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Elsewhere

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

A bel canto feast at Cadogan Hall

The bel canto repertoire requires stylish singing, with beautiful tone and elegant phrasing. Strength must be allied with grace in order to coast the vocal peaks with unflawed legato; flexibility blended with accuracy ensures the most bravura passages are negotiated with apparent ease.

Don Pasquale: a cold-hearted comedy at Glyndebourne

Director Mariame Clément’s Don Pasquale, first seen during the 2011 tour and staged in the house in 2013, treads a fine line between realism and artifice.

Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines

It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd.

Tannhäuser at Munich

Romeo Castellucci’s aesthetic — if one may speak in the singular — is very different from almost anything else on show in the opera house at the moment. That, I have no doubt, is unquestionably a good thing. Castellucci is a serious artist and it is all too easy for any of us to become stuck in an artistic rut, congratulating ourselves not only on our understanding but also,  may God help us, our ‘taste’ — as if so trivial a notion had something to do with anything other than ourselves.

Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles

With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address.

Maria Visits Des Moines

With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept.

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range - that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love - only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

World Premiere of Aulis Sallinen’s Castle in the Water Savonlinna Opera Festival

For my first trip to Finland, I flew from Helsinki to the east, close to the border of Russia near St. Petersburg over many of Suomi’s thousand lakes, where the summer getaway Savonlinna lays. Right after the solstice during July and early August, the town’s opera festival offers high quality productions. In this enchanting locale in the midst of peaceful nature, the sky at dusk after the mesmerising sunset fades away is worth the trip alone!

Mozart and Stravinsky in Aix

Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air Théâtre de l’Archevêche. But were we enlightened?

Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music

Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives.

Longborough Festival Opera: A World Class Tristan und Isolde in a Barn Shed

Of all the places, I did not expect a sublime Tristan und Isolde in a repurposed barn in the Cotswolds. Don’t be fooled by Longborough’s stage without lavish red curtains to open and close each act. Any opera house would envy the riveting chemistry between Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset in this intimate, 500 seat setting. Conductor Anthony Negus proved himself a master at Wagner’s emotional depth. Epic drama in minimalistic elegance: who needs a big budget when you have talent and drama this passionate?

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra throws a glossy Bernstein party

For almost thirty years, summer at the Concertgebouw has been synonymous with Robeco SummerNights. This popular series expands the classical concert formula with pop, film music, jazz and more, served straight up or mixed together. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s versatility makes his oeuvre, ranging from Broadway to opera, prime SummerNight fare.


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Recordings

Lyrita REAM2122
17 Jul 2017

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.  »

Recently in Recordings

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23 Sep 2007

Brewer at her best in live “Fidelio”

It is not surprising that it was Beethoven’s Fidelio that was chosen to reconsecrate rebuilt opera houses in Vienna and Berlin in the years after World War Two. »

23 Sep 2007

PENDERECKI: Die Teufel von Loudon

Of the operas composed in the latter half of the twentieth century, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Die Teufel von Loudon is a significant contribution to the repertoire. »

19 Sep 2007

Music for Compline

The liturgy of Compline marks the end of the monastic day, as the community seeks peaceful repose for the night ahead. »

19 Sep 2007

Psalms for the Spirit

Psalmody, be it in the form of chanted recitations or anthem settings, lies close to the heart of liturgical singing, and this collection, “Psalms for the Spirit” brings together an engaging variety of both long familiar and recent psalms that celebrates the traditions and explores new directions. »

19 Sep 2007

WAGNER : Lohengrin

What’s outstanding about this Lohengrin is the orchestral playing. »

18 Sep 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

Before the age of computers, CDs. DVDs and Apple i-Phones, there was television. »

16 Sep 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre

One of the glories of a well-executed performance of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle is the sonic dimension of the work, with the dramatic contrasts between the larger musical canvasses and the more intimate ensembles that occur between several voices and within the orchestra itself. »

16 Sep 2007

Hector Berlioz: Te Deum, op. 22

Often overshadowed by its composer's Requiem, the Te Deum, Op. 22 (1849) by Hector Berlioz deserves attention for its own merits, and this recent release by Hänssler in its series of live recordings of the Staatskapelle Dresden is a solid reading of this work. »

