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Elsewhere

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.


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Reviews

17 Mar 2019

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas. »

Recently in Reviews

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21 Aug 2008

Prom 40 – Boulez conducts Janáček

Contrary to popular assumption, Janáček wasn’t “folkloric” per se, much as he loved his Moravian heritage. Boulez’s perceptive approach shows how inventive and original Janáček’s music can be. »

21 Aug 2008

Torre - Torre - Torre

I hoped it was not an omen of the evening to come at Torre del Lago’s Puccini Festival, when the audience was made to wait at the closed gates until about twenty minutes before curtain rise, listening to the orchestra and chorus a hundred yards away rehearse chunks of that night’s Edgar. »

19 Aug 2008

Prom 18 — L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s annual appearance at the Proms is always an eagerly-awaited event, but there is a varying degree of success with which the productions adapt from a full staging at Glyndebourne to a semi-staging suitable for the small platform and cavernous space of the Royal Albert Hall. »

19 Aug 2008

Singers from South Africa and Sweden win Seattle Wagner Competition

A soprano originally from South Africa and a tenor from Sweden sang their way to top honors in the 2008 International Wagner Competition staged by the Seattle Opera on August 16 in Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, the company's handsome home. »

18 Aug 2008

Lucky star over the Arena

“Stage direction should not follow fashion, for fashion is the sister of death”. »

17 Aug 2008

At Glyndbourne, more "Other Demons" than "Love"

The haunting, unsettling opening moments of the Glyndebourne premiere of Peter Eötvös’ “Love and Other Demons” promised much, with sensitive playing by the solo celesta and harp, flutter-tongued flutes, and jarring bass stings. »

17 Aug 2008

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.

The lyricism characteristic of the instrumental music of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is at the core of his songs, and the two collections found on this recording represent his vocal music well. »

17 Aug 2008

Karajan on DG, EMI

The 100th anniversary of his birth inevitably produces a flood of releases from the catalog of conductor Herbert von Karajan. »

17 Aug 2008

SMETANA: Dvě vdovy (The Two Widows)

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) is, perhaps known best for his opera The Bartered Bride (1863, rev. 1870), a touchstone of comic opera fused with eastern-European nationalism and, as much as that work has much to offer, his other efforts deserve attention. »

17 Aug 2008

HINDEMITH: Mathis der Mahler

Premiered in 1938 in Zurich, Mathis der Maler was then the most recent of Paul Hindemith’s provocative operas. »

17 Aug 2008

Medieval Christmas

The festal days of Christmas, New Year’s, St. Stephen and St. Thomas Becket are rich in musical celebration, and this recording from the Orlando Consort brings together a wide range of organa, motets, chansons, and carols to remind us of that fact. »

30 Jul 2008

Don Carlo at Wiener Staatsoper

Star-studded casts graced end of the season performances at the Wiener Staatsoper, with two versions of Verdi’s Don Carlo on its menu. »

30 Jul 2008

Grant Park Music Festival: Sibelius, Szymanowski, Tchaikovsky

For its ninth program of the Summer 2008 season the Grant Park Music Festival offered a balance of vocal, choral, and orchestral works from the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. »

30 Jul 2008

Foxy Chautauqua

I discovered many delights in my first ever visit to the Chautauqua Opera, not least of which was the lovely environment of the hilly Chautauqua Institution grounds which are dotted with picturesque and inviting old frame houses. »

30 Jul 2008

All That Glimmers. . .

The novelty feature drawing veteran opera enthusiasts in general, and Richard Wagnerites in particular to Glimmerglass Opera this summer is that composer’s “Das Liebesverbot,” in what is touted as the North American fully staged premiere of this seldom-talked-about-and-even-less-performed early piece. »

30 Jul 2008

Baroque Oratorio Premieres in New Jersey

For two years, the subdued rumble of anticipation had been building to a forte. »

30 Jul 2008

The Pilgrim's Progress at Sader's Wells

The Philharmonia Orchestra has made a far more comprehensive effort than any other British ensemble to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams, with concerts taking place over the course of seven months in London, Leicester and Bedford including a complete symphony cycle. »

29 Jul 2008

Donizetti on Dynamic DVD

Dynamic now offers most of its product in CD and DVD formats, the latter in High Definition, no less. »

29 Jul 2008

Verdi on Classics for Pleasure, Opera Highlights

With these three CDs of highlights from three Verdi operas - Nabucco, Il Trovatore, and Aida — Classics for Pleasure gives a snapshot of the arc of his career. »

28 Jul 2008

Along the Roaring River

Chinese bass Hao Jiang Tian was 30, when he enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Denver 1983. »

23 Jul 2008

First Night of the Proms

It’s not so long ago that the opening night of the Proms was given over to a single major choral work, but in more recent times it has become more of an overt opener to the season, presenting a taster menu of the themes running through the season’s subsequent 70-plus concerts. »

22 Jul 2008

Gordon creates masterpiece in “Green Sneakers”

Eugenia Zukerman asked for a 10-minute chamber work — a piano quintet, perhaps — and she got Green Sneakers for Baritone, String Quartet and Empty Chair, which lasts exactly an hour. »

20 Jul 2008

Geez, Louise

“Quelle plaisir” to encounter Gustave Charpentier’s seldom performed “Louise” at the Paris Opera in a production where most everything went spectacularly right. »

20 Jul 2008

Idomeneo and Doktor Faust at München Opernfestspiele

The Bayerische Staatsoper, based in three spectacular houses where Mozart, Wagner and many other composers premiered their works, presents over 300 annual performances to a discerning public. »

