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Elsewhere

On The Death of Klinghoffer

This is a revised version of my review of the Sept 5th 1991American premiere of The Death of Klinghoffer, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The opera was first performed at Brussels’ La Monnaie the previous spring.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.


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Reviews

Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth and Željko Lučić in the title role of Verdi's Macbeth [Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera]
18 Oct 2014

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission »

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20 Jan 2005

Karita Mattila — A Stunning Leonore

'Fidelio' returns Lyric, cast rise above flawed Beethoven opera By John von Rhein Tribune music critic January 19 2005, 1:00 AM CST "Fidelio" has been missing in action at Lyric Opera for nearly 24 years, much too long for... »

20 Jan 2005

Live from New York — Death and Transfiguration

The level of Luciano Berio’s music was still on the ascent when he died two years ago at 77. “Stanze” – five poems for solo voice, chorus and orchestra – were his last pieces, and they shine with poise and quiet confidence. We are reminded that the possibilities of instrumental combinations are far from exhausted. The Philadelphia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach introduced New York to “Stanze” at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night, adding Act III from Wagner’s “Parsifal” in concert form. Paul Celan’s “Tenebrae,” the first poem, is accompanied by drifting, attenuated chords of extraordinary beauty. If Berio’s music moves slowly, or sometimes not at all, there is activity within: textures swelling and contracting like lungs, woodwind colors swimming and undulating. So striking are the sounds that high drama is unnecessary. »

20 Jan 2005

Renée Takes Seattle

Renée Fleming came and conquered the full house Tuesday night at Benaroya Hall. Now 45, the soprano is in her prime, not only with that voluptuous voice but her musical acuity and dramatic instincts. When singers become as famous as Fleming, connoisseurs find something to criticize, often justified: a mannered style or lackluster ambition in terms of repertory, for instance. When the voice is as gorgeous and gleaming as Fleming’s, there is always the danger the singer will be content to deliver a pretty sound and little else. »

20 Jan 2005

Pelléas et Mélisande in New York

NEW YORK Sigmund Freud’s seminal “Interpretation of Dreams” was published in 1900. But Claude Debussy had already poked around in the unconscious in his landmark opera “Pelléas et Mélisande,” which he had essentially composed (though not orchestrated) by 1895. Of course, Maurice Maeterlinck, whose play Debussy adapted into his opera, had been treading through Freudian terrain even earlier. Maeterlinck, a leading figure in the Symbolist movement, which arose in the 1880s, espoused veiled emotions, mystery and indirection over realism. »

20 Jan 2005

The Russians Bomb at Kennedy Center

What were they thinking? The “Kirov Spectacular” — which opened last night at the Kennedy Center Opera House — proved the sort of celestial vaudeville that should have . . . well, gone out with vaudeville. It seemed a generous program — some three hours of selections from ballets and operas performed by the Kirov Ballet, Opera and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, under the direction of Valery Gergiev. But the pieces had little to do with one another (indeed, they could almost have been chosen by lottery) and the musical performances were too often shopworn and lackluster — a scanty reward for those who managed to find their way to the Kennedy Center through the cold, clotted streets of pre-inauguration Washington. »

19 Jan 2005

Manon Lescaut at Seattle — Two Reviews

Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” which Seattle Opera has produced only sporadically in its 40-year history, is a work that goes in fits and starts. Moments of genuine inspiration and compelling drama mark the composer as a man of genius, but in this early opera, his talent is not always consistent. The demands on the tenor are notoriously difficult. So, with its eyes wide open, the company mounted the third production in its history to bring in the new year Saturday night at McCaw Hall. It succeeded more than many efforts without breaking the bank, using conventional but serviceable sets and costumes from Montreal Opera. »

