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Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese

Strong music values in 1940's setting for Handel's opera examining madness

As part of their Madness season, presenting three very contrasting music theatre treatments of madness (Handel's Orlando, Bellini's I Puritani and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd) Welsh National Opera (WNO) presented Handel's Orlando at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 3 October 2015.

Bostridge, Isserlis, Drake, Wigmore Hall

Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

Falstaff at Forest Lawn

Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare: the two Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Music and Drama Interwoven in Chicago Lyric’s new Le nozze di Figaro

The opening performance of the 2015-2016 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago was the premiere of a new production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro under the direction of Barbara Gaines and featuring the American debut of conductor Henrik Nánási.

La traviata, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia mixes boutique performances of avant-garde opera in a small house with more traditional productions of warhorse operas performed in the Academy of Music, America’s oldest working opera house.

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season



11 Oct 2015

Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese  »

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22 Feb 2005

Anne Sofie von Otter at Göteborg

Yesterday [19 February 2005], I went to the concert hall in Göteborg, where Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg held a recital. It was the first time I actually heard them live, and I must confess that I was apprehensive! I have listened to them so much on recordings and taken so much influence from them, especially when it comes to my repertoire — what if I didn’t like them in concert? The concert hall was full — 1200 seats, imagine that for a recital… I have a hard time getting jobs at all because it is so hard to attract audiences to recitals. But, they are world famous and that, of course, attracts a large audience. »

21 Feb 2005

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operettas by Lehár, Suppé, and Strauss

This new disc, from Hänssler’s “Living Voices” series, divides essentially into two parts. The first four tracks are “Potpourris” from Léhar’s Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns, Suppé’s Bocaccio, and Johann Strauss’s Wiener Blut. Recorded in 1939 and 1940, these “Potpourris” feature tenor Rupert Glawitsch and a very young Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (b. 1915). The remaining eight tracks include excerpts from Schwarzkopf’s early-50s EMI complete mono recordings of Die Lustige Witwe and Land das Lächelns. »

21 Feb 2005

CANTELOUBE: Chants d’Auvergne

In the mountains of the vast Auvergne country near the south of France lays the inspiration of Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergne. Marie-Joseph Canteloube, born in 1879 at Annonay, spent his childhood in the countryside of Malaret in the south of Auvergne. It was these roots that instilled his love for folk-music, consuming much of his compositional output and research. He wrote Les chants paysan s’élève bien souvent au niveau de l’art le plus pur, par le sentiment et l’expression, sinon par la forme. (The songs of peasants very often reach the level of the purest art in feeling and expression, if not in form.) »

21 Feb 2005

Michael Bohnen: At the Metropolitan Opera, New York

The title of this most worthwhile CD is, I’m afraid, somewhat misleading. The charismatic German bass-baritone, Michael Bohnen, sang at the Metropolitan Opera from 1923-1932. One might expect this CD to only document roles that Bohnen sang there, if not provide transcriptions of actual Met performances. In fact, the disc includes excerpts from several roles that Bohnen never sang at the Met. Of the twenty tracks on this CD, twelve, by my count, are souvenirs of Bohnen Met roles (Tonio, Rocco, Caspar, Mephistopheles, Wotan, Wolfram, Sachs, and Francesco in Schilling’s Mona Lisa). »

21 Feb 2005

Wozzeck at WNO

FIRST nights of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck are not traditionally sellouts, but then this was anything but a traditional first night. As the main event of Welsh National Opera’s inaugural weekend in its new home, the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay, Saturday night’s performance sent out a volley of positive signals that will stand the company in good stead as it builds new audiences. There are more seats to fill than in WNO’s old house, but a strong forthcoming season combined with adventurous pricing policy should prolong the buzz. »

21 Feb 2005

Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer in Philadelphia

Time stands quite still in John Adams’ opera The Death of Klinghoffer. The pulsing orchestra, the explanatory choruses, the shifting viewpoints, and, above all, the tacit understanding that the events of 20 years ago are being replicated now with no measurable change give the work the feeling of complete stasis. »

21 Feb 2005

WNO Triumphs With La Traviata

Welsh National Opera’s first performance in its new home could so easily have been a disaster. But nowhere was the return of its former musical director Carlo Rizzi more crucial than in this revival, as he transformed the shoddy Traviata of last May into an emphatic restatement of the musical values that have traditionally been at the core of the WNO. Rizzi conducted with authority and passion, and with such care for his singers that where terminal decline had beckoned, he seemed to have effected a miracle cure. »

21 Feb 2005

Handel's Semele at Scottish Opera

A tale of everyday mortals and gods entranced a nearly full house at beleaguered Scottish Opera last night with the same clever mix of pathos, wit, drama and humour that has kept nations’ favourite soaps at the top of the viewing and listening schedules for decades. And it was the visual elements as much as the vocal and musical that clinched the success of this premiere performance last night. Director John la Bouchardiere (of “The Full Monteverdi” fame) worked with a light touch that engagingly mixed some pretty unusual elements into a confection that finally had the audience calling its approval. Likewise, young Christian Curnyn on the podium brought his Early Opera Company experience and love of truly modern stagings of Handel to bear, and managed to persuade the SCO orchestra to eschew both vibrato and swooping lines without adding any extra period instrumentalists, save a harpsichord. Apart from a slightly unconvincing first 10 minutes (of more later) they played with increasing verve and apparent conviction throughout. »

21 Feb 2005

Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas

If you had to name an opera you thought Seattle music lovers were dying to see and hear, what would be your guess? “Carmen”? “Madame Butterfly”? Maybe the ever-beloved story of ill-fated young lovers, “La Boheme”? »

