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And London Burned: in conversation with Raphaela Papadakis

Raphaela Papadakis seems to like ‘playing with fire’. After her acclaimed performance as the put-upon maid, Anna, in Independent Opera’s production of Šimon Voseček’s Beidermann and the Arsonists at Sadler’s Wells last year, she is currently rehearsing for the premiere this week of And London Burned, a new opera by Matt Rogers which has been commissioned by Temple Music Foundation to commemorate the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Center for Contemporary Opera presents Jane Eyre (World Premiere)

Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre, a full-length opera in three acts with a libretto by Diane Osen based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel, will receive its world premiere at The Kaye Playhouse (Hunter College) on Thursday, October 20, 7:30pm with a second performance on Saturday, October 22, 8pm. Jane Eyre is Karchin’s second opera, composed in 2014, following his critically acclaimed one-act comic opera Romulus.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Boston Early Music Festival announces the appointment of Melinda Sullivan to the new position of the Lucy Graham Dance Director

Cambridge, MA–The Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Melinda Sullivan to the new position of the Lucy Graham Dance Director.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Oxford Lieder Festival: in conversation with Julius Drake

In October 2014, the Oxford Lieder Festival - under its imaginative and intrepid founder, Sholto Kynoch - fulfilled an incredibly ambitious goal: to perform Schubert’s entire corpus of songs - more than 600 - and, for three marvellous weeks, to bring Vienna to Oxford. ‘The Schubert Project’ was a magnificent celebration of the life and music of Franz Schubert: at its core lay the first complete performance of Schubert’s songs - including variants and alternative versions - in the UK.



English Touring Opera, <em>La Calisto</em> at the Hackney Empire
18 Oct 2016

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.  »

Recently in Recordings

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12 Oct 2011

Sallinen’s The Red Line at Finnish National Opera, 2008

Some opera masterworks are admirable more than lovable — a distinction usually best revealed by the number of performances the work gets.  »

05 Oct 2011

Menotti in German

As long as one keeps in mind that historical value is not the same as aesthetic quality, this DVD of early 1960’s live German TV performances of two short Gian Carlo Menotti operas makes for fascinating viewing. »

30 Sep 2011

The music of Donnacha Dennehy

Love and Death is the name of one of Woody Allen’s earlier films, one built around parodies of Tolstoy and other Russian 19th century literary giants.  »

28 Sep 2011

Ioan Holender Farewell Concert

What better way for the long-reigning director of the Vienna State Opera, Ioan Holender, to celebrate the end of his time in the post than with a lengthy gala featuring such stars as Gergely Németi, Roxana Constantinescu, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Keith Ikaia-Purdy?  »

28 Sep 2011

Billy Budd at the Barbican

Among recent recordings of Britten’s opera Billy Budd, the recent release conducted by Daniel Harding has much to offer in terms of performance quality, interpretation, and also the quality of recording.  »

23 Sep 2011

Beecham conducts Delius

Frederick Delius counts among those many composers whose reputations rely on their orchestral efforts, but who dearly wanted to make a lasting contribution to the opera repertory.  »

21 Sep 2011

Willy Decker’s staging of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron

As a rule the celebrated incomplete operas of the repertory eluded completion due to the untimely death of the composer.  »

15 Sep 2011

Bruckner: Symphony no. 9

Recorded on 31 October 2007 in the Großer Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, this performance of the Cleveland Orchestra offers a compelling interpretation of the three completed movements of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.  »

15 Sep 2011

L’Amour des trois oranges on CD and DVD

Opera companies around the world — though relatively few in the United States — cannot resist the temptation to stage Sergei Prokofiev’s first major opera.  »

12 Sep 2011

Munich’s Dialogues des Carmélites

Dialogues des Carmélites is a magnificently anti-operatic opera. »

09 Sep 2011

Les Troyens by La Fura dels Baus

When the opera opens, a chorus of Trojan is rejoicing that the Greeks have abandoned the war and gone home.  »

08 Sep 2011

Glyndebourne’s Billy Budd

Hermann Melville wrote a poem called “Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century”: »

06 Sep 2011

Macbeth from Paris and Parma

Superstitions surround theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy.  »

