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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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18 Nov 2007

Karlsruhe‘s Don Gets Down

The Badisches Staatstheater seems to have borrowed with a vengeance the catch-phrase from John Waters’ recent “A Dirty Shame,” namely: “Let’s go sexin’!” I can’t recall ever seeing a “Don Giovanni” with more lip-locks, grinding torsos, leg-wraps, and groping embraces. »

16 Nov 2007

Gruberova on Nightingale Classics

Edita Gruberova’s North American fans, who can only hold onto dim hopes that someday the European superstar will return to these shores, can always seek to sate their desire for her artistry by picking up the latest CD from Nightingale Classics. »

14 Nov 2007

Libera — Angel Voices

"They are boys, and they sing, but don't call them choirboys. 'Libera' prefer to be called a vocal group — a real boy band, if you like." »

14 Nov 2007

ROSSINI: Torvaldo e Dorliska

Between the efforts of recording companies Naxos and Opera Rara, Rossini-philes have been living in a golden age. »

14 Nov 2007

Portraits of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Olga Borodina

Philips decided some time ago that it no longer needed to be the audio representative for two fine contemporary singers of Russian origin, mezzo Olga Borodina and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. »

14 Nov 2007

Aida at ENO

After the marketing gimmickry of Sally Potter’s production of Carmen, and a dance-based Poppea set at the bottom of the sea, it did not bode well when the advertising for ENO’s latest production included an interactive dress-up doll circulated by email. »

14 Nov 2007

Macbeth in Istanbul

Attending the opera may not be the first thing you think of when visiting Istanbul, but opera is to be found (if less well advertised than the local Bach Festival) at the Ataturk Cultural Center on Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul. »

14 Nov 2007

“The Sacrifice” – Welsh National World Premiere Tour

Welsh National Opera’s new opera “The Sacrifice”, composed by James MacMillan with libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts, and directed by Katie Mitchell, is an emotionally raw and compelling study of the nature of conflict, and how humans are changed by it. »

13 Nov 2007

Macbeth at the Met

Verdi, a born skeptic where the supernatural is concerned, did not seem to know quite what to do with the witches in Macbeth and was far too loyal to Shakespeare to reduce their role – he knew how closely the play was bound to them, famous for them. »

12 Nov 2007

Le Nozze di Figaro – Metropolitan Opera

Le Nozze di Figaro, in 1786, was the longest and most elaborate opera buffa ever composed and (though it is seldom given complete) is still the longest you are likely to see in the regular repertory. »

12 Nov 2007

Armida

As its name suggests, the selections on this wonderful new CD are all excerpted from five different versions of the tale of the beautiful enchantress “Armida.” »

11 Nov 2007

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

Recorded on 29 January 1978, this performance preserves a classic production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, which involved a gifted cast. »

11 Nov 2007

Houston pays homage to opera’s living legends

Although seriously ill, Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti were still very much alive when general director Anthony Freud in his second year in this position planned the 53rd season of the Houston Grand Opera. »

11 Nov 2007

Verdiland Revisited

Since his appointment as general manager of Parma’s Teatro Regio in August 2005, Mauro Meli didn’t conceal his ambitious plans for growth. »

11 Nov 2007

Preparing G.B. Pergolesi’s tercentenary — with a fair advance

A notice for organizers: it’s relatively easy to produce a vocal recital and sell out a large house for two nights in a row. »

11 Nov 2007

This “Swallow” Makes November Summery

It’s somewhat of a mystery why Puccini’s 1917 “La Rondine” is such a neglected, rarely-performed opera. »

31 Oct 2007

Oper als Geschäft

This book is in German, which may make it of limited interest to people who are not sufficiently familiar with the language. »

31 Oct 2007

The 17th Bienal of Contemporary Brazilian Music

The 17th Bienal of Contemporary Brazilian Music [XVII Bienal de Música Brasileira Contemporânea] began on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007 at the Sala Cecilia Meireles, Rio's leading concert hall, with a lengthy program divided between six orchestral works, entrusted to the National Symphony Orchestra of the Universidade Federal Fluminense, based in Niteroi, RJ and three works for percussion, interpreted by the Dynamo Percussion Quartet. »

30 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 3

When performances remain in the aural memory of the audience long after the final wave of applause, the event merits attention. »

30 Oct 2007

Hamburg's Tales Told

I recently made a special trip to Hamburg with one real goal in mind: to hear one of my most favorite young singers, bass Kyle Ketelsen in the Staatsoper’s new production of “Tales of Hoffmann.” »

29 Oct 2007

Jean Sibelius: A Film in Two Parts

The two short films about the composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), The Early Years and Maturity & Silence comprise a video biography of Finnish artist. »

28 Oct 2007

DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

For the final HD moviecast of the 2007-08 season, the Metropolitan Opera will present two stars in a production that has already earned rave reviews at Covent Garden: Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez starring in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. »

28 Oct 2007

The Magic Flute — English National Opera

Despite rumours to the contrary, English National Opera’s advertising material claims that this 12th revival of Nicholas Hytner’s popular production of ‘ The Magic Flute’ will be the last. Though it’s arguably better to get rid of a production in... »

28 Oct 2007

“Apollo e Dafne” — the English Concert at St. Georges, Bristol.

