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Elsewhere

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.


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Recordings

Harmonia Mundi HMC902107 [CD]
15 Dec 2014

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.  »

Recently in Recordings

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21 Dec 2005

Christmas with Renée and Bryn

Though singers have always recorded some of these arias and songs, it was young Leontyne Price who first started a trend by devoting a whole LP to the genre more than 45 years ago. »

21 Dec 2005

RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

In its 2004 season Glyndebourne put on a double bill celebrating avarice — Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the much-lesser known The Miserly Knight. »

21 Dec 2005

Giulini Conducts Mozart and Mahler

With the passing of Carl Maria Giulini (1913-2005) in June 2005, the music world lost one of its finest conductors. Among his legacy are some critical recordings, which represent the literature that Giulini chose to preserve. »

21 Dec 2005

Two Super Audio CD re-releases of Elly Ameling performances for Philips

I admit I jumped at the chance to review these SACD re-releases of performances that were on the very first classical vocal LP’s that I owned and overplayed on under-maintained equipment, to the point where I frankly shudder to even try to compare my vinyl versions with the digital. »

18 Dec 2005

WAGNER, S.: Der Heidenkönig

What an unjust fate for an aspiring opera composer to be born the son of Richard Wagner! Imagine a child of Albert Einstein who dreams of greatness in science, or the son of William Shakespeare sitting down to sketch out his first sonnet. Doubtless you would have a nagging suspicion that you would likely never better your father’s titanic accomplishments. »

18 Dec 2005

The legendary Magda Olivero

What is the difference between a lady who becomes a prima-donna and a prima-donna who becomes a lady? The last one has to be begged as she thinks she has to behave according to her rank. The first one is sure of herself and doesn’t need, well let’s call it to behave somewhat capriciously. »

18 Dec 2005

RAUTAVAARA: Rasputin

In fall 2003, Los Angeles Opera opened its season with Deborah Dratell’s Nicholas and Alexandra, with libretto by Nicholas von Hoffman. At that time, company director Placido Domingo, who took on the juicy role of Rasputin, announced that the production would be filmed and prepared for eventual DVD release. »

14 Dec 2005

Sherrill Milnes - An All Star Gala

The former TV-producer in me tells me the following conversation took place between producer and director (in German as this is a GDR (East-Germany) product). »

12 Dec 2005

GAY: The Beggar’s Opera

Benjamin Britten’s identity as a decidedly “national” composer is formed in part by his well-known engagement of pre-existent English music, old English texts, and subjects rich in the English legacy, as a glance at works like the Purcellian The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, the Chester mystery play, Noyes Fludde, or the Elizabethan opera, Gloriana, all confirm. »

11 Dec 2005

Gwyneth Jones - In Concert

Sorry my friends, but since I retired as a TV-reporter I forgot a lot of technical know-how, which to be fair never interested me very much. »

11 Dec 2005

Edita Gruberová — The Queen of Belcanto Volume I

There are countless artists whose legend survives on their supposed fame, others leave a substantial legacy of their achievements. »

11 Dec 2005

On Christmas Day

Tastes in music for Christmas are quite personal. One individual’s beloved tradition may be another’s annoying jangling that just won’t go away. »

11 Dec 2005

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring; The Nightingale

So much has been written about the notorious scandal of May 29, 1913, the scandal of the reception of the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, that it is easy to forget that the music itself was less the cause of the riotous activities than the subject, the décor, and the dancing. »

11 Dec 2005

The Art of Gérard Souzay

If anyone had played the soundtrack of those first numbers of the 1955 telecast, I would have looked up in surprise at first and would have wondered if an electronic wizard had cleaned up the acoustic recordings of that giant of French singing: Jean-Emile Vanni-Marcoux. »

11 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Il Diluvio Universale

Originally issued in LP by Voce (100), this unfairly neglected work by Gaetano Donizetti is now available on the Bongiovanni (GB2386/87-2) label. »

11 Dec 2005

LEHÁR: Das Land des Lächelns

This version of Lehár’s second most popular operetta is not one for purists. By the mid-seventies, it was already clear that one of the biggest tragedies of Western classical music was taking place — the disappearance of operetta with its tons of wonderful music. »

10 Dec 2005

A Time of Tristans

We live in a time of Tristan & Isolde — recordings of the great Wagner opera, that is. »

06 Dec 2005

ROSSINI: Moise et Pharaon

Rossini's original Italian opera, Mose In Egitto, was re-adapted as Moise et Pharaon for Paris. A new libretto, the renaming of certain characters, some new music, a ballet and reordering of the original music make up the newer version. »

04 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor

A superstar in Europe, Edita Gruberova can rest assured that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate her artistry: the record label Nightingale Classics exists primarily, it seems, to record her in her greatest roles. »

02 Dec 2005

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2

As the second of four of the thematically organized recording of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Un paysage choisi is an excellent offering of chansons that concern selected natural places, that is to say, the “chosen landscape” indicated in the title of this volume. »

02 Dec 2005

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible

Sergei Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible? Which one? Prokofiev composed music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film (part 1, 1942-44; part 2, 1945) about the sixteenth-century ruler, and the score is catalogued as op. 116. After the composer’s death, music for the film was arranged first into an oratorio (with speaker, soloists, chorus, and orchestra) by Alexander Stasevich (1961) and later into a concert scenario by Christopher Palmer (1990). »

