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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.  »

Recently in Reviews

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29 Dec 2006


A luminous blue backdrop, sliding columns, a solitary iconic prop (an over-sized falcon head in the opening scene, for example), singers frozen in stiff, awkward poses — yes, it's a Robert Wilson spectacular! »

28 Dec 2006

MOZART: The Glyndebourne Collection

What kind of opera lovers will appreciate this big DVD box the most? »

28 Dec 2006

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov

One of the best opera DVDs released in 2006 was the Salzburg La Traviata, with Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko able to make full use of their vocal charisma and acting skills in Willy Decker's sharp, sexy production. »

28 Dec 2006

BARBATO: O Cientista (The Scientist)

Rio de Janeiro, as the capital of the Empire and later the Republic of Brazil, had an extensive history of opera during the 19th century, well-documented by newspapers and magazines of the day, which included the conducting debut of Arturo Toscanini in a local performance of Aida in 1888, described in the memoirs of Brazilian composer and entrepreneur Artur Napoleão. »

23 Dec 2006

ROSSINI: Il barbeire di Siviglia

Rossini’s comic masterpiece premiered in 1816, which means a big anniversary lies just a few years ahead. »

22 Dec 2006

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus, RV 807
GALUPPI: Laetatus Sum; Nisi Domine; Lauda Jerusalem

This disc presents the first recording of a work newly ascribed to the Red Priest (by musicologist Janice Stockigt), the Dixit Dominus held at the State Library of Saxony in Dresden, where it was ascribed to Vivaldi’s younger Venetian colleague, Baldassare Galuppi (who is experiencing a renaissance of late, with various new discs of operas and sacred works). »

21 Dec 2006


The collection of sacred compositions published by Claudio Monteverdi in Venice in 1610 with a Latin title of jaw-breaking length (in which vesperae is only the tenth word) has attained the sort of elevated status granted to but a few works, which stand so high that the rest of the landscape is almost invisible from their peaks, or to put it in plainer language, a music-lover may have heard or heard of the Vespers without knowing any of the composer’s other works, nor those of his contemporaries (rather like the Four Seasons, or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). There are over two dozen recordings of the work on the market at this writing. »

16 Dec 2006

HANDEL: Messiah

Undoubtedly the appearance of Handel’s Messiah in late December means different things to different people. »

13 Dec 2006

George London: Spirituals

Previously unreleased, this collection of Spirituals never received the approval of the Canadian-born bass-baritone George London (1920-85) for release when it was prepared in 1963. »

13 Dec 2006

LOEWE: Lieder and Balladen

Of the nineteenth-century composers of music for solo voice, Carl Loewe (1796-1869) is one of the most voluminous, with his songs, with his works in this genre filling seventeen volumes in the uniform edition. »

08 Dec 2006

The Deepest Desire

“In choosing the program for a debut recital disc, perhaps an artist should be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task: how in the world do I begin to sort through the wealth of masterpieces at my fingertips, daring to stamp a select few with my voice?” »

06 Dec 2006


Who is the most annoying character in opera? Preziosilla from Verdi’s Forza del Destino drives some to distraction, while others wish the conspirators in Ballo would assassinate Oscar in act one. »

06 Dec 2006

ENNA: Lille pige med svovlstikkerne
ZEMLINSKY: Die Seejungfrau

Walt Disney has colored our perception of fairy tales, turning them, whatever their source, into egalitarian morality plays: »

06 Dec 2006

Frederica von Stade sings Mozart and Rossini arias

Frederica von Stade was just about 30 years old in 1975, when she recorded these Mozart and Rossini arias with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Edo de Waart. »

06 Dec 2006

“Poppea” - Heartless in L.A.

After the successful première of Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” (Saturday, November 25th) at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, General Director Placido Domingo spoke warmly and cogently about this early Italian masterpiece, about its free-flowing music and the perfect relevance of the text to today’s world with all its greed, ambition and self-seeking. »

05 Dec 2006

Houston “rescues” Hansel and Gretel

HOUSTON — “Hansel and Gretel” has taken a beating in recent seasons, as over-zealous directors — aping the excesses of Eurotrash Regieoper — have made Humperdink’s largely innocent retelling of the Grimms’ tale the victim of hyper-active imaginations. »

01 Dec 2006

Sweet was the Song

I doubt that this recital disc, recorded in 2004, could have been intended as a memorial to Arne Dorumsgaard, who died in March of 2006, but the composer’s centrality to the program, and the poetic themes of death, sleep, and mortality that recur in the Elizabethan texts, enable such an interpretation. »

29 Nov 2006

CHARPENTIER: Le Malade Imaginaire

On the 10th February 1673, only a few months after their first collaboration, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière (1622-1673), and Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) presented at the Palais Royal’s theater Le Malade Imaginaire, a comédie ballet (a comedy with incidental music in the form of interludes built around a secondary plot). »

29 Nov 2006

All the Ends of the Earth: Contemporary & Medieval Vocal Music

There is an often compelling relationship between early and contemporary music. The relationship grows out of many different things. »

29 Nov 2006

CHARPENTIER: Andromède; Ballet de Polyeucte

Conceived by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) to serve as musical interludes for a revival at the Jesuit college of Harcourt in 1680 of Pierre Corneille’s play, Polyeucte Martyr (originally written in 1642), the ballet Le combat de l'amour divin was composed for string orchestra with trumpets, kettledrums and continuo. »

