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Elsewhere

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

Barbara Hannigan sings Berg and Gershwin at the Barbican Hall

I first heard Barbara Hannigan in 2008.

Christina Scheppelmann appointed General Director of Seattle Opera

Scheppelmann heads to the Pacific Northwest following leadership roles in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East

New perceptions: a Royal Academy Opera double bill

‘Once upon a time …’ So fairy-tales begin, although often they don’t conclude with a ‘happy ever after’. Certainly, both Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, paired in this Royal Academy Opera double bill, might be said to present transformations from innocence and ignorance to experience and knowledge, but there is little that is saccharine about their protagonists’ journeys from darkness to enlightenment.

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.


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Performances

24 Mar 2019

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci! »

Recently in Performances

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21 Sep 2011

La tragedia di Tosca at the Washington National Opera

Whether or not one agrees with Joseph Kerman’s immortal definition of Tosca as a “shabby little shocker,” Puccini’s melodramma, the inaugural production of the Washington National Opera’s 2011-12 season, is intense, “blood-and-guts” kind of entertainment.  »

21 Sep 2011

Il Trittico, Covent Garden

What do a ferociously violent melodrama, an ecstatic spiritual revelation and an ironic black farce have in common?  »

21 Sep 2011

The Elixir of Love, ENO

It’s easy to dismiss the undoubted charms of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love with a wry smile and a dash of condescension.  »

21 Sep 2011

The Italian Girl in London, Bampton Classical Opera

As one of the most successful Italian opera composers of the late-eighteenth century, Domenico Cimarosa’s reputation lasted well into the following century during which his operas were staple repertoire in all the major European opera houses.  »

21 Sep 2011

Paris: A Thrilling Leap and Then a Stumble

Stylish, spirited vocalism that rang convincingly through the Palais Garnier was the hallmark of Paris Opera’s thrilling revival of one of Mozart's least appreciated mature operas.  »

21 Sep 2011

Schiller: Ein Leben in Liedern, Wigmore Hall

While the music industry seems to be spiralling dementedly downmarket, the Wigmore Hall keeps standards extremely high.  »

19 Sep 2011

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011

The Wigmore Hall is the most respected centre of art song excellence in Britain and its Song Competition attracts interest from all over the world.  »

13 Sep 2011

BBC Prom 73: Der Freischütz

Why would a French composer take an opera which epitomises German Romanticism and Nationalism and adapt it to the conventions of the French grand opera tradition?  »

10 Sep 2011

Santa Fe Faust — Revisited

The distinguished soprano Patricia Racette once advised this observer, “If you are coming to the opera to review me, please attend the latest performance you can.” I knew what she meant.  »

08 Sep 2011

Prom 67: Beethoven, Mass in D major, op.123

I shall not beat about the bush: this was a great performance.  »

06 Sep 2011

Ruhrtriennale’s Luminous Tristan

Bochum’s Jahrhunderthalle, a massive, re-purposed industrial building, seemed an unlikely location to contain and frame the transcendent, unbounded spiritual journey of Wagner’s masterpiece Tristan und Isolde. »

01 Sep 2011

Verdi’s Requiem Closes Grant Park Festival

In its final performances of the Summer 2011 season the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus along with guest soloists gave two performances of Verdi’s Requiem.  »

30 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 58: Mendelssohn’s Elijah

Droughts, deserts, false gods, angels, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and a firestorm. Plenty of drama in the Bible. In BBC Prom 58, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players made a good case for period performance of Mendelssohn’s magnificent Elijah op 70.  »

30 Aug 2011

Bayreuth’s Tannhäuser: Recycled Trash

Newsflash: Wartburg is a world-wide recycling company, at one with the universe, wherein everything and everyone exists in a perfectly sustainable environment.  »

29 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 55: Rinaldo

It’s becoming rather a fashion to set operas in English public schools.  »

29 Aug 2011

Don Giovanni, Salzburg

When discussing the evolution of opera as a genre, the towering figure of Richard Wagner cannot be ignored.  »

