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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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02 Jan 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

One takes a look at the sleeve and one realizes the wheel has finally turned a full circle. It started to move with the Decca La Traviata (Gheorgiu as Violetta, conducted by Solti) in 1994. Downloading and pc-copies were still in the future but nevertheless sales of complete opera recordings were spectacularly falling off since the eighties. »

30 Dec 2005

Berg's Wozzeck at the Met — Three Reviews

The Metropolitan Opera presents Wozzeck, Alban Berg's "operatic version of Büchner’s play about a soldier who subjects himself to medical experiments to augment his pay." Here are two reviews. »

29 Dec 2005

Mario Del Monaco at the Bolshoi

Myto has the good sense to call a spade a spade. This is an issue exclusively meant for the Del Monaco-crowd and not for people wanting a Carmen or a Pagliacci. The set has one enormous quality: a brilliant natural sound that hides nothing and doesn’t change the balance of the voices. »

29 Dec 2005

SCHREKER: Christophorus oder “Die Vision einer Oper”

How easy it might be to overlook this lesser-known Schreker opera, composed in 1928 and dedicated to Schreker’s good friend Arnold Schoenberg, here in its recorded debut. It has a quite curious libretto, complex and multilayered, and Schreker moves between what are at times quite disparate styles. »

28 Dec 2005

SPITZER & ZASLAW: The Birth of the Orchestra — History of an Institution, 1650-1815

At a time when the press has made the public aware of the difficult circumstances that exist for the symphony orchestra in the United States, it is refreshing to find a book that demonstrates unequivocally the nature of that institution and, as a consequence, its power in culture. »

27 Dec 2005

SCHUBERT: Winterreise

Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise has been performed by many fine singers, who keep the work alive in the repertoire and in the imagination of audiences. In recent years the work has been subject to a variety of interpretations, and with this recording, the well-known tenor René Kollo offers his perspective on the work, accompanied by the young pianist Oliver Pohl. »

27 Dec 2005

A Trio of New Year's Concerts

The first thing I saw when I opened the La Scala DVD was a notice on the back that track 5 plays “Va! Pensiero da: I vespri siciliani (1855).” One wonders if there is nobody at the La Scala Bookshop who has at least a bit of knowledge of one of the most popular pieces in the operatic repertoire that served Italy for more than hundred years as an unofficial anthem — the Venice DVD has it right, of course. »

22 Dec 2005

LUTOSLAWSKI: Twenty Polish Christmas Carols

Witold Lutosławski (1913-94) composed vocal works throughout his career, and recording collects several pieces that involve female voices. His set of Twenty Polish Christmas Carols for soprano, women’s choir and orchestra is a late composition compiled between 1985 and 1989 and given its premiere in 1990. »

21 Dec 2005

Christmas with Renée and Bryn

Though singers have always recorded some of these arias and songs, it was young Leontyne Price who first started a trend by devoting a whole LP to the genre more than 45 years ago. »

21 Dec 2005

RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

In its 2004 season Glyndebourne put on a double bill celebrating avarice — Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the much-lesser known The Miserly Knight. »

21 Dec 2005

Giulini Conducts Mozart and Mahler

With the passing of Carl Maria Giulini (1913-2005) in June 2005, the music world lost one of its finest conductors. Among his legacy are some critical recordings, which represent the literature that Giulini chose to preserve. »

21 Dec 2005

Two Super Audio CD re-releases of Elly Ameling performances for Philips

I admit I jumped at the chance to review these SACD re-releases of performances that were on the very first classical vocal LP’s that I owned and overplayed on under-maintained equipment, to the point where I frankly shudder to even try to compare my vinyl versions with the digital. »

18 Dec 2005

WAGNER, S.: Der Heidenkönig

What an unjust fate for an aspiring opera composer to be born the son of Richard Wagner! Imagine a child of Albert Einstein who dreams of greatness in science, or the son of William Shakespeare sitting down to sketch out his first sonnet. Doubtless you would have a nagging suspicion that you would likely never better your father’s titanic accomplishments. »

18 Dec 2005

The legendary Magda Olivero

What is the difference between a lady who becomes a prima-donna and a prima-donna who becomes a lady? The last one has to be begged as she thinks she has to behave according to her rank. The first one is sure of herself and doesn’t need, well let’s call it to behave somewhat capriciously. »

18 Dec 2005

RAUTAVAARA: Rasputin

In fall 2003, Los Angeles Opera opened its season with Deborah Dratell’s Nicholas and Alexandra, with libretto by Nicholas von Hoffman. At that time, company director Placido Domingo, who took on the juicy role of Rasputin, announced that the production would be filmed and prepared for eventual DVD release. »

15 Dec 2005

Malena Ernman, Simon Rattle and OAE at the Barbican — Three Reviews

On 9 December 2005, Malena Ernman stepped in for an ailing Magdalena Kožená at the Barbican in London. Here are three reviews. »

15 Dec 2005

Rigoletto at the Met — Three Reviews

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA: Verdi considered Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse “one of the greatest creations of the modern theatre”, and jumped at the opportunity to adapt it for Venice in 1851. »

