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Elsewhere

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power. Under the neon-glare of laboratory strip-lights, the scientists and literary archeologists rout through the relics, scrape away palimpsests, shatter the printing presses, and uncover a shocking tale of violence, sex, suicide and cannibalism. ‘Strip the cities of brick,’ they cry; ‘Cancel all flights from the international airport.’ Yet, despite its ‘distance’ - both historical and aesthetic - this disturbing juxtaposition of innocence and monstrosity unsettles and seeps into our modern consciousness, like ink staining parchment.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Battles administration neglects FLO’s assets by defunding the program

The college administration and President Denise Battles’ recent decision to defund the Finger Lakes Opera came as a shock to many and a concern to more. This decision reflects the administration’s blatant disregard for the arts and reveals a mindset that is counterproductive to the mission of the college.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

<em>Written on Skin</em>, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
15 Jan 2017

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power. Under the neon-glare of laboratory strip-lights, the scientists and literary archeologists rout through the relics, scrape away palimpsests, shatter the printing presses, and uncover a shocking tale of violence, sex, suicide and cannibalism. ‘Strip the cities of brick,’ they cry; ‘Cancel all flights from the international airport.’ Yet, despite its ‘distance’ - both historical and aesthetic - this disturbing juxtaposition of innocence and monstrosity unsettles and seeps into our modern consciousness, like ink staining parchment. »

Recently in Performances

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04 Jun 2012

Salome, Royal Opera

In David McVicar’s staging of Strauss’s disturbing opera, first seen at Covent Garden in 2008 and now enjoying its second revival, Salome’s descent down the Stygian staircase is a literal drop into a subterranean slaughterhouse and an ethical fall into the delights and depravity of her of burgeoning yet deadly sexuality.  »

04 Jun 2012

Maria Padilla: Chelsea Opera Group

Donizetti’s Maria Padilla received a concert performance with the Chelsea Opera Group. »

04 Jun 2012

Handel and the Rival Queens: Lufthansa Baroque Festival

A fascinating evening of arias and readings on the theme of Handel’s “rival queens”, Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni.  »

04 Jun 2012

A Toronto Trilogy

Canadian Opera Company’s diverse May offerings included some superlatively sung Handel, a galvanizing star turn from a rising tenor talent, and a well-matched veristic double bill of tragedy and comedy. »

31 May 2012

Tristan und Isolde, Welsh National Opera

Yannis Kokkos originally directed and designed Tristan und Isolde as a co-production for Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera nearly 20 years ago. The production’s latest revival, directed by Peter Watson, was premiered at the Wales Millennium Centre on 19 May 2012.  »

30 May 2012

Glyndebourne Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen

Glyndebourne’s 2012 season started in great style with Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. Its rapturous reception would suggest that this could become a Glyndebourne perennial.  »

22 May 2012

History Repeating

Iestyn Davies’ Wigmore Hall recital, ‘History Repeating’, may have explored various composers’ engagement with, and reinterpretation and reinvigoration of, music of the past, but Davies himself is very much the countertenor of the moment, and undoubtedly an exciting and fulfilling future lies ahead. »

21 May 2012

Semele, Canadian Opera Company

You never can tell. I would never have predicted which opera would be my favourite of the seven operas programmed this season by the Canadian Opera Company.  »

19 May 2012

Billy Budd — Metropolitan Opera

The Met saved the best of the season for the end of it, revivals of their first-rate productions of two twentieth-century masterpieces, Jánaček’s Makropoulos Case and Britten’s Billy Budd.  »

19 May 2012

Damrau Dazzles in Geneva

It is not long into Act One of Mignon at Geneva’s Grand Theatre when Diana Damrau glides on stage as Philine, commands our rapt attention, and sweeps all before her. »

17 May 2012

Véronique Gens, Wigmore Hall, London

Véronique Gens’s recital at the Wigmore Hall, London, was an almost ideal distillation of the belle époque in song. »

12 May 2012

Bartók and Szymanowski, Barbican Hall

In this, the second of two LSO concerts in which Péter Eötvös replaced Pierre Boulez, one continued to feel the loss of the latter in his repertoire, yet one equally continued to value his replacement, very much his own man.  »