30 Aug 2011

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

Film biographies of great musicians notoriously exhibit a preference for talking heads nattering on over any music passages.  »

27 Aug 2011

Nino Machaidze: Romantic Arias

The back cover of soprano Nino Machiadze’s debut solo recital from Sony Classical quotes her as describing the disc’s selection of arias as “my world, my successes to date and my hopes for the future.”  »

27 Aug 2011

Two one-act comic operas from New York Festival of Song

The New York Festival of Song, created and run by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, dedicates itself to what one might call “American lieder” — art songs by top American composers, classic Broadway, and operatic numbers. »

25 Aug 2011

Rossini’s Armida from the Met HD Live

What is to be done about Armida?  »

20 Aug 2011

Donizetti’s Marino Faliero at the 2008 Bergamo Music Festival

Gaetano Donizetti is arguably the established opera composer with the highest ratio of failures to successes.  »

19 Aug 2011

Previn and Caird’s Brief Encounter

The chief classical music and opera critic for the Los Angeles Times often criticizes any new operas based on familiar films or classic novels, on the basis of artistic timidity and conservatism.  »

14 Aug 2011

Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini

It seems very appropriate that a record company called Naïve should elect to release a solo recital for a soprano in her very early 20s.  »

13 Aug 2011

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi

Great characters are at the center of all operatic masterpieces, yet opera almost never treads into “operatic biography” territory.  »

13 Aug 2011

Théodore Gouvy’s Iphigénie en Tauride

Gounod you know, but how about Gouvy?  »

12 Aug 2011

Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila in Antwerp

Bonus features on opera DVDs usually get generic names, such as “Interview” or “Backstage with…”  »

12 Aug 2011

Gergiev conducts Wagner’s Parsifal

A handsome black steed bows its head, eyes open, peering into the darkness around it. »

24 Jun 2011

Lehnhoff takes on Fanciulla for Netherlands Opera

It can be fascinating, although not necessarily pleasant, to see oneself through the eyes of others. »

16 Jun 2011

Wagner’s Rienzi in Berlin

The Voltaire maxim usually given in English as “The perfect is the enemy of the good” illuminates the artistic conflicts surrounding many a Wagner production.  »

03 Jun 2011

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live on DVD

Since 2006, movie cineplexes across the USA have attracted a somewhat unlikely crowd for Saturday matinees, from fall to spring.  »

31 May 2011

Bach Cantatas, volume 11

Pilgrimages, I suspect, derive a degree of their fruitfulness from the slowness of the journey, a pace born of desire or necessity, that removes the journey from the quotidian, brings the purpose into greater focus, and allows for a richer savoring of the experience. »

31 May 2011

Le Royaume Oublié: La Tragédie Cathare

Before a single track has been heard, Jordi Savall’s The Forgotten Kingdom impresses with its scale: a three-CD set packaged in a lavish, bound book that contains fifty dense pages of English commentary by nine different authors; adding the multiple translations, beautiful illustrations, and song texts, the book itself luxuriantly sprawls over 500 pages. »

21 May 2011

Benvenuto Cellini

Philipp Stölzl’s production of Benvenuto Cellini, from the 2007 Salzburg Festival, is weird almost beyond belief.  »

20 May 2011

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf in Der Rosenkavalier

Classic films often receive the honor of a full “restoration,” especially when a new viewing format appears. »

20 May 2011

John Adams: Nixon in China

A quarter century having passed since its premiere, Nixon in China appears to have secured a niche in the opera repertoire, at least of American opera houses.  »

23 Mar 2011

Philip Glass’s Orphée

With voices of doom predicting the end of the CD format — supposedly to be replaced by downloading — the ancillary art of CD packaging also faces a grim future.  »

18 Mar 2011

Bellini’s I Puritani in Bologna

Vincenzo Bellini’s operas are pure bel canto, with beautiful singing placed above all other considerations.  »

12 Mar 2011

Gheorghiu and Domingo in Giordano’s Fedora

A major label release of a new studio recording of a full opera — with the traditional booklet/libretto — wanders onto the scene almost like a lost and lonely unicorn.  »

10 Mar 2011

Cecilia Bartoli in Halévy’s Clari

A key measure of operatic star power is the ability to get an obscure work staged — think Joan Sutherland and her run in Massenet’s Esclarmonde, an outlandish wallow in orchestral excess ladled over a libretto of unfathomable goofiness.  »

