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The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.



05 Oct 2015

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.  »

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20 May 2005

MAY: Decoding Wagner — An Invitation to His World of Music Drama

Thomas May's stated goal in Decoding Wagner is indeed summarized in his subtitle, An Invitation to His Music Dramas. Mr. May offers an introduction to those who may seek a reliable yet succinct guide in their first Wagnerian experience; a further potential readership is seen among those who have attended performances of Wagner but who wish to expand their appreciation of the music dramas. In his chronological overview of Wagner's oeuvre from the mid-1830s until the close of his career May presents an approachable guide to appreciating the composer's operatic genius. As an illustration of May's commentary on the works, a generous selection of Wagner's music is included on two Discs that accompany the volume in a protective sleeve. »

20 May 2005

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs - 1 — Au bord de l’eau

The songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) are some of the finest works examples of the genre and they represent the mature French mélodie in the hands of a composer who knew both the voice and the piano quite well. This release is the first of four discs that include all of Fauré’s songs for voice and piano within Hyperion’s series of French Song editions. Like those other collections from Hyperion, this volume of the Fauré set involves excellent performers who know the literature well. »

20 May 2005

Susan Graham in Paris

Blouson vert pomme, jeans bleus, corsage fuchsia, cheveux courts et roux couronnant une taille imposante, Susan Graham joue sans affectation l’Américaine à Paris dans les couloirs austères et académiques de l’Opéra Garnier. Dans quelques jours, elle interprétera le rôle de Sesto (Sextus) de La Clémence de Titus dans une mise en scène déjà représentée à Salzbourg en 1994 où elle était alors Annio (Annius). «J’ai eu la chance d’avoir de grands professeurs pour cet opéra, explique-t-elle, puisque j’ai tenu trois fois le rôle d’Annio alors que Sesto était chanté par Tatiana Troyanos, Ann Murray et Frederica von Stade. J’ai toujours dans l’oreille les inflexions et l’intensité de Tatiana. C’était ma première apparition professionnelle à Chicago, en 1989…» »

19 May 2005

Paul McCreesh Directs Bach's B Minor Mass

Paul McCreesh’s approach to Bach’s last major choral work is about as far removed as possible from traditional heavyweight performances of the B minor Mass, and distinctly different from the approach of many of his period-instrument peers as well. For this superbly energised account, the Gabrieli Consort consisted of just 10 singers, divided equally into a ripieno, which provided the soloists, and a consort, which joined in for the large-scale numbers. The orchestra was just over twice that size. This minimalist approach produced gains in equality between voices and orchestras, and marvellous clarity in the contrapuntal writing. It also enabled McCreesh to adopt tempi that would have had a larger choir tied in knots. »

19 May 2005

Der Ring at the Mariinsky

Hot on the heels of their marathon appearance at the Moscow Easter Festival, the artistic forces of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater are preparing for a return visit to Moscow. Starting Monday, they take to the main stage of the Bolshoi Theater with three evenings of ballet and a complete performance of Richard Wagner’s four-part operatic cycle “The Ring of the Nibelung.” »

19 May 2005

Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at COT

At first glance, Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream’’ is a frothy tale, a story of youthful romance going charmingly awry. True, Tatania, the fairy queen, feuds fiercely with her husband, Fairy King Oberon, over custody of a boy prince the Queen of India has given her. But the course of true love ne’er did run smooth, and Shakespeare’s beleaguered lovers triumph in the end. »

18 May 2005

Sarah Connolly at Weill Hall

On Monday night at Weill Recital Hall—the lovely space upstairs at Carnegie—Sarah Connolly gave us one of the most satisfying events of the season. The English mezzo-soprano sang a diverse recital, offering Haydn, Brahms, Hahn, Korngold, and Weill (Weill at Weill!). This followed her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Annio in Mozart’s “Clemenza di Tito.” All in all, Ms. Connolly put in a very good month’s work in New York. »

18 May 2005

Lucio Silla at Wiener Festwochen

Nelle sue ultime dichiarazioni il nuovo sovrintendente della Scala Lissner ha spesso accennato, senza fare nomi, a cinque direttori d’orchestra, da lui ritenuti i migliori del mondo. Non siamo in grado di dire se Harnoncourt faccia parte di questa rosa, ma non esiteremmo ad affermare che nell’ambito dell’opera mozartiana il direttore austriaco abbia introdotto nuovi canoni interpretativi. Tra palco e buca, infatti, l’intesa è simbiosi. Il Concentus Musicus ha dimostrato di essere non solo ottimo complesso strumentale, ma anche eccelso apparato operistico. Harnoncourt dirige l’orchestra ascoltando le voci, senza mai coprirle, anzi assecondandone le virtù e sfocandone le debolezze, in un alternare continuo di livelli dinamici e sfumature timbriche. Tre ore e mezza di musica che non conoscono cali di tensione. »

17 May 2005

Verdi's I Masnadieri in Lüttich/Liège

Für Jean-Pierre Haeck war es eine gelungene Premiere. Für das Publikum war der Abend die Begegnung mit einem Höhepunkt des verdischen Belcanto, einer Oper, die zu unrecht ein wenig in Vergessenheit geraten ist. »

17 May 2005

Jenufa at El Liceu

El Liceu estrena esta noche Jenufa, una gran ópera del compositor checo Leos Janacek, con libreto de Gabriella Preissova, en una producción de la ópera de Hamburgo que se ha visto en el Covent Garden y el Metropolitan. »

