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Elsewhere

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.


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Reviews

<em>Fidelio</em>, Prom 9
23 Jul 2017

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.  »

Recently in Reviews

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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

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

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, http://stevenmercurio.com/). »

12 Nov 2006

PUCCINI: Edgar

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

GOUNOD: Faust

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

LEHAR: Eva

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. »

19 Oct 2006

Rossini By The Sea 2006 Enjoying The Unexpected

The Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, had as many surprises on the stage inside as the weather had outside. »

17 Oct 2006

STRAUSS: Lieder

Virtuosic, expressive, subtle evocative – these words can be used to describe various aspects of the Lieder of Richard Strauss. »

16 Oct 2006

HANDEL: Hercules

From the 2004 Aix en Provence Festival comes this Luc Bondy staging of Handel's oratorio Hercules, an achingly serious and sober portrayal of Olympian rage and jealousy. »

16 Oct 2006

Homage — The Age of the Diva

In the 1890s, the term “diva” was first used in print to refer to an opera singer or stage star. »

08 Oct 2006

KILAR: Piano Concerto

Among the exciting new releases in Naxos’s series of 21st Century Classics is a compilation of four works by Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932), which include two symphonic compositions and two vocal pieces. »

08 Oct 2006

The Art of Elaine Bonazzi

This is a recital disc notable for the compelling presence and intimacy of the vocal performance. »

08 Oct 2006

Settling the Score — An Interview with Philip Gossett

Introduction: Philip Gossett is one of those rarities in academia: a scholar of the first order and a consummate teacher. »

05 Oct 2006

MAHLER: Symphonie no. 2

Among the outstanding interpreters of Mahler’s music, Pierre Boulez stands out for his recent recordings of the composer’s symphonies. Having worked with various international orchestras, Boulez has been preserving on CD some finely shaped performances, and if he intends to create a cycle akin to those of other conductors, he is wisely recording the works one by one and not necessarily in the order in which they were composed. »

02 Oct 2006

The Psalms of David

The daily Anglican liturgies of Morning and Evening Prayer feature the recitation of the complete Psalter (apportioned in a monthly cycle), and in cathedrals and collegiate chapels, the chanting of the psalms has been cultivated to a degree of great refinement and beauty. »

29 Sep 2006

VERDI: Un ballo in maschera

Of late opera stagings often seem to be slotted into one of two categories: the "traditional," with sets as the original libretto detailed and singers in period costumes; and "non-traditional," "regie theater," or "Eurotrash," what you will. »

29 Sep 2006

STRAUSS: Salome

Having spent the better part of its life at full-price, the Solti/Nilsson Salome now appears as a mid-priced re-issue. »

29 Sep 2006

CHERUBINI: Le Sposo di tre marito di nessuna

This 250th anniversary year of Mozart's birth must be heaven not only Amadeus lovers but also for those with a general inclination toward classical era music. »

29 Sep 2006

ZEISL: Lieder

While most of the familiar Lieder repertoire stems from the nineteenth century, the powerful attraction the artform spurred composition in this genre through the mid-twentieth century. »

28 Sep 2006

That's Amore

Vanity publishing is not for the print world only, as a release from a company called Jeremiah Productions, called "That's Amore," proves. »

27 Sep 2006

Flaviano Labo – Vol III

According to Giancarlo Landini, author of the very interesting and detailed sleeve notes, Labo “has been sorely neglected, if not totally forgotten”. »

26 Sep 2006

LEHAR: Schön is die Welt

CPO has recently given us a lot of wonderful Lehar recordings like Eva, Der Rastelbinder or Der Sterngucker (admired by Hofmannsthal who exclaimed after a performance: ‘I wish, Lehar had composed Rosenkavalier’). »

25 Sep 2006

POULENC: Gloria and Stabat Mater

In the 1930s, Poulenc’s turn to writing sacred choral music such as the Litanies à la vierge noire and the Mass in G was closely linked to his new embrace of Roman Catholicism following the death of a close friend, the composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: St. John Passion

The Bach Passions combine drama, sublimity of expression, and deeply devotional reflection in such a powerful way that we invariably tend to set them apart from other liturgical works. »

25 Sep 2006

Pilar Lorengar: Prima Donna in Vienna

Maybe a looking glass will help you to decipher the reprint in this CD’s inside cover of a small article on the soprano by Terry McEwen, who was Manager of the Classical Divison of London Records at the time of recording. »

25 Sep 2006

Birgit Nilsson — "Or sai chi l'onore"

Deutsche Grammophon was one of the many labels for which Nilsson recorded and the company decided to commemorate her passing by offering us most of her not so very large catalogue. »