09 May 2012

My Big Fat American Moustache: A Wartime Così Fan Tutte

An energetic and exceptionally entertaining production of Così fan tutte sung in English and set during World War II, when the Americans often got the girls. »

09 May 2012

Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach, Barbican, London

Any performance of Philip Glass’ epic Einstein on the Beach (1976) is a major event. The work’s duration is around five hours and it is directed to be performed without interval (although see below — we had one).  »

07 May 2012

The Barber of Seville, San Diego

Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’ classic play The Barber of Seville, set by Rossini to perfectly paced and irresistibly comic music, was first performed in Rome in 1816, and remains one of the world’s favorite operas. »

02 May 2012

La bohème, Royal Opera House, London

A robust Mimì and a self-regarding Rodolfo impart a distinctive flavour to this full-throttled version of John Copley’s evergreen La bohème. »

02 May 2012

The Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2012

This year’s Kathleen Ferrier Awards final was both a competition and a celebration, marking as it did the centenary anniversary of the great singer’s birth. »

01 May 2012

Daughter of the Regiment, Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera laid aside all stereotypes about opera being stuffy and inaccessible with its feel-good production of Donizetti’s 1840 comic opera Daughter of the Regiment.  »

01 May 2012

Der fliegende Holländer, ENO

ENO’s peculiar decision not to stage any Wagner during its 2012-13 season, that is the season in which the greater part of Wagner’s bicentenary falls, is at least mitigated by a new production of The Flying Dutchman during this preceding season.  »

01 May 2012

Two from Florence

The double bill of Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy with Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, currently being presented by the Canadian Opera Company, is a marriage made in heaven, a pair of complementary opposites who seem to belong together. »

26 Apr 2012

Manon, Metropolitan Opera

Massenet’s Manon succeeds in the theater when the soprano has a real sense of the role and how she wants to present it.  »

26 Apr 2012

Zagreb’s Wagner Casts Its Spell

Croatian National Opera, in collaboration with Würzburg’s (Germany) Mainfranken Theater has made quite a forceful case for Parsifal.  »

26 Apr 2012

Manon Lescaut, Philadelphia

It is Manon month in the Mid-Atlantic states. In New York, the Met is presenting Massanet’s take, while Opera Company of Philadelphia has just opened Puccini’s version: his first successful opera, Manon Lescaut. »

26 Apr 2012

Matthias Goerne, Los Angeles

Los Angeles lieder lovers were treated to two extraordinary Schubertian journeys on April 16th and 18th when bass-baritone Matthias Goerne partnered with Christian Eschenbach performed the song cycles, Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s celebration of the composer’s 215th birthday.  »

26 Apr 2012

Der Freischütz, London

The unfashionableness of Der Freischütz in England is a little baffling. In its day, not only was the opera celebrated across Germany, it soon conquered other European stages and indeed theatres worldwide.  »

25 Apr 2012

La Fille du Regiment, Royal Opera

The regiment marches onwards!  »

19 Apr 2012

Show Boat at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago has begun with the current season’s production of Show Boat a series of musicals of the American theater to be featured in coming years. »

19 Apr 2012

Wolfgang Rihm’s Jakob Lenz by ENO

When the ENO does really innovative work, it does so with style. Wolfgang Rihm’s Jakob Lenz may have taken 34 years to reach London fully staged, but this ENO production made such a strong impression that it might be years before it will be forgotten.  »

19 Apr 2012

Folk songs that aren’t folk songs

The Wigmore Hall Dvořák series culminated in a concert by Bernarda Fink and Roger Vignoles.  »

19 Apr 2012

Armide, Opera Atelier

I have to rethink my week, because somehow I have to get to see Opera Atelier’s production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide again.  »

19 Apr 2012

Il Sogno di Scipione

It’s unclear whether Mozart composed this highly undramatic “dramatic action” when he was fifteen, for his kindly master Prince-Archbishop von Schrettenbach of Salzburg, or the following year for the newly-elected successor, Prince-Archbishop Colloredo, who, soon afterwards, had the young man literally kicked out of his service.  »

16 Apr 2012

The Dream of Gerontius, Barbican Hall

Edward Elgar was given a copy of Cardinal Newman’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ — a 900-line poem depicting the journey of an old man’s soul after death — as a wedding present in 1889.  »

