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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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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. »