29 Aug 2011

L’elisir d’amore, Miami

“The number of recordings testify to the continuing popularity of Donizetti’s melodrama in two acts [L’elisir d’amore], which rivals Don Pasquale among his comic operas and is often rated the better on account of its superior libretto by Felice Romani.”  »

28 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 50

In 2008, the late Richard Hickox, founder and then music director of the City of London Sinfonia, commissioned a work from composer Colin Matthews to celebrate the orchestra’s 40th anniversary, which takes place this year. »

27 Aug 2011

Santa Fe: Best of Show 2011

As this is written, the third week of August, the Santa Fe music season is winding down.  »

27 Aug 2011

Caractacus,Three Choirs Festival, Worcester

Superb performance of Elgar’s epic oratorio Caractacus at the The Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral. »

27 Aug 2011

Santa Fe Musical Delights

Musical excellence was the centerpiece of three of Santa Fe Opera’s annual offerings. »

27 Aug 2011

Franz Schmidt’s The Book with Seven Seals at Grant Park

In keeping with the festival nature of the piece, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, along with guest soloists and a guest chorus director, gave two performances of Franz Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln on recent weekend evenings.  »

27 Aug 2011

Mosé in Egitto and Adelaide di Borgogna in Pesaro

It was a no-brainer. The Old Testament Egyptians had to become today’s Palestinians. »

19 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 41

This concert of three substantial choral and orchestral works by Benjamin Britten recreated the ‘50th birthday’ Promenade concert which Britten himself conducted on 12 September 1963.  »

19 Aug 2011

Glimmer, Glamour Back in Cooperstown

A breath of fresh air is making its way through the Glimmerglass Opera festival, and her name is Francesca Zambello. »

14 Aug 2011

Ariadne auf Naxos, Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble

Today’s general public labors under the unfortunate misconception that in order to enjoy opera, one needs to be educated and at ease with mobility in social circles largely consisting of decrepit old rich people.  »

14 Aug 2011

Opera at Grant Park Music Festival

For its seventh program of the Summer 2011 season the Grant Park Music Festival presented concert ensembles performed by members of the Ryan Opera Center of Lyric Opera of Chicago.  »

14 Aug 2011

Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Wolf Trap

For opera lovers who are serious enough to even think of a performing career, the path is an arduous one.  »

14 Aug 2011

Prom 32: Brahms and Mahler

Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Mahler’s Das klagende Lied did not seem to be the most obvious bedfellows — there has been some rather peculiar programming at this year’s Proms — and even after further consideration, the only real connection I could muster was that they were written at the same time: the concerto in 1878, the cantata between 1878 and 1880.  »

14 Aug 2011

Starry-Crossed Lovers in Bavaria

In the waning days of the annual summer festival, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera fielded enough star power to fire up a minor galaxy with its wholly absorbing production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi. »

12 Aug 2011

Risorgimento 150 years after

How the saga of Italian unification in 1861 is being (half-heartedly) celebrated by opera composers. »

02 Aug 2011

BBC Prom 21

From the bombastic sweeps of Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, to the blissful rhapsodies of Walton’s Violin Concerto, and through the rhythmic surges of Prokofiev’s choral manifesto of socialist realism, conductor Andris Nelsons fizzed — indeed, almost exploded with energy and zest — and inspired clarity, control and freshness from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, on this their only visit to the Proms this season. »

01 Aug 2011

La traviata at the Aix Festival

An appreciation of La traviata plus La clemenza di Tito and Le Nez/The Nose at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. »

01 Aug 2011

La Wally, Opera Holland Park, London

Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally is known for its arias, but the full opera is rarely performed. Expectations were high for this production at Opera Holland Park, London. »

31 Jul 2011

Die Liebe der Danae, Bard Summerstage

In the modern operatic world, respect for the oeuvre of any given composer, as well as his stylistic development and placement in operatic history, is sacrosanct.  »

