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Elsewhere

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.


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Performances

19 Dec 2014

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.  »

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08 Feb 2005

Glass's Akhnaten in Boston

The Boston Conservatory of Music gave two performances, each with a different cast, of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten last week five years to the day after the work’s Boston premiere by the Boston Lyric Opera in February 2000. Aside from the pleasure of being able to hear a big contemporary work again so soon, the two productions were so radically different from one another that a whole new perspective on Glass’s work could be had. »

08 Feb 2005

Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges in Toronto

When you hear a stage prince sing, “Dear orange, we’re finally alone together, just you and me,” you know you’re not listening to the usual grand-opera fare. But, then again, Opera In Concert is not about presenting the Opera America Top 10 list. »

08 Feb 2005

David Daniels in Salt Lake

Even if you have heard a countertenor sing before – and judging from intermission chatter Saturday in Libby Gardner Hall, not many people have – you’ve never heard anyone sing like David Daniels. Daniels, credited with helping revive interest in early operas as well as the countertenor voice, wowed the Libby Gardner crowd with his versatility, stage presence and genre-transcending musicianship. Mozart’s Lieder, Fauré art songs, arias by Handel and Purcell, American folk songs and contemporary music: Daniels brought something distinctive and compelling to them all. »

08 Feb 2005

Christine Schäfer Leaves Lasting Memories in New York

In the early days of the early music movement, ensembles and artists competed with one another over who knew the most about performance styles of the Baroque and Classical eras. The authenticity sweepstakes still goes on. But such insight takes you only so far. I’m sure the musicians of the renowned Freiburg Baroque Orchestra from Germany are as informed about early music performance practices as comparable ensembles. But what made their concert on Sunday afternoon at Alice Tully Hall so gratifying was the vitality and imagination of their playing – qualities that transcend any era. »

08 Feb 2005

La Clemenza di Tito at ENO

Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito was written to celebrate the coronation of the Habsburg emperor Leopold II as king of Bohemia in 1791. The date, two years after the French Revolution, is significant. Depicting a botched attempt to assassinate the Roman Emperor Titus, and his subsequent refusal to execute the conspirators, the opera examines the implications of the idea of benevolent autocracy and draws the conclusion that enlightened government necessitates absolute solitude and emotional isolation. »

08 Feb 2005

Nina Stemme as Marguerite in Frankfurt am Main

Ist so Wagners Isolde angezogen? Schwarzes Kleid, darüber blaue Kittelschürze. Bequemstiefel, Gummihandschuhe. Aber nein. Nina Stemme ist jetzt Marguerite in Gounods “Faust” in Frankfurt am Main. Ausgerechnet. Wagner hätte das nicht gefallen. Noch dazu ein Gretchen als verdruckste, sich an ihr Kruzifix-Kettchen klammernde Saaltochter in einem schmuddeligen Demenzpflegeheim. Isolde, das wird wieder im Sommer sein. In Bayreuth. Wo Nina Stemme freilich bereits auf dem Grünen Hügel debütiert hat: 1994 als Freia im “Ring”. Jetzt wird sie als irische Maid in Christoph Marthalers Inszenierung zurückkehren. Vielleicht sogar in Kittelschürze? Mal sehen, was der Kostümbildnerin Anna Viebrock so einfällt. »

07 Feb 2005

Arabella at Bayerische Staatsoper

Beste Stimmung im Nationaltheater. Und das nicht nur, weil auf der Bühne jahreszeitlich korrekt der Fasching tobte. Nein, nicht die bunten Luftschlangen und närrischen Hütchen peppten den Abend auf, sondern die Sänger. Sie heizten mit ihrem Totaleinsatz die x-te Repertoirevorstellung von Richard Strauss’ “Arabella” so an, dass das Abo-Publikum seine helle Freude hatte. Münchner Opernalltag, der im großen Jubel endete. »

