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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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24 Jul 2006

WAGNER: Siegfried, The 100th Covent Garden performance

“These probably unique documents may well owe their existence to the presence of Joan Sutherland in the cast and represent the earliest recordings of the great diva. »

24 Jul 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni (Highlights)

Naxos reinforces its status as the classical recording world's bargain leader by releasing a single CD highlights disc from its complete Don Giovanni, recorded in 2000 and originally released in 2001. »

24 Jul 2006

PHILLIPS-MATZ: Washington National Opera 1956-2006

This is a highly impressive coffee-table table book, loaded with stunning photographs of productions, singers, composers, and even our nation’s glorious capital. »

24 Jul 2006

SHORT ON SALOME

Richard Strauss’ 1905 neurotic shocker Salome has long been a favorite Santa Fe Opera repertory piece, having enjoyed ten productions over the years. »

24 Jul 2006

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Execution of Stepan Razin

This new Naxos recording offers a rare opportunity to hear three little-known works by one of the 20th century's greatest composers - The Execution of Stepan Razin op. 119, October op. 131, and Five Fragments for orchestra op. 42, by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75). »

24 Jul 2006

CHAPI: Margarita la tornera

Is this the application of Peter’s Principle on Ruperto Chapi’s music as Chris Webber, editor of www.zarzuela.net preaches, or is this proof of Chapi being “undoubtedly the most important Spanish composer of stage music of all time” as the sleeve notes tell us? »

24 Jul 2006

The Italian Dramatic Lament

Its foundational interest in affective response made the early Baroque era a time rich in the nurture of highly impassioned music and text. Little surprise then that laments, with their characteristic emotional intensity, were particularly at home on the early seventeenth-century stage and in the chambers of the nobility. »

24 Jul 2006

DEBUSSY: Pélleas et Mélisande

Whatever its flaws - and it has them - this Zurich Opera production of Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande boasts qualities that carry it very far from the standard view of those opera goers who considers the work dry, dull, and depressingly long. »

24 Jul 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

Recorded approximately 35 years ago in September 1971, Bernard Haitink’s performance of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony remains a classic account of the composer’s demanding score. »

24 Jul 2006

BURKHARD: Lieder

Refreshingly modern and familiar at the same time, the Lieder of Willy Burkhard (1900-55) are better known in his native Switzerland than anywhere else. »

23 Jul 2006

MENOTTI : Concerto for Violin and Orchestra / Cantilena e Scherzo / Canti Della Lontanza / Five Songs

Most Opera Today readers are probably familiar with Gian Carlo Menotti largely through his operas (The Medium, The Consul, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Telephone, and others), and, if they teach or coach voice, may be more familiar than they’d like to be with pieces like “This is my box” and “Monica’s Waltz”, which have long been mainstays of the “American aria” branch of repertoire for young singers. »

19 Jul 2006

Leyla Gencer in Concert

There are lieder-recitals and there are lieder-recitals. In my experience Lucia Popp, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Margaret Price stuck to their Lieder-guns till the last item, sometimes offering Strauss’ Zueignung as an encore. »

19 Jul 2006

BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis

This excellent performance of Beethoven's mammoth sacred work, Missa Solemnis, served as part of the celebration of the reopening (after reconstruction) of the Dresden Frauenkirche, which suffered devastating damage in the same bombing raid that destroyed much of the city and so many of its inhabitants near the end of WWII. »

19 Jul 2006

GUERRERO: Missa Surge Propera

The composers Morales, Guerrero, and Victoria form a holy trinity of sorts, dominating Spanish church music in what we have come to see as a “Golden Age,” a time in which sixteenth-century liturgical polyphony assumed a classical perfection. »

19 Jul 2006

CHAUSSON: Le Roi Arthus

I belong to the happy few (some would say ‘unhappy’ few) who ever witnessed a stage production of this rarely performed opera. »

19 Jul 2006

MOZART: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Glyndebourne’s recent DVD release of it’s 1980 production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail is quite an exceptional performance of this particular work. »

18 Jul 2006

CINDERELLA GLITTERS

JULES MASSENET'S 'BROADWAY HIT,' the 1899 Cendrillon, billed as Cinderella but sung in French, was given top notch treatment at its Santa Fe Opera debut Saturday night (July 15). »

10 Jul 2006

HAYDN: Arias & Cantatas

In a room filled with music scholars, conversations surrounding the name Franz Joseph Haydn would be synonymous with symphonic music, keyboard works, operas, string quartets, and vocal music. »

08 Jul 2006

Dmitri Shostakovich: A Portrait

2006 is a centenary year of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) - a great Russian composer of the 20th century, and a complicated and tortured soul whose posthumous legacy has been a subject of heated ideological debates in recent years. »

05 Jul 2006

GESUALDO DA VENOSA: Quarto Libro di Madrigali
MONTEVERDI: Madrigals Book 4

Two sets of madrigals, each the fourth book published by its composer, give complementary views of the state of madrigal composition in Italy in the years either side of 1600. »

05 Jul 2006

Ana María Sánchez: Zarzuela

During the fifties and sixties, it was almost impossible (or horrendously expensive) to collect the hundreds of recordings of zarzuela outside Spain and some Latin American countries. »

05 Jul 2006

PUCCINI: Il Tabarro
LEONCAVALLO: I Pagliacci

The recent Deutsche Grammaphone release of an insightful Metropolitan Opera double bill from 1994 provides a fascinating comparison of contrasting verismo worlds. »

05 Jul 2006

Three Sopranos: Elena Obraztsova, Ileana Cotrubas, Renata Scotto

Even with a magnifying glass you won’t be able to find a date of this concert on either the DVD itself or in the sleeve notes. »