31 Jul 2011

Rodelinda Triumphs at Iford Opera

Rodelinda is about as serious an opera as any that Handel wrote: attempted regicide and infanticide, violent death, betrayal and a marriage sorely tried.  »

29 Jul 2011

Rigoletto, Opera Holland Park

It’s always a good idea to ferret away a sure-fire winner amongst the rarities, and Opera Holland Park’s Rigoletto certainly meets, and in some aspects surpasses, expectations.  »

28 Jul 2011

Boston Midsummer Opera’s Italian Girl in Algiers

This year’s venture for the annual Boston Midsummer Opera is an elegant reading of Rossini’s fizzy masterpiece of 1813, l’Italiana in Algeri.  »

27 Jul 2011

Rigoletto, Miami Lyric Opera

There’s hell to pay for profligate publicity; Giuseppe Verdi and Francisco Maria Piave knew this to be true.  »

26 Jul 2011

Verdi’s Requiem, BBC Proms

Not only did Verdi’s Requiem make its debut, rather remarkably, in the church of San Marco in Milan but the performance was as a liturgical one; Verdi’s intentions were quite firmly to provide a memorial mass for the Italian patriot, Manzoni.  »

22 Jul 2011

Mignon and Saul at Buxton Opera Festival

Buxton, like Wexford, makes a point of offering its clientele the opportunity to sample works that are unjustly neglected by the major houses, and for his final festival as director, Andrew Greenwood served up a typical feast of operatic rarities reflecting the increasingly ambitious approach which has characterised his musical stewardship.  »

18 Jul 2011

Guillaume Tell, BBC Proms

Operatic fashions are fickle and, more to the point, often plain wrong. We all have our grievance lists of works that are ‘scandalously neglected’.  »

16 Jul 2011

First Night of the 2011 BBC Proms

The First Night of the Proms seems to be edging back, if a little hesitantly, from the strange, unsatisfying ‘tasting menu’ approach adopted for a few years.  »

15 Jul 2011

Seven Angels, London

Luke Bedford’s first opera, Seven Angels, had its London premiere at the Linbury Studio Theatre, London.  »

13 Jul 2011

Rinaldo at Glyndebourne

Handel’s Rinaldo at the Glyndebourne Festival is a triumph in musical terms. Don’t miss it when it appears at the BBC Proms this summer in concert performance, because some of the singing is very good indeed. »

12 Jul 2011

Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Commemorates Gustav Mahler

To commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra gave in early July two performances of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde featuring the vocal soloists Alexandra Petersamer and Christian Elsner.  »

12 Jul 2011

La rondine, Opera Holland Park

Opera Holland Park’s unique selling point has always been a devotion to the more obscure works of Puccini and his Italian contemporaries.  »

12 Jul 2011

Cendrillon, Royal Opera

Words, stories, books — the gateway to a world of fantasy in which anything is possible.  »

12 Jul 2011

Guillaume Tell, Caramoor Festival

For classical music fans, summer means only one thing: summer festivals. The goal of these festivals is to showcase a wide range of repertory with thought provoking creativity. »

10 Jul 2011

Faust Reaches Santa Fe Opera — And How!

The celebrated New Mexico opera festival has, in its fifty-fifth season, created a production of Charles Gounod’s 1859 masterpiece Faust, its first ever.  »

07 Jul 2011

The Marriage of Figaro, Opera Holland Park

Even before a note was sounded at Opera Holland Park on Saturday evening, the still summer evening was ruffled by a breeze of unease.  »

07 Jul 2011

Scenes from Two Marriages

By 1825, as Rossini’s operatic vein was approaching exhaustion, the Neapolitan Saverio Mercadante ranked as a front-runner for his succession alongside Bellini and Donizetti; much more so, however, in the field of serious drama than in opera buffa.  »

06 Jul 2011

Juan, a film by Kaspar Holten

I recently got the chance to see Juan, the Kaspar Holten film version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, at the Seattle International Film Festival.  »