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Elsewhere

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

Mark Padmore reflects on Britten's Death in Venice

“At the start, one knows ‘bits’ of it,” says tenor Mark Padmore, somewhat wryly, when I meet him at the Stage Door of the Royal Opera House where the tenor has just begun rehearsals for David McVicar’s new production of Death in Venice, which in November will return Britten’s opera to the ROH stage for the first time since 1992.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

Annilese Miskimmon appointed as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

English National Opera has appointed Annilese Miskimmon as Artistic Director.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.


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Reviews

21 Oct 2019

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.  »

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06 Sep 2009

Mahler and Ligeti at the Proms?

On the surface, the theme of this Prom seemed to be Sci Fi movies at the Proms. Both Ligeti's Atmosphères and Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra became huge hits when Stanley Kubrick used them in 2001 : A Space Odyssey. So how did Mahler's *Kindertotenlieder* fit in ?  »

06 Sep 2009

Bayreuth: Multi-layered, Profound "Parsifal"

The Wagner Festspiel loves to provoke. »

06 Sep 2009

Seattle humanizes Wagner’s Ring

In 2001, when Seattle Opera completed its current production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, it seemed the company had taken a step backward. In appearance the new Ring — the third full SO staging since Glynn Ross set out to make the city the American counterpart to Germany’s Bayreuth — was traditional.  »

06 Sep 2009

The Dream of Gerontius: Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago

For the eighteenth program of its seventy-fifth anniversary season the Grant Park Music Festival under the direction of its principal conductor Carlos Kalmar gave two performances of Sir Edward Elgar’s monumental oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, The Dream of Gerontius.  »

30 Aug 2009

Gustav Mahler: Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Following from the fine collaboration between Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles on an ambitious collection of various sets of Mahler’s Lieder (Hyperion CD 67392), which includes some of the composer’s early settings of poetry from the anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the present recording contains thirteen later settings from that source.  »

30 Aug 2009

Bellini: Il Pirata

This 1958 RAI broadcast of Bellini's early masterpiece requires the accustomed aural compromise for maximum enjoyment.  »

30 Aug 2009

Central City Opera 2009

Central City stages luminous Lucia There’s the sextet, the greatest “hit” in all of opera when Caruso was in the cast, and there’s the “Mad Scene,” that exercise in vocal acrobatics that brought new glory to bel canto when the opera was new in Naples in 1835.  »

30 Aug 2009

Verdi's Macbeth at the Sferisterio Opera Festival

The opera venue at Macerata shares some features with its famous counterpart in Verona: both are outdoors, with huge stages that can accommodate spectacular productions.  »

30 Aug 2009

Fidelio at the Proms

Fidelio is not just any opera. But then, Beethoven is not just any composer. His only opera — unless one counts Leonore as a work in itself — confounds bureaucratic expectations.  »

30 Aug 2009

Manon Lescaut at the Festival Puccini di Torre del Lago

Each year, the tiny Tuscan village Torre del Lago hosts a festival dedicated to its favorite son, Giacomo Puccini. This year’s Puccini Festival (10 July - 30 August) featured a “new” Manon Lescaut (a co-production with Opera del Nice Theater), its premiere garnering standing ovations for Marcello Giordani and Martina Serafin and accolades for Alberto Veronesi, the artistic director of the Festival.  »

30 Aug 2009

Lehär: Die Blaue Mazur

As the detail-filled booklet essay to this CPO set reminds its readers, Franz Lehär's operettas enjoyed widespread, though rarely lasting, success, with the music theater world of the time eager for each successive work.  »

30 Aug 2009

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten, Salzburg

Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten isn't the easiest opera to produce, with its grand effects, but this production comes close to being a perfect union between stage and music.  »

30 Aug 2009

Louis Andriessen De Staat at the Proms

De Staat is a seminally important work. So much modern music stems from it, not only “serious” classical music but progressive popular music too. It “is” music theatre, for it’s designed to be experienced live, the visual effect part of the action. »

23 Aug 2009

Zelmira in Pesaro

August is when Italians immerse themselves in the primal soup of all life. Hordes swarm to the Mediterranean shores and multitudes arrive in Pesaro on the Adriatic, where just then crowds of Rossinians from around the world arrive to partake of their primal operatic soup.  »

23 Aug 2009

Boito: Mefistofele

The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.  »

23 Aug 2009

Paul Hindemith: Die junge Magd, Op. 23, no. 2; Ernst Toch: Die chinesische Flöte, Op. 29.

Gustav Mahler was not alone in setting verses from Hans Bethge’s collection of Chinese-inspired poetry entitled Die chinesische Flöte, as he did in his symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde.  »

23 Aug 2009

The Full Monteverdi: A Film by John la Bouchardière

Although the cutesy title sounds like something conjured up by a community college marketing intern working for a mid-sized city orchestra’s ticket office—where every concert featuring Wagner and Brahms gets the sobriquet “Teutonic Titans”—don’t be put off by the moniker. This film is a brilliant adaptation of Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals that is totally faithful to the composer’s music. »

23 Aug 2009

Wagner's Tannhaüser at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden

Good directors don't always create good productions.  »

23 Aug 2009

Maconchy: The Sofa & The Departure

The two one-act operas - operettes? - on this disc play something like mediocre episodes of The Twilight Zone set to music, though without the quirky memorability of that show's opening theme.  »

23 Aug 2009

Stars Shine at Glimmerglass

Everyone once in a while, we veteran opera-goers are privileged to see a promising artist give a break-out performance that announces a giant step forward into major stardom.  »

