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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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25 Feb 2005

BYRD: Consort Songs

This CD collaboration between the early music viol ensemble Fretwork and vocalist Emma Kirkby is devoted to songs of William Byrd composed in the vernacular to be sung with string accompaniment; interspersed with these is a selection of short instrumental pieces in various genres. As a composer whose work was associated especially with the English Catholics, many of Byrd’s compositions from the last quarter of the sixteenth century were based on sacred Latin texts. The less familiar English consort songs chosen for this recording represent a mix of both secular and religious themes. Topics in the song texts include the constancy of Penelope, the narrative of a pet dog who meets an unexpected end, an elegy on Sir Philip Sidney, and the execution of Mary Stuart as bound up with the vicissitudes of Fortune in this world. This selection is further balanced by vernacular songs of an overtly religious character focusing on topics such as the vanity of earthly pleasure and possessions, the Nativity, and a lengthy prayer for divine grace. Finally, some of the song texts draw on a thematic complex of both sacred and profane. »

22 Feb 2005

CAVALLI: Arias and Duets from 5 operas

Some years ago, those of us who are aficionados of pre-1750 repertory – and all the more so, those of us who are privileged to be able to teach it – were happy to have any recording of the music we hold so dear. We were happy to excuse wooden-ness or sloppiness of performance because, well, some idea of the sound of pre-Classical repertories was better than none at all. Over the last couple of decades, with the proliferation of phenomenal performers and ensembles who specialize in early music, this resignation faded: we now are spoiled by having our choice of many polished performances, and the privilege of comparing their relative merits. »

21 Feb 2005

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operettas by Lehár, Suppé, and Strauss

This new disc, from Hänssler’s “Living Voices” series, divides essentially into two parts. The first four tracks are “Potpourris” from Léhar’s Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns, Suppé’s Bocaccio, and Johann Strauss’s Wiener Blut. Recorded in 1939 and 1940, these “Potpourris” feature tenor Rupert Glawitsch and a very young Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (b. 1915). The remaining eight tracks include excerpts from Schwarzkopf’s early-50s EMI complete mono recordings of Die Lustige Witwe and Land das Lächelns. »

21 Feb 2005

CANTELOUBE: Chants d’Auvergne

In the mountains of the vast Auvergne country near the south of France lays the inspiration of Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergne. Marie-Joseph Canteloube, born in 1879 at Annonay, spent his childhood in the countryside of Malaret in the south of Auvergne. It was these roots that instilled his love for folk-music, consuming much of his compositional output and research. He wrote Les chants paysan s’élève bien souvent au niveau de l’art le plus pur, par le sentiment et l’expression, sinon par la forme. (The songs of peasants very often reach the level of the purest art in feeling and expression, if not in form.) »

21 Feb 2005

SALGADO: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo

During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso. »

19 Feb 2005

PENDERECKI: A Polish Requiem

Krzysztof Penderecki’s A Polish Requiem is a monumental work expressing the struggles of 20th century Poland against oppression. Written over the course of several years in the 1980s and 90s, sections of A Polish Requiem memorialize significant events in Poland’s history. The Lacrimosa was written for Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement as a memorial to Gdansk dock-workers who died in a conflict with authorities. The Agnus Dei was composed as a memorial tribute to the Polish religious leader, Cardinal Wyszynski and the Recordare marks the beatification of Father Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life at Auschwitz so that another man and his family could live. In addition, the Dies Irae was written to mark the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis. In its whole, A Polish Requiem is a work of piety as an expression of Penderecki’s devout Catholicism and a conviction of the human ability to triumph over evil. »

14 Feb 2005

SCHUMANN AND BRAHMS: Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden

The CD entitled Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden contains a selection of music by three friends who composed Lieder: Robert Schumann, his wife Clara, and their colleague Johannes Brahms. Their friendship is well known, and this recording is an attempt to pay tribute to what Berner calls “the manifold interactions between this artistic trinity” by presenting music by each of them; the pieces include Robert Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 24, seven Lieder by Clara Schumann, and ten of Brahms’ Deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 33. »

13 Feb 2005

CUI: A Feast in Time of Plague
RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

The new Chandos recordings present Valeri Polyansky and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra in two little-known Russian operas of the early twentieth century, Sergei Rachmaninov’s The Miserly Knight (1905), and César Cui’s A Feast in Time of Plague (1900), the latter recorded for the first time. Each work is a setting of one of Alexander Pushkin’s Little Tragedies (1830), a series of four short plays in blank verse that elaborate on popular literary topics: “Don Juan, or The Stone Guest,” “The Miserly Knight,” “Mozart and Salieri,” and “A Feast in Time of Plague.” Sharply penetrating psychological portraits of people consumed by their obsessions – passion, greed, jealousy, and fear – Pushkin’s “dramatic scenes” have enjoyed a near cult status among the classics of Russian literature over the past 175 years. So has the first attempt to set one of them to music – a radical 1869 word-for-word setting of The Stone Guest by Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-69). Cast almost entirely as a continuous arioso, the work was proclaimed a revolution in operatic style by the Russian Five whose unbridled enthusiasm contributed to its enduring reputation. »