27 Jun 2006

Belcanto: The Tenors of the 78 Era, vols. 1 and 2

Second only to soprano divas, history’s great tenors have received the most retrospective scrutiny. »

26 Jun 2006

Puccini: Sogno d’or

Anyone who knows Giacomo Puccini only for his operas is in for a treat. Puccini: Sogno d’or presents Puccini the songwriter, and what is fascinating about this little-known repertory is that it prefigures many of the delightful melodies that later appeared in his works for the stage. »

24 Jun 2006

Vier letzte Lieder in Sofia and Varna

On June 9th in Sofia and 16th at the Varna Summer Festival, celebrated soprano Krassimira Stoyanova made her Richard Strauss debut in Vier letzte Lieder in her native Bulgaria. »

23 Jun 2006

GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice

All the excitement and activity in the classical recording company world now seems to be in the budget area. »

23 Jun 2006

"Castrato" — In Search of a Lost Voice

Nestling artistically in a bowl, carefully arranged and lit to suit the camera early in the programme, the testicles seemed to glow softly with their hidden history, their inherent potential and, now, their very lack of future. »

23 Jun 2006

Gypsy Melodies

“Gypsies! Filthy, dirty, thieving gypsies!” cried Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank from one delightful Strangers With Candy episode years back. For those who have experienced a forced ‘chance’ meeting with one of these colorful characters in say, Granada, Spain, they may have espoused a similar belief in recent years. »

23 Jun 2006

Renato Bruson — Live in Concert

One sign that a media market has really come into its own, economically speaking, is the appearance of items previously released in other formats, items that one struggles to imagine a wide market for. DVDs must be doing fairly well, then, in the classical market. »

17 Jun 2006

HURWITZ: Exploring Haydn—A Listener’s Guide to Music’s Boldest Innovator

The world of J.S. Haydn is one gravely underappreciated and undervalued. He never earned the right to a 1980’s bio pic like Mozart or was appreciated and saluted in pop culture through early rock n’ roll like Beethoven. »

15 Jun 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 14

This installment in the remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series presents four Christmas cantatas: “Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ,” BWV 91; “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” BWV 110; “Dazu ist erschienen,” BWV 40; and “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” BWV 121, all recorded live in St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City. »

14 Jun 2006

Piero Cappuccilli: Recital

Can you believe it? With all the profound knowledge of my 24 years, I first visited the Verona Arena in 1968. On was Trovatore with Bergonzi, Gencer and, as Luna, Piero Cappuccilli. »

14 Jun 2006

PUCCINI: Gianni Schicchi

Glyndebourne’s 2004 live recording of Gianni Schicchi, produced by Opus Arte, is quite possibly the most electric and riveting performance of this Puccini one-act opera. »

12 Jun 2006

WOLF: Prometheus — Orchesterlieder

Like other nineteenth-century composers, Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) orchestrated some of his Lieder, and his contributions to the genre of Orchesterlieder are impressive. »

01 Jun 2006

MAHLER: Lieder

Among the interpreters of Mahler’s music in the late twentieth century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim stand out for their various contributions. »

01 Jun 2006

BERNHARD: Geistliche Harmonien

The composer Christoph Bernhard (born Kolberg, Pomerania, 1628, died, Dresden 1692) embodies the problematic nature of German musical culture in the seventeenth century. »

01 Jun 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

This Opus Arte set not only captures a mostly satisfying performance of Monteverdi's opera based on the last books of Homer's Odyssey, but features something even rarer: a booklet essay by the musical director (Glen Wilson) of remarkable lucidity. »

01 Jun 2006

LE JEUNE: Autant en emporte le vent — French Chansons

In spite of the religious warfare that consumed France during the second half of the sixteenth century (which claimed the life of one eminent Catholic composer, Antoine de Bertrand, who was murdered by Protestants)*, musical life continued unabated. »

31 May 2006

PFITZNER: Das Christelflein

Dubbed a “spieloper,” Hans Pfitzner’s Das Christelflein (“The Christmas Elf”) casts a magical, yet appropriately cool, spell, even in the warm days of late May, the time of this review. »

31 May 2006

Delectatio angeli — Music of love, longing & lament

Catherine Bott is an English soprano in her fifties with decades of career and an extensive discography, but even in the world of early music, where she has spent most of her time, one could not say she is a marquee name. »

31 May 2006

BÖHM: Cantatas

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring”, quoth the great poet Alexander Pope in 1709. »

31 May 2006

JONES: The Geisha

Should Opera Today readers want to test where they would place themselves on a spectrum ranging from “completely politically incorrect” to “utterly politically correct,” the Hyperion Helios re-release of Sidney Jones “Japanese musical play” The Geisha surely will do the trick. »

31 May 2006

MANFREDINI: 12 Concerti op. 3

The general aversion of the listening public to vocal music can nowhere be more easily seen than in the comparative success of the operatic and instrumental works of the Italian baroque. »

31 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Marino Faliero

There was a great northward swing of composers from Italy to Paris and London in the 1820s and 1830s. Actually, this has been going on for a long time, but was temporarily halted by the Napoleonic wars. »

31 May 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 10

Few works seem more seminal to our understanding of J. S. Bach than the church cantatas, written over a wide chronological swath of his career, sometimes as part of occasional duties, other times in what was clearly a frenzy of steady prolificity. »

31 May 2006

MASSENET: Le Roi de Lahore

Sergio Seggalini, former editor of Opéra International (now Opéra Magazine), is the artistic director of both La Fenice and the Festival of Martina Franca. »