21 Feb 2005

SALGADO: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo

During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso. »

19 Feb 2005

Verdi's Otello at Opéra-Bastille

Ce ne sont pas des notes qui jaillissent de la baguette de Valery Gergiev, c’est un foudroiement : une tempête d’air, d’eau, de feu qui déchire l’espace et fige d’horreur le chœur des Chypriotes massés au port pour le retour vainqueur d’Otello. Une puissance dévastatrice, métaphysique. »

19 Feb 2005

PENDERECKI: A Polish Requiem

Krzysztof Penderecki’s A Polish Requiem is a monumental work expressing the struggles of 20th century Poland against oppression. Written over the course of several years in the 1980s and 90s, sections of A Polish Requiem memorialize significant events in Poland’s history. The Lacrimosa was written for Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement as a memorial to Gdansk dock-workers who died in a conflict with authorities. The Agnus Dei was composed as a memorial tribute to the Polish religious leader, Cardinal Wyszynski and the Recordare marks the beatification of Father Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life at Auschwitz so that another man and his family could live. In addition, the Dies Irae was written to mark the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis. In its whole, A Polish Requiem is a work of piety as an expression of Penderecki’s devout Catholicism and a conviction of the human ability to triumph over evil. »

19 Feb 2005

Renée Fleming in Boston

Renée Fleming sang the Boston leg of her current recital tour last night at Symphony Hall accompanied by the distinguished German pianist Hartmut Höll. Not only was Ms Fleming in free, shimmering and beautifully controlled voice, but last night’s program of Purcell, Handel, Berg and Schumann was some of her most disciplined work in a very long time. »

18 Feb 2005

KRAMER: Opera and Modern Culture — Wagner and Strauss

"New musicology" is the cultural study, analysis and criticism of music, which proffers the belief that music has societal, religious, political, personal, and sexual agendas. Consequently, new musicology, much like the discussion of such topics at social gatherings, can be polarizing. »

17 Feb 2005

Nabucco at the Met — Another View

NABUCCO. Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Temistocle Solera. Metropolitan Opera, James Levine conducting. Through March 8 at Lincoln Center. Call 212-362-6000 or visit Biography can be a distorting lens through which to view art. A case in point is Verdi’s “Nabucco” (1842), his first great success, which followed the deaths of his children and wife between 1838 and 1840 and the humiliating failure of his second opera. »

17 Feb 2005

Cosi fan tutte at San Diego

For San Diego Opera conductor Karen Keltner, returning to the score of Mozart’s opera “Cosi fan tutte” is like slipping on a pair of well-worn leather gloves. The music fits snugly with the vocal parts, and the luxurious feel of the piece improves with each wearing. »

17 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland — Another View

In Scottish Opera’s early days, Handel was not a high priority. Debussy, Verdi, Mozart and Mussorgsky were the composers with whom the company made its name. As a Handel conductor, Alexander Gibson – like Pierre Boulez – went no further than the Water Music. In his role as administrator, Peter Hemmings was forthright and forbidding. Handel’s operas, he declared, were the kiss of death. »

16 Feb 2005

Tristan und Isolde at Geneva — Other Views

Faced with Wagner’s marathon symphonic poem with voices, it is easy to see why producers are panicked into hyperactivity. Olivier Py’s new staging does just that. Wagner whittled down the characters to the bare minimum, to present an unadulterated account of doomed passion. Py, a promising, provocative talent in France but on this evidence short on maturity and focus, elects to flood the stage, literally in act three, with supernumeraries and hackneyed symbolism that feeds on Shakespeare and Arthurian legend. »

16 Feb 2005

Verdi's Nabucco at the Met

There is an honesty to Elijah Moshinsky’s four-year-old production of Verdi’s “Nabucco,” which returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night. No excuses are made for the opera’s creaky theatrical state, no attempts to bring up-to-date relevance to what became a symbol of revolution and national unity for Italians 160 years ago. »

16 Feb 2005

Die Zauberflöte at ROH

AN ODD thing about David McVicar’s productions is the way they improve with time. When this show first appeared it was too po-faced by half, full of regard for the pomposities of the piece but hardly at ease with its lightness, enchantment and childish simplicity. »

16 Feb 2005

Julius Caesar in Hamburg

Hamburg – These. Antithese. Synthese. So einfach ist das manchmal. Anstatt ein sehr abstraktes, gern auch sehr allegorisches Genre wie die Barock-Oper in ein um Wirklichkeit bemühtes Regie-Korsett zwingen zu wollen, das ihren schillernden Typen das Entrückte, Allgemeingültige nehmen würde, geht Karoline Gruber bei “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” einen ganz eigenen, ganz cleveren Regie-Weg: Zuerst wird auf Pointe komm raus gealbert und überdreht. Dann auf Gedeih und Verderb geliebt. Im dritten Akt ohne Wenn und Aber geläutert. Die Katharsis kommt spät, aber gewaltig. »

15 Feb 2005

Gounod's Faust in Cleveland

“Making a pact with the devil’’ is one of those expressions that have gotten diluted with overuse. Nobody really means it when they say it, unless maybe they happen to be talking about Charles Gounod’s opera Faust, where the music is as transcendently lovely as the story line is dark. »

15 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland

WHY IS IT we feel so comfortable with the Handel who wrote such pot-boilers as the Hallelujah Chorus, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Music for the Royal Fireworks or Water Music, yet dread the thought of sitting through one of his many operas? »