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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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17 May 2005

Verdi's I Masnadieri in Lüttich/Liège

Für Jean-Pierre Haeck war es eine gelungene Premiere. Für das Publikum war der Abend die Begegnung mit einem Höhepunkt des verdischen Belcanto, einer Oper, die zu unrecht ein wenig in Vergessenheit geraten ist. »

17 May 2005

Jenufa at El Liceu

El Liceu estrena esta noche Jenufa, una gran ópera del compositor checo Leos Janacek, con libreto de Gabriella Preissova, en una producción de la ópera de Hamburgo que se ha visto en el Covent Garden y el Metropolitan. »

17 May 2005

Cyrano at the Met

NEW YORK—There’s a line in Act 2 of Franco Alfano’s rarely heard opera “Cyrano de Bergerac” that marks a critical turning point in the sad story of a poet’s unrequited love: “The Tiger’s awakening.” It’s said to Cyrano, the artist with a short temper, a fast sword and an excruciatingly big nose. But it might well stand for the effect tenor Placido Domingo had on audiences Friday night at the Metropolitan Opera when he sang the title role, a new role and the 121st of his exceptionally long and productive career. »

17 May 2005

BROWNE: Music from the Eton Choirbook

For more than a quarter century, Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars have achieved great distinction in the performance of sixteenth-century polyphony, bringing to that repertory interpretations of engaging directness, rhythmic vitality, and fullness of tone. These are qualities that are admirably well suited to the music of the Eton Choirbook and one of its most representative composers, John Browne, the subject of this recent recording. »

16 May 2005

Gheorghiu Sings Puccini at Festival Hall

This strange effort was billed as a Celebratory Gala Concert: Angela Gheorghiu Sings Puccini. Just what we were meant to be celebrating was unclear. But what we got was Gheorghiu singing eight Puccini arias, plus his Salve Regina, together with a couple of encores. »

16 May 2005

Der Rosenkavalier at the Wiener Staatsoper

Philippe Jordan leitete eine musikalische Neueinstudierung des “Rosenkavalier” mit Johan Botha als Überraschungsgast. Ganz auf kammermusikalische Finesse hatte Philippe Jordan diesen Strauss angelegt. Freilich führte er das makellos, mit kostbaren Soli aufspielende Staatsopernorchester meist so straff, dass selbst die Walzerpassagen sich selten zu brillantem Glanz aufschwangen. »

16 May 2005

Jeptha at ENO

Katie Mitchell’s staging of Handel’s last original oratorio was widely admired when presented by Welsh National Opera two years ago. Transported from Cardiff’s New Theatre to the Coliseum for English National Opera’s share of the production, whatever dramatic and musical force it had originally has been dissipated. That may be partly the result of the transfer to a much larger auditorium, but the real problems seem more deeply rooted in the production itself. »

13 May 2005

Premiere of Hildegard

I DON’T say that James Wood’s new opera about everyone’s favourite 12th-century abbess, Hildegard of Bingen, broke the Trade Descriptions Act. But I imagine that many Norfolk and Norwich Festival patrons, lured by the promise of “a spectacle of sound and light”, thought that they were going to get one of those grandiose cathedral son et lumière shows, with the voice of someone like Donald Sinden doing a lugubrious narration while stained-glass windows gently light up. »

13 May 2005

Rigoletto at the Mariinsky

Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” a long-standing audience favorite, received languid treatment from Italian director Walter Le Moli, whose interpretation of the opera premiered at the Mariinsky Theater on May 6 and 7. »

13 May 2005

Prokofiev at the Helikon

For its first new production since May of last year, Helikon Opera chose to honor the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe with the premiere last Saturday of “Fallen from the Sky,” a operatic pastiche based on two war-related works by Sergei Prokofiev. »

12 May 2005

Angela Gheorghiu at Festival Hall

There are sopranos, and there are divas. Angela Gheorghiu is definitely one of the latter. You know straight away from watching her stride on to the stage why this woman wins her battles with directors and conductors. »

11 May 2005

Britten's War Requiem at Royal Festival Hall, London

Flag-waving celebrations may have been the order of the day across the river, but a far more thoughtful marking of the VE Day anniversary was to be found in the London Philharmonic’s tribute, which almost inevitably took the form of Britten’s War Requiem. What wasn’t inevitable was that it should be led by the orchestra’s chief conductor, who spent VE day as a teenage German soldier in an Allied prisoner-of-war camp. However, it seemed right that Kurt Masur was there. »

11 May 2005

Il Corsaro in Genoa

It would be easy to say that the best thing about Il Corsaro is its brevity. There isn’t one item in the young Verdi’s compositional bag of tricks that he didn’t brandish with greater flair elsewhere. Written when the composer was Paris-based and exploring new artistic directions, it suffers from a sense that he was going through the motions. But the Teatro Carlo Felice accords Il Corsaro the respect it would any other Verdi opera, and the rewards are substantial. »

11 May 2005

BØRRESEN: The Royal Guest

When this CD arrived, I had never heard of Danish composer Hakon Børresen (1876–1954). Baker’s gives him only a few lines, and a Google search didn’t turn up much information until I found a Danish site (www.samfundet.dk) with interesting biographical details to supplement the little biography in the CD notes. When I put the CD on and sat back to listen, I suddenly realized I had heard, if not heard of, Børresen before. It’s Richard Strauss! Or maybe Edward Elgar. The composer seems to have remained firmly rooted in the nineteenth century (or maybe Hans Pfitzner) until his death, three years after that of Arnold Schoenberg. That he retained his leadership of the Danish Composers’ Society during the Nazi occupation until he was ousted in 1948 may say something about his conservative nature as well. »