17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Luisa Miller

On a good night an opera performance can come across with visceral excitement without a classy production, top-name singers, or the benefit of being of one of the more familiar titles.  »

17 Aug 2009

Mozart and Gluck — Mixed Results at Santa Fe

It is never easy to revive a success. Audiences will remember the first run of a show and consciously or not, compare a revival with earlier favorable impressions.  »

17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Falstaff

Those opera lovers prone to rage at the perceived dominance of the director in their beloved art form today may collapse in apoplexy at this first release from the company called SignumVision.  »

17 Aug 2009

And If The Song Be Worth A Smile — Songs by American Composers

The word "living" would be a fitting addition to the subtitle of this collection of "Songs by American Composers."  »

17 Aug 2009

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Mask of Orpheus at the Proms

What drives Harrison Birtwistle to Greek myth? Orpheus is a primal archetype. When he played his lyre he tamed wild beasts and made mountains move. But he suffered. He journeyed into Hades but could not bring Eurydice, his beloved, back to life. In some versions of the myth, his talent enraged the jealous who tore him apart. Yet even then, his head remained intact, still singing. He symbolizes the power of music, and the fate of an artist.  »

17 Aug 2009

Bellini: Norma

"An all-American Norma," Roger Pines calls this release in his entertaining booklet essay.  »

09 Aug 2009

Monteverdi: L’incoronozione di Poppea

This excellent production of Monteverdi’s final (premiered in 1643) and most problematic opera features first-rate singing and a very effective (and restrained) staging.  »

09 Aug 2009

Semiramide at Caramoor

You need three or, ideally, four top-flight bel canto specialists to do anything like justice to Rossini’s Semiramide, his last and grandest Italian score. Otherwise why go to the expense?  »

07 Aug 2009

Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music — Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

In the Euroarts series Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music: Documentary & Performance, the volume devoted to Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra stands out as a particularly accessible and well-executed release.  »

07 Aug 2009

Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

For adherents of the prima voce school of opera appreciation, this Laurent Pelly production of Donizetti's comic masterpiece may not hold that much appeal.  »

06 Aug 2009

On deception at Sferisterio Festival, Macerata, Italy

L’inganno is this year’s theme at the Sferisterio Festival in Macerata, Italy.  »

05 Aug 2009

Les Huguenots at Bard SummerScape 2009

Why — they always ask — why — present Les Huguenots?  »

03 Aug 2009

Vivaldi: La fida ninfa

Although Antonio Vivaldi’s instrumental compositions were highly popular in his lifetime, and have been held in high regard throughout the centuries, most of his operas have been — until recently — relegated to obscurity.  »

03 Aug 2009

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

EMI's publicity for this studio recording focuses on soprano Angela Gheorghiu and her portrayal of Cio-Cio-San.  »

02 Aug 2009

Paris: King Roger Goes Hollywood

Paris Opera seems to posit the question: Does anyone completely understand what Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger is about?  »

02 Aug 2009

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia

Of Donizetti's 55 operas, four to five hold on to secure places in the repertory, a much greater number are all but unknown, and in the middle come the titles that see occasional revivals, as flawed but fascinating rarities.  »

02 Aug 2009

Verdi: La Forza del Destino

This looks like a winner, with an esteemed conductor (Zubin Mehta), top-rank cast (Violeta Urmana, Marcello Giordani, Carlo Guelfi), and a production directed by Nicholas Joël that originated at the Opernhaus Zürich, a house that takes some chances and scores some successes.  »

01 Aug 2009

‘Opera Noir’ Entertains at Santa Fe

Can a famously successful movie be made into an effective opera? A quick answer is: yes! »

29 Jul 2009

Schubert bounces along at Wigmore Hall

The performance of lieder is a partnership between singer and pianist. In May I heard Julius Drake redeem an indifferent recital by the sheer beauty of his playing. I’ve been listening to him for more than 15 years. He’s a favorite. So I was completely taken by surprise by this recital »

29 Jul 2009

Busoni: Doktor Faust

The legacy of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) includes some notable compositions, and among them is his unique setting of the Faust story.  »

27 Jul 2009

An Evening at Père Lachaise [Or, Natalie Dessay Attempts Violetta]

A fine-sounding Santa Fe Opera orchestra, excellently conducted by Frédéric Chaslin, was barely into the haunting, delicate prelude to Act I of La traviata, when a funeral procession, wet umbrellas unfurled, arrived to wend its way though a stage full of big grey marble rectangular boxes, handsomely abstracted tomb shapes, soon to be the courtesan Violetta Valéry’s destination. So much for the Prelude to Act I. »

22 Jul 2009

Bought and Paid-for Magic — Bernstein Tahiti in Munich’s Cuvilliès Theater

There she is, in her inch or two of sarong, floating, floating…Oh, excuse me, where was I? »

22 Jul 2009

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

The strategies of non-traditional opera directors are becoming as predictable and formulaic as the stuffy, static traditional productions that they work so hard not to emulate.  »

21 Jul 2009

A knock-out Ariadne auf Naxos at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera Festival

There are rare times when a critic can just enjoy, and say “Wow!”  »

21 Jul 2009

Tosca at the Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Tosca is the quintessential Roman opera, with a plot located in three infamous landmarks of Rome, its 1900 premiere in Rome was bound to be enormously successful.  »

20 Jul 2009

Rossini: Il Turco in Italia

If the economic downturn has canceled some opera lovers plans to attend any of the appealing European summer festivals, perhaps a trip online will find a DVD of a production from a recent year.  »