09 Mar 2011

Déodat De Séverac: Le Coeur du Moulin

Interesting recordings continue to be produced in the classical music business by smaller labels with particular niche markets. For the label Timpani, their specialty tends to be rarer French repertoire.  »

21 Feb 2011

Der zerbrochene Krug / Der Zwerg

Der zerbrochene Krug is a very short opera by Viktor Ullmann, based on a comedy by Kleist, concerning the fall of man. »

02 Feb 2011

I Puritani, Glyndebourne 1960

It’s a joy to watch an athlete finding her legs, especially when you know she’ll achieve her feat superbly, matchlessly, with supreme grace. I first heard Sutherland sing I Puritani (three times) during the famous Met run of 1976. »

01 Feb 2011

Gustav Mahler: Symphonies nos. 1 & 9

Issued together, this set includes recordings from two different times, with Mahler’s First Symphony based on performances from 10, 11, and 23 March 2003, and the Ninth from performances between 1 and 3 June 2006.  »

31 Jan 2011

Mark Adamo, Little Women

Mark Adamo’s opera, based on the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott, contains one extraordinary scene, a model of how to adapt fiction into opera. »

28 Jan 2011

Mehta conducts Verdi’s La Forza del Destino on Blu-Ray

A recent news report on entertainment technology noted that sales of “regular” DVDs had plummeted in recent years, while the newer Blu-Ray format has seen substantial increases.  »

19 Jan 2011

Mahler: Symphony no. 7

Based on performances give between 3 and 5 November 2005 at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, the recent release of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.  »

19 Jan 2011

La Bohème at Covent Garden, 2009

The Royal Opera at Covent Garden has hit on a way to revitalize a vintage production — hire a fresh cast of virtually unknown singers.  »

18 Jan 2011

Mahler: Symphony No. 3.

A recent addition to Valery Gergiev’s Mahler cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra, the SACD recording of the Third Symphony has much to recommend.  »

11 Jan 2011

Simon Boccanegra, Bologna 2007

This beautifully realized production of Verdi’s somber masterpiece of political intrigue and father/daughter reconciliation could be a complete success except for one missing element — memorable singing.  »

09 Jan 2011

King Roger at Bregenz Festival 2009

Long-dormant operas sometimes rise to meet a new dawn only to then slink away like the creatures of the night they were doomed to be — seductive but dangerous to approach.  »

07 Jan 2011

Rienzi on DVD

Wagner and Verdi were born within 6 months of each other. Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen comes from 1840, and could in some ways be Wagner’s Simon Boccanegra. »

31 Dec 2010

Aida at Bregenz Festival 2009

Some years ago a witty soul coined the term “jumping the shark” to identify the point at which any long-running television program had exploited all its innate story/character development possibilities and had to resort to ridiculous plot contrivances and spectacle to keep the episodes — and paychecks — coming.  »

31 Dec 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro Regio Torino 2009

The Royal Opera at Covent Garden just made something of a splash in international opera news with a star-encrusted revival of an opera once quite popular and yet in recent years — Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur.  »

28 Dec 2010

Mozart at Salzburg Festival: Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte

Once a preserve of opulent traditional productions, the summer Salzburg Festival has become a destination for viewing more cutting edge stagings.  »

27 Dec 2010

100 Best Verdi from EMI Classics

New recordings of classical music don’t appear from the “big labels” very often these days, but those companies have enormous libraries from which to extract selections for compilation discs.  »

12 Dec 2010

Johann Adolph Hasse: Antonio e Cleopatra

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) was arguably the most successful opera composer of the 18th century. Together with his favourite librettist, Pietro Metastasio, Hasse defined the genre of opera seria for an entire generation. »

01 Dec 2010

Philip Glass: Itaipu and Three Songs for choir a cappella

Philip Glass has achieved a level of success that places him in a very select group of composers of serious music.  »

18 Nov 2010

Karita Mattila: Helsinki Recital

Ondine provides a nice bonus for fans of Karita Mattila in its recent DVD release of a 2006 Helsinki recital with accompanist Martin Katz.  »