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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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07 Apr 2016

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.  »

06 Apr 2016

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration. »

05 Apr 2016

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838. »

02 Apr 2016

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.  »

02 Apr 2016

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).  »

02 Apr 2016

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi. »

31 Mar 2016

The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal Opera

‘All men become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.’ ‘Is that clever?’ ‘It is perfectly phrased!’ »

26 Mar 2016

Mahler’s Third, Concertgebouw

Evolving in Mahler’s Third: Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic’s impressive adaption to the Concertgebouw »

22 Mar 2016

La Juive in Lyon

Though all big opera is called grand opera, French grand opera itself is a very specific genre. It is an ephemeral style not at all easy to bring to life. For example . . . »

21 Mar 2016

Benjamin, Dernière Nuit in Lyon

That’s Walter Benjamin of the Frankfort School [philosophers in the interwar period (WW’s I and II) who were at home neither with capitalism, fascism or communism]. »

21 Mar 2016

Handel’s Berenice, London

1737 was Handel’s annus horribilis. His finances were in disarray and his opera company was struggling in the face of the challenge presented by the rival Opera of the Nobility. The strain and over-work led to a stroke, as the Earl of Shaftesbury reported: »

20 Mar 2016

Nocturnal Visions and Reveries at the Barbican

Nocturnal visions and reveries dominated this concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Hall, part of a two-day celebration of the music of George Benjamin which also includes a concert performance of the composer’s opera Written on Skin.  »

18 Mar 2016

Ferruccio Furlanetto at San Diego

On March 5, 2016, San Diego Opera presented it’s star bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, in a concert of arias with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra at the orchestra’s home, Copley Symphony Hall. »

18 Mar 2016

Madama Butterfly, LA Opera

On March 12, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented the local premiere of Lee Blakeley’s staging of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly which had been seen in 2010 at Santa Fe Opera. When Blakeley’s Geisha, played magnificently by Ana Maria Martinez, forsakes her traditional religion and breaks the rules of her culture, she eventually faces a choice between total loss of honor and suicide. Everything that happened on the stage Saturday night pointed toward the tragedy. Puccini’s unforgettable music and exquisite singing by Los Angeles Opera’s top-notch cast kept audience members on the edges of their seats all evening. »

16 Mar 2016

Boris Godunov, Covent Garden

‘And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ John Donne’s metaphysical meditation might have made a fitting sub-title for Richard Jones’s new production of Musorgky’s Boris Godunov at the Royal Opera House — the first performance in the house of the original 1869 score. »

14 Mar 2016

Ariodante, London Handel Festival

By the time that he composed Ariodante, which was first performed in January 1735, Handel had more than three decades of opera-composing experience behind him. It’s surely one of his greatest music dramas not least because, adapted from Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso, it is a very ‘human’ drama, telling of love and lust, betrayal and healing. »

14 Mar 2016

AZ Opera Presents Young Singers in Memorable Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni is Mozart at his mature zenith. He makes his musical statements directly with optimum economy and, even after more than two centuries, the dramatic scope of his work remains a source of wonder to operagoers. Charles Gounod called Don Giovanni “an unequalled and immortal masterpiece, the pinnacle of lyrical drama.” »

10 Mar 2016

Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night, London

Descending into the concrete cavern that is Ambika P3, at the University of Westminster, I reflected that the bunker-like milieu was a fitting venue for Royal Academy Opera’s production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night, which updated the original early-19th century locale to the beginning of the Soviet era. »

10 Mar 2016

Entrancing Orlando at the Concertgebouw

The English Concert’s travelling Orlando has been collecting rave reviews. Here’s another one from Amsterdam, the last stop on their tour before Carnegie Hall. »

03 Mar 2016

Orlando at the Barbican

In 1728 Handel was down on his luck, following the demise of his ‘Royal Academy’. Ever the entrepreneur, the following year he made a scouting tour of Italy in search of the best singing talent and, returning with seven new virtuosos — including the castrato Senesino.  »

02 Mar 2016

Heroique flashes at Wigmore Hall

Bryan Hymel, Irene Roberts & Julius Drake at Rosenblatt Recitals »

02 Mar 2016

Il trittico, Royal Opera

Strong revival for Richard Jones 2011 production with cast mixing returnees and débutantes »

