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Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

Bellini I puritani : gripping musical theatre

Vividly gripping drama is perhaps not phrase which you might expect to be used to refer to Bellini's I Puritani, but that was the phrase which came into my mind after seen Annilese

Strong music values in 1940's setting for Handel's opera examining madness

As part of their Madness season, presenting three very contrasting music theatre treatments of madness (Handel's Orlando, Bellini's I Puritani and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd) Welsh National Opera (WNO) presented Handel's Orlando at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 3 October 2015.

Bostridge, Isserlis, Drake, Wigmore Hall

Benjamin Britten met Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960, in London, where the cellist was performing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. They were introduced by Shostakovich who had invited Britten to share his box at the Royal Festival Hall, for this concert given by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Britten’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter reports that a few days before Britten had listened to Rostropovich on the radio and remarked that he ‘“thought this the most extraordinary ‘cello playing I’d ever heard”’.

Falstaff at Forest Lawn

Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare: the two Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Music and Drama Interwoven in Chicago Lyric’s new Le nozze di Figaro

The opening performance of the 2015-2016 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago was the premiere of a new production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro under the direction of Barbara Gaines and featuring the American debut of conductor Henrik Nánási.

La traviata, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia mixes boutique performances of avant-garde opera in a small house with more traditional productions of warhorse operas performed in the Academy of Music, America’s oldest working opera house.

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

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



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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01 Jun 2006

MAHLER: Lieder

Among the interpreters of Mahler’s music in the late twentieth century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim stand out for their various contributions. »

01 Jun 2006

BERNHARD: Geistliche Harmonien

The composer Christoph Bernhard (born Kolberg, Pomerania, 1628, died, Dresden 1692) embodies the problematic nature of German musical culture in the seventeenth century. »

01 Jun 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

This Opus Arte set not only captures a mostly satisfying performance of Monteverdi's opera based on the last books of Homer's Odyssey, but features something even rarer: a booklet essay by the musical director (Glen Wilson) of remarkable lucidity. »

01 Jun 2006

LE JEUNE: Autant en emporte le vent — French Chansons

In spite of the religious warfare that consumed France during the second half of the sixteenth century (which claimed the life of one eminent Catholic composer, Antoine de Bertrand, who was murdered by Protestants)*, musical life continued unabated. »

31 May 2006

PFITZNER: Das Christelflein

Dubbed a “spieloper,” Hans Pfitzner’s Das Christelflein (“The Christmas Elf”) casts a magical, yet appropriately cool, spell, even in the warm days of late May, the time of this review. »

31 May 2006

Delectatio angeli — Music of love, longing & lament

Catherine Bott is an English soprano in her fifties with decades of career and an extensive discography, but even in the world of early music, where she has spent most of her time, one could not say she is a marquee name. »

31 May 2006

BÖHM: Cantatas

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring”, quoth the great poet Alexander Pope in 1709. »

31 May 2006

JONES: The Geisha

Should Opera Today readers want to test where they would place themselves on a spectrum ranging from “completely politically incorrect” to “utterly politically correct,” the Hyperion Helios re-release of Sidney Jones “Japanese musical play” The Geisha surely will do the trick. »

31 May 2006

MANFREDINI: 12 Concerti op. 3

The general aversion of the listening public to vocal music can nowhere be more easily seen than in the comparative success of the operatic and instrumental works of the Italian baroque. »

31 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Marino Faliero

There was a great northward swing of composers from Italy to Paris and London in the 1820s and 1830s. Actually, this has been going on for a long time, but was temporarily halted by the Napoleonic wars. »

31 May 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 10

Few works seem more seminal to our understanding of J. S. Bach than the church cantatas, written over a wide chronological swath of his career, sometimes as part of occasional duties, other times in what was clearly a frenzy of steady prolificity. »

31 May 2006

MASSENET: Le Roi de Lahore

Sergio Seggalini, former editor of Opéra International (now Opéra Magazine), is the artistic director of both La Fenice and the Festival of Martina Franca. »

30 May 2006

BOITO: Nerone

“What a difference a sound makes” goes the song (or something like that). »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

By sheer coincidence I attended a concert performance of this opera at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp at the same moment I received these CD’s. »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Roberto Devereux

When asked whether he believed Rossini had composed Il Barbiere di Siviglia in thirteen days, nineteen-year-old Donizetti is supposed to have replied, »

25 May 2006

NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years." »

24 May 2006

BACH: Alles mit Gott

A little over a year ago Bach scholar Michael Maul found himself in the exceedingly unusual position of having discovered a hitherto unknown Bach composition, a birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, entitled “Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn. »

24 May 2006

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin

Franz Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin has received, in recent years, frequent attention with several fine recordings having been issued during this period. »

24 May 2006

Orchestral Excerpts from Wagner Operas

Among the plentiful selections of orchestral music from the operas of Richard Wagner, it is rare to find recordings that truly stand out, and this recent release of performances conducted by the late Klaus Tennstedt merits distinction. »

24 May 2006

Rolando Villazón — Opera Recital

I’ve carefully listened several times to this new solo album (his third) by Rolando Villazón and it grows on you, though there are a few weaknesses. »

24 May 2006

PUCCINI: Turandot

This must be the first Turandot that has in the sleeve notes three photographs of the soprano who sings Liu compared to two of the lady in the title role. »

19 May 2006

Placido Domingo — Great Scenes

Domingo-fans probably have all complete performances from which these scenes were culled, as they were widely broadcast in Europe during the eighties. »

