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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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30 May 2006

BOITO: Nerone

“What a difference a sound makes” goes the song (or something like that). »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

By sheer coincidence I attended a concert performance of this opera at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp at the same moment I received these CD’s. »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Roberto Devereux

When asked whether he believed Rossini had composed Il Barbiere di Siviglia in thirteen days, nineteen-year-old Donizetti is supposed to have replied, »

25 May 2006

NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years." »

25 May 2006

Flights of Madness — Munich’s New “Orlando”

Returning from Munich’s new production of Handel’s “Orlando” at thirty thousand feet above clouds which might have done service as props for that opera when first staged in 1733, it occurred that the great man himself could have had things to say about what might be director David Alden’s valedictory baroque piece for the Bayerische Staatsoper. »

24 May 2006

BACH: Alles mit Gott

A little over a year ago Bach scholar Michael Maul found himself in the exceedingly unusual position of having discovered a hitherto unknown Bach composition, a birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, entitled “Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn. »

24 May 2006

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin

Franz Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin has received, in recent years, frequent attention with several fine recordings having been issued during this period. »

24 May 2006

Orchestral Excerpts from Wagner Operas

Among the plentiful selections of orchestral music from the operas of Richard Wagner, it is rare to find recordings that truly stand out, and this recent release of performances conducted by the late Klaus Tennstedt merits distinction. »

24 May 2006

Turn of the Screw at Kennedy Center

On May 22, the Kennedy Center's Fortas Chamber Music Series and the Chateauville Foundation co-presented a fully staged production of Benjamin Britten's haunting chamber opera The Turn of the Screw, conducted by Lorin Maazel. Here are three reviews: »

24 May 2006

Rolando Villazón — Opera Recital

I’ve carefully listened several times to this new solo album (his third) by Rolando Villazón and it grows on you, though there are a few weaknesses. »

24 May 2006

PUCCINI: Turandot

This must be the first Turandot that has in the sleeve notes three photographs of the soprano who sings Liu compared to two of the lady in the title role. »

22 May 2006

Glyndebourne opens with Così fan tutte

Glyndebourne opened this year's festival with "a new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, subtitled ‘The school for lovers’, will open the 2006 Festival. This masterpiece includes some of Mozart’s most exquisite music, and Così’s now established popularity, following comparative neglect in the 19th century, is partly due to Glyndebourne’s championing of the work since the opening of the Festival in 1934." Here are some initial reviews: »

19 May 2006

Placido Domingo — Great Scenes

Domingo-fans probably have all complete performances from which these scenes were culled, as they were widely broadcast in Europe during the eighties. »

19 May 2006

HALFFTER: Don Quijote

I can’t imagine a more utopian enterprise for a composer than writing an opera at the end of the twentieth century. »

19 May 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

For a time this Don Carlo was a return to times people thought long gone. As always, Dutch papers covered beforehand this new Decker production in depth, as the theme of liberty is an important one. »

17 May 2006

PETRELLA: Jone

Jone is the only Italian opera from the 1850s by a composer other than Giuseppe Verdi to make it into the standard repertory for a period of well over 50 years, lasting until the onset of World War I before eventually disappearing. »

17 May 2006

CHARPENTIER: Te Deum and Grand Office des Morts

In the modern performance of seventeenth-century French music, the ensemble Les Arts Florissants holds a special place, both for its longevity and the striking stylistic fluency it brings to performances — performances that have come to define our very sense of French Baroque style. »

16 May 2006

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs 4

Dans un parfum de roses (“Within the scent of roses”), is the fourth and final volume of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré issued by Hyperion. »

16 May 2006

PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly

All is right and good in the world of opera as long as the Arena di Verona puts on vivid productions, in questionable taste, with impassioned singers pouring out the volume, in questionable taste, and the audience roaring its approval - in questionable taste. »

16 May 2006

ROSSINI: La Scala Di Seta

Here is another handsome production of an early Rossini one-act comedy from the Schwetzingen festival, held at the charming and tiny Rokoko theater in May 1990. »

16 May 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6

In recent years the Sixth Symphony of Gustav Mahler has gained some prominence with the declaration by the internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft about the only correct order of the internal movements, a position that has inspired some discussion among enthusiasts. »

16 May 2006

VERDI: Nabucco

The booklet somewhat proudly tells us that “a modern Italian opera-going public would likely walk out in horror if confronted with the avant-garde productions of many German opera houses. »

15 May 2006

Three Releases from Nightingale Classics

Frank Sinatra had Reprise. The Beatles had Apple. Madonna has Maverick. And Edita Gruberova has Nightingale. »

11 May 2006

The Music of Joseph Dubiel

Joe Dubiel is a well known and accomplished music theorist, affable, pleasant in demeanor, learned and astute, and above all friendly in a field that has its thorns and brambles. »

09 May 2006

MONTEMEZZI: L’amore dei tre re

What happened to Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re? After the opera’s triumphant premiere at La Scala in 1913, Montemezzi was vaulted into the international limelight, and his creation enjoyed regular performances throughout the world until his death in 1952. »