02 Mar 2016

A trip with Captain Haitink into Bruckner’s Cosmos

Last year for his 60th anniversary as conductor, Bernard Haitink celebrated with one of his first orchestra’s the Dutch Radio Philharmonic. That performance of Mahler’s Fourth turned out such a success, he returned for another round at the NTR Saturday Matinee at the Concertgebouw.  »

02 Mar 2016

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.  »

01 Mar 2016

Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart

In Musical Exoticism (Cambridge 2011) Ralph P. Locke undertook an extensive appraisal of the portrayal of the ‘Other’ in works dating from 1700 to the present day, an enquiry that embraced a wide range of genres from Baroque opera to Algerian rap, and which was at once musical, cultural, historical, political and ethical.  »

29 Feb 2016

Khovanshchina at Dutch National Opera convinces musically, less so theatrically

Dutch National Opera’s Khovanshchina’s finest asset was Anita Rachvelishvili’s vocally ravishing Marfa. The darkly opalescent Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra came in a close second. »

29 Feb 2016

Sophie Bevan, Wigmore Hall

The meaning of the term cantata (literally, ‘sung’ from the Italian verb, cantare) may have changed over time, but whether sacred or secular, the form — with its combination of declamatory narration and emotive arias — is undoubtedly a dramatic one, as this performance by Dunedin at the Wigmore Hall of cantatas by J.S. Bach and Handel confirmed. »

29 Feb 2016

Extraordinary Pelléas et Mélisande

With its City of Light presentations, honoring Paris and French inspired music, the Los Angeles Philharmonic offered its public an extraordinary concert performance of a unique opera — Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy. »

29 Feb 2016

Fascinating Magic Flute in Los Angeles

Barrie Kosky, intendant of the Komische Oper in Berlin, initially thought of combining live performance with animation when he saw British theater company 1927’s production of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. For that presentation, Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt mixed the worlds of silent film and music hall theater, a combination that Kosky wanted for his production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  »

24 Feb 2016

Theatre of the Ayre, Wigmore Hall

In the 17th century, sacred vocal music was not just for public worship in church but also for private devotion within a secular setting, and this concert at the Wigmore Hall by Theatre of the Ayre under its director Elizabeth Kenny transported us from Chapel Royal to domestic chamber. »

22 Feb 2016

HOT Dream in Honolulu

In a world opera schedule packed with safe bread-and-butter warhorses, Hawaii Opera Theatre gambled on a Britten rarity and came up smelling as sweet as a tuberose lei. »

19 Feb 2016

Arizona Opera Presents an Interesting Carmen

Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based their libretto for Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. On March 3, 1875, Carmen was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.  »

19 Feb 2016

L'Aiglon in Marseille

Napoleon I (Bonaparte) was known as the Aigle (eagle), his son by Marie Louise (of the Hapsburgs) later became called the Aiglon (eaglet). At birth he was dubbed the King of Rome by his father. Unofficially and very briefly he was Napoleon II. Exiled in Austria he was officially titled the Duke of Reichstadt and the Prince of Parma. »

18 Feb 2016

Norma , ENO

Notable first performance of Bellini's opera by ENO, with a striking assumption of the title role from the young American soprano »

18 Feb 2016

Schubert: The Complete Songs

The Wigmore Hall’s chronological journey through the complete lieder of Franz Schubert continued with this recital by tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Graham Johnson. The duo gave a thought-provoking performance which was notable for the searching dialectic between simplicity and complexity which it illuminated. »

17 Feb 2016

M is for Man, Music and Mystery

Peter Greenaway’s short film M is for Man, Music and Mozart, for which the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen composed the score, was commissioned to mark the bicentenary anniversary of Mozart’s death in 1791. »

17 Feb 2016

San Diego Opera Presents an Exciting Tosca

Together with fellow playwrights Émile Augier and Alexandre Dumas fils, Victorien Sardou dominated the French stage in the late nineteenth century. Although Sardou was an excellent craftsman who was elected to the Académie Francaise in 1877, his reliance on theatrical devices caused his plays to go out of style after the turn of the twentieth century.  »

15 Feb 2016

Nabucco with a Rare Cast at Lyric Opera of Chicago

The background of Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco, currently being presented at Lyric Opera of Chicago, draws on the struggle between Babylonian and Hebrew forces, emphasized in this production graphically by alternating scripts in cuneiform and Hebrew projections.  »