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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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20 Mar 2007

Teseo — Handel by the Sea

Nice Opera, on the French Cote d’Azur, seemed a most suitable place for this early work by Handel. »

20 Mar 2007

Das Gänsebuch (The Geesebook): German Medieval Chant

In their attempt to recreate a combination of musical styles typical of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Nürnberg, Schola Hungarica and its directors László Dobszay & Janka Szendrei have chosen selections from the Gänsebuch, described as the “only complete extant source for the pre-Reformation liturgy of the mass in Nürnberg.” [CD liner-notes, p. 3] »

20 Mar 2007

PAISIELLO: Gli Astrologi immaginari

I never heard the 1966 live recording with Margherita Rinaldi and Paolo Montarsolo and I don’t have a clue what the sound picture is like. »

19 Mar 2007

Angela Gheorghiu, Los Angeles

A near-capacity audience, expectant and enthusiastic, streamed into the Dorothy Chandler for an old-fashioned evening of operatic glamour, as Angela Gheorghiu, with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra in support, flew into town for a one night concert. »

19 Mar 2007

The Tempest at Covent Garden

This year is Thomas Adés’ annus mirabilis. He’s the subject of a major, six-week retrospective at the Barbican, and, of course, will be a major presence at the Aldeburgh Festival. »

13 Mar 2007

The Gondoliers — English National Opera

Speaking to a trusted chorus-member friend after this performance, I was told that I had benefited from not having seen this production when new three months ago. »

13 Mar 2007

LA Opera “Recovered Voices”

Just about halfway though his first season as music director of Los Angeles Opera, James Conlon has already made himself an endearing and appreciated figure. »

13 Mar 2007

Native-American Drama at Opera Omaha

Perhaps the gestation period for “Wakonda’s Dream,” premiered by Opera Omaha on March 7, was too long. »

13 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre; Götterdämmerung

Two weeks before viewing these DVD’s, I attended a performance of the same opera at De Vlaamse Opera in a new production by Ivo van Hove; Flemish boss of the most important Amsterdam theatre company. »

08 Mar 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

With the distance of time, is it allowable to feel affection for Herbert von Karajan, beyond any respect — grudging or otherwise — for his long, starry career? »

08 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Recorded between 18 and 29 June 1984 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, this production of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg makes a classic presentation of the opera available in a two-DVD set issued in 2006 by Deutsche Grammophon. »

08 Mar 2007

Verdi Gala from Berlin

This concert was given on New Year’s eve in the year 2000, and the frail Claudio Abbado who comes out to conduct makes for an alarming sight. »

08 Mar 2007

Berlin “Ring” remains a sterling achievement

It was in the “Orwell year” 1984 that Götz Friedrich, general manager — Intendant — of the Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) from 1983 until his death in 2000, staged the first half of Wagner’s “Ring des Nibelungen” in the 1900-seat house on Berlin’s Bismarckstrasse. »

06 Mar 2007

OONY Performs Cilèa’s L’Arlesiana

It is well known that the Opera Orchestra of New York’s performances are required events for opera aficionados to hear the the most exciting performances of the season. »

06 Mar 2007

Adams/Sellars “Tree” blossoms sublimely at SFS

Compared with Pamina and Tamino, Kumudha and her Prince, the central figures in “A Flowering Tree,” the John Adams and Peter Sellars collaboration given its American premiere on March 1 by the San Francisco Symphony, walk a rock-strewn road. »

28 Feb 2007

La Bohème – English National Opera

The death this month of director Stephen Pimlott could have cast a shadow over this revival of his 1993 production, but a hugely affectionate pre-show tribute by colleague Nicholas Hytner ensured that the performance only served to do great honour to the memory of a man who was clearly loved and cherished by many. »

28 Feb 2007

KÁLMÁN : Die Csárdásfürstin

The booklet essay writer effuses passionately about this filmed Kalman operetta, Die Csárdásfürstin. Jürgen Otten gushes over the "immortal melodies," Anna Moffo's "precious jewel" of a voice, and Rene Kollo's "innate nobility." »

28 Feb 2007

Nicole Cabell, St John’s Smith Square, London

The Rosenblatt Recital Series, which presents concerts around London from artists ranging from the well-known to the brand-new, last week showcased Nicole Cabell, the glamorous 29-year-old winner of the 2005 Cardiff Singer of the World competition. »

27 Feb 2007

Rachmaninov and Glinka: Lieder • Songs • Chants

Originally released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1976, this recording of selected songs by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Mikhail Glinka (1804-57) make available some fine examples of Russian art song to Western audiences. »

27 Feb 2007

ADAM: Le Postillon de Longjumeau

Why should anyone buy a German language broadcast of a delicious French opéra-comique? »

27 Feb 2007

Bach Cantatas, Volume 21

John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage continues to echo with the release of concert recordings of this historic millennial tour. »

27 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

As familiar Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser is, the opera benefits from solid performances that bring together fine singing, exquisite orchestral playing, and effective staging, and the Metropolitan Opera’s 1982 production conducted by James Levine gave audiences an exemplary performance that remains a touchstone for this work. »

27 Feb 2007

Matthias Goerne at the Wigmore Hall

This wasn’t an “easy” program for dilettantes. »

26 Feb 2007

Cori Spezzati: Venetian Polychoral Music

If there ever was a moment where architecture and music became passionately tied to one another, it would be when the polychoral music of the 16th century was tied to St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice. »

