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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.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

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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05 Feb 2007

BERLIOZ: La damnation de Faust

Why do some conductors make it and others don’t? »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Rossini’s last Italian opera, staged in 1825 as a part of Charles X’s coronation festivities, is a bizarre creation — a sassy little farce capped with a coronation cantata in the best traditions of staged court entertainment, from 16th-century Italian intermedi through their Baroque and Classic operatic progeny. »

28 Jan 2007

EDER: Musik für die Felsenreitschule

While many associate it with traditional music, the Salzburg Festival is also a venue for new productions and, to a degree, new compositions. »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Semiramide

The reason for being of this set is Gruberova’s wish to record as much as possible of her repertory (on her own label as most of the majors were either not interested in recording belcanto operas or had their own stars like Decca’s Joan Sutherland). »

28 Jan 2007

VERDI: Aida

Who is the potential consumer for this DVD release of a 1953 Italian film version of Verdi's Aida, featuring Sophia Loren's stunning physical presence and Renata Tebaldi's stunning vocalism in the title role? »

24 Jan 2007

RAMEAU: In Convertendo Dominus

Let it be said at the outset that, at least to my eyes, the packaging and marketing of this DVD is somewhat misleading. »

24 Jan 2007

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D

A welcome addition to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s own line of releases, this CD is a compilation of two works by Gustav Mahler that the late Klaus Tennstedt performed with the ensemble and which have not been issued previously. »

24 Jan 2007

JANACEK: Káťa Kabanová

I saw my first Káťa 37 years ago during the Flanders Festival. At the time it was still an almost complete novelty on the scene and the Czech company performed it according to the composer’s intentions. »

23 Jan 2007

BROSSARD: Grands Motets

Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730) was, until recently, known to the musical world (if he was known at all) as a lexicographer (he prepared the first French musical dictionary, published in 1703) and collector, whose collection went entire, together with a catalogue he prepared, to the National Library in Paris, something which must have been almost unheard of in early eighteenth-century Europe, though commonplace today (imagine if Bach had managed to do the same with his scores!). »

23 Jan 2007

OONY Gives Rare Performance of Rossini's Otello

There are three reasons often cited for the paucity of performances of Rossini’s Otello: the horrible hack job of the Shakespearean drama by librettist Francesco Maria Berio, the difficulties in casting an opera requiring at least three top-rate tenor voices, and comparisons with Verdi’s popular opera of the same title. »

23 Jan 2007

Gustav Mahler. Letters to His Wife

True to the title of this collection, the present volume of correspondence edited by Henry-Louis de La Grange and Günther Weiss — here translated, revised , and supplemented by Antony Beaumont — offers, to date, the most complete body of letters of Gustav Mahler to his wife Alma. »

21 Jan 2007

CUYÁS: La Fattucchiera

The sleeve notes of this interesting issue state that “ any comparison between La Fattucchiera and Italian bel canto models by Bellini or Donizetti would be too easy though it became commonplace to describe him (= Cuyàs) as the continuator of the school of Bellini. »

21 Jan 2007

MARTIN Y SOLER: La Madrilena

Although the name of Vicente Martin y Soler is no longer obscure, most opera lovers still know him best due to Mozart quoting his opera ‘Una cosa rara’ during the Don’s last meal in Don Giovanni. »

21 Jan 2007

DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Melissande

I was impressed by Karajan’s intense conducting, which seems so right in the wake of the unavoidable tragedy that is going to happen. »

21 Jan 2007

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Record companies are dominated by accountants and short term cost structure seems to be more important than artistic results or even sale figures. This is a prime example. »

21 Jan 2007

DITTERSDORF: Il barone di rocca antica

For those OperaToday readers prone to fantasies about being a member of royalty with one's own cozy opera house tucked away on the hereditary estate, this Hungaroton DVD will enable that desire. Filmed in August 2005 at the royal palace at Gödölló, Il barone di rocca antica, an operetta giocosa from Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, requires only four singers. »

21 Jan 2007

Montserrat Caballé: Französische Opernarien

There is a (no doubt apocryphal) story that if one listens carefully to Caballé’s recordings there is a slight sshhh-sound in the background; the sound of the knife she uses to cut open her scores while recording. »

21 Jan 2007

Giuseppe di Stefano: Opera Recital

This issue from DG’s own classic recital series is a copy of the 1963 LP. »

21 Jan 2007

Die Göttliche Liturgie

Serge Jaroff and his Don Cossacks Choir were for many decades legendary performers of Russian choral music, ranging from the liturgical works of Orthodoxy to beloved regional folk melodies. »

21 Jan 2007

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare

This Sellars production had its origins at the 1985 Pepsico Summerfare Festival in Purchase NY. »

19 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

These recordings prove decisively a well-known thesis: more or less realistic productions always age better than so called innovative modern productions which often only aggrandize the clichés of the time of their conception if one views them a few decades after their première. »

17 Jan 2007

SILVER: The Thief of Love

If the audience for new American art music seems small and is (supposedly) shrinking, then the audience for new American operas is even more exclusive. »

17 Jan 2007

Opera Night

Some interesting repertory choices and the participation of some of today's most attractive singers make this particular "gala" evening of "walk on-sing-walk off" entertainment more consistently enjoyable than these affairs often are. »

16 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

The ever-busy Brian Large directed the 1989 filming (for TV) of a Wolfgang Wagner Tannhäuser production which had debuted at Bayreuth in 1985. »