16 Sep 2007

SCHEIDT: Ludi Musici

The courtly instrumental music of the Halle composer, Samuel Scheidt, is preserved in the printed collection "Ludi musici" (1620), giving congenial suggestion of both the richness of the court practice and the virtuosic abilities of the ensemble players there, including the cornettist, Zacharias Härtel. »

16 Sep 2007

Le Chant des Templiers

The quarter century of work by the French medieval ensemble, Ensemble Organum, and their director, Marcel Pérès has positioned them as leading interpreters of early liturgical repertories; among interpreters, their renditions assert a high degree of distinctiveness and character. »

12 Sep 2007

La Bohème x3

On stages all over the world, most any night of the year, poor Parisian Mimi hacks her way into oblivion, while her sometime lover cries out her name in hysterical despair. »

11 Sep 2007

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus

In 2005 the Australian musicologist Janice Stockigt made the case that several works attributed to Baldassare Galuppi in the Saxon State and University Library (Dresden) were really the works of Antonio Vivaldi. »

10 Sep 2007

MONTEVERDI: Madrigals (Book 5)

This installment in the ongoing series of Monteverdi madrigal recordings from Marco Longhini and Naxos presents distinctive performances of works that lie close to the heart of the early baroque style. »

10 Sep 2007

BACH: St. Matthew Passion (Excerpts)

There is much to admire in Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach performances with the Bach Collegium Japan, and this recording of excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion will remind the listener of the diverse ways in which this is so. »

07 Sep 2007

SMETANA: The Bartered Bride

As an audio-recording, Supraphon's set of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride conducted by Zdeněk Košler deserves the highest recommendation. »

07 Sep 2007

JANÁČEK: Katja Kabanowa

A series of historic recordings comes from Profil/Edition: Günter Hänssler, and from those a subset of Staatskapelle Dresden performances brings opera fans a remarkable document. »

07 Sep 2007

Teresa Berganza Live in Concert

Here's another in a series of televised recitals from Lugano, Switzerland to have appeared on DVD. »

07 Sep 2007

Kiri Sings Karl: Songs of Mystery & Enchantment

Alban Berg's Wozzeck takes almost two hours to induce a sense of soul-crushing nausea and despondency. Kiri Sings Karl achieved that for your reviewer in a couple minutes, and then went on with terrifying, torturous efficiency for almost another hour. »

07 Sep 2007

VERDI: Otello

Director Willy Decker's outstanding Traviata from Salzburg, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, is one of the great contemporary opera DVDs. »

06 Sep 2007

STRAUSS: Elektra

Among the available videos of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the recently released DVD of the live broadcast from 16 February 1980 stands out for capturing the exciting of an all-star international cast that included the famous Birgit Nilsson in the title role. »

28 Aug 2007

DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena

A career-making smash for Donizetti at its 1830 premiere, Anna Bolena eventually faded from the standard repertory. »

28 Aug 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 5

Recorded live at the Stiftsbasilika, St. Florian (Austrian) on 12 and 13 September 2006, this DVD offers a special performance of the famous Cleveland Orchestra outside its home at Severance Hall. »

28 Aug 2007

BERG: Wozzeck

Among the available DVDs of Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck, the recent release of the production Rolf Liebermann made into a film i the late 1960s stands out for various reasons. »

28 Aug 2007

Faustina Bordoni: Faces of a prima donna

Opera singers today have become almost as famous and publicly worshipped as movie-stars; yet this has always been the case in operatic history. »

27 Aug 2007

Carlos Cogul: Introduction

Carlos Cogul is a London vocal coach and an appreciated baritone giving many a recital ……in the London Tube while commuters hastily pass by to catch their trains. Judging from the photo on this CD he is not a young man any more. »

27 Aug 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

The choice between this recording made at the Pesaro Festival in August 2005 and the Opera Rara recording of 2000 will partly be made for non-musical reasons. »

27 Aug 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals

Almost thirty years ago a century old tradition ended with the last performance of I Maestri Cantatori. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Don Pasquale

An ingenious and handsome staging, in the proper period and full of delicious color, fashion and furnishings, a production that honors the compatibility of tradition with good fun, and four singers who look their parts, play the farce, and are as easy on the ears as on the eyes — what more could you want from a Don Pasquale? »

04 Jul 2007

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz

The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is one of more engaging composers of the early twentieth century. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal

