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Elsewhere

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.


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Reviews

19 Dec 2014

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.  »

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26 Jan 2006

PADEREWSKI: Manru

Known for his virtuosity as a pianist, Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) is also known as a composer. While most of his works involve piano, he left a single opera, Manru, a three-act work that he composed between 1892 and 1901. »

26 Jan 2006

SALLINEN: Barabbas Dialogues

Two of Finland’s greatest artistic luminaries—composer Aulis Sallinen (b. 1935) and poet Lassi Nummi (b. 1928)—came together to produce a fine new work, The Barabbas Dialogues (2004), which has been recently recorded and released on CD on the CPO label. »

25 Jan 2006

BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings etc.

In an era where new studio recordings by major orchestras have dwindled to a pathetic dribble, leaving many fine institutions to start their own in-house labels, the Berlin Philharmonic still has an active contract with a major company (its conductor’s label of many years, EMI) and releases come on a regular basis. A recent one features some of Benjamin Britten’s great work for instruments and tenor. »

25 Jan 2006

Norma in Munich — Two Reviews

Bellini's Norma is the story of a love triangle involving Norma, the Druid high priestess, Pollione, the Roman proconsul and father of Norma's two children, and Adalgisa, a Druid acolyte and Pollione's new conquest whom he intends to take to Rome. The role of Norma is generally considered one of the most difficult in opera literature. Few have succeeded in mastering it. Now Edita Gruberova, has taken on the role at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Here are two reviews. »

25 Jan 2006

Mozart at Lincoln Center — Three Reviews

Earlier this week, Sir John Eliot Gardiner led the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir in two immortal Mozart works: the C-minor Mass and the Requiem, followed by an evening of Mozart's orchestral works. Here are three reviews. »

24 Jan 2006

Violeta Urmana — Lieder

“Carmen, un bon conseil” warns Frasquita in the last act of the opera. So friends, heed my advice and don’t play this CD in your car when you are accompanied by someone who likes opera but is not crazy on lieder. »

24 Jan 2006

MERCADANTE: La vestale

It is now slightly over 40 years since the first recording of a complete opera by Saverio Mercadante (an Il Giuramento with Maria Vitale and Amedeo Berdini) was released on LP. I quickly fell in love with his music, and realized that, while not necessarily on the same level as Bellini and Donizetti, he was not far behind, and that more of his works would be extremely welcome. »

23 Jan 2006

KINDERMAN & SYER: A Companion to Wagner's Parsifal

Some twenty years ago, a leading German musicologist remarked that the music of Parsifal »

22 Jan 2006

BIZET: Carmen

On June 3, 1875, thirty-six year old Bizet died after having one, some say two, heart attacks preceded by other complications. Legend has it that the composer's death was hastened by the failure of his latest work, Carmen. »

19 Jan 2006

The Diva Live — Wilhelmenia Fernandez & Bruno Fontaine

In 1981 Wilhelminia Fernandez became somewhat of a cult figure when the French thriller “Diva” appeared on the screens. For a time her “Ebben, ne andro lontano” from La Wally almost became a hit and several commercials used a small part of the aria. »

19 Jan 2006

La Traviata, Royal Opera House, London — Three Reviews

This season the Royal Opera House has recreated "Richard Eyre's popular production of Verdi's La Traviata, which draws on striking period designs by Bob Crowley to amplify the tensions and confrontations that make Violetta's predicament so tragic and her portrayal so real." Here are three reviews: »

18 Jan 2006

GERSHWIN: Porgy and Bess

So EMI has declared this 1988 Porgy and Bess to be one of the “Great Recordings of the Century.” That may settle the issue for many – but not all. »

18 Jan 2006

A NICE COUP: VILLAZÓN in his first “WERTHER”

The French city of Nice has this past week been enjoying some wonderful weather and the aptly-named Cote d’Azur has truly lived up to its name. »

17 Jan 2006

IT MUST NOT HAVE BEEN EASY BEING MOZART

It must not have been an easy life, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Perhaps even more so after the fact when scholars began to do their research and “wanna bes” began their intimations and psychoanalyzing. In the more seventy-five years of Mozart scholarship and its coming of age, one must ask: How much more is there to learn, to research? »

16 Jan 2006

STRAUSS: Capriccio

It is not uncommon for opera on DVD to have credits for two directors. In the case of this Paris Capriccio, a new production from June 2004, the credits list Robert Carsen as the stage director and Francois Roussillon as directing for TV and video. »

16 Jan 2006

Trinity Sunday at Westminster Abbey

Under the direction of James O’Donnell since January 2000, the Choir of Westminster Abbey has cultivated a robust singing style that well serves the music of this new recording and continues the Abbey’s position as one of the obvious standard bearers of the English cathedral tradition. »

14 Jan 2006

Berlin Opera Night

At 73 minutes, this DVD of the typical gala affair – various soloists trot on, sing an aria, then trot off – can’t be called generous, but it does have variety. »

14 Jan 2006

MASSENET: Werther

When you and I were young Maggie, there was only the fine Werther with Thill and Vallin and the Cetra recording with Tagliavini and his first wife, Pia Tassinari. »

14 Jan 2006

SCHEIDT: Ludi musici I, II, III & IV

I suspect that when we survey the musical landscape of the early seventeenth century, it is opera, monody, and madrigal that come most quickly and lastingly into view, and given the contemporaneous attention given to the relationship between music and word, it is unsurprising that this would be the case. »