17 May 2005

Cyrano at the Met

NEW YORK—There’s a line in Act 2 of Franco Alfano’s rarely heard opera “Cyrano de Bergerac” that marks a critical turning point in the sad story of a poet’s unrequited love: “The Tiger’s awakening.” It’s said to Cyrano, the artist with a short temper, a fast sword and an excruciatingly big nose. But it might well stand for the effect tenor Placido Domingo had on audiences Friday night at the Metropolitan Opera when he sang the title role, a new role and the 121st of his exceptionally long and productive career. »

17 May 2005

BROWNE: Music from the Eton Choirbook

For more than a quarter century, Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars have achieved great distinction in the performance of sixteenth-century polyphony, bringing to that repertory interpretations of engaging directness, rhythmic vitality, and fullness of tone. These are qualities that are admirably well suited to the music of the Eton Choirbook and one of its most representative composers, John Browne, the subject of this recent recording. »

16 May 2005

Gheorghiu Sings Puccini at Festival Hall

This strange effort was billed as a Celebratory Gala Concert: Angela Gheorghiu Sings Puccini. Just what we were meant to be celebrating was unclear. But what we got was Gheorghiu singing eight Puccini arias, plus his Salve Regina, together with a couple of encores. »

16 May 2005

Der Rosenkavalier at the Wiener Staatsoper

Philippe Jordan leitete eine musikalische Neueinstudierung des “Rosenkavalier” mit Johan Botha als Überraschungsgast. Ganz auf kammermusikalische Finesse hatte Philippe Jordan diesen Strauss angelegt. Freilich führte er das makellos, mit kostbaren Soli aufspielende Staatsopernorchester meist so straff, dass selbst die Walzerpassagen sich selten zu brillantem Glanz aufschwangen. »

16 May 2005

Jeptha at ENO

Katie Mitchell’s staging of Handel’s last original oratorio was widely admired when presented by Welsh National Opera two years ago. Transported from Cardiff’s New Theatre to the Coliseum for English National Opera’s share of the production, whatever dramatic and musical force it had originally has been dissipated. That may be partly the result of the transfer to a much larger auditorium, but the real problems seem more deeply rooted in the production itself. »

13 May 2005

Premiere of Hildegard

I DON’T say that James Wood’s new opera about everyone’s favourite 12th-century abbess, Hildegard of Bingen, broke the Trade Descriptions Act. But I imagine that many Norfolk and Norwich Festival patrons, lured by the promise of “a spectacle of sound and light”, thought that they were going to get one of those grandiose cathedral son et lumière shows, with the voice of someone like Donald Sinden doing a lugubrious narration while stained-glass windows gently light up. »

13 May 2005

Rigoletto at the Mariinsky

Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” a long-standing audience favorite, received languid treatment from Italian director Walter Le Moli, whose interpretation of the opera premiered at the Mariinsky Theater on May 6 and 7. »

13 May 2005

Prokofiev at the Helikon

For its first new production since May of last year, Helikon Opera chose to honor the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe with the premiere last Saturday of “Fallen from the Sky,” a operatic pastiche based on two war-related works by Sergei Prokofiev. »

12 May 2005

Angela Gheorghiu at Festival Hall

There are sopranos, and there are divas. Angela Gheorghiu is definitely one of the latter. You know straight away from watching her stride on to the stage why this woman wins her battles with directors and conductors. »

11 May 2005

Britten's War Requiem at Royal Festival Hall, London

Flag-waving celebrations may have been the order of the day across the river, but a far more thoughtful marking of the VE Day anniversary was to be found in the London Philharmonic’s tribute, which almost inevitably took the form of Britten’s War Requiem. What wasn’t inevitable was that it should be led by the orchestra’s chief conductor, who spent VE day as a teenage German soldier in an Allied prisoner-of-war camp. However, it seemed right that Kurt Masur was there. »

11 May 2005

Il Corsaro in Genoa

It would be easy to say that the best thing about Il Corsaro is its brevity. There isn’t one item in the young Verdi’s compositional bag of tricks that he didn’t brandish with greater flair elsewhere. Written when the composer was Paris-based and exploring new artistic directions, it suffers from a sense that he was going through the motions. But the Teatro Carlo Felice accords Il Corsaro the respect it would any other Verdi opera, and the rewards are substantial. »

11 May 2005

BØRRESEN: The Royal Guest

When this CD arrived, I had never heard of Danish composer Hakon Børresen (1876–1954). Baker’s gives him only a few lines, and a Google search didn’t turn up much information until I found a Danish site ( with interesting biographical details to supplement the little biography in the CD notes. When I put the CD on and sat back to listen, I suddenly realized I had heard, if not heard of, Børresen before. It’s Richard Strauss! Or maybe Edward Elgar. The composer seems to have remained firmly rooted in the nineteenth century (or maybe Hans Pfitzner) until his death, three years after that of Arnold Schoenberg. That he retained his leadership of the Danish Composers’ Society during the Nazi occupation until he was ousted in 1948 may say something about his conservative nature as well. »

11 May 2005


This problematic recording is another in Naxos’s “American Classics” series, an important body of releases that demonstrates the broad reach of American music across two centuries. While some of the recordings are decidedly novelties, they are welcome as such. William Henry Fry’s “Santa Claus” Symphony, for instance, deserves to be heard as well as mentioned in textbooks. The songs of Dave Brubeck, however, are certainly more than novelties, despite their not being as well known or as widely heard as the music of his justly famous quartet. »