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Elsewhere

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.


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Performances

22 Jul 2014

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy. »

Recently in Performances

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23 Mar 2011

The Turn of the Screw at LA Opera

An operatic work by an esteemed composer, with a libretto adapted from a great author’s story, staged in an intelligent and well-designed production, featuring singers of the top caliber and a conductor with a deep commitment to the composer’s music, leading a chamber-sized group of his orchestra’s best players — magic in the opera house, right?  »

23 Mar 2011

Machover, Death and the Powers

This is an opera written with a cannon and a feather. There is sensory overload—an overload of sensory overload: lights that shine into your face in the manner of an ophthalmologist scanning your retina; eerie, too-loud sounds that invade you from every direction; dancing patterns of light that may resolve into huge words or huge faces; a great chandelier-harp that sometimes descends to be played, a strumming like the sounds of the sirens in Plato’s parable of the concentric crystalline spheres. »

18 Mar 2011

Roméo et Juliette, New York

Is Guy Joosten’s staging of Roméo et Juliette the best-looking production in the Met’s current repertory or what?  »

16 Mar 2011

Magnificent Mahler by Shanghai Symphony

It was, of course, only a coincidence, but a week of ideal spring weather — no rain and low humidity — found Shanghai in a perfect mood for an all-Mahler program by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on March 12.  »

15 Mar 2011

The Queen of Spades, New York

Tchaikovsky’s Pikovaia Dama (The Queen of Spades) is the longest Mad Scene in opera. Ghermann is already half nuts when we meet him in the park in St. Petersburg on a windy day, and he gets crazier from scene to scene.  »

15 Mar 2011

Aida, London

Strict courtly hierarchies and the repressed formality of ritual juxtaposed with violent sexual jealousy and lurid erotic excess … a stage-world more suited to the Straussian insalubrity of Salomé than to the epic grandeur of Verdi’s Aida, perhaps?  »

15 Mar 2011

Lucia, New York

It costs a lot to look cheap. And it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of the Metropolitan Opera’s current revival of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, it takes a lot of talent to produce underwhelming opera.  »

10 Mar 2011

La Traviata, Phoenix

Francesco Maria Piave’s Italian libretto for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata is based on the French play La Dame aux Camélias.  »

10 Mar 2011

Two Troubled Girls in Paris

Commanding soprano performances of put-upon heroines securely anchored two recent evenings at the Bastille Opera House.  »

09 Mar 2011

Luca Pisaroni at the Wigmore Hall, London

After hearing his stunning Leporello at Glyndebourne and his Figaro at Salzburg, there was no way I was going to miss Luca Pisaroni’s concert with Wolfram Rieger at the Wigmore Hall, London. But I was delighted by how wonderful he sounded close up in recital. »

06 Mar 2011

Dialogues des Carmélites, Guildhall, London

Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is an unusual opera, but much sensitive musical thinking has gone into this production at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. »

06 Mar 2011

L’Africaine, OONY

Eugène Scribe and Giacomo Meyerbeer were in the business of creating proto-cinematic spectacles of drama and music, the formula being to take a historical incident in some exotic country or era, put in a tormented love story to hold our attention, and resolve the whole in catastrophe. »

06 Mar 2011

Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado

The front leg of the grand piano may rest at a rather precarious angle, and the out-sized martini glass lean a trifle askew, but Jonathan Miller’s 1986 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado wears its twenty-five years lightly — as do Stefanos Lazaridis’ eye-wateringly white, gleaming sets.  »

06 Mar 2011

Roderick Williams, Wigmore Hall

Relaxed, confident and composed, baritone Roderick Williams, accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch, gave a polished and performance before a warmly appreciative Wigmore Hall audience, performing an interesting selection of songs by Wolf, Korngold, Mahler and Schumann. »

06 Mar 2011

Così fan tutte, Palm Beach

Little is known about the extent to which Mozart and Da Ponte collaborated on the libretto for Così fan tutte.  »

06 Mar 2011

Schubert Transcribed, Wigmore Hall

Schubert, but not quite as we know him. You can always rely on the Wigmore Hall to promote adventurous recitals.  »

05 Mar 2011

Roméo et Juliette, Philadelphia

Neither the music nor the libretto of Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette is quite compelling enough to have made it a popular standard. »

27 Feb 2011

Iphigénie en Tauride, New York

Gluck’s operas are part of a continuum, a tradition of French vocal declamation (as opposed to the Italian school of flights of elegant, open-throated vocal fantasy) that can be traced to him from Lully and Rameau, and then from Gluck through certain works of Mozart and Gluck’s pupil, Salieri to the operas of Spontini, Berlioz and Wagner. »

23 Feb 2011

György Kurtág Kafka Fragments, Banse and Keller

György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments, op 24, is a masterpiece, one of the seminal works of the late 20th century. »

22 Feb 2011

The Bartered Bride, New York

In the mid-nineteenth century, every nationality that did not possess a national state felt a need to prove itself, to square its shoulders and claim nationhood with all the identifying marks of a nation: a language with a literature, a tricolor flag, a national anthem extolling the people’s stalwart character and the country’s landscape (inevitably the loveliest in the world), a national theater and a national opera to be performed there. »

20 Feb 2011

Thomas Arne, Bampton Classical Opera

The first performance of Thomas Arne’s masque Alfred took place at Clivedon House on the Thames near Maidenhead, in August 1740. »

