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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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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.  »

11 Nov 2010

El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas

Our modern globalized perspective makes us alert to the cultural richness of difference, much as it ironically also seems to blur distinctions with ease of access.  »

10 Nov 2010

Mahler: The Complete Works

The commemorate the sesquicentennial of Mahler’s birth in 1860, EMI has released an exceptional set of its recordings in a single box.  »

08 Nov 2010

Jessye Norman — Roots: My Life, My Song

A career of the highest stature earns the professional the right to do as she or he pleases, after decades of dedicated achievement.  »

29 Oct 2010

Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder, Preludes and Overtures

A great vintage Mercury album of Antal Dorati conducting Wagner overtures and preludes featured as a cover a close-up of a medieval chalice, undoubtedly meant to reference the Parsifal excerpt on the enclosed disc.  »

24 Oct 2010

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991

The 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center is just a few years away, so, with something less than dispatch, a DVD of the 25th anniversary Gala appears.  »

24 Oct 2010

Kirsten Flagstad sings Wagner & Strauss

Kirsten Flagstad’s voice remains connected to the music of Richard Wagner through the recordings that continue to bring her performances to new audiences.  »

17 Oct 2010

Haendel: Water Music; Music for The Royal Fireworks

The “popular” Handel is firmly entrenched in the collective culture with a handful of pieces: the Christmas portion of Messiah, the “Largo” from Serse (in fact, “Larghetto,” but collective culture is hard to convince), and instrumental suites of the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks come immediately to mind.  »

10 Oct 2010

Anonymous 4: The Cherry Tree

In the popular view, the modern celebration of Christmas seems to have begun with Charles Dickens’s revivifying A Christmas Carol (1843). »

10 Oct 2010

Rossini’s Otello at Rossini in Wildbad Festival, 2008

As good a performance of Rossini’s opera as this disc provides, for some equal entertainment value may potentially arise from the booklet essay by one Bernd-Rüdiger Kern (as translated into English by David Stevens).  »

10 Oct 2010

Schumann: The Complete Symphonies, Mahler Edition

Mahler’s well-known revisions of music he conducted include the four symphonies by Robert Schumann, and while these Retuschen have been performed from time to time, a recording of all four of them is now available from Decca.  »

06 Oct 2010

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 5

Based on performances given on 18 and 21 October 2008 and 16 and 17 January 2009, this recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra offers its latest release of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a work associated with the group since the composer’s lifetime.  »

19 Sep 2010

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Vocally impressive, Michael Tilson Thomas’s new recording of Gustav Mahler’s symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde merits attention for various reasons.  »

14 Sep 2010

The Rake’s Progress at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie

At some point it became a matter of honor for elite composers to have at least one go at a full length opera.  »

12 Sep 2010

Julius Röntgen: Aus Goethes Faust.

The release of Röntgen’s Faust setting on CPO makes available a recording of yet another composer’s perspective on Goethe’s famous dramatic poem.  »

07 Sep 2010

Diana Damrau in Recital at Salzburg Festival

Recorded live on 13 August 2005, this recent release on the Orfeo label in its Festspiel Dokumente imprint makes available a recital given by soprano Diana Damrau and pianist Stephan Matthias Lademann during the 2005 Salzburg Festival and given at the Mozarteum.  »

30 Aug 2010

Puccini’s Edgar at the Teatro Regio Torino

A world premiere of a new opera holds the promise of an exciting new addition to the fairly calcified collection of masterpieces that comprise the standard repertory.  »

29 Aug 2010

Brahms: Lieder

Like her impressive recording of Lieder by Dvořák (Harmonia Mundi CD 901824), Bernarda Fink’s recording of a selection of Lieder by Brahms not only offers a fine representation of the music, but also demonstrate the singer’s command of this repertoire.  »

29 Aug 2010

David McVicar’s Salome

This high-concept Salome takes place in Nazi Germany.The set has two levels: on top, Herod revels with the banqueters; below, we see a dingy basement, full of kitchen workers, relaxed soldiers, and the prostitutes who help them relax.  »

24 Aug 2010

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7.

Sibelius’s 1892 symphonic poem for soloists, chorus, and orchestra is in the tradition of the cantata-like symphonies of the nineteenth century, as found in Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang or Mahler’s Second Symphony.  »

24 Aug 2010

Lulu at Covent Garden

One of the leading lights of Berg’s Vienna was the architect Adolf Loos, the great crusader against ornament.  »

24 Aug 2010

Un ballo in maschera at the Teatro Real

The greatest dramatic tenor and soprano roles have proven irresistible to Marcelo Alvarez, who started primarily as a lyric tenor, and Violeta Urmana, whose first career success came as a mezzo.  »

18 Aug 2010

Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuth 2009

As the prelude plays, we see circles of fluorescent light moving slowly in uncertain black space. Are we seeing flights of flying saucers, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  »