18 Jan 2005

Songs of Schumann, Vol. 9

The latest volume of Hyperion’s comprehensive collection of the Songs of Robert Schumann is an impressive recording of Schumann’s Liederalbum für die Jugend, Op. 79 (1849). The songs are settings with children in mind, and not necessarily music for children to perform; the texts are by a number of poets, such as Goethe, Hebbel, Schiller, Rückert, Uhland, and von Fallersleben. In selecting the texts for this collection of Lieder, Schumann touched upon a variety of subjects, including topics associated with children, like Christmas, and verse about animals (“Marienwürmchen” and “Die Schwalben”); other texts deal with seasons, like Spring (“Frühlingsbotschaft” and “Frühlingsgruss”) and the fantastic, as occurs in “Vom Schlaraffenland.” »

18 Jan 2005

Enescu's Oedipe at Cagliari

Il Teatro Lirico di Cagliari pur attraversando, come risaputo, un periodo difficile sotto il profilo strettamente finanziario da cui – con lo sforzo e l’impegno di tutte le maestranze e, soprattutto, di tutte le istituzioni pubbliche e private alle quali dovrebbero stare più a cuore le sorti e il bene della cultura musicale regionale e nazionale -, ci auspichiamo riesca anche con sacrifici ad uscire, ha inaugurato la stagione lirica e di balletto 2005 con “Oedipe”, tragedia lirica in 4 atti del rumeno George Enescu, su libretto di Edmond Fleg, in una nuova produzione dello stesso Teatro Lirico, in prima esecuzione assoluta in Italia e in versione originale francese. I responsabili del Teatro hanno così voluto perseverare nel percorso iniziato con successo di pubblico e di critica nel 1998 con “le Fate” di Wagner, proseguito nel 1999 con “Dalibor” di Smetana, nel 2000 con “Gli stivaletti” di Cajkovskij, nel 2001 con “Elena egizia” di Strauss, nel 2002 con “Euryanthe” di Weber, nel 2003 con “Opricnik” di Cajkovskij e “Alfonso und Estrella” di Schubert, nel 2004. »

17 Jan 2005

The Tsar's Bride at the Mariinsky

Anna Netrebko stars as the passionate and poisoned Marfa in the Mariinsky Theater’s new production of “The Tsar’s Bride. The Mariinsky Theater’s famous blue curtain rises and Grigory Gryaznoi, the mighty commander of Ivan the Terrible’s feared bodyguards, the oprichniki, bemoans his unrequited love for young beauty Marfa Sobakina. Gryaznoi sits on a shabby bench in a place resembling one of the so-called Culture and Leisure parks that were a typical feature of the Soviet era. A seashell-shaped summer theater with quiet alleys and a ferris-wheel in the background is the setting for a new production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1899 opera “The Tsar’s Bride,” which premiered on Dec. 29 at the Mariinsky Theater. »

17 Jan 2005

Les Pêcheurs de perles at Metz

Dans le cadre de la programmation de l’Orchestre national de Lorraine, nous avons le plaisir d’assister à une représentation de concert des Pêcheurs de perles, ouvrage d’un charme indéniable quoique légèrement suranné d’un compositeur de vingt-cinq ans, encore tributaire de certaines influences (mais certainement pas de l’influence wagnérienne dénoncée par certains critiques à la création !), en bénéficiant de l’acoustique exemplaire de la grande salle de l’Arsenal. Le concert permet d’oublier l’indigence d’un livret dont les auteurs (Michel Carré et Eugène Cormon) avaient été les premiers à regretter les faiblesses, pour se concentrer sur les qualités de la partition. En effet, si Bizet apparaissait encore prisonnier des conventions de son époque et laissait peu deviner du génie dramatique qui s’exprime dans Carmen, ses Pêcheurs de perles ne manquaient pas d’atouts, et Berlioz, critique aussi lucide qu’exigeant, prit d’ailleurs la plume pour défendre un ouvrage recelant selon lui “un nombre considérable de beaux morceaux expressifs pleins de feu et d’un riche coloris”. A l’aune du chef-d’oeuvre à venir, cela peut sembler peu, c’est certain ; pour autant, la partition ne mérite probablement pas le dédain qui lui est ordinairement réservé par une certaine élite intellectuelle autoproclamée dont le sectarisme continue à faire beaucoup de tort à l’art lyrique. Les Pêcheurs de perles ne sont certes pas visités par le génie, mais ils témoignent d’un métier très sûr au regard de la jeunesse d’un compositeur déjà habile à trousser la mélodie et à colorer l’orchestre pour composer un orientalisme sans doute désuet mais tout à fait séduisant. »