20 Nov 2006

Songs of Amy Beach

I can remember a time when Amy Beach was primarily known as a favorite among performers (largely female) whose mission was to present the work of neglected women composers. »

20 Nov 2006

LASSUS: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ; Requiem

Lassus’s long tenure in Munich in the employ of Duke Albrecht V resulted in an unusually prolific and diverse output. »

20 Nov 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 3

Originally recorded in Carnegie Hall on 15 April 1956, Dimitri Mitropoulos’s performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony dates from a time when this particular score was rarely heard in concert. »

19 Nov 2006


While undated, this performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio is a solid performance of the opera that has all the earmarks of a radio broadcast. »

16 Nov 2006

MOZART: Idomeneo

After an apparently successful premiere in 1781, Mozart’s Idomeneo fell out of favor, not being revived in the composer’s lifetime and staying dormant in the 19th century and first half of the 20th. »

15 Nov 2006

The Grove Book of Operas (2nd ed.)

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (the “New Grove”) stands as the definitive encyclopedia on music in the English language.1 »

15 Nov 2006

GIORDANO: Andrea Chénier

A socially conscious artist, caught in the violent gyrations of a country in revolution and war, awaits execution. »

15 Nov 2006

Handel Unwrapped by Scottish Opera: “Tamerlano” at tea-time

On a cold, wet and dark Glasgow evening in November, some 500 brave souls received what was possibly their first taste of baroque opera. »

14 Nov 2006

BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi

It only takes a few moments for the overture to Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi to establish that this opera takes a very different approach to the classic story than does Shakespeare's play. »

12 Nov 2006

PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

This beautiful production premièred in 1980 and was the first live-telecast from the Met internationally relayed. »

12 Nov 2006

MERCURIO: Many Voices

Conductor Steven Mercurio appears to have made a highly favorable impression on singers in his career so far (some of the following info comes from his website, »

12 Nov 2006


I’m surprised that such an eminent musicologist as Julian Budden, in his interesting essay accompanying the recording, still lays the blame for the relative failure of Edgar at the librettist’s feet. »

12 Nov 2006

ROSSINI: La Cenerentola

Putting the “grim” into a classic fairy tale (whether the Brothers Grimm's or not), this Glyndebourne La Cenerentola from the 2005 festival season establishes a drab, dark mood in its first scenes. »

11 Nov 2006

Triumph over Adversity

LONDON – the fledgling Independent Opera Company takes on Orlando. »

10 Nov 2006

VIVALDI: Sacred Music 2

A recording of the complete sacred music of Antonio Vivaldi is a welcome prospect, not least because it offers an opportunity to go beyond the fame and familiarity of Vivaldi’s concertos and the ubiquitous “Gloria.” »

09 Nov 2006

Franco Corelli: The 1971 Tokyo Concert

A friend who bought this issue grumbled that Dynamic had swindled him out off his money as the whitewashed, less than sharp picture quality is not much better than the pirate issue he once received from a correspondent. »

09 Nov 2006

MOZART: Die Zauberflöte

The back of this DG set relates that the company made the recording "in Modena in conjunction with a series of performances in Italy and Germany." »

29 Oct 2006

Placido Domingo — Be My Love

Decca/London was somewhat earlier with their series ‘Classic Recitals’ and now Deutsche Gramophon is following without that title. »

29 Oct 2006

SPONTINI: La Vestale

Though this La Vestale is sung in its original French, it strikes me as rather odd that the contents in the sleeve notes nevertheless still employs the Italian names Licinio and Giulia. »

29 Oct 2006


As rare as it may be to hear Gounod’s Faust in Bulgarian, the language differences soon pass in a good performance, especially one that includes a live performance of the bass Nicolai Ghiaurov from the prime of his performing career. »

28 Oct 2006


My father was a small bit player in an amateur operetta company from 1947 till 1963 when the company folded. »

28 Oct 2006

Brewer makes Isolde hers in stage debut

SAN FRANCISCO — Christine Brewer took her time mastering Isolde before making her stage debut in the role with the San Francisco Opera in October. »

26 Oct 2006

Opera Arias - Wojciech Drabowicz

Those familiar with Antoni Wit’s fine recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony will have encountered some Polish singers in the solo parts, and among them is the baritone Wojtek Drabowicz. »

26 Oct 2006

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert

Two of the most famous Wagner interpreters of the twentieth century, Hans Hotter and Birgit Nilsson, are always worth hearing in their studio recordings, and the live recordings capture the spontaneity of an actual performance with such accomplished singers. »

26 Oct 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz; Oberon

The demise of Tower Records adds another hurdle to the collector's challenge in acquiring rare performances on obscure labels. »

22 Oct 2006

HANDEL: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

“Cecilia, cast a glance upon the land of Britain, and you will see that in sonorous strains it renews on this day the pleasing memory of your name so dear. . . .” »

21 Oct 2006

Salvatore Licitra — Forbidden Love

As the careers of the “three tenors” drew to a close, it became more and more obvious that replacements would have to be found, if not for all of them, then certainly for one or two. »

19 Oct 2006

DONIZETTI: Alahor in Granata

A yellow banner in the lower right hand corner of the slip case cover (identical to that of the jewel box and booklet) proclaims this CD as the "first world recording" of Gaetano Donizetti's Alahor in Granata. »