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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 Feb 2005

Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas

If you had to name an opera you thought Seattle music lovers were dying to see and hear, what would be your guess? “Carmen”? “Madame Butterfly”? Maybe the ever-beloved story of ill-fated young lovers, “La Boheme”? »

19 Feb 2005

Verdi's Otello at Opéra-Bastille

Ce ne sont pas des notes qui jaillissent de la baguette de Valery Gergiev, c’est un foudroiement : une tempête d’air, d’eau, de feu qui déchire l’espace et fige d’horreur le chœur des Chypriotes massés au port pour le retour vainqueur d’Otello. Une puissance dévastatrice, métaphysique. »

19 Feb 2005

Renée Fleming in Boston

Renée Fleming sang the Boston leg of her current recital tour last night at Symphony Hall accompanied by the distinguished German pianist Hartmut Höll. Not only was Ms Fleming in free, shimmering and beautifully controlled voice, but last night’s program of Purcell, Handel, Berg and Schumann was some of her most disciplined work in a very long time. »

17 Feb 2005

Nabucco at the Met — Another View

NABUCCO. Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Temistocle Solera. Metropolitan Opera, James Levine conducting. Through March 8 at Lincoln Center. Call 212-362-6000 or visit www.metopera.org. Biography can be a distorting lens through which to view art. A case in point is Verdi’s “Nabucco” (1842), his first great success, which followed the deaths of his children and wife between 1838 and 1840 and the humiliating failure of his second opera. »

17 Feb 2005

Cosi fan tutte at San Diego

For San Diego Opera conductor Karen Keltner, returning to the score of Mozart’s opera “Cosi fan tutte” is like slipping on a pair of well-worn leather gloves. The music fits snugly with the vocal parts, and the luxurious feel of the piece improves with each wearing. »

17 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland — Another View

In Scottish Opera’s early days, Handel was not a high priority. Debussy, Verdi, Mozart and Mussorgsky were the composers with whom the company made its name. As a Handel conductor, Alexander Gibson – like Pierre Boulez – went no further than the Water Music. In his role as administrator, Peter Hemmings was forthright and forbidding. Handel’s operas, he declared, were the kiss of death. »

16 Feb 2005

Tristan und Isolde at Geneva — Other Views

Faced with Wagner’s marathon symphonic poem with voices, it is easy to see why producers are panicked into hyperactivity. Olivier Py’s new staging does just that. Wagner whittled down the characters to the bare minimum, to present an unadulterated account of doomed passion. Py, a promising, provocative talent in France but on this evidence short on maturity and focus, elects to flood the stage, literally in act three, with supernumeraries and hackneyed symbolism that feeds on Shakespeare and Arthurian legend. »

16 Feb 2005

Verdi's Nabucco at the Met

There is an honesty to Elijah Moshinsky’s four-year-old production of Verdi’s “Nabucco,” which returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night. No excuses are made for the opera’s creaky theatrical state, no attempts to bring up-to-date relevance to what became a symbol of revolution and national unity for Italians 160 years ago. »

16 Feb 2005

Die Zauberflöte at ROH

AN ODD thing about David McVicar’s productions is the way they improve with time. When this show first appeared it was too po-faced by half, full of regard for the pomposities of the piece but hardly at ease with its lightness, enchantment and childish simplicity. »

16 Feb 2005

Julius Caesar in Hamburg

Hamburg – These. Antithese. Synthese. So einfach ist das manchmal. Anstatt ein sehr abstraktes, gern auch sehr allegorisches Genre wie die Barock-Oper in ein um Wirklichkeit bemühtes Regie-Korsett zwingen zu wollen, das ihren schillernden Typen das Entrückte, Allgemeingültige nehmen würde, geht Karoline Gruber bei “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” einen ganz eigenen, ganz cleveren Regie-Weg: Zuerst wird auf Pointe komm raus gealbert und überdreht. Dann auf Gedeih und Verderb geliebt. Im dritten Akt ohne Wenn und Aber geläutert. Die Katharsis kommt spät, aber gewaltig. »

