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The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.



Sony 509248
03 Oct 2015

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.  »

Recently in Recordings

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28 Oct 2006


My father was a small bit player in an amateur operetta company from 1947 till 1963 when the company folded. »

26 Oct 2006

Opera Arias - Wojciech Drabowicz

Those familiar with Antoni Wit’s fine recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony will have encountered some Polish singers in the solo parts, and among them is the baritone Wojtek Drabowicz. »

26 Oct 2006

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert

Two of the most famous Wagner interpreters of the twentieth century, Hans Hotter and Birgit Nilsson, are always worth hearing in their studio recordings, and the live recordings capture the spontaneity of an actual performance with such accomplished singers. »

26 Oct 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz; Oberon

The demise of Tower Records adds another hurdle to the collector's challenge in acquiring rare performances on obscure labels. »

22 Oct 2006

HANDEL: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

“Cecilia, cast a glance upon the land of Britain, and you will see that in sonorous strains it renews on this day the pleasing memory of your name so dear. . . .” »

21 Oct 2006

Salvatore Licitra — Forbidden Love

As the careers of the “three tenors” drew to a close, it became more and more obvious that replacements would have to be found, if not for all of them, then certainly for one or two. »

19 Oct 2006

DONIZETTI: Alahor in Granata

A yellow banner in the lower right hand corner of the slip case cover (identical to that of the jewel box and booklet) proclaims this CD as the "first world recording" of Gaetano Donizetti's Alahor in Granata. »

17 Oct 2006


Virtuosic, expressive, subtle evocative – these words can be used to describe various aspects of the Lieder of Richard Strauss. »

16 Oct 2006

HANDEL: Hercules

From the 2004 Aix en Provence Festival comes this Luc Bondy staging of Handel's oratorio Hercules, an achingly serious and sober portrayal of Olympian rage and jealousy. »

16 Oct 2006

Homage — The Age of the Diva

In the 1890s, the term “diva” was first used in print to refer to an opera singer or stage star. »

08 Oct 2006

KILAR: Piano Concerto

Among the exciting new releases in Naxos’s series of 21st Century Classics is a compilation of four works by Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932), which include two symphonic compositions and two vocal pieces. »

08 Oct 2006

The Art of Elaine Bonazzi

This is a recital disc notable for the compelling presence and intimacy of the vocal performance. »

05 Oct 2006

MAHLER: Symphonie no. 2

Among the outstanding interpreters of Mahler’s music, Pierre Boulez stands out for his recent recordings of the composer’s symphonies. Having worked with various international orchestras, Boulez has been preserving on CD some finely shaped performances, and if he intends to create a cycle akin to those of other conductors, he is wisely recording the works one by one and not necessarily in the order in which they were composed. »

02 Oct 2006

The Psalms of David

The daily Anglican liturgies of Morning and Evening Prayer feature the recitation of the complete Psalter (apportioned in a monthly cycle), and in cathedrals and collegiate chapels, the chanting of the psalms has been cultivated to a degree of great refinement and beauty. »

29 Sep 2006

VERDI: Un ballo in maschera

Of late opera stagings often seem to be slotted into one of two categories: the "traditional," with sets as the original libretto detailed and singers in period costumes; and "non-traditional," "regie theater," or "Eurotrash," what you will. »

29 Sep 2006


Having spent the better part of its life at full-price, the Solti/Nilsson Salome now appears as a mid-priced re-issue. »

29 Sep 2006

CHERUBINI: Le Sposo di tre marito di nessuna

This 250th anniversary year of Mozart's birth must be heaven not only Amadeus lovers but also for those with a general inclination toward classical era music. »

29 Sep 2006

ZEISL: Lieder

While most of the familiar Lieder repertoire stems from the nineteenth century, the powerful attraction the artform spurred composition in this genre through the mid-twentieth century. »

28 Sep 2006

That's Amore

Vanity publishing is not for the print world only, as a release from a company called Jeremiah Productions, called "That's Amore," proves. »

27 Sep 2006

Flaviano Labo – Vol III

According to Giancarlo Landini, author of the very interesting and detailed sleeve notes, Labo “has been sorely neglected, if not totally forgotten”. »

26 Sep 2006

LEHAR: Schön is die Welt

CPO has recently given us a lot of wonderful Lehar recordings like Eva, Der Rastelbinder or Der Sterngucker (admired by Hofmannsthal who exclaimed after a performance: ‘I wish, Lehar had composed Rosenkavalier’). »

25 Sep 2006

POULENC: Gloria and Stabat Mater

In the 1930s, Poulenc’s turn to writing sacred choral music such as the Litanies à la vierge noire and the Mass in G was closely linked to his new embrace of Roman Catholicism following the death of a close friend, the composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: St. John Passion

The Bach Passions combine drama, sublimity of expression, and deeply devotional reflection in such a powerful way that we invariably tend to set them apart from other liturgical works. »

25 Sep 2006

Pilar Lorengar: Prima Donna in Vienna

Maybe a looking glass will help you to decipher the reprint in this CD’s inside cover of a small article on the soprano by Terry McEwen, who was Manager of the Classical Divison of London Records at the time of recording. »

25 Sep 2006

Birgit Nilsson — "Or sai chi l'onore"

Deutsche Grammophon was one of the many labels for which Nilsson recorded and the company decided to commemorate her passing by offering us most of her not so very large catalogue. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: Mass in B Minor