06 Feb 2005

Handel's Julius Caesar in Denver

Stephanie Blythe recalls exactly where she was 10 years ago when she fully grasped the power of great acting in opera. Then an apprentice artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the mezzo-soprano was standing offstage about 25 feet from famed tenor Placido Domingo as he sang a love duet in “Die Walküre” with soprano Deborah Voigt. »

06 Feb 2005

Carmen at Opera Australia

IT would come as a shock to opera-goers if the cast of Carmen were suddenly to break into a chorus of Sisters are Doing it for Themselves. They might be forgiving, however, once they heard the gospel-tinged tones of American mezzosoprano Andrea Baker, who sings the title role in the Opera Australia production that begins a six-week run under the baton of Russian conductor Alexander Polianichko at the Sydney Opera House tonight. »

06 Feb 2005

Venus and Adonis at Seattle

It may not have been the best of times or the worst of times, but it was certainly among the naughtiest of times. Restoration England, which marked the end of Cromwell’s Puritan regime with the accession of merry monarch Charles II, was an era that makes Paris Hilton seem like a convent girl and “Sex and the City” like a school picnic. In Charles II’s reign, all the prohibitions of Cromwell’s era were repealed; the theaters were reopened, low-cut lace replaced buttoned-up wool, and the royal motto was evidently “thou shalt party hearty.” »

06 Feb 2005

Gruberova Performs Norma at the Wiener Staatsoper

Für Edita Gruberova hat die Staatsoper eine konzertante Fassung von Vicenzo Bellinis “Norma” aufs Programm gesetzt. Endlose Begeisterung, Blumen, Stan ding ovations dankten Edita Gruberova und ihren Mitstreitern für einen packenden Opernabend, der die szenische Aufbereitung keinen Augenblick vermissen ließ. Gerne verzichtete man darauf, die zeitgebundene Schauerromantik der Druiden und ihrer Opferriten anno 50 v. Chr. leibhaftig vor sich zu sehen. Und mehr noch: Keine Regie-Eitelkeit lenkte von der puren Musik ab. »

05 Feb 2005

Das Wachsfigurenkabinett at the Münchner Reaktorhalle

Ein buntes Schaubudenprogramm, anmoderiert von zwei Damen in knackigen Kostümen, so präsentieren sich die fünf Kurzopern von Karl Amadeus Hartmanns “Das Wachsfigurenkabinett” in der Münchner Reaktorhalle (Regie: Stefan Spies). Der Inszenierung des ersten Stücks “Der Mann, der vom Tode auferstand” fehlt noch Witz und Schwung. Die Geschichte vom reichen Fabrikanten, der vor seinem Radiogerät einschläft und das Hörspiel von der Arbeiterrevolution für Wirklichkeit hält, leidet an den Schaufel schwingend auftretenden, plump marschierenden Arbeitern. »

05 Feb 2005

Star Cross'd Lovers In LA

Stale marzipan it may be, but given the appropriate set of protagonists, Charles Gounod’s ponderous 1867 adaptation of Shakespeare’s youthful tragedy still has the power to arouse the senses and engage, if not engulf, the soul. In Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko, the Los Angeles Opera has found doomed lovers who are as much star material as “star cross’d”. Whatever else is lacking in the first west coast production of the opera here in 18 years, the Mexican tenor and Russian soprano radiate youthful ardour, stylistic sophistication and sheer theatrical magic. »

04 Feb 2005

Democracy: An American Comedy in Washington

How is it possible that a new opera crammed with hot-button subjects—political corruption, ecclesiastical self-satisfaction, feminism, homosexuality—could be a blandly inoffensive entertainment? “Democracy: An American Comedy,” by composer Scott Wheeler and librettist Romulus Linney, commissioned by the Washington National Opera and given its world premiere last weekend, was disappointingly safe. Its provocative themes were smothered by a talky libretto that alternated between earnest exposition and sitcom jokes, set in smoothly tonal, insipid musical language. »