22 Feb 2007

MUSSORGSKY: Khovanshchina

At the curtain call for the first night of WNO’s new production of the infrequently performed Khovanshchina director David Pountney wore a simple Russian shirt. »

21 Feb 2007

Victoria de los Angeles performs Ravel, Debussy & Duparc

Carmen was one of Victoria de los Angeles’ favorite roles and she brought to it much that we hear on this recording of French songs: a winsome voice without heavy vibrato, a close attention to musical detail, and an evident understanding of the French words that she conveys, if not with an impeccable accent, at least with a convincingly understandable pronunciation. »

20 Feb 2007

MOZART: Die Hochzeit des Figaro

Yes, the German title must be employed for this filmed Nozze en Deutsch from 1967. »

20 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

Recorded on 28 March 1970 in Rome, this recording of Parsifal makes available a live performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the foremost interpreters of Wagner’s works in his day. »

18 Feb 2007

HAYDN: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words is well known, both as a familiar part of modern Lenten devotions and also as something of a stylistic oddity, I suspect. »

18 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

From the 2005 season of the “reborn” La Fenice comes this Dynamic DVD of Wagner’s Parsifal. »

18 Feb 2007

Opera North: Breathing new life into “Orfeo”

Friday night in Leeds, in the North of England, at the city’s marvellously restored Grand Theatre, with the pavements outside shining wet and a tidal wave of umbrellas surging past, was an exciting place to be. »

16 Feb 2007

BRAHMS: Ein deutsches Requiem

In dedicating much of his creative life to the Thomaskirche, the German musician Günther Ramin left his mark on the musical life of Leipzig, and his legacy includes a fine recording of Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45. »

16 Feb 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

Perhaps the best-known of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies, the Fourth also benefits from a number of fine recordings. »

16 Feb 2007

Jean-Baptiste Lully, Armide (Opera Lafayette)

The Opera Lafayette of Washington DC has been engaged in a new project this season – the Armide Project, as the group dubbed its ambitious plan, in collaboration with the University of Maryland Opera Studio, to present two great operas set to the same celebrated Philippe Quinault libretto. »

14 Feb 2007

SAMMARTINI: Della Passione di Gesú Cristo; L'addolorata Divina Madre.

Giovanni Battista Sammartini (c.1700-1775) belongs to that shadowy generation of Italian composers who no longer composed in the high Baroque style, but had adopted the clarity, simplicity and regularity that would serve as the building blocks for the Viennese masters of the late eighteenth century, and thus were tagged with the rather pejorative label “pre-classic” (a plague on all those music historians who can only see musical style in terms of progress leading to their particular figure of veneration!). »

13 Feb 2007

Dust-bowl opera overwhelming at Minnesota premiere

The great American opera? Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Grapes of Wrath” might be it. »

09 Feb 2007

HANDEL: Agrippina

An expressionist portrait of the Roman she-wolf was the first, striking image of this production, originally devised for Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, by the fashionable British director David McVicar. »

09 Feb 2007

The Devil’s Dream

The duo of gambist Vittorio Ghielmi and lutenist Luca Pianca even has its own domain name (www.pianca-ghielmi.com), as well as several previous releases, of which the first has perhaps my favorite CD title ever (Bagpipes from Hell). »

09 Feb 2007

ARNE: Six cantatas for a voice and instruments; Advice to Cloe

The English, though fundamental to the early music revival of the last half-century, have been rather remiss in exploring their native music dating from after the death of Purcell, and particularly that produced after the death of Handel. »

08 Feb 2007

VERDI: Rigoletto

Sorry my friends, but this rich-looking DVD has a feature that disqualifies it for me. »

08 Feb 2007

Houston stages a provocative “Faust”

A literary critic once recalled the day when a German could not clear his throat “without finding pithy precedent in Goethe.” »

08 Feb 2007

Houston takes fresh approach to Cenerentola

In opera, Rossini, born in 1892- the year after Mozart died, is the successor of the great master and, when performed as perceptively as in the “Cenerentola” that debuted at the Houston Grand Opera on January 27, his rightful heir. »

07 Feb 2007

Jaume Aragall en Vivo

During any recital by an aging divo there comes a moment of truth when he sings an operatic aria (usually E lucevan le stelle , as the highest note is an A). That is the defining moment when he no longer can hide behind idiosyncratic interpretation, expressive breathing and a lot of clever transpositions. »

07 Feb 2007

PURCELL: Dido and Aeneas

This disc is a reissue of a 1993 recording made at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, California, but new to me. »

06 Feb 2007

PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf

I suppose you will find this quite an addition to the Melchior legacy if you are a collector of every sound Melchior ever uttered. »

06 Feb 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District (Kirov Opera)

The Kirov Opera and Orchestra concluded their annual residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last week with a Sunday matinee concert performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1932 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. »

06 Feb 2007

CHARPENTIER: Judicium Salomonis, H. 422; Motet pour une longue offrande, H. 434

Neither of these late works (the Judicium Salomonis is from 1702) is new to disc – the former has two recent recordings, from ten and from twenty years ago, and the latter one, by Herreweghe, released in 1985. »

06 Feb 2007

Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki

The title Walewska i przjaciele, “Walewska and friends,” reflects the intention of the mezzo soprano Małgorzata Walewska, one of the foremost contemporary Polish singers to present herself and some of her colleagues in recording of various kinds of music. »