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Elsewhere

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

Mark Padmore reflects on Britten's Death in Venice

“At the start, one knows ‘bits’ of it,” says tenor Mark Padmore, somewhat wryly, when I meet him at the Stage Door of the Royal Opera House where the tenor has just begun rehearsals for David McVicar’s new production of Death in Venice, which in November will return Britten’s opera to the ROH stage for the first time since 1992.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

Annilese Miskimmon appointed as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

English National Opera has appointed Annilese Miskimmon as Artistic Director.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.


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Performances

21 Oct 2019

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.  »

Recently in Performances

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22 Feb 2005

Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Linz

Es ist eine der kürzesten Sterbesze nen der Operngeschichte: Ein schnoddrig verkündetes Todesur teil, jemand wuselt mit einem Strick herum, dann ist die intrigante Königs-Nichte auch schon tot. In Prokofieffs Märchen-Oper “Die Liebe zu den drei Orangen” wird schnell gestorben: Auch die den ersten beiden Zitrus-Früchten entsprungenen Prinzessinnen verdursten rasch, wenn auch klagend – eines der Details, mit denen sich der Komponist/Librettist Prokofieff vom Verismo abgrenzt. Keine naturalistische Darstellung, keine opulent auskomponierten Szenen voller Gefühlsüberschwang; statt dessen: Märchen und absurdes Theater, kurze Sequenzen, die einander fast überholen. »

22 Feb 2005

Massenet's Werther at the Wiener Staatsoper

Zuweilen begnügt man sich auch mit Details. Wenn das Ganze so gar nicht stimmen mag, gelingt es viel leicht dem einen oder anderen der beteiligten Künstler sozusagen gegen den Strom schwimmend, eine herausragende Leistung zu modellieren. Im Falle der “Werther”-Premiere darf Elina Garanca das künstlerische Freischärlertum für sich in Anspruch nehmen. Sie sollte die Charlotte singen, wurde von Regisseur Andrei Serban jedoch gezwungen, eine Art Grace-Kelly-Parodie abzuliefern, denn das Stück spielt von Inszenierungs-Gnaden in den fünfziger Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts. »

22 Feb 2005

Anne Sofie von Otter at Göteborg

Yesterday [19 February 2005], I went to the concert hall in Göteborg, where Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg held a recital. It was the first time I actually heard them live, and I must confess that I was apprehensive! I have listened to them so much on recordings and taken so much influence from them, especially when it comes to my repertoire — what if I didn’t like them in concert? The concert hall was full — 1200 seats, imagine that for a recital… I have a hard time getting jobs at all because it is so hard to attract audiences to recitals. But, they are world famous and that, of course, attracts a large audience. »

21 Feb 2005

Michael Bohnen: At the Metropolitan Opera, New York

The title of this most worthwhile CD is, I’m afraid, somewhat misleading. The charismatic German bass-baritone, Michael Bohnen, sang at the Metropolitan Opera from 1923-1932. One might expect this CD to only document roles that Bohnen sang there, if not provide transcriptions of actual Met performances. In fact, the disc includes excerpts from several roles that Bohnen never sang at the Met. Of the twenty tracks on this CD, twelve, by my count, are souvenirs of Bohnen Met roles (Tonio, Rocco, Caspar, Mephistopheles, Wotan, Wolfram, Sachs, and Francesco in Schilling’s Mona Lisa). »

21 Feb 2005

Wozzeck at WNO

FIRST nights of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck are not traditionally sellouts, but then this was anything but a traditional first night. As the main event of Welsh National Opera’s inaugural weekend in its new home, the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay, Saturday night’s performance sent out a volley of positive signals that will stand the company in good stead as it builds new audiences. There are more seats to fill than in WNO’s old house, but a strong forthcoming season combined with adventurous pricing policy should prolong the buzz. »

21 Feb 2005

Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer in Philadelphia

Time stands quite still in John Adams’ opera The Death of Klinghoffer. The pulsing orchestra, the explanatory choruses, the shifting viewpoints, and, above all, the tacit understanding that the events of 20 years ago are being replicated now with no measurable change give the work the feeling of complete stasis. »

21 Feb 2005

WNO Triumphs With La Traviata

Welsh National Opera’s first performance in its new home could so easily have been a disaster. But nowhere was the return of its former musical director Carlo Rizzi more crucial than in this revival, as he transformed the shoddy Traviata of last May into an emphatic restatement of the musical values that have traditionally been at the core of the WNO. Rizzi conducted with authority and passion, and with such care for his singers that where terminal decline had beckoned, he seemed to have effected a miracle cure. »

21 Feb 2005

Handel's Semele at Scottish Opera

A tale of everyday mortals and gods entranced a nearly full house at beleaguered Scottish Opera last night with the same clever mix of pathos, wit, drama and humour that has kept nations’ favourite soaps at the top of the viewing and listening schedules for decades. And it was the visual elements as much as the vocal and musical that clinched the success of this premiere performance last night. Director John la Bouchardiere (of “The Full Monteverdi” fame) worked with a light touch that engagingly mixed some pretty unusual elements into a confection that finally had the audience calling its approval. Likewise, young Christian Curnyn on the podium brought his Early Opera Company experience and love of truly modern stagings of Handel to bear, and managed to persuade the SCO orchestra to eschew both vibrato and swooping lines without adding any extra period instrumentalists, save a harpsichord. Apart from a slightly unconvincing first 10 minutes (of more later) they played with increasing verve and apparent conviction throughout. »

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. »