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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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23 Jan 2005

Cantors & Capellmeisters at Queen Elizabeth Hall

WHEN a programme contains music by Gregor Aichinger, Philipp Friedrich Böddecker, Daniel Bollius and Johann Christoph Pezel, to name only four (or is it ten?), an auditorium less than full might, unfortunately, be suspected. These are 17th-century German worthies known largely to scholars alone. But why can’t audiences be more adventurous? In that century you’re bound to get memorable tunes, catchy rhythms, enticing counterpoint: I don ’t see what the problem is. »

22 Jan 2005

A Disarming Pelléas et Mélisande

You cannot blame this longtime lover of Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” for being suspicious when L’Opéra Français de New York announced that it would present a staged production of the work in its “original version” for voices and piano. No orchestra? Wasn’t this small company simply producing the opera on the cheap? The L’Opéra Français production opened on Wednesday night at the French Institute Alliance Française on East 59th Street, and it was a revelation. »

22 Jan 2005

Così fan tutte at Wiener Staatsoper

Mag sein, manch einer findet die forsche Gangart, die Julia Jones bei Mozart einschlägt, ein wenig zu schnoddrig. Doch erweist sich: Die Dirigentin weiß in jeder Phase einer Aufführung, was sie will, behält die Übersicht über die Dramaturgie und hält Orchester und Bühne immer fein zusammen – und das in raschem Lustspielton. Alles Eigenschaften, die heutzutage offenkundig auch in der Wiener Staatsoper rar geworden sind. »

21 Jan 2005

An Evening With Clara's Piano

Among the often spurious partnerships beloved by musical history — Bach and Handel, Bruckner and Mahler, Britten and Tippett — that of Schumann and Brahms at least has the merit that the composers were not actually antithetical in style and manner. They were, if not a conscious partnership, a powerful joint force for the perpetuation of classical values in the 19th century, the elder — Schumann — the sponsor and active publicist of the other. Brahms was “discovered”, encouraged, sustained and venerated by Schumann. He, in turn, devoted his whole bachelor life to the succour of the Schumann family, giving rock-like support to Clara Schumann as her husband’s syphilitic madness took him over, and seeking to preserve Schumann’s oeuvre at its most illustrious and least clouded-over, withholding publication of some later works. »

21 Jan 2005

It's Shag-A-Delic, Baby!

Perhaps the Tippett centenary has come too soon, and the seven years since the composer’s death have been insufficient for his achievement to be digested and for the anniversary celebrations to take on any real significance. But no matter how much time had passed, I doubt that his third opera, The Knot Garden, will ever seem more than a period piece, wedded to the late 1960s when it was written. »

21 Jan 2005

Generallissimo Francisco Franco is still dead

After some wild recent productions it comes as a surprise to find a Don Giovanni set in Spain, as Mozart intended. How many directors care to remember that Don Giovanni’s tally of women there numbered 1,003, as Leporello’s catalogue reminds us every time we see the opera? Having decided on a Spanish setting, Opera North’s new production tries to make the most of it. Photos of bullfights are flashed across a screen to draw a glib parallel with Don Giovanni the predatory sexual toreador. The cast gird their loins for some rather dubious Spanish dances. And — most important — the time is updated to the Spanish Civil War, bringing the class antagonism of the opera into modern focus. »

20 Jan 2005

Karita Mattila — A Stunning Leonore

'Fidelio' returns Lyric, cast rise above flawed Beethoven opera By John von Rhein Tribune music critic January 19 2005, 1:00 AM CST "Fidelio" has been missing in action at Lyric Opera for nearly 24 years, much too long for... »

