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Elsewhere

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.


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Reviews

Classical Opera Company: MOZART 250
18 Jan 2017

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’. »

Recently in Reviews

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17 Feb 2008

Tannhäuser at San Diego Opera

To open its 2008 season, San Diego Opera restored the production of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser that Günther Schneider-Siemsson created for the Metropolitan Opera three decades ago. »

10 Feb 2008

Madam Butterfly at ENO

Anthony Minghella's visually-arresting staging, a co-production with New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Lithuanian National Opera, returned this month to its original home at the London Coliseum after a gap of two years. »

10 Feb 2008

Italian Opera at the Liceu

The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, after suffering a calamitous fire in the early 1990s, reopened in 1999, lovingly restored. TDK has released a series of DVDs from the Liceu since that date, providing ample evidence of the world... »

06 Feb 2008

MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde

Premiered posthumously, the symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) remains one of his defining works because of its synthesis of song and symphony, two genres he pursued throughout his career. »

04 Feb 2008

Awesome Angelika Again

While I eagerly seized upon an opportunity to hear Angelika Kirschlager live for the first time, having written in very recent weeks about not one but two of the star mezzo’s current CD releases, I ventured to Frankfurt’s Alte Oper feeling a little bit like her stalker. »

03 Feb 2008

Karita Mattila Performs Manon Lescaut

When I worked in the Archives of the Met, I was custodian of several hundred costumes, many from the days when divas traveled with steamer trunks full of things run up just for them, by the finest designers, with the most glamorous materials, in the colors and styles that suited the ladies themselves. »

03 Feb 2008

J. S. Bach, arr. Robert Schumann. Johannes Passion.

In 1851 during his first season as music director in Düsseldorf, Robert Schumann presented a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, and unsurprisingly adapted the score both to nineteenth-century taste and nineteenth-century practicalities. »

03 Feb 2008

DE LALANDE: Les Folies de Cardenio.

The centrality of dance at the French court helped bring grace, order, and political allegory into the characteristic prominence they enjoyed during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV; theatre presentations of all stripes were infused with choreographic diversions. »

03 Feb 2008

SIBELIUS: Symphonies 1-7

In tandem with the recently released set of Sir Simon Rattle’s recordings of Mahler’s symphonies on EMI Classics, the set of the complete symphonies by Jean Sibelius merits attention. »

03 Feb 2008

Verdi's Falstaff at Chicago

There is nothing redeeming about Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most lively comic characters and the subject of Verdi’s final opera, and yet, inexplicably, we love him. »

28 Jan 2008

Two Queens in Full Cry

What constitutes an “international opera star” these days, anyway? »

24 Jan 2008

Wagner: Orchestral Hightlights from the Operas

As much as Richard Wagner espoused opera reform in his theoretical writings by bringing to his works for the stage a closer unity between music and text, his actual means of doing so at times involved the use of orchestral forces that sometimes overwhelmed the sung word. »

24 Jan 2008

Italian opera on Gala

The budget label Gala purveys live performances both historic and relatively recent; of the three discussed here, the La Scala Fedora dates back to 1931, while the Attila comes from a 1987 La Fenice performance. »

22 Jan 2008

Echo de Paris: Parisian Love Songs 1610-1660

National styles of music in the seventeenth century were often distinctive, and in the case of French and Italian music, famously so. »

21 Jan 2008

MAHLER: Symphonies 1-10

With its recent release of Mahler’s symphonies conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, EMI Classics makes available in a single place an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography. »

21 Jan 2008

WAGNER: Parsifal

This DVD records and commemorates a 1981 production of Parsifal in its Bayreuth lair, and the singers of 1981 are as fine as recollection might paint them. »

20 Jan 2008

Historic opera performances in Russian on Gala

Once the custom of the world's opera houses was to translate great operas into the language of each respective country. »

20 Jan 2008

Deutsche Grammophon budget opera sets

Repackaging older recordings having become the primary focus of a classical recording company's business, Deutsche Grammophon budgeted some funds for art direction for its budget series called "Opera House" (although that appellation only appears in a link found on the back inside cover of the sets' booklets). »

20 Jan 2008

STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier

Of Rosenkavaliers on DVD, the classics tend to be lovingly detailed productions, going back to the film of Herbert von Karajan leading an exemplary cast, with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's iconic Marschallin. »

20 Jan 2008

Die Walküre at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera audience loves its Wagner, and the management for the last several decades has, alas, made sure we aren’t spoiled: it’s a rare season that gets more than two production revivals of Wagner, and some years there have been none. »

20 Jan 2008

Lamentazioni per la Settimana Santa

Despite an unsurprising degree of conservatism in liturgical music, devotional life in Rome often found ways of taking advantage of modern musical style. »

20 Jan 2008

Deborah Voigt in Concert with the San Francisco Symphony

With her performance of the “Four Last Songs,” ably partnered by Michael Tilson Thomas and his San Francisco Symphony, Deborah Voigt emphatically confirmed her place as one of the glories of the current roster of Strauss interpreters. »

20 Jan 2008

John Adams' Doctor Atomic in Chicago

John Adams, whose opera Nixon in China set the bar for post-minimalism in the lyric theatre, has once again scored a success with his latest work. »

16 Jan 2008

Castradiva

“Her fioritura is priceless, breathtaking, and effortless.” »

16 Jan 2008

A New Hansel und Gretel at the Met

Wagner’s all-conquering chic made apocalyptic music-dramas drawn from folklore the ideal of the nationalistic era; every serious opera composer of the time felt obliged to attempt something in that line. »

13 Jan 2008

“One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand”: Choral Music by Nicholas Maw.

