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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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21 Mar 2006

ROSSINI: Maometto Secondo

Before you watch this DVD, the best thing you can do is read the sleeve notes. They are brief but to the point; and they succinctly tell you the differences between this Venice version and the traditional one. »

21 Mar 2006

VERDI: La forza del destino

After issuing recordings of Les Vêpres Siciliennes, Simon Boccanegra, and Macbeth, Opera Rara continues it series of Verdi Originals—first versions of operas the composer later revised—with La forza del destino. »

21 Mar 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte

This is an absolutely wonderful, live performance recording of two of Mozart’s best operas, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. »

21 Mar 2006

City Opera’s Production of The Most Happy Fella

The New York City Opera opened its spring 2006 season with a new production of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, which premiered on Broadway fifty years ago in 1956. »

20 Mar 2006

SCHUBERT: Symphony no. 9

This is an absolutely fabulous recording of Schubert’s final symphony, which is often compared as his closest composition to the style of Beethoven. »

20 Mar 2006

MONTEVERDI: L'Orfeo

In the 1990’s Pierre Audi staged productions of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas (L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea) with De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. »

20 Mar 2006

Maria Callas — Three Remastered Releases from EMI

Of all opera singers of the last century, no one better dominated the genre’s star power than Maria Callas. During her thirty-four years onstage, she came to embody the essence of the term “diva,” both in her stormy personal life and her equally tempestuous stage career. »

17 Mar 2006

My Name is Barbara

Barbara Bonney’s discography is extensive and wide-ranging, including opera and oratorio, as well as lieder recitals from Mozart and Mendelssohn through the major Romantics to Zemlinsky. »

17 Mar 2006

Hercules at the Barbican — Five Reviews

Hercules (HWV 60) was first performed on 5 January 1745 at King's Theatre, Haymarket, London. Categorized as a drama, it traditionally has been performed in the oratorio style (i.e., a concert performance). Following its performance as an opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, this production by William Christie now appears at the Barbican in London. "This extraordinary opera recounts the tragic tale of a hero literally poisoned by the jealousy of his misguided wife. In this modern-dress production, punctuated by Greek references, the action takes place on a sand-covered, amphitheatre-style arena where the chorus is used as Handel originally intended, to embody the people of Trachis and comment on the action." Here are five reviews. »

16 Mar 2006

Songs for Ariel

Of the countertenors coming to the fore in the generation following Alfred Deller, few, if any, have achieved the prominence or performance longevity of James Bowman. »

16 Mar 2006

TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of the most popular ballets. Tchaikovsky’s score alone is synonymous with Christmas—one can even say that it is what keeps this ballet alive. »

16 Mar 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 4
BERG: Sieben Frühe Lieder

A critical aspect of Mahler’s music is the way the composer often juxtaposed the familiar and the new, and this dichotomy is reflected strongly in his Fourth Symphony. »

14 Mar 2006

HIGH RISK “ORFEO” FROM CHICAGO LYRIC

Producer Robert Carsen, together with his set designer Tobias Hoheisel, is taking a big risk with their new production of Glück’s 1762 version for alto of “Orfeo ed Euridice” at Chicago Lyric Opera. »

13 Mar 2006

MEYERBEER: Dinorah

Some opera sets are meant to be an introduction to the work presented. They contain a booklet which tells you about the life of the composer, the history of the work, some analysis, a synopsis of the story, and maybe (if you're lucky) the libretto translated into your language. »

10 Mar 2006

Gabriela Montero — Piano Recital

This recording features piano works by the pillars of nineteenth-century Romantic piano composition (Chopin and Liszt), the Spanish-speaking musical nationalists (Granados, Ginastera, and de Falla), and the Russian composer-pianists (Scriabin and Rachmaninov) who reinterpreted the Romantic spirit in new and innovative ways for the piano. »

10 Mar 2006

MOZART: Requiem

Mozart’s Requiem has become widely-known and popular since the 1984 movie Amadeus. Left incomplete at his death, his student and assistant Franz Xaver Sussmayr (1766-1803) completed the work from Mozart’s notes. »

10 Mar 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Could La Traviata be the opera with the most versions available on DVD? The appetite for the doomed heroine never wavers. »

09 Mar 2006

Wagnerian Songs

If Richard Wagner’s music may be seen to pervade the late nineteenth century, an area that is rarely discussed is his influence on song. »

09 Mar 2006

DOVE: Flight

For most of its 40 plus years the Adelaide Festival of Arts has had as its central attraction the Australian premieres of a landmark European opera like Wozzeck, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Fiery Angel or landmark contemporary works like Death in Venice, Nixon in China or El Nino presented within a few years of their world premieres. »

08 Mar 2006

Karajan Performs Strauss Waltzes and Polkas

Everyone is familiar with the waltzes and polkas of the “Waltz King,” Johan Strauss II, along with his father Johann I and his brother Josef. »

08 Mar 2006

VERDI: Ernani

Verdi’s smash hit of 1844 is a relative rarity these days. As Stefano Olcese notes in his booklet essay for a new Dynamic recording, the opera calls for daunting vocal display from tenor, soprano, baritone, and bass. »