20 Jan 2005

Live from New York — Death and Transfiguration

The level of Luciano Berio’s music was still on the ascent when he died two years ago at 77. “Stanze” – five poems for solo voice, chorus and orchestra – were his last pieces, and they shine with poise and quiet confidence. We are reminded that the possibilities of instrumental combinations are far from exhausted. The Philadelphia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach introduced New York to “Stanze” at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night, adding Act III from Wagner’s “Parsifal” in concert form. Paul Celan’s “Tenebrae,” the first poem, is accompanied by drifting, attenuated chords of extraordinary beauty. If Berio’s music moves slowly, or sometimes not at all, there is activity within: textures swelling and contracting like lungs, woodwind colors swimming and undulating. So striking are the sounds that high drama is unnecessary. »

20 Jan 2005

Renée Takes Seattle

Renée Fleming came and conquered the full house Tuesday night at Benaroya Hall. Now 45, the soprano is in her prime, not only with that voluptuous voice but her musical acuity and dramatic instincts. When singers become as famous as Fleming, connoisseurs find something to criticize, often justified: a mannered style or lackluster ambition in terms of repertory, for instance. When the voice is as gorgeous and gleaming as Fleming’s, there is always the danger the singer will be content to deliver a pretty sound and little else. »

20 Jan 2005

Pelléas et Mélisande in New York

NEW YORK Sigmund Freud’s seminal “Interpretation of Dreams” was published in 1900. But Claude Debussy had already poked around in the unconscious in his landmark opera “Pelléas et Mélisande,” which he had essentially composed (though not orchestrated) by 1895. Of course, Maurice Maeterlinck, whose play Debussy adapted into his opera, had been treading through Freudian terrain even earlier. Maeterlinck, a leading figure in the Symbolist movement, which arose in the 1880s, espoused veiled emotions, mystery and indirection over realism. »

20 Jan 2005

The Russians Bomb at Kennedy Center

What were they thinking? The “Kirov Spectacular” — which opened last night at the Kennedy Center Opera House — proved the sort of celestial vaudeville that should have . . . well, gone out with vaudeville. It seemed a generous program — some three hours of selections from ballets and operas performed by the Kirov Ballet, Opera and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, under the direction of Valery Gergiev. But the pieces had little to do with one another (indeed, they could almost have been chosen by lottery) and the musical performances were too often shopworn and lackluster — a scanty reward for those who managed to find their way to the Kennedy Center through the cold, clotted streets of pre-inauguration Washington. »

19 Jan 2005

Manon Lescaut at Seattle — Two Reviews

Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” which Seattle Opera has produced only sporadically in its 40-year history, is a work that goes in fits and starts. Moments of genuine inspiration and compelling drama mark the composer as a man of genius, but in this early opera, his talent is not always consistent. The demands on the tenor are notoriously difficult. So, with its eyes wide open, the company mounted the third production in its history to bring in the new year Saturday night at McCaw Hall. It succeeded more than many efforts without breaking the bank, using conventional but serviceable sets and costumes from Montreal Opera. »

18 Jan 2005

Enescu's Oedipe at Cagliari

Il Teatro Lirico di Cagliari pur attraversando, come risaputo, un periodo difficile sotto il profilo strettamente finanziario da cui – con lo sforzo e l’impegno di tutte le maestranze e, soprattutto, di tutte le istituzioni pubbliche e private alle quali dovrebbero stare più a cuore le sorti e il bene della cultura musicale regionale e nazionale -, ci auspichiamo riesca anche con sacrifici ad uscire, ha inaugurato la stagione lirica e di balletto 2005 con “Oedipe”, tragedia lirica in 4 atti del rumeno George Enescu, su libretto di Edmond Fleg, in una nuova produzione dello stesso Teatro Lirico, in prima esecuzione assoluta in Italia e in versione originale francese. I responsabili del Teatro hanno così voluto perseverare nel percorso iniziato con successo di pubblico e di critica nel 1998 con “le Fate” di Wagner, proseguito nel 1999 con “Dalibor” di Smetana, nel 2000 con “Gli stivaletti” di Cajkovskij, nel 2001 con “Elena egizia” di Strauss, nel 2002 con “Euryanthe” di Weber, nel 2003 con “Opricnik” di Cajkovskij e “Alfonso und Estrella” di Schubert, nel 2004. »

