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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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24 Apr 2005

Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera at Boston University

Last night I saw the second of four performances of Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera given at the Huntington Theater by the Boston University Opera Institute. Hallmarks of their program are fresh, clear voices brought along in a sane way in appropriate repertory, with stage time given in productions directed, conducted and designed with care. There was a bit of extra drama to this production as Craig Smith, a grand figure in the Boston musical landscape, suffered a heart attack during the final days of rehearsal and David Hoose came to the rescue. The good news is that Smith is doing well. Hoose brought the opera to the stage in fine condition. »

22 Apr 2005

GOUNOD: Polyeucte

In spite of the fact that Gounod had a special fondness for Polyeucte, it was among the least successful of his many operas. In fact, he was reported to have considered it as the favorite of his works. It was first composed around the time of the Franco-Prussian war. »

22 Apr 2005

WILLIAMS: Wagner and the Romantic Hero

There is no doubt that Richard Wagner as an artist, composer, and writer was the center of controversy both during and after his lifetime. Despite the overwhelming political, social, and psychological elements contained in his musical oeuvre, Wagner is one of the more enduring figures in the history of the arts. Based on lectures delivered at the Bayreuth Festival between 1998 and 2000, Simon Williams examines a topic that has generated much interest and scrutiny both within the arts and outside of it: Wagner’s treatment of the hero. »

22 Apr 2005

Joan La Barbara. Voice is the Original Instrument: Early Works (1974-1980)
Jacqueline Humbert. Chanteuse

You can rely on Lovely Music. The new-music label Lovely Music invariably provides some of the most interesting new music available on recordings. They can be relied upon in a business with its fair share of unreliables — immaturity, bad quality recording, sophistry — to give good quality interesting recordings of innovative work. They’ve been around for at least two decades, and their catalog covers some of the very best in what can be called “downtown” new music — conceptual music influenced in large part by John Cage, world music, and modern American art and dance after abstract expressionism (let’s say Warhol and after). Their rather humble website is at www.lovely.com, and really tells only a small part of their story. For someone exploring American new music for the first time, they make a very good starting point. »

21 Apr 2005

GLASS & MARSHALL: Les Enfants Terribles — Children of the Game

Well I’m trying. The liner notes read: “Les Enfants Terribles, the final installment of Philip Glass’ trilogy based on the work of Jean Cocteau, articulates Cocteau’s belief in the transcendent power of imagination and creativity. It is the story of a brother and a sister, Paul and Lise, two characters so caught up in a world of their own imaginings that they can no longer see a reality beyond their ‘game’.” The music on this cd is the accompaniment to a dance/opera (and thus it’s only half the story — to be as fair as possible to thing). The work is scored for three singers and a narrator, accompanied by three keyboards. »

21 Apr 2005

SAARIAHO: Cinq reflets de L'Amour de loin; Nymphea Reflection; Oltra Mar

This is very pleasant new music, long in breath, richly scored, nice poetry, nothing pretentious, but good solid rewarding composition. Ms. Saariaho is truly adept at making a great orchestral score, and she has a way with voices, particularly Pia Freund’s on the first track, which truly soars. »

20 Apr 2005

Berg's Lulu at ENO

Richard Jones’s English National Opera production of Berg’s Lulu was widely regarded as one of the company’s finest achievements when it premiered in 2002. The first night of its revival, however, was a somewhat awkward affair, in which illness regrettably played its part. Lisa Saffer (Lulu) and Susan Parry (Geschwitz) were singing with apologies, after suffering from throat infections. Fine actresses both, they compensated for vocal roughness with performances of uncommon dramatic vividness, though Saffer’s understandable tentativeness inevitably meant that we were faced with a Lulu whose physical glamour was unsupported by equivalent vocal allure. »

20 Apr 2005

Henze's The Bassarids in Paris Without Orchestra

No other city puts on a welcome quite like Paris. When the Olympic committee came to evaluate the city’s bid to host the games, they were greeted by strikes, and last week the Théâtre du Châtelet’s bid for artistic glory met with a similarly thumb-to-the-nose response. »

20 Apr 2005

Gounod's Faust at the Met — A Preview

Tomorrow night, the Metropolitan Opera unveils a new production of Charles Gounod’s “Faust,” its sixth. The musical expectations are high. James Levine, the Met’s music director, is conducting the opera for the first time, leading an international A-list cast: the French-Sicilian tenor Roberto Alagna as Faust, one of his signature roles; the Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski as Marguerite, the innocent he seduces and abandons; the German bass René Pape as Méphistophelès, an eagerly anticipated role debut; and the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as the soldier Valentin, Marguerite’s brother. »

20 Apr 2005

Menotti's The Consul in Arizona

Even though no sensation-hungry opera director has tampered with Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul to “update” the work in today’s all-too-common effort to make opera “relevant” to modern audiences, this half-century-old opera has not lost one iota of such relevancy. »

19 Apr 2005

Sir Thomas Allen: Great Operatic Arias

Some 20 years ago I ended my subscription to Opera Magazine after an article by its editor, the late Harold Rosenthal. He had written a review of La Clemenza di Tito that described tenor Stuart Burrows in words that, for those who did not attend the performance, they had missed the second coming of Enrico Caruso, Jussi Björling and Beniamino Gigli in one person. I had attended and I knew that Rosenthal and his colleagues could be almost funny in their chauvinism but enough was enough. Well, I’m happy to report the old tradition still lives on. I looked at some reviews of this recital by British critics and Giuseppe De Luca, Tito Gobbi and Robert Merrill in their heydays would have been proud of such notices. »