15 Feb 2005

Gounod's Faust in Cleveland

“Making a pact with the devil’’ is one of those expressions that have gotten diluted with overuse. Nobody really means it when they say it, unless maybe they happen to be talking about Charles Gounod’s opera Faust, where the music is as transcendently lovely as the story line is dark. »

15 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland

WHY IS IT we feel so comfortable with the Handel who wrote such pot-boilers as the Hallelujah Chorus, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Music for the Royal Fireworks or Water Music, yet dread the thought of sitting through one of his many operas? »

15 Feb 2005

La Traviata As Ballet Stumbles

This is the way the art of ballet will end, with a sentimental whimper, an easy tear in its eye, and not a squeak of true life as theatrical dance. If the novelisation of successful movies is thought a pretty bogus form of literature, how much worse is a balletisation of an opera masterpiece such as Verdi’s La traviata. »

15 Feb 2005

Opera Colorado Presents Julius Caesar

Odd that Opera Colorado would encourage ticket-buyers for its production of Julius Caesar to “Bring your Valentine . . . and witness a love so great it changed the course of history.” This, be advised, is not your typical love story, nor is it a date opera. Just as the production that opened Saturday at the Buell Theatre is hardly your basic, by-the-book staging. For starters, Handel’s legendary leading lovers, Caesar and Cleopatra, are both sung by women. And, yes, they do smooch – sort of. »

15 Feb 2005

José van Dam in New York

Recitals should be about something, I always say. So I should have been delighted that “dans ce vague d’un Dimanche,” on a dreamy Sunday (a line from Debussy’s song “L’échelonnement des haies”) at Alice Tully Hall, José van Dam, the excellent Belgian bass-baritone, perfectly suited his delivery to words like “parcourent en rêvant les coteaux enchantées/ où, jadis, sourit ma jeunesse” (“wandering dreamily across the enchanted slopes where, once, my youth smiled”), a line from Fauré’s “Automne.” »

15 Feb 2005

Bernstein's Candide in London

Leonard Bernstein’s Candide may only have been written 50 years ago, but it presents as many problems of texts and editions as any baroque opera that mouldered in an ecclesiastical library for three or four centuries. The idea of turning Voltaire’s scabrously satirical novella into an operetta was originally Lillian Hellman’s, but five other writers eventually contributed to the piece, while for the rest of his life Bernstein carried on worrying away at it too. »

15 Feb 2005

Tristan und Isolde at Grand Théâtre de Genève

Le metteur en scène français Olivier Py a conçu une nouvelle production de Tristan, de Wagner – la première depuis vingt ans à l’Opéra de Genève. A pari téméraire, réussite exemplaire : le metteur en scène, auteur et comédien français réalise une magistrale version du chef-d’œuvre wagnérien, plastique et superlativement musicale, intelligente et hautement sensible. Un Tristan tiré au cordeau que magnifient les ingénieux décors de Pierre-André Weits, les lumières d’Olivier Py et une direction d’acteurs aboutie. »

15 Feb 2005

Tosca at Bayerische Staatsoper

Es gibt CD-Aufnahmen mit Roberto Alagna, auf denen erkennt man seine Stimme nicht wieder. Entspannt und schmiegsam klingt sie da, ebenmäßig und mit sehr dezenten Nuancierungen – genauso also, wie im dritten “Tosca”-Akt an der Bayerischen Staatsoper. Das “E lucevan le stelle” behandelte der München-Debütant ganz behutsam, nicht als Nummer eines Schlagerabends, sondern wie eine versonnene Erinnerung an Vergangenes – also der Situation kurz vor dem tödlichen Schuss durchaus angemessen. »

12 Feb 2005

Deborah Polaski in Vienna

Groß war das Interesse für Deborah Polaskis erste Wiener Isolde. Und rasch machte sie klar, wie sie diese Rolle versteht: als kraftvoll gesteigerte Euphorie. Da hatte sie in Peter Schneider am Pult des gut disponierten, mit fabelhaften Soli bei Streichern und Bläsern aufwartenden Staatsopernorchesters einen gleich gestimmten Partner. Denn auch er setzte auf kräftige Farben, heizte die Dynamik und die Emotion der Sänger an, ohne dabei auf die lyrischen Stellen der Partitur zu vergessen, auch wenn man diese schon feinnerviger modelliert in Erinnerung hat. Dennoch, zu einem spannenden Ganzen wollten sich die einzelnen, noch so intensiv musizierten Mosaiksteine nur schwer fügen. »