11 May 2005

BRUBECK: Songs

This problematic recording is another in Naxos’s “American Classics” series, an important body of releases that demonstrates the broad reach of American music across two centuries. While some of the recordings are decidedly novelties, they are welcome as such. William Henry Fry’s “Santa Claus” Symphony, for instance, deserves to be heard as well as mentioned in textbooks. The songs of Dave Brubeck, however, are certainly more than novelties, despite their not being as well known or as widely heard as the music of his justly famous quartet. »

10 May 2005

Ernani at Parma

No city is more closely identified with Verdi than Parma – the urban centre closest to the composer’s rural home – and it polishes its image with an annual Verdi festival. As Parma is also home to the National Institute of Verdi Studies, scholarly gatherings play a role, and several visiting orchestras appear. But the festival’s mainstay rests in the Teatro Regio with two new opera productions. »

10 May 2005

Mara Zampieri: A Tribute to Verdi

The recurring practice in classical recording studios is “re-mastering” recordings of a legendary artist, sometimes focusing on those artists well known but not frequently recorded. Soprano Mara Zampieri is one of those veteran performers, who released only a handful of commercial recordings and no personal compilations. Myto’s new release, Mara Zampieri: A Tribute to Verdi, is proof why this singer has not been recorded more frequently. »

10 May 2005

Rossini's Il Barbiere at Münchner Rundfunkorchester

Das war ein Ensemble! Musikalisch ganz auf Rossinis Spur. Und komödiantisch? Da reichten 50 Quadratzentimeter pro Person, um anzudeuten, was auf einer Opernbühne abgegangen wäre. Denn leider handelte es sich beim jüngsten Münchner “Barbier von Sevilla” nur um eine konzertante Aufführung. Wieder einmal trumpfte das Münchner Rundfunkorchester mit der Oper auf. Diesmal nicht mit einer Rarität, sondern mit einem Top-Ensemble, das eigentlich von Vesselina Kasarova als Rosina angeführt werden sollte. Doch für die Erkrankte sprang kurzfristig Elina Garanca ein und sahnte – zusammen mit ihren Kollegen – beim Sonntagskonzert im Gasteig mächtig ab. »

10 May 2005

Shostakovich's Moscow, Moscow at the Wiener Kammeroper

Sascha und Mascha, jung verheiratet, treffen einander einmal täglich ir gendwo in Moskau und träumen von einer eigenen Wohnung. Semjon Semjonowitsch Baburow und seine Tochter sind obdachlos geworden – das alte Haus in der “Warmen Seitengasse” ist eingestürzt. Der Sprengstoffexperte und “Dissident” Boris möchte nach Jahren fern von Moskau hier seine große Liebe finden. Und da sind dann noch Sergej und seine angebetete, stramm linientreue Bauarbeiterin Ljusja, auch auf der Suche nach einer Bleibe. »

10 May 2005

Tales of Hoffmann at Seattle

Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann” has to be one of the most problematic and untidy operas in the international repertory. Nearly 125 years after its premiere at the Opera-Comique in Paris, the opera is still subject to alterations and adjustments of whatever impresario is producing the show. Different editions abound—since the score was unfinished at the time of the composer’s death—as well as different opinions, almost by definition, about what should and should not be included in any performing edition. »

09 May 2005

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo in London

The Grand Tour, whereby wealthy Britons travelled through Europe, in particular Italy, imbibing culture at its fountainhead, is the theme of this year’s Lufthansa Baroque Festival. The opening concert focused on Handel, whose reasons for going to Italy were professional, and whose route was unusual. German-born and trained, Handel spent four years in Italy in his early 20s, learning everything he needed to know about the Italian style, and particularly how to write Italian opera. Moving to London, he became its leading purveyor to English audiences for 30 years. »

09 May 2005

Der Ring Along the Amazon

MANAUS, Brazil, May 8 – Richard Wagner set his fantastical world of Valkyries, gnomes and giants along the Rhine, not the Amazon. But this is a city with a long history of thinking large and even outlandishly, which is how the Amazonas Opera Festival here has ended up staging Wagner’s sprawling four-part “Ring of the Nibelungen” cycle in the heart of the world’s biggest rain forest. »

09 May 2005

Margaret Garner Premiere

DETROIT, May 8 – Grand opera is happiest when the issues are big and little neutral ground stands between good and evil. What better topic than American slavery and its aftermath? The Michigan Opera Theater’s premiere performance of “Margaret Garner” on Saturday night had heated the passions, stirred guilt and broken a lot of hearts before a word or a note was written. »

09 May 2005

WEILL: Die sieben Todsünden

A new recording of Kurt Weill’s (1900 – 1950) ballet chanté, Die 7 Todsünden (1933) featuring Anja Silja and the SWR Rundfunkorchestra Kaiserslautern and conducted by Grzegorz Nowak, has recently been made available in the U.S. on the Hässler-Classic label. Also included on the CD is Weill’s Quodlibet, opus 9 (1923) — an orchestral arrangement taken from his 1922 children’s pantomime, Zaubernacht. »

09 May 2005

ZANDONAI: Francesca da Rimini

Strange to think that Magda Olivero has to thank Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas for two of her best known live recordings. Tebaldi cancelled the famous Adriana Lecouvreur performances in Naples 1958 (Corelli, Bastianini, Simionato) and La Scala originally wanted Callas as Francesca da Rimini. Twice Olivero substituted and made the role so much her own that whenever one of these operas pops up in a conversation so does Olivero’s name. Contrary to Adriana, Francesca was not a staple in the soprano’s repertoire. She sang a few performances with Alessandro Ziliano and Tullio Serafin in Torino in 1940 and only returned to the role 19 years later for her second and last run of Francescas. »