14 Jan 2006

CACCINI: Nuove musiche

When Giulio Caccini entitled his landmark 1601/02 publication Le nuove musiche, he confidently laid claim both to the novelty of the emerging baroque style and his formidable role in bringing it to blossom. »

14 Jan 2006

GASPAROV: Five Operas and a Symphony

This new volume from Yale University Press is one of those rare and treasured phenomena in Russian music scholarship that illuminate their subject from a new angle — that of cultural history. Indeed, Boris Gasparov's expressed goal in Five Operas and a Symphony is nothing less than turning the table on poetry, philosophy, and literary criticism that have for so long ruled the field of Slavic research, and elucidating them from a musical point of view. »

11 Jan 2006

VERDI: Macbeth

This Macbeth, originally conceived by Phyllida Lloyd for a co-production of the Paris Opéra and Covent Garden, is an excellent example of what nowadays is to be seen on most opera stages in Europe (and probably the States as well). »

11 Jan 2006

BELLINI: I Puritani

Through Rossini's influence Bellini and his rival Donizetti were each invited to compose an opera for the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris. Bellini who, paranoid and delusional, thought he was the object of a sinister plan headed by Rossini to benefit Donizetti, went out of his way to ingratiate himself with the "Great Master" long before Donizetti's arrival in the French capital. After a year of idle life in Paris, where he survived off the kindness of his hosts and friends, the Sicilian composer set to work on what would regretfully become his last opera: I Puritani di Scozia. »

09 Jan 2006

Renée Fleming and the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall — Two Reviews

On 8 January 2006, the Met Orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall with James Levine, Renée Fleming and Julien Robbins. »

08 Jan 2006

CILEA: L’Arlesiana

For a work that is known as a one-aria-opera, four official (this one included) recordings is not a bad record. And of course most opera-lovers have not only “E la solita storia” in their many tenor recitals but know the baritone aria “Come due tizzi” and the mezzo’s “Esser madre è un inferno” as well. »

08 Jan 2006

Operatunity Winners — Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist

When asked if I had any interest in reviewing the discs of “the Operatunity finalists,” I admit I was so ignorant of what Operatunity was that I had to make a quick web search to find out. »

06 Jan 2006

Dvořák und seine Zeit

Dvořák und seine Zeit – Dvořák and his Time – immediately conveys a singular perspective on some of the vocal music of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) in the context of his generation. Recorded on 17 August 2004, the music on this two-CD set is from the second of two programs that were given at the 2004 Salzburg Festspiel under the rubric of “Dvořák und seine Zeit.” »

06 Jan 2006

Natalie Dessay: Mozart Concert Arias

I wonder how Natalie Dessay would comment on this CD made more than 10 years ago when she was barely thirty? The lady is a dream for every interviewer. »

06 Jan 2006

BELLINI: La Sonnambula

What to do, what to do, with Bellini and Romani’s bel canto masterpiece, La Sonnambula? The exquisite music demands to be performed, so the opera continues to have an existence on the fringes of the standard repertory. »

06 Jan 2006

Ablaberdyeva/Korobeinikov at Wigmore Hall, London — Four Reviews

On 28 December 2005, soprano Alla Ablaberdyeva and pianist Andrei Korobeinikov presented a program of songs by Rachmaninov, Britten and Shostakovich. Here are four reviews. »

04 Jan 2006

Régine Crespin: Wagner and Berlioz Opera Arias

For those who want to possess every single TV appearance of Régine Crespin, this issue will not suffice. Only four items of the EMI DVD devoted to the soprano are to be found on the short DVD that is included with this CD. »

04 Jan 2006

CATALANI: La Falce

Although nothing is mentioned on the cover of the CD, I think this is the first official recording of the opera even if there are some pirates doing the rounds of the collectors (my copy is a Buenos Aires pirate). So this is not an unimportant issue of Catalani’s first opera. »

04 Jan 2006

L'Elisir d'Amore at the Met — Three Reviews

The Metropolitan Opera presented Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love), which "tells of the peasant Nemorino who decides to take some magic elixir sold to him by a quack doctor, so that he can win the heart of a wealthy land-owner, who (to spite Nemorino) has announced her marriage to a sergeant." Here are three reviews: »

03 Jan 2006

Jonathan Lemalu: Love Blows as the Wind Blows

If one should believe British critics, especially English ones, Jonathan Lemalu is a major new bass; one of the greatest talents around whose qualities are widely proven by the fact this is already his third solo CD in a short time. »

02 Jan 2006

BRUCH: Das Lied von der Glocke

A century or so past, those simpler times without the internet, Desperate Housewives, and back-to-back sports and other activities that desperate parents feel they have to chauffeur their children to so they’ll be able to get into the higher levels of student loan debt, Americans joined choral societies and regularly presented well-known oratorios and cantatas: Elijah, The Seasons, maybe Christ on the Mount of Olives if they were really adventurous. »

02 Jan 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz

This 1959 recording is one where the whole is bigger and better than the separate parts. It is the German equivalent to the Cetra recordings of the fifties. Those were maybe not the greatest recording of an opera but one felt that everybody was steeped in the Italian tradition. The same is happening here. »