08 Mar 2006

Mazeppa at the Met — Three Reviews

This season the Metropolitan Opera presents Tchaikovsky's infrequently performed opera, Mazeppa. Acording to the Met, "[a]lthough Tchaikovsky is best known for Eugene Onegin and several great ballet scores, he wrote many other wonderful operas including Mazeppa, which receives its premiere at The Met this season. Premiered in Moscow in 1884, it was first seen in St Petersburg just three days later, and has remained in the repertoire of The Mariinsky Theatre from that time. Based on a poem by Pushkin, it tells the story of a 17th century Ukrainian separatist, who falls in love with a friend’s daughter. The opera is full of tuneful episodes (similar to those in The Queen of Spades) and this is a very rare chance to see the opera in New York." Here are three reviews. »

05 Mar 2006

HILLIARD ENSEMBLE: Thy Kiss of a Divine Nature — The Contemporary Perotin

The richness of the Ars Antiqua flourishing in Paris in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries marks the time as one of high cultural achievement, drawing nurture from the contemporaneous rise of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the University of Paris. »

05 Mar 2006

MOZART: The Magic Flute

It would be presumptuous of me to go through the entire plot of The Magic Flute, given its historical and popular significance with all classical music devotees. »

05 Mar 2006

GALLO: Opera — The Basics

Is it possible to say something new and fresh about opera? While many books have been written about the artform, it is rare to find an introductory text that serves its subject well. »

28 Feb 2006

Les Violons du Roy and Magdalena Kožená at Carnegie Hall

On Sunday, 28 February 2006, Carnegie Hall presented Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie, Music Director and Conductor, with Magdalena Kožená, Mezzo-Soprano, featuring works by Rameau and Gluck. Here are two reviews. »

28 Feb 2006

BACH: Works for Trumpet

This recording is a grouping of various compositions by J.S. Bach, which are not solely dedicated to the trumpet, but provide some of the most demanding repertoire for the instrument prior to the nineteenth century. »

28 Feb 2006

Ewa Podles in New York — Two Reviews

On 26 February, Constantine Orbelian led the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, marking its 50th anniversary this season, in works by Haydn, Prokofiev, Rossini, Shostakovich, and Mussorgsky, with the renowned contralto Ewa Podlés. Here are two reviews. »

23 Feb 2006

La Forza del Destino at the Met — Four Reviews

METROPOLITAN OPERA: "Commissioned for St Petersburg (the premiere was in 1862), La Forza del Destino was based on a play by the Duke of Rivas, and was at first only a moderate success. Although Verdi revised it for Milan in 1869, it took a long time for audiences to come to appreciate the sprawling drama; several years take place between the first and last scenes, and the number of coincidences in the plot stretches credulity to the limit. But the overture, the arias for Leonora (including “Pace!”), and the duets for tenor and baritone have ensured that the opera remains popular whenever it is revived." Here are four reviews. »

22 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Concerti con molti strumenti, vol. 2

Vivaldi was very impressed with the sound and performances of the Dresden court orchestra when they visited Venice in 1716. »

22 Feb 2006

SCHÜTZ: Symphoniae Sacrae III

The tragic ravages of the Thirty Years’ War explicitly shaped the musical output of Heinrich Schütz. »

21 Feb 2006

ARIOSTI: “The Flowering and Fading of Love”

Musicologists should be eager to welcome the “first modern recordings” of any work; surely having the opportunity to hear a long-lost musical treasure, rather than having it stare off the page in black-and-white, is something to be celebrated. »

21 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Concerti e Cantate da Camera III

As the Vivaldi edition continues, Opus 111 is releasing a series of individual volumes dedicated to cantatas interspersed with other chamber works. »

20 Feb 2006

WNO's The Flying Dutchman — Three Reviews

WELSH NATIONAL OPERA: "Welsh National Opera's The Flying Dutchman promises to be a focused, powerful and intense experience. This early Wagnerian masterpiece signalled the composer's fascination with combining epic myths and dramatic music." Here are three reviews. »

17 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Arie d’Opera

This recording is another gem from the Complete Vivaldi Edition, a collaboration of Naïve (opus 111) and various Piedmontese institutions [see this author’s review of Vivaldi’s Orlando in that series]. »

16 Feb 2006

Hercules in Brooklyn — Two Reviews

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is presenting Handel's Hercules with Les Arts Florissants, conducted by William Christie and directed by Luc Bondy. Here are two reviews: »

15 Feb 2006

BARRY: The Intelligence Park

Irish composer Gerald Barry insists that “Really, my music is very straightforward. »

13 Feb 2006

WAGNER: Parsifal

Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s Parsifal, first staged by English National Opera in 1999, is given on this Opus Arte DVD in a 2004 performance led by Kent Nagano at the Baden-Baden summer festival. »

11 Feb 2006

GÓRECKI: Symphony no. 3

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony no. 3 (1976), his “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” as it is called, is one of the most popular recordings of late twentieth-century music. »

11 Feb 2006

CIMAROSA: Il Matrimonio Segreto

Premiered in 1792 (just months after the death of Mozart), Il Matrimonio Segreto won over Vienna from the start, and Domenico Cimarosa’s opera would remain his most popular work. »

10 Feb 2006

LEE: The Great Instrumental Works

This book is for any aficionado or lover of classical instrumental music. »

09 Feb 2006

BYRD: The Great Service

The religious turmoil of sixteenth-century England was characterized not only by factionalism and polarity, but also famously by the charting of a via media, a middle path, through opposing views. »

05 Feb 2006

MAHLER: Symphonies 1-10 • Das Lied von der Erde

The late Gary Bertini (1927-2005) was noted for his fine interpretations of Mahler’s work, and his cycle with EMI was esteemed highly. An accomplished musician, Bertini founded the Israeli Chamber Orchestra in 1965, and later become chief conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony. »