11 Feb 2005

A Critical Edition of Faust at Frankfurt

Gounod’s Faust is often billed in Germany as Margarethe. The frivolous Frenchman’s melodies should not be confused with Goethe’s masterpiece. That would be blasphemy. Frankfurt Opera, not a house given to frivolity, has chosen a new critical edition of Faust. Minus the usual cuts, plus intervals, the evening lasts four hours. Add Johannes Debus on the podium, drawing plump, earthy sounds from the orchestra, and you start to hear Gounod with an earnestly German accent. »

11 Feb 2005

Tchaikovsky's The Enchantress at the Mariinsky

A scene from the Mariinsky Theater’s production of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Enchantress. Pyotr Tchaikovsky, arguably Russia’s most popular composer, is being celebrated with a festival of his work at the Mariinsky Theater. The event, which kicks off Saturday with David Poutney’s production of “The Enchantress,” runs through Feb. 20 and features over two dozen performances of Tchaikovsky’s operas, ballets and chamber music. The Mariinsky’s artistic director, Valery Gergiev makes just one appearance during the festival, to conduct “The Enchantress” on the opening night. »

10 Feb 2005

St. Olaf Choir at Carnegie Hall

The singers marched on stage with near-military precision, the hem of each purple choir robe at the same distance from the ground. When they opened their mouths to sing, an even wall of sound emerged: words clear, notes true. But more than that, the notes were felt. As the music moved through the rows of singers, their bodies swayed like a field of long grass in the wind. »

10 Feb 2005

Stefanie Wüst Performs Monteverdi and Weill in Potsdam

Die bedeutenden Komponisten der Musikliteratur, Claudio Monteverdi und Kurt Weill, suchten sich als literarische „Partner“ Größen der Weltliteratur, un- ter anderen Torquato Tasso und Bertolt Brecht. Und so ist es nicht verwunderlich, dass eine sensible Behandlung der Sprache bei beiden Komponisten in ihren Musiktheaterstücken oberste Priorität hat. »

10 Feb 2005

Amanda Roocroft in Frankfurt

Es gibt Termine, die sind für einen Liederabend in der Oper Frankfurt eher ungünstig. Dazu gehört der Fastnachtsdienstag. Zwar dürften sich die Zielgruppen einigermaßen unterscheiden. Aber zartbesaitete Menschen trauen sich an den tollen Tagen kaum aus dem Haus. So war die Oper, die normalerweise mehr als tausend Personen fasst, beim Gastauftritt der britischen Sopranistin Amanda Roocroft mit Iain Burnside als Klavierbegleiter enttäuschend schwach besucht. Und möglicherweise lag es am Blick auf die vielen leer gebliebenen Plätze, dass Amanda Roocroft ihr Programm zunächst nicht übermäßig engagiert anging und ihr Potential oft mehr durchscheinen ließ als zeigte. »

10 Feb 2005

Der Rosenkavalier at Graz

Hugo von Hofmannsthal bemerkte 1921, dass der “Rosenkavalier gar nichts sei, wenn nicht ein Dokument der österreichischen Wesensart”. Dieses Diktum schien die Maxime der Grazer Neuproduktion gewesen zu sein. Marco Arturo Marelli, verantwortlich für Inszenierung, Bühne und Licht, ist überhaupt ganz offensichtlich ein genauer Kenner von Hofmannsthals Meisterlibretto. Den innersten Fasern und Nuancen des Textes folgend, gelang es ihm mittels eines riesigen, schräg über der Bühne platzierten Spiegels und einer hochsensiblen Lichtregie eine sinnlich-dichte Atmosphäre zu schaffen, eben genau jene spezifisch österreichische “Lebensluft”, um die es Hofmannsthal zeitlebens so intensiv zu tun war. »