20 Jul 2008

Villazón on Deutsche Grammophon

The opera world, always ravenous for talented, charismatic tenors, felt desperate hunger pains last summer, when Rolando Villazón canceled dates with an explanation that a health crisis necessitated a sabbatical from singing. »

20 Jul 2008

Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera x2

With a composer as widely beloved as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for an opera to be all but forgotten suggests the work has problems beyond redemption. »

20 Jul 2008

Der Rosenkavalier highlights on Classics for Pleasure

For the opera of average length, a decent highlights disc can feature as much as half the score. »

13 Jul 2008

Die Soldaten

Bernd Alois Zimmermann was a sensitive, none too healthy 21-year-old music prodigy in 1939, when he was drafted into the German army. »

13 Jul 2008

Troilus triumphant in Saint Louis …..

For Sir William Walton, the protracted genesis of Troilus and Cressida must have seemed more akin to the agonies of Sisyphus than to the composition of an opera. »

13 Jul 2008

CANDIDE – English National Opera, London Coliseum

Originating at the Châtelet, where the narration was given in French, Robert Carsen's staging of Bernstein's unique satire worked rather well in its television broadcast from the Parisian house late in 2006. »

13 Jul 2008

A Brescian Butterfly and a bewildering Hoffman at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

The disastrous 1904 La Scala premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly is one of those famous annals of opera which tend to leave today’s audiences perplexed about all the uproar. »

13 Jul 2008

Rossini Opera Festival on Dynamic

At the Rossini Festival held in Pesaro, Italy, Dynamic recorded two Rossini rarities in August 2006. »

13 Jul 2008

Grant Park Music Festival: “20th-Century Masters.”

The concert “20th-Century Masters,” presented by the Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago on 27 and 28 June 2008 featured several pieces performed for the first time under the auspices of the Festival. »

13 Jul 2008

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 9; Richard Strauss: Tod und Verklärung

The late Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001) became established as an estimable conductor of nineteenth-century music, and his legacy includes a number of fine recordings. »

06 Jul 2008

San Francisco Opera summer season, 2008

David Gockley heard the cries of many an opera fan that Pamela Rosenberg had denied them their 'stars,' so for his summer season, 2008, he brought them Natalie Dessay, Susan Graham, Ruth Ann Swenson, and Stefan Margita. »

06 Jul 2008

BELLINI: Norma

The best thing about this set, a Norma recorded live at the Teatro delle Muse di Ancona in late 2004, is the booklet essay by Marco Beghelli, offered in both English and Italian (no credit to any translator). »

06 Jul 2008

Unusual Fare at Opera Festival of St. Louis

My visit to two rarely mounted pieces at the Opera Festival of St. Louis brought to mind the little girl with the curl, for when it was good, it was very very good and when it was bad, it was, um. . .er. . . »

06 Jul 2008

Two Aida’s from TDK

At one time, Verdi’s Aida figured as the most performed opera. »

23 Jun 2008

Don Carlo at Royal Opera House

In the latter part of last year, the casting for Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Don Carlo — in the five-act Italian version — looked to be on shaky ground. »

23 Jun 2008

Don Giovanni. No, the other one

No one has ever called Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni an overlooked masterpiece. »

22 Jun 2008

MEYERBEER: Semiramide

This Dynamic recording of Meyerbeer's Semiramide, an opera title more familiar with Rossini's name appended, mixes the pleasure of a modestly appealing surprise with regret at key aspects of the performance. »

22 Jun 2008

A rare treasure in Saint Louis. . .

Pink flamingos, sheep on wheels, and a queen crowned with giant antlers all inhabit the zany world of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s Una cosa rara, where the artificial 18th century pastoral commingles with cutesy country colors and 1950s yard art. »

22 Jun 2008

Choral Music by Dvořák and Brahms

Among the choral music of Anton [Antonin] Dvorak, the familiar Stabat Mater, Op. 58, is known to modern audiences through various live performances and recordings. »

19 Jun 2008

Mozart and Lortzing from Hamburg Opera on film

A nostalgic charm permeates these filmed productions from the early 1970s of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, collaborations between the Hamburg State Opera and German TV director Joachim Hess. »

19 Jun 2008

Karajan opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

The opera highlights series from Classics for Pleasure continues its recycling of the EMI catalogue with selections from two of Herbert von Karajan's recordings. »

15 Jun 2008

Plácido Domingo’s miraculous autumn

On the barren stage: a few chairs, a dark-gold hectoplasm projected on the wood panels of the acoustic chamber - nothing more. »

15 Jun 2008

See Venice and then die

For the belated Spanish premiere of Britten’s Death in Venice, 35 years after its creation in Aldeburgh, Barcelona seems a felicitous choice. »

09 Jun 2008

Songs by Henry & William Lawes

With this recording of songs by Henry & William Lawes, musical brothers who flourished in Caroline England, countertenor Robin Blaze with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny continue their exploration of early English song for Hyperion, and the results are stunning. »

09 Jun 2008

Star Power in Paris “Capuleti”

For Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” Paris Opera peopled its revival with plenty of star power. »

09 Jun 2008

Opera with a human heart

When the Ringling Brothers folded their tents, opera took over. Aïda with elephants, and Walküre with real horses. »

09 Jun 2008

St. Francis in Amsterdam

It is a bit hard to know what to make of Olivier Messiaen’s colossal piece “Saint François d’Assise,” beautifully mounted by Netherlands Opera. »