graham’s dream of an opera based on Tolstoi’s “Anna Karenina” extends far into the past. »

01 May 2007

In Barcelona, a Wagner debut without scandals for Àlex Rigola, the rising star in the Catalan school of direction

At Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, a sold-out house marked, for two nights in a row, the weekend introducing la diada de Sant Jordi, the big fiesta celebrated on April 23 in honor of the city’s patron St George. »

01 May 2007

Tristan und Isolde: Total Immersion

The Los Angeles Philharmonic in April and May brought back its Tristan Project for the benefit of audiences in California and New York City. »

25 Apr 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Over a century after its premiere, Mahler's Second Symphony continues to be a compelling work and is as relevant now as it was when the work was conceived. »

25 Apr 2007

Beverly Sills & Placido Domingo

More than ever, compilations of previously released material fill the shelves of those stores still selling classical music. »

25 Apr 2007

Handel Singing Competition Final – London April 23rd

Once again, George Frederick Handel’s old stamping ground of St. George’s Hanover Square, London, resounded last night to the sound of his music as aspiring young singers from all over the world fought out the Final of the London Handel Singing Competition. »

23 Apr 2007

Wozzeck at San Diego Opera

“What drives a man to insanity and murder?” asks the poster for San Diego Opera’s new production of Wozzeck, which closed this Sunday after a run of four performances. »

22 Apr 2007

Satyagraha at ENO

Philip Glass’s 1980 work, new to the London stage, gives an illustrated account of Mahatma Gandhi’s early years in South Africa, viewed through the eyes of his satyagraha philosophy of peaceful resistance. »

19 Apr 2007

PENDERECKI: Symphony no. 7

Krzyzstof Penderecki (b. 1933) has contributed a body of works to the modern repertoire, and his Symphony no. 7, which he composed 1996 (premiere 1997 in Jerusalem), is an impressive composition. »

16 Apr 2007

MAHLER: Des Knaben Wunderhorn

The orchestral songs of Gustav Mahler remain an important contribution to the genre, and stand well alongside similar works by Berlioz, Wolf, and Strauss. »

16 Apr 2007

City Opera Presents La Donna del Lago

The New York City Opera continued its tradition of championing works that are less frequently performed with this season’s production of La Donna del Lago. »

15 Apr 2007


This sumptuous 2006 release was recorded live in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in late 1993 for European TV broadcast the following year. »

15 Apr 2007

Handel's Flavio at NYCO

Incongruity was the rule of the day in the New York City Opera’s production of Handel’s Flavio, which opened on Wednesday, April 4. »

12 Apr 2007

Passion, pain paired in Berlin

It was, of course, a coincidence; on the other hand, on Berlin’s vital, vibrant and all-encompassing arts scene one is continually overwhelmed by new perspectives on the creative process and its product. »

11 Apr 2007

L’invitation au voyage: Mélodies from La belle époque

“Linvitation au voyage” is an appropriate title for this collection of French song, which makes available a number of fine performances of both familiar and rare works. »

11 Apr 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

With a label such as Gala, a purveyor of live recordings of various provenance, some adjustment to compromised sound quality can be expected. »

07 Apr 2007

A bride for sale at the Baltimore Lyric

The latest offering from the Baltimore Lyric Opera was Bedrich Smetana’s sparkling comedy Prodana Nevesta (“Bartered Bride”), a little gem of Czech Romantic nationalism that one does not see live very often these days. »

07 Apr 2007

BERNSTEIN: Fancy Free; Dybbuk

This excellent disc brings together two ballet scores from the far ends of Leonard Bernstein’s compositional career. »

06 Apr 2007

Kurt Weill on Broadway: Songs and Orchestrations by Kurt Weill

Kurt Weill’s perennial appeal can be attributed to various factors, not the least of which is the genuine craft of his stage works. »

06 Apr 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Film music has become a sort of refuge for some music lovers turned off by the work of those serious music composers who have turned increasingly away from attempting an encounter with a broader public, retreating into an insular word of academic composition. »

04 Apr 2007

The Metropolitan Opera on DVD: Elektra, Luisa Miller and Tosca

With some deliberation the Metropolitan Opera releases DVD versions of live television broadcasts from its heyday as a PBS mainstay. »

02 Apr 2007

San Diego Opera — Il Trovatore

Verdi's magnificent melodrama Il Trovatore may be the most masculine of his creations, but the production that San Diego Opera presented as the third opera of its 2007 season was a triumph for the ladies. »

30 Mar 2007

José Carreras Collection

A classic Seinfeld episode revolved around a brush with the “third” of the Three Tenors - the one whom no one could quite put a name to. »

30 Mar 2007

HANDEL: Poro, Re dell’Indie

Let’s face it, Handel’s “Poro, Re dell’Indie” (in English “Porus, King of India”) isn’t exactly a household name in any but the most dedicated baroque opera circles. »

28 Mar 2007

Camacho’s Wedding (Die Hochzeit des Camacho)

UC Opera now have a half-century’s reputation to live up to; they were responsible for the UK premieres of such works as Das Liebesverbot, The Maid of Orleans, Alzira, Oberto and the 1847 version of Macbeth. »