When hearing the final work of a composer whose life was cut short, one can not help but wonder, “What if?” »

27 Jun 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 8 (rev. version, Nowak ed.)

Established in 1985 by the United Nations, the World Philharmonic Orchestra gave its inaugural concert on 12 December 1985 under the auspices of UNICEF and the Konserthus, Sweden. »

27 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: La Scala di Seta

La Scala di Seta, composed in Venice in 1812 (Rossini was 20; Tancredi and fame were a year off; Barbiere and immortality were four years down the road), shares the fortune of La Gazza Ladra: that is, until recently, the public knew the overture quite well but nothing else from the opera which, indeed, lacks the spectacular arias and hilarious ensembles that might have kept it on the boards. »

25 Jun 2007

WEBER: Der Freischütz

Produced by Rolf Lieberman and directed for television by Joachim Hess, this 1968 studio recording of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz has much to recommend as a traditional production of the opera. »

24 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Il Viaggio a Reims was a pièce d’occasion, part of the official tributes to Charles X of France on his coronation in 1825, but unlike most such creations – which tend to dreary platitudes of the Oscar speech variety – Viaggio has a cheeky personality and delicious music from Rossini at the top of his game, music he planned to recycle in subsequent operas – which he did. »

24 Jun 2007

STRAVINSKY: Histoire du soldat (Suite); Renard

As indicated in the copy on the CD, itself this is indeed a “unique collection of mostly short works” by Igor Stravinsky. »

24 Jun 2007

Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral

In charting the history of music in the West, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Paris loom large as a golden age of innovative polyphony, a golden age that is much the fruits of two composers, Leoninus and Perotinus. »

22 Jun 2007

Concilium musicum Wien on authentic instruments

This live concert recording assembles a trio of late eighteenth-century Viennese composers; the program is strong in evocation of time and place, but admittedly less so in substance. »

17 Jun 2007

LASSUS: Psalmi Davidis pœnitentiales

Among Lasso’s vast output there are few works more imposing than his collected settings of the seven penitential psalms. »

17 Jun 2007

WAXMAN: Joshua

Franz Waxman was working with librettist James Forsyth on an opera, Dr. Jekyll, when the composer’s wife died. »

17 Jun 2007

MAHLER: Urlicht

Mahler: Urlicht is a recording of selected songs for voice and piano from various collections of the composer’s Lieder, including his early settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the later Wunderhorn Lieder that Mahler set in the 1890s in versions with both orchestral and keyboard accompaniment, and also his Rűckert-Lieder, performed by the young mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn accompanied by Julius Drake. »

11 Jun 2007

VIVALDI: Arie per basso

In 2001 the recording company Naïve and the Istituto per beni musicali in Piemonte began a large-scale undertaking of recording the vast holdings of Vivaldi’s musical library. »

05 Jun 2007

BUSONI : Songs

Doktor Faust eclipses most of Ferrucio’s Busoni’s other work in terms of popularity. Surprisingly, though, he wrote little song. Only 40 pieces remain, many written in his youth. »

04 Jun 2007

The Jussi Björling Series: rare opera recordings from Stockholm

“We’ll discuss the greatest tenor in history, Jussi Björling, and his astounding voice.” »

04 Jun 2007

RUBINSTEIN: Il Demone

I was never much impressed by the Russian performances of this most famous of Rubinstein’s many operas. »

31 May 2007

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains; The River

Naxos’s DVD venture has produced a fascinating document, the original documentary shorts The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, filmed by Pare Lorentz, with the Virgil Thomson scores re-recorded by the post-Classical Ensemble, led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez. »

31 May 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Given the fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Second Symphony on both CD and DVD, the release of Pierre Boulez’s performances from 26 and 27 March 2005 at the Philharmonie, Berlin, is a further contribution to the interpretations of this important work. »

30 May 2007

MASSENET: Esclarmonde

Just as sausage can be best enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of its preparation and contents, one should slide slowly into the luxuriant bath that is Massenet’s Esclarmonde and leave the libretto far to the side. »

30 May 2007

ORFF: Carmina Burana

Released in early 2007, Marin Alsop’s performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is an exciting, new recording of this familiar and durable scenic cantata, based on medieval lyrics in Latin and German. »

30 May 2007

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Verboten und verbannt — forbidden and banned — a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust. »