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Elsewhere

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.


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Recordings

05 Dec 2016

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.  »

Recently in Recordings

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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. »

17 Nov 2005

Soprano Songs and Arias

For those who frequent the Santa Fe Opera and Houston Grand Opera, Ana María Martínez is well-known as a superb lyric soprano on her way to a stellar career. With the release of this collection of songs and arias for soprano, the rest of the world will come to know this as well. »

16 Nov 2005

Decca Classic Recitals

The first thought one has is « how nice to have those recitals back like they were issued ». One remembers too well the first days of the CD when historical vocal recitals appeared more or less mutilated, often culled from two or more LP’s so that some tracks were sorely missed. »

15 Nov 2005

STRAUSS: Lieder

The Lieder of Richard Strauss lend themselves well to various interpretations that bring out different aspects of the music. »

13 Nov 2005

STRAVINSKY : The Rake’s Progress

This production, from Glyndebourne in 1975, is a treasure of literate, artistically informed stagecraft. Opera is meant to be seen as much as heard, and productions like this prove that good staging brings a score alive. »

13 Nov 2005

VERDI: Stiffelio

This is the third re-issue (in Europe anyway) on CD of the only existing studio recording of Stiffelio. Luckily it is a rather good one as its live competitors are not recordings for eternity. Neither Limarilli in 1968 nor Del Monaco (at his coarsest in 1972) have much sense of style, let alone a knack for true Verdi-phrasing. Not that José Carreras is flawless. »

09 Nov 2005

TCHAIKOVSKY: Sleeping Beauty

Tchaikovsky counted Sleeping Beauty as one of his best works. The idea came from Ivan Vsevolozhsky (1835-1909), director of the Russian Imperial Theatres from 1881 onward. He had staged several of Tchaikovsky’s operas, and he wanted Tchaikovsky to produce a ballet score with him. »

09 Nov 2005

STRAUSS: Daphne

The formidable Straussian Sir Georg Solti wrote that after the 1929 death of Strauss’s long-time librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, “Strauss lived for another twenty years, but he never again wrote a great work.” »

09 Nov 2005

KHACHATURIAN: Spartacus

Khachaturian was one of the few Soviet composers of the Stalin regime to overcome his public demotion in 1948. Even though he was removed from his job and his works disappeared from the theatres, Khachaturian moved to the world of film music and waited for the storm to blow over. »

08 Nov 2005

Hear My Prayer

This anthology, a twentieth-anniversary commemoration of Aled Jones’ first recording for the Welsh company, Sain, is a re-issue of that 1983 recording, “Diolch â Chân,” along with several other tracks from the mid-1980’s. Jones stepped out of the choir stalls at Bangor Cathedral to become a highly marketed treble, and his relative celebrity, as attested here, was well deserved. »

06 Nov 2005

RIGHINI: Il Convitato di Pietra (The Stone Guest)

Born in Bologna on January 22, 1756, Righini’s musical career started early when he was a choirboy at San Petronio. When he was nineteen, Righini made his professional singing debut as a tenor in Parma, and one year later he joined the Bustelli Opera in Prague. »

02 Nov 2005

ROSSINI: Der Barbier von Sevilla (Barbiere di Siviglia)

Rossini’s masterpiece is based on Beaumarchais’ first of three plays—Le Barbier de Séville, La folle journée ou Le Mariage de Figaro, and La Mère Coupable—detailing the adventures of Figaro, a barber from Seville, Spain. Rossini was not the first, nor the last composer to set the story to music: Giovanni Maria Pagliardi, Friedrich Ludwig Benda, Johann André, Francesco Morlacchi, Miguel Nieto and Gerónimo Jiménez, Nicolo Isouard, and H. R. Bishop are some of the names that come to mind. »

01 Nov 2005

BORODIN: Prince Igor (Highlights)

Not long ago the record label Delos announced that they would embark on a series of studio recordings of highlights from operas. This intriguing idea seemed to address the recording crisis spawned by the shrinking market for full studio sets, with their high cost for both producer and purchaser. »

01 Nov 2005

BIBER: Missa Christi resurgentis

In 1682 the Archbishopric of Salzburg celebrated its 1100th anniversary with an appropriately festal service in the Cathedral, depicted in an engraving by Melchior Küsel. Küsel’s engraving is a striking image, bringing into harmony the grand scale of the building (not yet one hundred years old), the ornamental richness of the interior, and the strong subdivisions of its space. »

30 Oct 2005

SAINT-SAËNS: Samson et Dalila

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy, musicologist, astronomer, archeologist, poet, writer, teacher, and one of the most important and prolific composers of his generation. Yet, Saint-Saëns’ reputation has, for some time, mainly rested on his instrumental works the “Organ” Symphony, the overture Carnival of the Animals and his oratorio turned opera, Samson et Dalila. »

30 Oct 2005

PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut was Puccini’s first big success, and his first contribution to the repertory. Yet it’s popularity has always lagged behind that of the composer’s following three mega-hits La Boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly, as well as some later successes such as Turandot and even Gianni Schicchi. »

30 Oct 2005

Ewa Podleś — Rossini Gala

If Rossini could set a laundry list to music, then Ewa Podleś is one of the few candidates available to sing it. In this CD, recorded live at the Polish Radio Hall in Wroclaw (Wratislavia), during the thirty third International Festival Wratislavia Cantans Music and Fine Arts, the Polish contralto gives ample proof of her status as one of the great singers of her generation. »

27 Oct 2005

ROSSINI: La Cenerentola

Naxos is perhaps the only significant major label regularly releasing complete opera sets. A few have won widespread praise, and certainly the prices, at super-budget level, make them attractive to both first-time buyers and those whose collections scarcely justify an additional set. »

26 Oct 2005

Great Operatic Arias, Vol. 17 — Christine Brewer

Beethoven Shines Thru the Mix In the best of all possible worlds this recording of arias and show tunes would have been done in the original languages, the language of composition, with the vocal sounds intended by Gluck, Mozart, Weber, Wagner and others who defined great singing. »

26 Oct 2005

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 18

Here we have another part of John Eliot Gardiner’s remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, undertaken to perform—and record live—all of Bach’s surviving church cantatas at many different churches in a single year. »

26 Oct 2005

SZYMANOWSKI: Piano Music

Piotr Anderszewski is a talented young pianist, who makes Szymanowski’s music come alive in his recent recording of three of the composer’s major pieces. »