The English composer Nicholas Maw has been a major voice since the 1960's, with a wide range of works that include the 2002 opera, "Sophie’s Choice," a violin concerto for Joshua Bell (1993), and the monumentally-scaled orchestral work, "Odyssey" (1972-87). »

13 Jan 2008

MOZART: Requiem (Neukomm ed.)

As is often the case, last works that remain incomplete at the time of a composer’s death, are quick to invoke controversy and conspiracy theories. »

07 Jan 2008

ROUSSEAU: Le Devin du Village

This is a valuable new recording of a work that is only rarely heard, but was widely influential and wildly popular during the eighteenth century. Philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote both the libretto and the music, with mixed success. »

07 Jan 2008

Les Élémens

This disc is well worth the price for the first track alone: the opening measures of Jean-Féry Rebel’s “Cahos,” (Chaos), written in 1737 or 1738, may cause you to wonder if you accidentally left a Stockhausen or Ligeti disc in the changer. »

03 Jan 2008

Oppenheimer opera charts new course in music

In this country art and politics are rarely bedfellows — strange or otherwise; indeed, it’s seldom that the two meet under the same roof. »

30 Dec 2007

Iphigénie en Tauride at the Met

Regarded, until the modern vogue for earlier masters, as the senior surviving grand master of opera, Gluck never quite becomes fashionable and never quite vanishes. »

30 Dec 2007

Prokofiev's War and Peace at the Met

There is no middle ground in War and Peace — or, rather, it’s all middle ground, like a battlefield, and you may feel as if every soldier in Russia (and in France) has marched over you. »

30 Dec 2007

Cinderella and her Cinderfella

Once upon a time, we used to only dream about a stellar pairing like Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu has fielded for their current offering on display: “La Cenerentola.” »

30 Dec 2007

¡Viva Valencia!

Enough ink was spilled last year gushing over Valencia’s new Calatrava-designed opera house and Arts and Science park that I had been chomping at the bit for the opportunity to take in a performance there as soon as my availability and, more important, the availability of a still-very-hard-to-find ticket coincided. »

30 Dec 2007

Chicago stages fantastic “Frau” --- Another View

Do we too easily take Richard Strauss for granted? The question is prompted by the superlative production of “Frau ohne Schatten” that was the highlight of the fall season at the Chicago Lyric Opera. »

30 Dec 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals: December 2007

This recording made half a century ago will not be anyone’s first choice unless one is a die-hard fan of one of the principal singers; neither of them belonging to the absolute top in their profession. »

27 Dec 2007

MOZART: Don Giovanni

The glorious universe of the Baroque has been receiving tribute from the wonderful talent of countertenor and early music guru René Jacobs for more than thirty years now. »

27 Dec 2007

RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé

Although considered among Ravel’s finest works, Daphnis et Chloé may be known best through excerpts, particularly the second suite that the composer derived from his score. »

27 Dec 2007

Houston puts final touches on new Heggie opera

There’s still a hint of jest in the comparison, but it’s not without reason that Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally are mentioned now and then in opera circles as “the Strauss and Hofmannsthal of the 21st century.” »

27 Dec 2007

“Your Queen is trumped”: Queen of Spades by the Kirov

Watching The Queen of Spades staged by a Russian company is often an unforgettable experience. »

26 Dec 2007

SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder

A 1979 recording originally released on LP in 1985, the CD reissue of this classic performance of Schoenberg’s 1913 cantata Gurrelieder as part of its series entitled Originals makes this fine account of this magnificent work available to another generation of listeners. »

18 Dec 2007

Belfast welcomes a first-rate Messiah

If Belfast in Northern Ireland isn’t a city that immediately springs to mind as a centre of musical excellence then it’s not for want of talent, initiative and professionalism within its cultural community. »

16 Dec 2007

OONY Performs Verdi's I Due Foscari

After the triumph of his fifth opera, Ernani, Verdi could have gone on writing howling melodramas and made a mint. »

14 Dec 2007

WAGNER: Götterdämmerung

You will wonder what designer Rosalie could have been thinking when she put Brunnhilde in trousers twice as wide at the waist as the soprano wearing them, with a nippled plastic bustier above. »

11 Dec 2007

The Turn of the Screw at ENO

Not long ago, English National Opera declared an intention to capitalise on its name and history by placing greater emphasis on English works. »

11 Dec 2007

Otello — Kirov Opera

Despite 19th-century Russia’s reputation as an Italian opera haven, Verdi’s late masterpiece Otello found acceptance there only with great difficulty, even though in its 1889 premiere the title role acquired a great local interpreter in the Mariinsky Theater primo uomo, Nikolai Figner. »

04 Dec 2007

Beyond The Media Avatar

Imagine a mild December night, with some three hundred people queueing for a concert ticket on Siena’s horseshoe-shaped Piazza del Campo. »

04 Dec 2007

KINKEL: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs

Johanna Kinkel (1810-1858) was a talented contemporary of Fanny Hensel, and other fine musicians of the first half of the nineteenth century. Her legacy includes some fine Lieder, which are collected as An Imaginary Voyage through Europe in an arrangement that represents the various themes she explored in her music. »