19 Apr 2005

The Cambridge Companion to the Lied

Books described as a "Companion" to this or that and published by university presses should be required to come with a Reader Beware label. As is the case with many books put out by university and many for-profit publishers, the main reason for publishing these is to advance the tenure and promotion prospects of the authors. This is not a bad thing, except that all too often the books aren't very good. »

18 Apr 2005

Muti in New York

Riccardo Muti, the Italian conductor, has been much in the news lately, having quit La Scala – that is an interesting story. But that is not today’s story: Mr. Muti was in New York last week, for a subscription series with the Philharmonic. On his program were two seldom-heard works, the first more seldom heard than the second: Goffredo Petrassi’s “Coro di morti” (“Chorus of Dead Ones”) and Liszt’s “Faust Symphony.” Saturday’s was a concert of the highest order. »

18 Apr 2005

Joseph Schwarz Sings Arias by Verdi, Wagner, Leoncavallo and Meyerbeer

For whom is this fine CD? It is published by Hänssler Verlag; a publishing house that specializes in Christian literature and that has a classical record branch as well. »

18 Apr 2005

Anna in Köln

KÖLN. Als Anna Netrebko ihre Stimme zum silbernen Mond hob wie Rusalka in der gleichnamigen Märchenoper Antonín Dvoráks, tönten die ersten Bravi der 8000 Gäste in der Großoper Kölnarena. Annas Aufstieg ist märchenhaft verlaufen; von Kälte, dem Problem der Nixe Rusalka, war in der gut geheizten und besuchten Halle keine Spur, und einen Prinzen musste sie nicht verführen, sie hat ihn einfach angerufen. José Cura, der gut aussehende und zudem stimmgewaltige Tenor aus Argentinien, war der Einladung gern gefolgt. »

17 Apr 2005

Nabucco at Opera Australia

Despite Nabucco’s rudimentary plot and underdevelopment of its subsidiary characters, its dignity is maintained through its music, which, although still primitive by Verdian standards, already shows signs of the greatness to come. »

17 Apr 2005

Michelle DeYoung in Chicago

Michelle DeYoung, to seriously understate the fact, looked radiant. The first of three performances as Sieglinde and Waltraute in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s hugely successful production of Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung” was behind her, and the American mezzo-soprano seemed to be counting the minutes until she would be back on the Civic Opera House stage making passionate love to Placido Domingo, Siegmund to her Sieglinde in this production. Her cloud of long, crisply crinkled blond hair caught the light like an angel’s aureole as she settled into a conference room backstage at Lyric. She was revved up to talk about her transformation from a Colorado-reared, conservative Christian teenager whose chosen life goal was to marry and have lots of children into an opera singer in demand across the United States and Europe. »

17 Apr 2005

La Vie parisienne at Théâtre Silvia-Monfort

Fondé en 1985 par Olivier Desbordes, Opéra Eclaté Midi-Pyrénées est bien connu des amateurs d’art lyrique qui fréquentent, au mois d’août, le festival de Saint-Céré (Lot). Cette compagnie nationale de théâtre musical, fixée depuis 1996 à Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées), trouve toutefois sa raison d’être dans une décentralisation qui s’est traduite pendant vingt ans par plus de 900 représentations données en France et à l’étranger. »

16 Apr 2005

García's L'isola disabitata at Wake Forest University

The second of two performances of Manuel García’s L’isola disabitata (The Uninhabited Island) in WFU’s Brendle Recital Hall on April 8 was a happy marriage of musicological scholarship and practical vocal pedagogy. I am familiar with Teresa Radomski’s work as an opera and oratorio soloist; the focus of her scholarship – the careful transcription of manuscripts and the creation of a performing edition of a salon opera by García – was fascinating. Her splendid program notes place the work in its historical context and recount aspects of her research. She transcribed the score from a complex original manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) while on research leave. With her brother, musicologist James Radomski, she completed a critical edition of the opera which is being published by A-R Editions, Inc. »

15 Apr 2005

Lotte Lehmann: “Frauenliebe und Leben” — Works by Schumann, Brahms, Schubert and Sacred Songs

Of all the singing geniuses of the 20th century, Lotte Lehmann is among the forefront. Though not blessed with the most beautiful voice or impressive technique, Lehmann knew how to reach her audience through unmatched musical interpretation and expression. She was able to win the love of her audience, and now, almost a century from the start of her career, the world continues to sing her praises. »

15 Apr 2005

Ariodante in Vienna

Am 8. Jänner 1734 wurde erstmals eine Oper von Georg Friedrich Händel am Royal Opera House in Covent Garden gespielt. “Ariodante” hieß sie – und wurde ein voller Publikumserfolg. Bald darauf fiel das Werk in einen 200-jährigen Dornröschenschlaf. Erst ab 1927 erlebte es eine Renaissance, wurde in Stuttgart gespielt, an der Berliner Staatsoper, beim Salzburger Pfingstfestival. In Wien war die opera seria, die auf demselben Stoff beruht wie Shakespeares “Viel Lärm um nichts” (auf “Orlando furioso” von Ariosto), noch nie zu sehen. »