18 Aug 2010

Schumann’s Genoveva

Robert Schumann’s only opera Genoveva (1850) is best known as a failure in its time and has since fallen into the list of succès d’estime, but with this new release, based on a production intended for television, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt champions the work in his second recording of the score.  »

15 Aug 2010

Marco Polo at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam

Does this Tan Dun opera prove or disprove that for East and West, the twain shall never meet?  »

22 Jul 2010

The Adventures of Pinocchio

The operas of British composer Jonathan Dove enjoy a fairly high level of both critical and popular support in the U.K., where his best known work, Flight, premiered at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival.  »

15 Jul 2010

Dialogues des Carmélites from Hamburg

Poulenc’s only full-length opera is widely admired and not infrequently performed, but its claustral nature makes it tricky to stage. »

14 Jul 2010

The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne on Blu-Ray

This Glyndebourne production is, as far as I know, the first recording of any semi-opera that manages to impart a strong sense of what this peculiar, and peculiarly British, genre is like.  »

13 Jul 2010

Parsifal on Blu-Ray

In 1881 Wagner and his wife were discussing the myth of Eros and Anteros, and Wagner remarked, “Anteros is Parsifal.” Wagner considered Parsifal a figure opposed to sexual love, Eros’s opposite.  »

27 Jun 2010

Massenet's Thaïs at Teatro Regio Torino

What sort of production would be optimal for an opera that with more style than content? »

18 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Götterdämmerung

Recorded in May and June 2008, this new Unitel Classica Blu-Ray disc of Götterdämmerung is the final opera in the staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen staged at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, by La Fura dels Baus, Valencia, conducted by Zubin Mehta, and directed by Carlus Padrissa.  »

18 Jun 2010

Verdi's Falstaff at The Metropolitan Opera, 1992

A Franco Zeffirelli production for The Metropolitan Opera typically prompts the use of adjectives such as “grandiose,” or “gorgeous” on the positive end or “gaudy” and “gratuitous” on the negative.  »

09 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Siegfried.

Siegfried is a challenging opera to stage effectively, and the presentation by La Fura dels Baus in Zubin Mehta’s new Ring cycle merits attention on various counts.  »

27 May 2010

Valencia Ring: Die Walküre

The second of Zubin Mehta’s new Ring cycle on DVD, the staging of Die Walküre by La Fura dels Baus, is as engaging as the production of Das Rheingold in its innovative presentation and effective performance of one of Wagner’s most popular operas.  »

20 May 2010

Great Operatic Arias with Gerald Finley

Listeners who have appreciated Gerald Finley’s stylish and moving singing of baritone roles in operas by Mozart and other composers will be pleased with the recent CD release of Great Operatic Arias in English. »

18 May 2010

Bellini's Norma at Gran Teatre del Liceu

Some fortunate operas have any number of fine live versions available on DVD.  »

17 May 2010

Valencia Ring: Das Rheingold

Recorded live at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, this new video of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold is based on the staging of La Fura dels Baus, with Carlus Padrissa, stage director, and featuring an international cast conducted by Zubin Mehta.  »

20 Apr 2010

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk on Blu-Ray

Previously released on DVD, the Netherlands Opera recording of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk  »

20 Apr 2010

Aaron Copland's score for The City

This disc neatly captures a central dichotomy of the career of composer Aaron Copland.  »

19 Apr 2010

Tosca at Torre del Lago, 2007

Opera festival DVDs often seem to be produced as tempting advertisements meant to induce viewers to consider a trip to that festival for the next season.  »

11 Apr 2010

Covert resistance to Hitler — Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus

An anti-facist, anti-war opera written in Germany while the Nazis were in power? K A Hartmann’s Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend was a brave act of conscience, even though the opera wasn't publicly performed until 1948. »

03 Apr 2010

Verdi’s Falstaff (Glyndebourne 2009) on Blu-Ray

Much of the fascination of the new DVD of Verdi’s Falstaff (Glyndebourne 2009) lies in the Richard Jones’s updating: the action takes place in 1946.  »

01 Apr 2010

Otello (Salzburg Festival 2008) on Blu-Ray

There are two reasons why you need to see the new Otello DVD (Salzburg Festival 2008).  »

29 Mar 2010

Madama Butterfly, NYCO

Once again, as in L’Etoile, Mark Lamos’s staging and Robert Wierzel’s lighting nearly steal the show in the City Opera’s revival of Madama Butterfly.  »

27 Mar 2010

Harrison Birtwistle: The Minotaur

Premiered on 15 April 2008, The Minotaur is Harrison Birtwistle’s latest opera, and it stands well with the composer’s other stage work.  »

25 Mar 2010

Eva Marton in Puccini and Strauss

At one point in her career, Eva Marton appeared poised to be the true inheritor of Birgit Nilsson’s legacy roles: Wagner and Strauss’s most dramatic heroines, as well as key Italian roles (Puccini in particular).  »