20 Feb 2011

Parsifal, ENO

This production retains a special place in my heart: its first outing in 1999 was my first Parsifal in the theatre. Saving up my student pennies, I made the journey not once but twice from Cambridge to London, was mightily impressed the first time and a little irritated the second.  »

18 Feb 2011

Anna Nicole, London

From the sublime (Parsifal, the night before) to the not-even-ridiculous.  »

17 Feb 2011

Opera Colorado’s ‘mermaid’ tremendous

The story is ages old, and every culture has a version of it: the mythic princess of an underwater realm longs for the love of a mortal man. »

15 Feb 2011

The Chill of Grace: A Winter Weekend at COC

At the moment, it seems inevitable that John Adams’ 1987 opera Nixon in China will become a fixture in the repertoire.  »

11 Feb 2011

Egyptian Queen in Parisian Rubble

Although Paris Opéra's Dream Team of soprano Natalie Dessay and director Laurent Pelly promised much for the SRO run of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, for the moment we will have to keep dreaming of what might have been.  »

08 Feb 2011

Don Pasquale, New York

Witty and airy as an after-dinner anecdote over biscuits and cognac, Don Pasquale (1844) is, unlikely as it may seem, almost the last opera Donizetti completed before his descent into the madness of tertiary syphilis. »

07 Feb 2011

Turandot, Florida Grand Opera

In 2010, Florida Grand Opera held a gala to honor Robert Heuer on his 25th anniversary as general director. »

07 Feb 2011

Nixon in China, New York

Preparing for the Met premier of Nixon in China, I resolved to forget—or place on hold—everything I remembered, or thought I remembered, about the real persons who are characters in this opera,  »

07 Feb 2011

Turandot, San Diego

The original story that formed the basis for the libretto of Puccini’s opera Turandot told of a Mongolian princess who insisted that any prospective husband endeavor to win a wrestling match with her.  »

06 Feb 2011

Magdalena Kozená, Wigmore Hall

It’s a rare recital that can be at one and the same time intensely intimate and extravagantly exuberant, but that’s just what Magdalena Kozená and the eight-piece Austrian ensemble Private Musicke achieved in this fascinating and exhilarating concert, which brought a thrill of passion, spontaneity and excitement to the usually more restrained and rarified atmosphere of the Wigmore Hall. »

06 Feb 2011

Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Florida Grand Opera

If you are ever lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch a great exponent of just one of two major roles — the heroines or villains — in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, you should secure a seat maintenant.  »

06 Feb 2011

Randy Rossini Romp in Z-Town

If proof were needed, the Swiss capital’s heady new Le Comte Ory cements the notion that super-star Cecelia Bartoli certainly seems to have found an ideal home at Zurich Opera. »

06 Feb 2011

Jurowski, Das klagende Lied

Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic have repeated their success with Mahler’s Das klagende Lied at the Royal Festival Hall.  »

06 Feb 2011

Die Zauberflöte, Covent Garden

Premiered in 2003, and aired again in 2005 and 2008, this current revival of David McVicar’s Die Zauberflöte brings many ‘old hands’ back together to re-visit oft-frequented roles on familiar ground. »

06 Feb 2011

Heggie’s Dead Man Walking triumphs at HGO

The production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking currently on stage at the Houston Grand Opera is marvelously celebratory in its success. »

04 Feb 2011

Lucrezia Borgia, ENO

Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at the English National Opera, London, is an interesting hybrid. The opera is performed “straight” so to speak, but encased in a frame of short filmed passages that add background and depth. These films don’t intrude, but enhance. »

03 Feb 2011

Mosheh, a VideOpera

Yoav Gal, an Israeli-born composer-in-residence at the HERE arts complex in Manhattan’s South Village, calls Mosheh a “VideOpera,” rightly giving as much place to what is seen (electronic projections) as to what is heard (from four sopranos playing the women in the prophet’s life and an orchestra of nine musicians). »

02 Feb 2011

Bérénice, Carnegie Hall

Albéric Magnard, inspired to abandon the law for music by a visit to Bayreuth in 1886, was wealthy enough to ignore the public and go off on his own to compose.  »

02 Feb 2011

Jurowski conducts Zemlinsky

This looked an enticing programme before Vladimir Jurowski, in conversation with the Southbank Centre’s Head of Music, Marshall Marcus, divulged its secrets.  »

02 Feb 2011

La Fanciulla in its Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its current production of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrates the centenary of the first performances of the opera.  »

01 Feb 2011

Maria Stuarda, Minnesota Opera

The 2010-2011 season for Minnesota Opera is steeped in Bel Canto opera selections, starting with Rossini’s Cenerentola this fall, currently featuring Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, and for the spring, a production of Verdi’s La Traviata with acclaimed Violetta, Elizabeth Futral.  »

01 Feb 2011

Simon Boccanegra, New York

A few years ago, a certain major newspaper boasted a music critic who could not bring himself either to take opera seriously or to deny himself the opportunity to review it.  »

24 Jan 2011

Nabucco, Palm Beach Opera

Appearing on Palm Beach Opera’s website video player General Director Daniel Biaggi points out among the reasons to attend the first show of the company’s 2010-2011 season, “fantastic artists whose voices will blow you away.”  »

24 Jan 2011

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Covent Garden

In my July 2009 review of the first revival of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2005 production of Il barbiere di Siviglia I commented that the directors, aided by conductor, Antonio Pappano, had reinvigorated this operatic ‘old friend’, injecting freshness and spontaneity into familiar material.  »