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Elsewhere

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years.

Adriana Lecouvreur Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Gergiev : Janáček Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.


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Reviews

31 Jul 2014

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17. Perfection, as one would expect from arguably the finest Rameau interpreters in the business, and that's saying a lot, given the exceptionally high quality of French baroque performance in the last 40 years. »

Recently in Reviews

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22 Mar 2005

BACH: Weinen, Klagen — Cantatas BWV 12, 38 & 75

One of the greatest challenges in compiling a recording of J. S. Bach’s cantatas must be choosing which cantatas to group together. For his Harmonia Mundi release, Weinen, Klagen…, Philippe Herreweghe selects three cantatas that represent the human experience of “desolation and comfort.” These two themes are so central to Lutheran theology they could in fact be found in any number of Bach’s cantatas. Nevertheless, the three cantatas on this recording reflect the variety across Bach’s output. “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” BWV 12, comes from Bach’s period in Weimar, the double cantata, “Die Elend sollen essen” BWV 75, was the first work Bach presented at his new post in Leipzig, and “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” BWV 38 is based strictly on the chorale tune throughout the entire work. Despite their differences, all of these works make the theological transition from earthly desolation to eternal comfort. »

21 Mar 2005

Les Ours du Scorff at Mino and Other Children Festivals

Sous le nom des Ours du Scorff, un quintette breton spécialisé dans les airs folkloriques destinés aux enfants de 4 ans et plus. En douze ans d’existence, cette formation est devenue une référence de la chanson jeune public, régulièrement invitée par les festivals spécialisés (Mino et, samedi 19 mars, celui de Magny-les-Hameaux, dans les Yvelines). L’explication de cette réussite tient en un mot : tradition. Non comme forme de réaction, mais comme désir de transmission. »

21 Mar 2005

Bach Restored in Japan

TOKYO (AFP) – Une cantate profane longtemps perdue de Jean-Sébastien Bach a été ressuscitée ce week-end à Tokyo, en première mondiale, sous l’inspiration et la direction du chef américain Joshua Rifkin. »

21 Mar 2005

Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Recital

Dmitri Hvorostovsky is one of the finest singers we have, whether in opera, in song, or in oratorio. (Instead of oratorio, I should say Russian liturgical music – that is one of his real strengths.) We even hear Mr. Hvorostovsky in Italian popular songs. They’re not especially Italian, but they’re enjoyable. »

21 Mar 2005

Kafka's Trial Premieres in Copenhagen

The Danish composer Poul Ruders is one of contemporary music’s free agents—a lover of sweet melodies with a yen for dark chords, a comedian with a flair for apocalypse. His previous opera, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” made sonic thunder out of Margaret Atwood’s novel of a dystopian America ruled by Christian fundamentalists. His major orchestral pieces—“Thus Saw Saint John,” the “Solar Trilogy,” a First Symphony subtitled “Rejoicing from the Heavens, Grieving Unto Death”—unfold hypnotically wayward narratives that reel from antic joy to frozen despair. (There are excellent recordings on the Bridge and Da Capo labels.) Ruders has a special knack for reinventing familiar tonal harmonies and styles; he uses them sometimes to mourn lost worlds, sometimes to suggest otherworldly innocence, sometimes to convey the banality of evil. All these devices are hurled at the audience in his latest work, “Kafka’s Trial,” which had its première on March 12th at the Royal Danish Theatre. »

21 Mar 2005

Maria Cebotari sings Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Strauß and Gounod

So often we get wrapped up in today’s world of great performers that we forget the performers of the past who, directly or indirectly, influenced these performers and shaped the characters they play. Not one singer today can boast working side by side with Richard Strauss or living in Puccini’s heyday, but Maria Cebotari (1910-1949) could. Thanks to a brilliant re-mastered recording by Hänssler Classic, we are now able to take part in signature performances of a woman who is known as the “predecessor” to Maria Callas. »

21 Mar 2005

The Irreplaceable Beverly Sills

OF all the times Beverly Sills was host of the “Tonight” show, her favorite was in 1977, when her guests were three of her closest confidantes: the comedian Carol Burnett, the perky singer and television host Dinah Shore and the pop chanteuse Eydie Gorme. The women got into a spat over who was whose best friend, then kidded the wholesome Ms. Shore about her current beau, the heartthrob actor Burt Reynolds. »

20 Mar 2005

Dvorák's Requiem in Munich

Schön ist, dass sich das Werk Einordnungen entzieht. Monumentalen Aufgipfelungen wie im “Tuba mirum” steht ein opernhafter Gestus gegenüber, volkstümliche Ausgelassenheit (“Quam olim Abrahae”) kontrastiert zu einem charakteristischen, herbstlich verhangenen Tonfall. Und verklammert wird alles durch ein immer wiederkehrendes, kurzes Motiv. Eine Umspielung des Tones “F”, Seufzer und sehnsuchtsvolle Gebärde zugleich. »

20 Mar 2005

Giordano's Andrea Chenier in Glasgow

IN this splendid concert version of Giordano’s most widely performed opera, Sir Richard Armstrong, the orchestra and chorus of Scottish Opera and an outstanding team of soloists provided some of the best moments of operatic verismo I have heard in an age. »