15 Apr 2012

Opéra Comique’s Muted Auber

Paris’ Opéra Comique has summoned forth a respectable (if spare) set design for Bluebeard’s Castle, but unfortunately the opera they were performing was Auber’s La Muette de Portici. »

13 Apr 2012

Sandrine Piau, Wigmore Hall

Sandrine Paiu and Roger Vignoles teamed up for the latest concert in Vignoles’s “Perspectives” series at the Wigmore Hall, London. »

13 Apr 2012

Sarasota Opera’s 2012 Winter Festival

Opera-goers have come to expect high quality opera as part of Sarasota Opera’s Winter Festival.  »

12 Apr 2012

International HD Broadcast of Rigoletto by Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House started doing opera and ballet broadcasts before many other houses, and is now expanding its schedule. On April 17th, Verdi’s Rigoletto is being streamed live in over 600 cinemas in 21 countries.  »

02 Apr 2012

Rigoletto, Royal Opera House

How would a period instrument specialist like John Eliot Gardiner approach Rigoletto, Verdi’s sordid tale? This was his first Rigoletto (though not his first Verdi); but he created it with great insight. »

27 Mar 2012

La forza del destino by Chelsea Opera Group

For sixty years, the Chelsea Opera Group has adorned London opera life. It doesn’t do mass market, but focuses on unusual and obscure repertoire. This audience comes for the music!  »

24 Mar 2012

Florian Boesch at Wigmore Hall

The performance at the Wigmore Hall of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin by Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau was outstanding. Over several decades, I’ve heard hundreds of performances, but this was exceptionally perceptive. »

24 Mar 2012

A Child of Our Time, Barbican Hall

The Barbican’s English oratorio series now reaches the twentieth century, with Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, though it will step back to The Dream of Gerontius next month.  »

22 Mar 2012

Albert Herring, LA

The Los Angeles Opera, anticipating Benjamin Britten’s centennial gave the composer, as well as its patrons, an early birthday present of performances of his charming comic opera, Albert Herring.  »

19 Mar 2012

Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Concert

A major part of the rejuvenation of opera in the 21st century is the cultivation of young singers.  »

19 Mar 2012

Don Pasquale, San Diego

You can’t keep a good opera buffa down. And Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is about as good as opera buffa gets.  »

19 Mar 2012

Aida in Arizona

Two live camels with trainers in Egyptian garb were stationed in front of Phoenix’s Symphony Hall to publicize the opening of Arizona Opera’s new production of Aida.  »

13 Mar 2012

Miss Fortune mis-fires, Royal Opera House

An absurd plot has never stood in the way of a good opera. Unfortunately, Judith Weir’s Miss Fortune at the Royal Opera House isn’t much of an opera. »

12 Mar 2012

A Physical Barber by ETO

For an operatic masterpiece The Barber of Seville is surprisingly tricky to do well, it is not one of those pieces which plays itself.  »

09 Mar 2012

Byrd: The Englishman

In this stimulating and uplifting performance, The Cardinall’s Musick, led by director Andrew Carwood, continued their comprehensive project to examine the works of one of England’s greatest composers — William Byrd (c.1540—1623).  »

08 Mar 2012

Elijah, Barbican Hall, London

The Barbican’s six-month series celebrating the English oratorio, has now reached Mendelssohn’s Elijah — or perhaps we should follow the Victorians and refer to it as ‘the Elijah’, given that it was performed in English, in William Bartholomew’s translation.  »

06 Mar 2012

Abduction from the Seraglio, Philadelphia

Abduction from the Seraglio contains not a single ironic or cynical moment. Enlightened mercy and sincere love triumph totally over revenge, slavery and tyranny.  »

05 Mar 2012

Paris: Tenors Trump Befuddled Productions

Two recent outings at the Paris Opéra might have been subtitled: “Max Bialystock is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” »

05 Mar 2012

Zurich’s Magnificent ‘Other’ Moor

Right to the musical ‘score’ board: Zurich Opera stared down the mighty challenge posed by Rossini’s Otello ossia il moro di Venezia, and knocked it out of the ballpark. »