We are reasonably sensitive, I suspect, to the number of ways in which venue can shape the nature and success of musical performance. »

24 Sep 2006


The best Norma on DVD treats the viewer to a blurry picture of washed-out colors and remote, compressed sound. »

24 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

The better can be the enemy of the good and this recording proves it. »

24 Sep 2006

Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert

In her debut recording the young Roumanian soprano Katarina Jovanic demonstrates her talent in performing an intriguing selection of Lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss. »

24 Sep 2006


Myto does many an opera-lover a service by offering this enjoyable recording of Rossini's French grand opera, here called Moïse. »

24 Sep 2006

HALÉVY: La Juive

For a period of close to half a century, French grand opera, as exemplified by the works of Giacomo Meyerbeer and his school, was the preferred form of music for the theatre (i.e. opera) in most of the civilized world. »

22 Sep 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali

It is somewhat ironic that until recent years Italy has generally been slow to take a leading role in the historical performance movement: ironic in that historically Italy both dominates and defines the early baroque style and ironic in that that style enshrines the primacy of text— the Italian text. »

20 Sep 2006

CIMAROSA: Cleopatra

The first thing I noticed in the liner notes was the bold print claiming Cimarosa was born in 1797 and died in 1848, which correspond exactly with Donizetti’s lifespan. »

12 Sep 2006

ASHLEY: Perfect Lives; Celestial Excursions; Foreign Experiences

Robert Ashley has the uncanny ability to sprinkle diamonds amidst great swaths of apparently trivial and quotidian detritus–diamonds that trigger the nervous system in an intensely stimulating fashion. »

12 Sep 2006

BEETHOVEN: Overtures
BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

The later Günter Wand was a remarkable interpreter of Bruckner’s music, as is demonstrated in this live recording from the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. »

09 Sep 2006

Joshua Bell’s Good Taste

Sony Records occasionally still sends the odd CD to reviewers hoping they will give it notice. »

08 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Callas fans better skip this review, as they won’t like the tone, the words, or whatever slights real or imagined they may perceive. »

08 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 7

At the expense of stating a truism, the music of Gustav Mahler, like that of other composers, is best experienced live in the concert hall. »

08 Sep 2006

PUCCINI: La Fanciulla del West

This Fanciulla is such a wonderful issue because, for once, none of the three protagonists ever recorded their role commercially, so that one is spared the many doublings often met in live recordings. »

07 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

During the last few years Antoni Wit has recorded Mahler’s symphonies one by one, such that he is building a fine cycle for the Naxos label. »

31 Aug 2006

BRAHMS: Missa Canonica

The program for this recent recording from the choir of Westminster Cathedral presents sacred choral works by Brahms and Rheinberger, anchored at one end by Brahms’s youthful Missa Canonica and at the other by Rheinberger’s Mass for Double Choir in E-flat, Op. 109. with a handful of motets by Brahms in between. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

This cast looks quite promising on paper. However, I cannot honestly say these big names keep their promise, except for the comprimario-singers. »

29 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Rienzi

I can readily understand why Bayreuth refuses to perform Richard Wagner’s third opera. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: Missa da Requiem

Verdi responded to the death of Rossini in 1868 by planning a collaborative Requiem Mass, drawing on the contributions of thirteen “distinguished” composers. »

28 Aug 2006

POULENC: Figure Humaine and Dialogues des Carmelites

Francis Poulenc is well known for the religious works that comprise much of his oeuvre after he was traumatized by the accidental and premature death of his friend Pierre-Octave Ferroud in 1936. »

28 Aug 2006

DUNSTABLE: Sweet Harmony — Masses and Motets

The music of John Dunstable embodies many of the characteristics that so dramatically set the music of the emerging Renaissance apart from its Medieval forebears. »

28 Aug 2006

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare in Egitto

Sometimes an invidious comparison cannot be avoided, and such is the case with two recent DVD versions of Georg Frederic Handel's masterpiece, Giulio Cesare. »

25 Aug 2006

MENDELSSOHN: Sacred Choral Music

The English “Oxbridge” choral tradition tends to be a cohesive one, most often with choirs of men and boys receiving similar training, singing a largely shared repertory in similar venues and in similar contexts. »

25 Aug 2006


Harry Christophers and The Sixteen have a particular affinity for pre-modern polyphony, as their long discography, teeming with the music of the Eton Choirbook, assorted Renaissance masters, Handel, Bach, and others, amply shows. »

25 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Some argue that Bayreuth ushered in the modern era of regietheatre in opera productions with its now-legendary centennial Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Patrice Chereau. »

25 Aug 2006

Children’s Songs of the World

In Turkey recently, we visited a second-grade classroom, where our guide invited the children to sing songs for us. »

25 Aug 2006

Mozart — Airs Sacrés

It seems only natural that the quality of radiance should quickly come to mind in contemplating the twelfth-century Basilica of Saint Denis, where luminous stained glass creates colored walls of mystical light. »

25 Aug 2006

Bolshoi Russian opera highlights

Pentatone Classics joins some smaller recording companies staking out niche markets as the biggest labels continue their enforced retreat from the classical marketplace. »

25 Aug 2006

Verdi Gala 2004 Teatro Regio di Parma

In recent European reviews, Teatro Regio di Parma’s DVD of their 2004 Verdi Gala was generally labeled as worthless. »