19 May 2006

HALFFTER: Don Quijote

I can’t imagine a more utopian enterprise for a composer than writing an opera at the end of the twentieth century. »

19 May 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

For a time this Don Carlo was a return to times people thought long gone. As always, Dutch papers covered beforehand this new Decker production in depth, as the theme of liberty is an important one. »

17 May 2006


Jone is the only Italian opera from the 1850s by a composer other than Giuseppe Verdi to make it into the standard repertory for a period of well over 50 years, lasting until the onset of World War I before eventually disappearing. »

17 May 2006

CHARPENTIER: Te Deum and Grand Office des Morts

In the modern performance of seventeenth-century French music, the ensemble Les Arts Florissants holds a special place, both for its longevity and the striking stylistic fluency it brings to performances — performances that have come to define our very sense of French Baroque style. »

16 May 2006

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs 4

Dans un parfum de roses (“Within the scent of roses”), is the fourth and final volume of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré issued by Hyperion. »

16 May 2006

PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly

All is right and good in the world of opera as long as the Arena di Verona puts on vivid productions, in questionable taste, with impassioned singers pouring out the volume, in questionable taste, and the audience roaring its approval - in questionable taste. »

16 May 2006

ROSSINI: La Scala Di Seta

Here is another handsome production of an early Rossini one-act comedy from the Schwetzingen festival, held at the charming and tiny Rokoko theater in May 1990. »

16 May 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6

In recent years the Sixth Symphony of Gustav Mahler has gained some prominence with the declaration by the internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft about the only correct order of the internal movements, a position that has inspired some discussion among enthusiasts. »

16 May 2006

VERDI: Nabucco

The booklet somewhat proudly tells us that “a modern Italian opera-going public would likely walk out in horror if confronted with the avant-garde productions of many German opera houses. »

15 May 2006

Three Releases from Nightingale Classics

Frank Sinatra had Reprise. The Beatles had Apple. Madonna has Maverick. And Edita Gruberova has Nightingale. »

11 May 2006

The Music of Joseph Dubiel

Joe Dubiel is a well known and accomplished music theorist, affable, pleasant in demeanor, learned and astute, and above all friendly in a field that has its thorns and brambles. »

02 May 2006

Three Mozart Collections from Universal

A recent newspaper report — the sort of item conveyed in a short paragraph and relegated to a column of such brief pieces — summarized a study that argues that Mozart did not die a pauper, but actually had a fairly steady stream of income. »

02 May 2006


Passion for music is hardly rare, but it is welcome to hear it espoused in public, especially by some of the art’s strongest proponents. »

29 Apr 2006

Music for the Virgin Mary—Celebrating 300 Years of Charpentier

This wonderful CD was recorded in the magnificent church of Notre Dame, Rozay-en-Brie, which is 30 miles east of Paris, and contains one of the better-preserved French organs of the seventeenth century, actually played by Francois Couperin during his lifetime. »

29 Apr 2006

Conducting Mahler / I Have Lost Touch with the World

In recent years a number of the number of recordings of Mahler’s works have become available on DVD. »

29 Apr 2006


Why would anyone want to replace his LP-version on MRF? Because his records are scratched and it is too much trouble to put everything on CD. »

27 Apr 2006

AUBER: Fra Diavolo
DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

When these recordings first appeared during the mid-sixties, there was some eye batting. Why did Deutsche Grammophon bring these recordings on the market? »

22 Apr 2006

Tönet, ihr Pauken!

Bach’s famed career as an organist, his prolific output of church cantatas, and his personal piety, all conspire to keep the image of the churchly Bach front and center in the modern mind, despite the enduring familiarity and popularity of Brandenburg concertos, sonatas, and suites. »

22 Apr 2006

Victoria de los Angeles—Profile in Music

For those without much time to read reviews, I can be extremely brief: hurry and buy this DVD. For all the others: the same advise though maybe they want to know the reasons for such a purchase. »

22 Apr 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni

Calixto Bieito has made his name as an opera director with productions of unrelenting violence and sex, perhaps exemplified by last year's Abduction from the Seraglio in Berlin with its full nudity and graphic mutilations. »

20 Apr 2006

Enescu: Oedipe

Enescu's Oedipe has always been a rarity outside his native Romania. »

20 Apr 2006

MASCAGNI: In Filanda

Last year was the 60th anniversary of Mascagni’s death. When I wrote a big commemoration article for a Dutch operatic magazine, I wondered if we would ever hear a full version of the 18-year old Mascagni’s first work: a cantata called “in the weaving mill.” »

20 Apr 2006

BRITTEN: Death in Venice

Even if this recording were a failure (which it isn't), it is indispensable on account of its inclusion of about 90 seconds of music not present in the only other studio recording. »

20 Apr 2006

“l’heure exquise”

After happily scanning the rarity-filled repertoire on this disc, and considering the unusual program order, with sets of songs by Enescu, Chausson, and Debussy alternating with sets by saloniste Reynaldo Hahn, I visualize this recital as an exquisite hour in Hahn’s salon, with three guest composers present, exchanging ideas with their host. »

20 Apr 2006


Albert Lortzing has suffered much lately. Artistically speaking, he is somewhat moribund. In a recent article in the German operatic magazine, Orpheus, one writer rightfully complained that the once so popular composer has almost disappeared from the German theatres. »

19 Apr 2006

A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich

Only a few seconds after watching this DVD I was reminded of one of the great marketing failures in records. More than forty years ago, RCA brought out several glorious LP’s of young Gigli’s records and they put photographs of the sixty-five year old tenor on the sleeve. »