20 Mar 2005

Madama Butterfly at New York City Opera

The central image in Mark Lamos’s production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” is a traditional Japanese house, magnified to the size of the New York City Opera stage. With its sliding doors, clean lines and open spaces, this set, designed by Michael Yeargan, is the very picture of clarity. And for Butterfly, everything within it – her life with Pinkerton, then the memory of that life and the promise of its resumption – is entirely clear. It’s the more complicated world outside that has turned murky, and by avoiding the clutter that often accrues to a “Butterfly” staging, Mr. Lamos has emphasized that tragic delusion. »

19 Mar 2005

Parsifal at La Fenice

Une tristesse flottait sur Venise en ce jour de la première de Parsifal à La Fenice, nouvelle production du chef-d’œuvre wagnérien depuis celle de Pier Luigi Pizzi en 1983. Temps instable au-dehors, vent de la révolte à l’intérieur : le syndicat autonome Libersind et les personnels du théâtre appelaient à la grève générale, le mardi 15 mars, pour protester contre leurs conditions de travail. »

17 Mar 2005

Faust at Opéra de Lille

Dans le Faust à l’affiche de l’Opéra de Lille, le véritable diable, c’est le metteur en scène écossais David McVicar. Grâce à son habileté méphistophélique, sa production peut plaire à tout le monde : à ceux qui rêvent de voir l’histoire racontée comme au bon vieux temps, sans relecture conceptuelle, et à ceux qui pensent qu’un tel morceau de patrimoine a besoin du second degré pour ne pas basculer dans le kitsch. Car dès le début de sa mise en scène, l’ironie règne en maître, même si l’on n’en prend conscience qu’à mesure que son bel univers se dérègle. Une loge de l’Opéra de Paris fait face à une tribune d’orgue d’église gothique : nous sommes bel et bien au théâtre, et si Méphisto a effectivement «la plume au chapeau et l’épée au côté», il les réajuste devant un miroir en pied avant de jouer ses tours. Des sortilèges qu’il extrait d’une malle à accessoires, tandis que Faust change d’aspect dans sa loge, face à une coiffeuse éclairée par des ampoules. »

17 Mar 2005

Martin's Golgotha in Vienna

Zuerst viele Jahre lang Schweigen. Dann einige Aufführungen hintereinander: Frank Martins Schicksal ist symptomatisch für die Repertoire-Restriktionen in Wien. Immer dieselben Dinge verkaufen sich. Bei einem Werk wie Martins Passions-Oratorium “Golgotha” verlassen Abonnenten den Goldenen Musikvereinssaal bei erster Satzpausen-Gelegenheit. Die Bereitschaft, sich zur gegebenen Zeit mit anderem als den Bach-Passionen auseinander zu setzen, ist enden wollend. »

17 Mar 2005

Les Travailleurs De La Mer: Ancient songs from a small island

Cast off the shores of Normandy, the tiny isle of Guernsey lies isolated between the two European powers of England and France. Guernsey, however, has remained independent since 1204, and its government, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, comprises the inhabited islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou. Rich in an abundant culture and history, Guernsey is well-known for its sea ports, mystic pagan rituals, potent cider, and poetry. »

16 Mar 2005

Per Questa Bella Mano at the Barbican

You don’t expect absurdity in a concert of Mozart arias and instrumental music, but in bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff’s concert with the period-instrument Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the highlight was a work of Pythonesque weirdness. »

16 Mar 2005

On Tour with William Christie

HOW refreshing, you think, as Les Arts Florissants bounds on stage, to see an early-music combo whose contracts appear to contain no clauses forbidding visits to hairdresser, shoe-shop and dressing-table, no injunctions to wear nothing but sacking and zit cream. How delightful, how French. With William Christie’s band, as Emcee in Cabaret might say, “Even ze orgestra is beaudiful.” »

15 Mar 2005

Carmen with a South African Twist

British director Mark Dornford-May’s daring transposition of Bizet’s opera to a South African township has landed him a major film award – and a new wife. He talks to Jasper Rees »

15 Mar 2005

Countertenors Victorious in Copenhagen

Last week in the Danish capital city, still chilly after freezing weather and heavy snow, the spirits were raised by two contrasting but equally fulfilling events in the shape of the Danish Royal Opera’s revival of Francisco Negrin’s production of Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” featuring the return of star European countertenor Andreas Scholl in the title role, and the debut appearance in the city of his American counterpart, David Daniels, in a concert performance of Bach and Vivaldi. Both singers were in fact enjoying indulging their talents in their less well known fachs: Scholl is rarely seen on the opera stage and admits to feeling less than completely at home there. Daniels, on the other hand, fresh from yet another Handelian triumph at the Metropolitan Opera (Bertarido in the sumptuous new production of “Rodelinda”) is not known as a Bach specialist, but was essaying his second concert performance in Europe of the great cantata BWV82, “Ich Habe Genug”, reviewed elsewhere. »

13 Mar 2005

Bernstein's On the Town at ENO

IT IS easy to sniff at English National Opera’s decision to stage Leonard Bernstein’s first, unashamedly Broadway musical. Unlike some of his later work it has no “operatic” pretensions. But the Broadway musical was a continuation of opera by other means, and Bernstein maintained to the end of his life that, if opera had a future (which he doubted), it would be intimately tied up with the Broadway idiom that he helped to create. »