Someone once called Handel’s Italian cantata Apollo e Dafne a “proto-opera” and it’s easy to see why. »

28 Oct 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Among the signal operas of the twentieth century, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is a powerful transformation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, based on the 1865 short story by Nicolai Leskov. »

28 Oct 2007

The Coronation of Poppea — English National Opera

For some seasons now, ENO has expressed a commitment to reinforce the role of dance within opera. »

24 Oct 2007

Der Freischütz at Oper Köln

Do you remember a moment when a piece, new to you, so engaged you that you immediately wanted to know more. . .or all about it? »

24 Oct 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals

I doubt many admirers of Leontyne Price will be tempted to buy this issue. »

22 Oct 2007

La Nilsson: My Life in Opera

Birgit Nilsson probably never heard of “the Protestant work ethic,” but she didn’t need to know it. »

22 Oct 2007

MAZZOCCHI: Madrigali e Dialoghi

The Roman composer Mazzocchi is one of those figures known only to musicologists, and it is a pity, for this disc contains first-rate music. »

22 Oct 2007

Biondi’s Labors Won, or Unearthing The Lost Vivaldi

An expedition against the famed warring women, the Amazons, ranking as Hercules’ ninth labor out the canonic twelve, provided the subject for the libretto by Antonio Salvi (not Giacomo Francesco Bussani, as hitherto misattributed) that Vivaldi set to music in 1723 as his own sixteenth operatic labor. »

22 Oct 2007

Opera at the BBC Proms 2007

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s guest appearance is an annual fixture at the Proms, and this year the work of choice was Verdi’s Macbeth, in a semi-staged performance on July 24th based on Richard Jones’s new production for this year’s Festival. »

16 Oct 2007

San Francisco stages triumphant Tannhäuser

At this point in his career David Gockley has no need to prove himself. He did that with awesome success as general director of Houston Grand Opera for 33 years, during which he made that company a front runner both on the American and international opera scenes. »

16 Oct 2007

GIORDANO: Fedora

Mirella Freni’s 1993 triumph in the lead of Umberto Giordani’s Fedora at La Scala has made it to DVD. In his booklet essay, Werner Pfister (translated by Stewart Spencer) admits the opera “does not enjoy the best of reputations.” »

16 Oct 2007

“Dein ist mein ganzes Herz”

Okay, okay, I freely admit this up front: I am not inordinately fond of operetta. Just thought you should know. All the more remarkable then that I found myself listening to this new recording several times over. »

15 Oct 2007

STRAUSS : Elektra

Whatever you do, don't give this DVD as a gift to people you don't want to alienate. »

15 Oct 2007

Philip Glass celebrates 70th with compelling new opera

SAN FRANCISCO — “My subject is war and the pity of war, and the poetry is in the pity.” »

15 Oct 2007

Handel’s “Radamisto” revisited with mixed results in Hamburg

A remarkably quick turnaround from only last May when the first run of Handel’s “Radamisto” was blessed with a consistently high level of vocal performance may have been the reason for sparser houses this time round at the Hamburg Staatsoper (October 6th). »

09 Oct 2007

The Met’s New Lucia

Of Donizetti’s fifty or so “serious” operas, Lucia di Lammermoor was the only one to survive his heyday almost unscathed by change of fashion; today, when a dozen of his other worthy works have been restored to the repertory, Lucia easily hangs on. »

09 Oct 2007

I Hear American Singing

Recorded in August 2001 at the Salzburg Festival, less than a month before the tragic events of 11 September, the presentation of songs and readings of music by American composers and texts by American authors seems aimed at a different world. Without venturing into political or social dimensions of the event, the concept of America in August 2001 suggested at times a sense of being impermeable, if not invincible. »

09 Oct 2007

Thomas Stoltzer. Psalm Motets.

Thomas Stoltzer represents German composition in the wake of the Reformation yet still immersed in the contrapuntal richness of the Josquin tradition. »

09 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6 / Piano Quartet

With its fine engineering, the rich score of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and the superb playing of the Philadelpha Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach emerge well in this recently released recording. »

09 Oct 2007

The Yves Becko Collection

This must be one of the most interesting collectors’ collections to have appeared in many a year. Personally I’ve always liked any singer from Fernando De Lucia to Rolando Villazon but I never was tempted to collect shellac and therefore didn’t have to contact Yves Becko. »

08 Oct 2007

CAVALLI: La Calisto

René Jacobs’s beautiful 1996 production of Francesco Cavalli’s Calisto has garnered many enthusiastic fans over the years. »

04 Oct 2007

HAYNES: The End of Early Music — A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century

Once upon a time, there was something known as early music. This was not so much a repertoire, a musico-historical epoch, as an attitude, a counter-cultural group. »

02 Oct 2007

Carmen at ENO

There is a certain onerous responsibility in developing a new production of Carmen at a major house. »

01 Oct 2007

JANÁČEK: Jenůfa

Across the country from Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Opera has opened its 2007-08 season with big stars (Netrebko, Alagna, Dessay, Giordani) in juicy, melodic operas by Donizetti and Gounod. »

28 Sep 2007

Allegri “Miserere”; Palestrina “Missa Papae Marcelli”

This is a recording that glories in iconicity. »