02 Dec 2005

Songs of Vaughan Williams and Ives

Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Ives; both known more for their symphonic music than anything else, receive superb tributes in these recordings of some of their early songs. Only two years separate the birth dates of these composers; but the musical language each speaks seems to put far more distance than that between them. »

29 Nov 2005

BIZET: Carmen

Two recent releases document performances of Georges Bizet’s Carmen that took place within just a few months of each other. The casts share many of the same performers, most notably the conductor and the interpreter of the opera’s title role. »

29 Nov 2005

Michele Pertusi - Recital

Bass-baritone Michele Pertusi’s voice is captured in this recital disc after only two years of formal studies. Taking this into account one can forgive what he calls “imperfections: a few, slight musical errors, some invented or switched words, a Neapolitan pronunciation that is not quite perfect, an English one which could be improved on, a few marred notes.” »

28 Nov 2005

ROSSINI: Guillaume Tell

On 24 October 1998, the Vienna State Opera presented the opening night of its staging of Gioachino Rosssini’s Guillaume Tell. It was the first Staatsoper production in 91 years of Rossini’s final opera and masterpiece, as well as the Vienna premiere of the 1829 opera’s original French-language version. »

28 Nov 2005

MACMILLAN: Seven Last Words from the Cross

The compositions of John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and Henryk Górecki have accustomed us to the degree that religious spirituality has found serious musical voice in the late twentieth century. In their works, a profound language of musical mysticism is wed to various liturgical evocations, creating compositions that seem both authentic in their expression and unusually personal in their genesis. »

28 Nov 2005

LANGGAARD: Antikrist

Watching this DVD, your reviewer suddenly recalled a brief exchange from the film Reversal of Fortune, when the Ron Silver/Alan Dershowitz character says to the Jeremy Irons/Claus von Bulow one, “You are a very strange man, “ and Irons, in the moment that may have won him the Academy Award, replies with eerie blandness, “You have no idea.” »

26 Nov 2005

GINASTERA: Musica de camera y Canciones

Orfeo has joined the ranks of CD companies adding artwork to the inner casing beneath the disc. For this recording of Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), a series of photographs of gauchos riding horses on the pampas receives a modified Andy Warhol treatment. »

25 Nov 2005

VERDI: La Traviata

Eight long and dark years later, La Fenice rose, once again, from the ashes following a devastating fire which destroyed the theater in 1996. For the “formal” re-opening of the refurbished Venetian landmark, its management wisely chose Verdi’s original score for his 1853 opera for La Fenice: La Traviata—another survivor that rose from the ashes. »

22 Nov 2005

Lamento — Arias, Cantatas and Scenes by the Bach Family

Dorothea Schroder, as translated by Stewart Spencer, begins her booklet essay for Magdalena Kozena’s recent CD by quoting a review of an earlier disc of the mezzo: “…Kozena is simply marvelous.” Brazen record company self-promotion? »

21 Nov 2005

RAMEAU: Les Indes galantes

Jean-Philippe Rameau is usually remembered today (when he is remembered at all) as an important musical theorist. This limited reputation is unfortunate, because Rameau was a masterful composer known for his sumptuous melodies and colorful harmonies. »

20 Nov 2005

Verdi Songs

I’m told that, if an auditioning singer’s repertoire includes a Verdi piece, the auditors will very likely choose to hear it, because singing Verdi well requires the full catalogue of skills: musical exactness, dynamic range, breath control, sensitive phrasing, the ability to provide a variety of colors in the voice, and, if possible, a large enough personality to truly fill out whichever character is being portrayed. »

19 Nov 2005

DELIBES: Lakmé

I have to admit it: this is the first time I ever listened to the complete version of this early Decca-issue of 1952 (though some sources say it was recorded one year earlier). »

19 Nov 2005

KRENEK: Lieder

While I was listening to this recording of Krenek’s song cycles Durch die Nacht (op. 67) and Gesänge des späten Jahres (op. 71), I started to think about art and memory. »

19 Nov 2005

GLASS: Orion

I first became acquainted with Glass’s music when Lyric Opera of Chicago staged his Satyagraha in the 1980s. Having grown up on a small-town Midwestern diet of Beethoven sonatas and Broadway musicals, I was blown away by his vision of Mahatma Gandhi. »

19 Nov 2005

Heroic Tenors

A happy feature of the King CD is the booklet in German and English: at least 7 pages full of information on the tenor. Then there is the pristine sound of the recordings. Though there is no mention of a concert source I’m fairly sure all the pieces (always followed by generous applause), are derived from the famous Münchner Sonntag Konzerte. »

18 Nov 2005

SULLIVAN: The Rose of Persia

Sir Arthur Sullivan’s legacy suffers from that common malaise that, once a good or bad reputation is made, it is very difficult to be remembered for anything else—be it better or worse. »

17 Nov 2005

An Introduction to... MASSENET Werther

For anyone who is remotely familiar with opera, the first question would be, “What is the need for a recording like this?” Of course, not being familiar with the CD justifies the question, but once it has been played, the realization sets in that the answer was there all along. »