02 May 2006

Three Mozart Collections from Universal

A recent newspaper report — the sort of item conveyed in a short paragraph and relegated to a column of such brief pieces — summarized a study that argues that Mozart did not die a pauper, but actually had a fairly steady stream of income. »

02 May 2006

BROPHY: Mozart the dramatist

Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) was a noted novelist and critic who was passionately interested in opera, and especially Mozart and his operas. »

02 May 2006

ATTRAZIONE D'AMORE / VOYAGE TO CYTHERA

Passion for music is hardly rare, but it is welcome to hear it espoused in public, especially by some of the art’s strongest proponents. »

29 Apr 2006

World Premiere of Miss Lonelyhearts at Juilliard

On 26 April, The Juilliard Opera Center gave the world premiere of Miss Lonelyhearts by Lowell Liebermann. Commissioned by the Centennial Commission of The Juilliard School with the support of the Trust of Francis Goelet, the production of Miss Lonelyhearts “has been developed cooperatively among The Juilliard School, the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.” Here are two reviews. »

29 Apr 2006

Music for the Virgin Mary—Celebrating 300 Years of Charpentier

This wonderful CD was recorded in the magnificent church of Notre Dame, Rozay-en-Brie, which is 30 miles east of Paris, and contains one of the better-preserved French organs of the seventeenth century, actually played by Francois Couperin during his lifetime. »

29 Apr 2006

Conducting Mahler / I Have Lost Touch with the World

In recent years a number of the number of recordings of Mahler’s works have become available on DVD. »

29 Apr 2006

PONCHIELLI: I Lituani

Why would anyone want to replace his LP-version on MRF? Because his records are scratched and it is too much trouble to put everything on CD. »

27 Apr 2006

AUBER: Fra Diavolo
DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

When these recordings first appeared during the mid-sixties, there was some eye batting. Why did Deutsche Grammophon bring these recordings on the market? »

24 Apr 2006

Deborah Voigt as Tosca

Tosca "is based on a play by Sardou, which was written for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. Sardou crafted melodrama rather well, and Puccini’s librettists distilled the play’s main attributes of action, sex, love, lust, politics, art and religion into one of the most popular operas of the verismo style." Tosca is now playing at the Met with Deborah Voigt in the title role. Here are two reviews. »

22 Apr 2006

Tönet, ihr Pauken!

Bach’s famed career as an organist, his prolific output of church cantatas, and his personal piety, all conspire to keep the image of the churchly Bach front and center in the modern mind, despite the enduring familiarity and popularity of Brandenburg concertos, sonatas, and suites. »

22 Apr 2006

Victoria de los Angeles—Profile in Music

For those without much time to read reviews, I can be extremely brief: hurry and buy this DVD. For all the others: the same advise though maybe they want to know the reasons for such a purchase. »

22 Apr 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni

Calixto Bieito has made his name as an opera director with productions of unrelenting violence and sex, perhaps exemplified by last year's Abduction from the Seraglio in Berlin with its full nudity and graphic mutilations. »

20 Apr 2006

Enescu: Oedipe

Enescu's Oedipe has always been a rarity outside his native Romania. »

20 Apr 2006

MASCAGNI: In Filanda

Last year was the 60th anniversary of Mascagni’s death. When I wrote a big commemoration article for a Dutch operatic magazine, I wondered if we would ever hear a full version of the 18-year old Mascagni’s first work: a cantata called “in the weaving mill.” »

20 Apr 2006

BRITTEN: Death in Venice

Even if this recording were a failure (which it isn't), it is indispensable on account of its inclusion of about 90 seconds of music not present in the only other studio recording. »

20 Apr 2006

“l’heure exquise”

After happily scanning the rarity-filled repertoire on this disc, and considering the unusual program order, with sets of songs by Enescu, Chausson, and Debussy alternating with sets by saloniste Reynaldo Hahn, I visualize this recital as an exquisite hour in Hahn’s salon, with three guest composers present, exchanging ideas with their host. »

20 Apr 2006

LORTZING: Undine

Albert Lortzing has suffered much lately. Artistically speaking, he is somewhat moribund. In a recent article in the German operatic magazine, Orpheus, one writer rightfully complained that the once so popular composer has almost disappeared from the German theatres. »

19 Apr 2006

A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich

Only a few seconds after watching this DVD I was reminded of one of the great marketing failures in records. More than forty years ago, RCA brought out several glorious LP’s of young Gigli’s records and they put photographs of the sixty-five year old tenor on the sleeve. »

19 Apr 2006

Song of America: Music from the Library of Congress

In connection with the joint project by Thomas Hampson and the U.S. Library of Congress to present events about American song and other creativity at venues as varied as Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Carnegie Hall, EMI Classics has released this CD containing tracks from three earlier discs featuring Thomas Hampson. »

18 Apr 2006

Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos

I fear this is a CD strictly reserved for fans of both singers or for collectors of Christmas albums by classical singers. »