17 Jan 2005

Britten's Billy Budd in Munich

Gut ein halbes Jahrhundert hat es gedauert, bis “Billy Budd”, Benjamin Brittens 1951 uraufgeführtes Meisterwerk, an der Bayerischen Staatsoper angekommen ist. Ein hochtheatrales Stück zwischen Seemannsgarn und Homoerotik, zwischen Kriegs- und Menschenrecht, zwischen verborgener (Zu-)Neigung und Pflichterfüllung. Ein Stück also, das “funktioniert” und berührt, wie der enthusiastische Premierenbeifall zeigte. Kein Buh, nicht einmal für Regisseur Peter Mussbach, dafür Bravi schon vor Beginn, als Kent Nagano, GMD ab 2006, den Graben enterte. »

17 Jan 2005

Don Giovanni at Vienna

Auf dem Programmzettel liest man: 136. Aufführung in dieser Inszenie rung. Tatsächlich: Wenn der Vor hang sich hebt, erblickt der Staatsopernbesucher die altvertrauten Kulissen der einst von Franco Zeffirelli betreuten “Don Giovanni”-Produktion. Sie ist über 30 Jahre alt und ersetzt aus unerfindlichen Gründen schon wieder die erst vor zwei Jahren aus dem Theater an der Wien ins große Haus übersiedelte, jüngere Inszenierung. »

17 Jan 2005

Death of Columbus at Pittsburgh

When is an opera not an opera? The world premiere of Leonardo Balada’s “Death of Columbus”—performed in concert form Friday evening in Carnegie Music Hall—raises the question. It’s not just the lack of scenery, costumes and staging for this occasion, but the nature of the work itself. There was a feeling that scenery, costumes and staging might not have made much difference. »

15 Jan 2005

Parsifal at Wiener Staatsoper

VIENNA, Jan. 14 – Sir Simon Rattle, arguably the leading conductor in the world, had never conducted at the Vienna State Opera until Wednesday night, when he made his debut with a bang, and with Wagner’s five-hour “Parsifal.” “Parsifal” is commonly labeled Wagner’s Christian opera. At the very least it is a tale about redemption, and many conductors limn it in hovering clouds of mysticism. »

14 Jan 2005

SCRUTON: DEATH-DEVOTED HEART — Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde

Roger Scruton’s new book is an engrossing attempt, intensely argued throughout, to persuade the reader that Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde is a religious work, not only in the vague sense that it elevates our feelings into an exalted condition that strikes the non-religious as “religious”, but in the precise sense that it incarnates, as the Eucharist incarnates the doctrine of Christianity, a doctrine that would give our meaningless lives a sufficient meaning if we were to believe and follow it. Nearly half a century ago, Joseph Kerman, in Opera as Drama, called Tristan “a religious drama” and suggested an analogy between it and Bach cantatas dealing with religious conversion and conveying religious experience. Twenty years later, Michael Tanner, a resolutely acute writer on Wagner, described Tristan and Bach’s St Matthew Passion as the two supreme examples of works “of which it is a prerequisite that one suspends disbelief . . . in the ethos which the work embodies and promulgates”. At the same time he admitted that the love unto death of Tristan and Isolde is not “a kind of living that can be rationally valued”. More recently and less cautiously, in his Wagner, he calls Tristan “the one work of Wagner’s which seems to be making an unconditional demand on our capacity to embrace a new, redeeming doctrine”. »