14 Dec 2005

Sherrill Milnes - An All Star Gala

The former TV-producer in me tells me the following conversation took place between producer and director (in German as this is a GDR (East-Germany) product). »

13 Dec 2005

Stravinsky in San Francisco — Two Reviews

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY: The San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas present two semi-staged theatrical performances: a double-bill featuring Stravinsky's rarely heard operas The Nightingale and Oedipus Rex. »

12 Dec 2005

GAY: The Beggar’s Opera

Benjamin Britten’s identity as a decidedly “national” composer is formed in part by his well-known engagement of pre-existent English music, old English texts, and subjects rich in the English legacy, as a glance at works like the Purcellian The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, the Chester mystery play, Noyes Fludde, or the Elizabethan opera, Gloriana, all confirm. »

11 Dec 2005

Gwyneth Jones - In Concert

Sorry my friends, but since I retired as a TV-reporter I forgot a lot of technical know-how, which to be fair never interested me very much. »

11 Dec 2005

Edita Gruberová — The Queen of Belcanto Volume I

There are countless artists whose legend survives on their supposed fame, others leave a substantial legacy of their achievements. »

11 Dec 2005

On Christmas Day

Tastes in music for Christmas are quite personal. One individual’s beloved tradition may be another’s annoying jangling that just won’t go away. »

11 Dec 2005

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring; The Nightingale

So much has been written about the notorious scandal of May 29, 1913, the scandal of the reception of the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, that it is easy to forget that the music itself was less the cause of the riotous activities than the subject, the décor, and the dancing. »

11 Dec 2005

The Art of Gérard Souzay

If anyone had played the soundtrack of those first numbers of the 1955 telecast, I would have looked up in surprise at first and would have wondered if an electronic wizard had cleaned up the acoustic recordings of that giant of French singing: Jean-Emile Vanni-Marcoux. »

11 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Il Diluvio Universale

Originally issued in LP by Voce (100), this unfairly neglected work by Gaetano Donizetti is now available on the Bongiovanni (GB2386/87-2) label. »

11 Dec 2005

LEHÁR: Das Land des Lächelns

This version of Lehár’s second most popular operetta is not one for purists. By the mid-seventies, it was already clear that one of the biggest tragedies of Western classical music was taking place — the disappearance of operetta with its tons of wonderful music. »

10 Dec 2005

A Time of Tristans

We live in a time of Tristan & Isolde — recordings of the great Wagner opera, that is. »

06 Dec 2005

ROSSINI: Moise et Pharaon

Rossini's original Italian opera, Mose In Egitto, was re-adapted as Moise et Pharaon for Paris. A new libretto, the renaming of certain characters, some new music, a ballet and reordering of the original music make up the newer version. »

05 Dec 2005

Billy Budd at ENO — Two Reviews

ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA: ‘Under no circumstances to be missed’ (The Guardian), Neil Armfield’s illuminating reading of Billy Budd receives its long-awaited London premiere. In the season in which Benjamin Britten becomes ENO’s House Composer, this engrossing WNO/Opera Australia production is the perfect salute to a great British masterpiece. »

05 Dec 2005

An American Tragedy — Three Reviews

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA: The American author Theodore Dreiser published An American Tragedy in 1925 and it quickly became a classic. Based on a true story of a man who was found guilty of murdering the woman who was carrying his baby, while he was simultaneously pursuing another woman of a higher social class, Dreiser’s novel tells the story of a mid-western preacher’s son who tasted a little sophistication on his way to death in the electric chair. »

04 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor

A superstar in Europe, Edita Gruberova can rest assured that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate her artistry: the record label Nightingale Classics exists primarily, it seems, to record her in her greatest roles. »

02 Dec 2005

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2

As the second of four of the thematically organized recording of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Un paysage choisi is an excellent offering of chansons that concern selected natural places, that is to say, the “chosen landscape” indicated in the title of this volume. »

02 Dec 2005

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible

Sergei Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible? Which one? Prokofiev composed music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film (part 1, 1942-44; part 2, 1945) about the sixteenth-century ruler, and the score is catalogued as op. 116. After the composer’s death, music for the film was arranged first into an oratorio (with speaker, soloists, chorus, and orchestra) by Alexander Stasevich (1961) and later into a concert scenario by Christopher Palmer (1990). »

02 Dec 2005

Songs of Vaughan Williams and Ives

Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Ives; both known more for their symphonic music than anything else, receive superb tributes in these recordings of some of their early songs. Only two years separate the birth dates of these composers; but the musical language each speaks seems to put far more distance than that between them. »

29 Nov 2005

BIZET: Carmen

Two recent releases document performances of Georges Bizet’s Carmen that took place within just a few months of each other. The casts share many of the same performers, most notably the conductor and the interpreter of the opera’s title role. »

29 Nov 2005

Michele Pertusi - Recital

Bass-baritone Michele Pertusi’s voice is captured in this recital disc after only two years of formal studies. Taking this into account one can forgive what he calls “imperfections: a few, slight musical errors, some invented or switched words, a Neapolitan pronunciation that is not quite perfect, an English one which could be improved on, a few marred notes.” »