16 Jan 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Complete Symphonies

Recording a Shostakovich cycle has become de rigueur in recent years — a conductor’s mandatory right of passage, like recording a Beethoven or a Mahler cycle. »

15 Jan 2007

Era La Notte

“Era la notte” presents four highly emotional, seventeenth-century Italian works, sung with commanding theatricality by Anna Caterina Antonacci. »

12 Jan 2007

WAGNER: The Ring Cycle

It is a mystery as complex as the Kirov’s Ring Cycle staging and equally inexplicable. »

12 Jan 2007

ARBOS: El Centro de la Tierra

Most heroes in costume drama movies speak lines directly from our own time. I’ve yet to see a cinematic Roman general, being a serious hero, look at an animal’s liver and says: “ this smells bad; no battle today”. »

12 Jan 2007

Le Donne di Puccini

The recording date is given as November the 12th 1994. Since recording sessions usually last more than one day, and as a radio orchestra is playing, we may safely assume this CD to be derived from a public broadcasted concert by the ‘4 sopranos’ capitalizing on the concept made popular by Domingo, Carreras, and Pavarotti. »

10 Jan 2007

MOZART: Così fan tutte

The booklet essay by Gottfried Kraus (translated from the German by Stewart Spencer) for this TDK release of the 1983 Salzburg Così fan tutte presents an intriguing history of the opera, with the Austrian festival taking in a central role in the work’s return to the standard repertory. »

10 Jan 2007

MARTINŮ: Peach Blossom; The Orphan and Other Songs

The artsong in the twentieth century benefits from the efforts of national composers, like Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959), who stimulated the genre by incorporating regional folk elements into their music. »

07 Jan 2007

PUCCINI: Tosca

Decca loves to repackage this set. Your reviewer first acquired it as a low-price "Double Decca" release, with no libretto. Just a couple years ago saw another incarnation, with a great cover pic of Price and Karajan locked in an embrace - Karajan as Scarpia? Or Cavaradossi - take one's pick. »

07 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Siegfried

The cover art for the Opus Arts DVD of Wagner's Siegfried, from the Nederlandse Opera in 1999, features Mime, as impersonated by Graham Clark, in amazing make-up and costume: a bald, bulging head almost split down the middle by a furrow of anxiety, and clad in a ghastly green insect-like carapace, including wire-like hair and a bobbing tail-sack. »

07 Jan 2007

NIELSEN: Complete Symphonies

Notable among recent releases, the set of the Complete Symphonies by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) on DVD makes available some fine performances of the composer’s important contributions to the genre. »

29 Dec 2006

VERDI: Aida

A luminous blue backdrop, sliding columns, a solitary iconic prop (an over-sized falcon head in the opening scene, for example), singers frozen in stiff, awkward poses — yes, it's a Robert Wilson spectacular! »

28 Dec 2006

MOZART: The Glyndebourne Collection

What kind of opera lovers will appreciate this big DVD box the most? »

28 Dec 2006

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov

One of the best opera DVDs released in 2006 was the Salzburg La Traviata, with Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko able to make full use of their vocal charisma and acting skills in Willy Decker's sharp, sexy production. »

28 Dec 2006

BARBATO: O Cientista (The Scientist)

Rio de Janeiro, as the capital of the Empire and later the Republic of Brazil, had an extensive history of opera during the 19th century, well-documented by newspapers and magazines of the day, which included the conducting debut of Arturo Toscanini in a local performance of Aida in 1888, described in the memoirs of Brazilian composer and entrepreneur Artur Napoleão. »

23 Dec 2006

ROSSINI: Il barbeire di Siviglia

Rossini’s comic masterpiece premiered in 1816, which means a big anniversary lies just a few years ahead. »

22 Dec 2006

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus, RV 807
GALUPPI: Laetatus Sum; Nisi Domine; Lauda Jerusalem

This disc presents the first recording of a work newly ascribed to the Red Priest (by musicologist Janice Stockigt), the Dixit Dominus held at the State Library of Saxony in Dresden, where it was ascribed to Vivaldi’s younger Venetian colleague, Baldassare Galuppi (who is experiencing a renaissance of late, with various new discs of operas and sacred works). »

21 Dec 2006

MONTEVERDI: Vespers

The collection of sacred compositions published by Claudio Monteverdi in Venice in 1610 with a Latin title of jaw-breaking length (in which vesperae is only the tenth word) has attained the sort of elevated status granted to but a few works, which stand so high that the rest of the landscape is almost invisible from their peaks, or to put it in plainer language, a music-lover may have heard or heard of the Vespers without knowing any of the composer’s other works, nor those of his contemporaries (rather like the Four Seasons, or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). There are over two dozen recordings of the work on the market at this writing. »

16 Dec 2006

HANDEL: Messiah

Undoubtedly the appearance of Handel’s Messiah in late December means different things to different people. »

13 Dec 2006

George London: Spirituals

Previously unreleased, this collection of Spirituals never received the approval of the Canadian-born bass-baritone George London (1920-85) for release when it was prepared in 1963. »

13 Dec 2006

LOEWE: Lieder and Balladen

Of the nineteenth-century composers of music for solo voice, Carl Loewe (1796-1869) is one of the most voluminous, with his songs, with his works in this genre filling seventeen volumes in the uniform edition. »