04 Feb 2005

An Evening of Soprana and Mezzo Duets at the Barbican

There are many profound experiences to be had in a concert hall, but an evening of soprano and mezzo duets isn’t one of them. Still, on the disc they brought out last autumn, Barbara Bonney, Angelika Kirchschlager and accompanist Malcolm Martineau managed to pick out some of the more interesting numbers in this frothy repertoire. Many of those made it into this recital – along with lashings of sugary charm, a few girly hugs and a line in the programme from Kirchschlager about how it wasn’t only their voices fitting together but their souls, too. Yeuch. »

01 Feb 2005

Thomas Hampson in Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf. Das Lied gehört zu den konzentriertesten Kunstformen überhaupt. Es ist einerseits, wie Thomas Mann sagte, “eine ganze Welt”, andererseits nimmt es nur wenig Zeit in Anspruch und bedarf lediglich zweier Musiker. Text und Musik vereinigen sich zu einer synchronen Sprache, die menschliches Empfinden in potenzierter Intensität ausdrückt. Aber das Lied ist auch eine für die Ausführenden anspruchsvolle Gattung. »

01 Feb 2005

Vivaldi's Farnace at Resonanzen 2005

Dreizehn als Glückszahl: Das 13. Festival Alter Musik wird in die Annalen des Wiener Konzerthau ses als besonders geglückt eingehen. Das kenntnisreich zusammengestellte Programm deckte nahezu alle wesentlichen Epochen, Nationalstile und Klangmöglichkeiten Alter Musik ab; fast durchwegs gut gewählt waren die Interpreten, und der Almanach könnte so manches historische und musikgeschichtliche Handbuch ersetzen. »

01 Feb 2005

Doina Dimitriu Wows Chicago

The season’s first performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” at Lyric Opera on Monday night brought an authentic slice of operatic history to the Civic Opera House: The vintage production director Franco Zeffirelli mounted in 1964 for London’s Royal Opera to lure Maria Callas out of semi-retirement. Tito Gobbi, the great Scarpia of his generation, was her co-star. The well-worn staging has done honorable service for more than 40 years, having seen 38 revivals and 242 performances before it was finally retired in July. The classic production was promptly bought lock, stock and battlements by Lyric Opera, which is dedicating it to Gobbi’s memory. »

01 Feb 2005

La Traviata at Covent Garden

Verdi demanded three qualities for his “fallen woman”: looks, anima (soul) and a good stage presence. What he did not want was a glossy prima donna. The part broke convention not just histrionically, in its depiction of a contemporary prostitute, but also vocally. It needs a soprano agile enough to throw off the Act 1 coloratura, and strong enough to meet the dramatic requirements of Acts 2 and 3. That’s asking a lot, and most sopranos fall short. So it was fascinating, at the Royal Opera’s latest revival on Saturday, to come across Norah Amsellem. She has period looks, a pretty smile, a malleable physiognomy. She knows how to adapt her whole demeanour to Violetta’s changing situation, so that the figure we behold on stage is not an opera singer but a human being with the power to disarm us emotionally. That may be a gift of acting, but it also reflects Amsellem’s complete identification with the music. Her soprano is a bit one-dimensional, especially at the top, and she proved a surprisingly plain letter-reader. In all other set-pieces she had the theatre spellbound. “Dite alla giovine” and “Addio, del passato” were especially effective: Amsellem sang them in a beautifully controlled half-voice, stretching the tempo to its very limit. Some might call it self-indulgent; to me it sounded like the truth. »

31 Jan 2005

La Forza del destino at Opéra Royal de Wallonie

So this was how a Forza would have sounded in the fifties and sixties in one of the better Italian provincial houses. At that time those extinguished species (lirico-spinto tenor and soprano) were still in abundant supply and one could easily hear nowadays forgotten names like Zambruno, Mori, Vicentini, Borso on the male and Mancini, De Osma, Barbato etc on the female side: big booming voices, maybe not always very subtle but steeped in the Verdian tradition and not afraid to give unstintingly all of their voices as if there is no tomorrow. »