13 Feb 2005

DONIZETTI: L’elisir D’amore

Of today’s opera stars, tenor Rolando Villazón may be the “hottest” (if readers will allow that Entertainment Tonight term). He has gone from being an Operalia winner a few years back to assuming leading roles in the major houses of Europe and the U.S. His second major label recital disc has just been released to even higher praise than his first received, which appeared on many “best of the year lists” for 2004. Wherever he appears, major profiles and interviews appear in the local papers. He’s so hot he may be contributing to global warming. »

11 Feb 2005

LULLY: Les Fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus

Born in Florence, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) came to France in 1646 as an Italian tutor to Louis XIV’s cousin Anne-Marie-Louise d’Orléans. Thanks to her, Lully became acquainted with French music, and got to study with several eminent musicians in Paris. In early 1653, he was asked to play several roles in the spectacular Royal Ballet of the Night. His performances caught the eye of King Louis XIV, who immediately appointed the young musician to the post of “Instrumental Music Composer.” Soon, Lully became Louis XIV’s favorite musician — he was appointed to the post of “Master of Music of the Royal Family” in 1662 — and the most important composer in France. Today, Lully is known primarily as the first major composer of French opera. (Unfortunately, he is also remembered for the way he died. In January 1687, Lully stabbed his foot with a cane that he used to beat time, and he succumbed to infections that resulted from this injury.) »

10 Feb 2005

Il primo dolce affanno… The first sweet pain

True to the intent of its series, Il Salotto, Opera Rara offers in this seventh volume a delightful sampling of art songs from the mid- to late-nineteenth-century repertory. Performing them are sopranos Elisabeth Vidal and Laura Claycomb, mezzo Manuele Custer, tenors Bruce Ford and Willliam Matteuzzi, baritone Roberto Servile, and bass Alastair Miles, accompanied on piano by David Harper. »

10 Feb 2005

BUSNOIS: Missa O Crux lignum, Motets, Chansons

The most recent recording by England’s premier performers of Renaissance vocal music, the Orlando Consort, features a selection of works by the renowned fifteenth-century composer Antoine Busnois, works that represent the major genres of music composition of the time — mass, motet, and chanson. The performances are what we have come to expect from the fine singers of the Orlando Consort: warm, vibrant, and precise. »

07 Feb 2005

MAHLER: Songs

While a number of fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Lieder with orchestral accompaniment have been released in recent years, his songs are also of interest in the versions the composer made for voice and piano. In presenting the songs with piano accompaniment, Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles bring out details that can become apparent only in this setting. Genz is known for his fine recordings of Lieder, include the award-winning CD of Beethoven’s Songs, as well as various recordings of Hugo Wolf’s Lieder (all on Hyperion). In this recording of Mahler’s music, he performs with Vignoles three complete sets of Lieder, that is, the cycles Lieder eines farhrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder, as well as the set of Fünf Rückert-Lieder and, further, seven selections of settings from Mahler’s early publication of Lieder und Gesänge. »

02 Feb 2005

BELLINI: I Capuleti e I Montecchi

Surely the reader of this reviewer is passionate about opera – why else, faithful one, have you found yourself at the fount of information and wisdom knows as Opera Today? Therefore, the need for an outfit such as Premiere Opera need not be belabored – true opera lovers know that there sometimes arises a need to have a performance that cannot easily be obtained, and that need may trump the desire to have the recording, (whether only audio, or visual as well, as in the case of this DVD) be of optimal quality. So what we have here is a performance of April 7, 2002, at the Teatro Cuyas in the lovely Canary Islands. The opera is Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, and the star gracing the stage as the lovely young Capulet is Cristina Gallardo-Domas. Perhaps it is her fans who will be most grateful to Premiere Opera for making available a record of the performance. Not to be slighted, however, is her imposing Romeo, a mezzo/trouser role. Daniela Barcellona is a rising star, and the reasons why are evident here. And Bellini lovers, as your reviewer knows well, are apt to want most any document of the master’s work, as the operas get performances but not as often as his fans might wish. »

30 Jan 2005

A Batallar Estrellas — Music in Spanish Cathedrals of the Seventeenth Century

Interest in the music of “New Spain” (the Spanish colonies in the Americas) has blossomed in the last decade, with a number of fine recordings of sacred music composed by musicians who emigrated to the New World in support of the mission of the Catholic church. A parallel interest in the music of those who stayed in Spain – indeed, who set the tradition that was exported to the Americas – has been slower to build, so this recording is especially welcome, since it provides an opportunity to hear a tradition seldom performed outside of Spain, whether in the Baroque era or in the present. »