17 Jan 2005

The Tsar's Bride at the Mariinsky

Anna Netrebko stars as the passionate and poisoned Marfa in the Mariinsky Theater’s new production of “The Tsar’s Bride. The Mariinsky Theater’s famous blue curtain rises and Grigory Gryaznoi, the mighty commander of Ivan the Terrible’s feared bodyguards, the oprichniki, bemoans his unrequited love for young beauty Marfa Sobakina. Gryaznoi sits on a shabby bench in a place resembling one of the so-called Culture and Leisure parks that were a typical feature of the Soviet era. A seashell-shaped summer theater with quiet alleys and a ferris-wheel in the background is the setting for a new production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1899 opera “The Tsar’s Bride,” which premiered on Dec. 29 at the Mariinsky Theater. »

17 Jan 2005

Les Pêcheurs de perles at Metz

Dans le cadre de la programmation de l’Orchestre national de Lorraine, nous avons le plaisir d’assister à une représentation de concert des Pêcheurs de perles, ouvrage d’un charme indéniable quoique légèrement suranné d’un compositeur de vingt-cinq ans, encore tributaire de certaines influences (mais certainement pas de l’influence wagnérienne dénoncée par certains critiques à la création !), en bénéficiant de l’acoustique exemplaire de la grande salle de l’Arsenal. Le concert permet d’oublier l’indigence d’un livret dont les auteurs (Michel Carré et Eugène Cormon) avaient été les premiers à regretter les faiblesses, pour se concentrer sur les qualités de la partition. En effet, si Bizet apparaissait encore prisonnier des conventions de son époque et laissait peu deviner du génie dramatique qui s’exprime dans Carmen, ses Pêcheurs de perles ne manquaient pas d’atouts, et Berlioz, critique aussi lucide qu’exigeant, prit d’ailleurs la plume pour défendre un ouvrage recelant selon lui “un nombre considérable de beaux morceaux expressifs pleins de feu et d’un riche coloris”. A l’aune du chef-d’oeuvre à venir, cela peut sembler peu, c’est certain ; pour autant, la partition ne mérite probablement pas le dédain qui lui est ordinairement réservé par une certaine élite intellectuelle autoproclamée dont le sectarisme continue à faire beaucoup de tort à l’art lyrique. Les Pêcheurs de perles ne sont certes pas visités par le génie, mais ils témoignent d’un métier très sûr au regard de la jeunesse d’un compositeur déjà habile à trousser la mélodie et à colorer l’orchestre pour composer un orientalisme sans doute désuet mais tout à fait séduisant. »

17 Jan 2005

Britten's Billy Budd in Munich

Gut ein halbes Jahrhundert hat es gedauert, bis “Billy Budd”, Benjamin Brittens 1951 uraufgeführtes Meisterwerk, an der Bayerischen Staatsoper angekommen ist. Ein hochtheatrales Stück zwischen Seemannsgarn und Homoerotik, zwischen Kriegs- und Menschenrecht, zwischen verborgener (Zu-)Neigung und Pflichterfüllung. Ein Stück also, das “funktioniert” und berührt, wie der enthusiastische Premierenbeifall zeigte. Kein Buh, nicht einmal für Regisseur Peter Mussbach, dafür Bravi schon vor Beginn, als Kent Nagano, GMD ab 2006, den Graben enterte. »

17 Jan 2005

Don Giovanni at Vienna

Auf dem Programmzettel liest man: 136. Aufführung in dieser Inszenie rung. Tatsächlich: Wenn der Vor hang sich hebt, erblickt der Staatsopernbesucher die altvertrauten Kulissen der einst von Franco Zeffirelli betreuten “Don Giovanni”-Produktion. Sie ist über 30 Jahre alt und ersetzt aus unerfindlichen Gründen schon wieder die erst vor zwei Jahren aus dem Theater an der Wien ins große Haus übersiedelte, jüngere Inszenierung. »