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Elsewhere

Cave: a new opera by Tansy Davies and Nick Drake

Opera seems to travel far from the opera house these days. Alongside numerous productions in community spaces and pub theatres, in the last few years I’ve enjoyed productions staged on the shingle shore of Aldeburgh beach, at the bottom of the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe, and in a renovated warehouse in Shoreditch on the roof of which perch four ‘creative studios’ in the form of recycled Jubilee line train carriages and shipping containers.

Götterdämmerung in San Francisco

The truly tragic moments of this long history rich in humanity behind us we embark on the sordid tale of the Lord of the Gibichungs’s marriage to Brünnhilde and the cowardly murder of Siegfried, to arrive at some sort of conclusion where Brünnhilde sacrifices herself to somehow empower women. Or something.

Siegfried in San Francisco

We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.

Boris Godunov in San Francisco

Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles.

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

09 Jun 2018

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. »

Recently in Recordings

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24 Mar 2012

Lucia and the glass harmonica

Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.  »

19 Mar 2012

Levine conducts at the Metropolitan Opera: 1978 to 2006

Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.  »

12 Mar 2012

Netrebko and Garanča in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena

The cinema world has given us “star vehicle,” a term used to describe a movie that may not have the best script or direction but which suits a popular actor’s persona so well the film can fairly be called a successful entertainment.  »

04 Mar 2012

Previn conducts the LSO in the 1970s

André Previn’s leadership of the London Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970s resulted in some highly regarded recordings, including one of the classic accounts of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony.  »

01 Mar 2012

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

A perennial favorite among opera enthusiasts since its 1871 premiere in Cairo, Aida remains a popular work, and its strengths are apparent in the recent Decca DVD from the Metropolitan Opera, New York.  »

27 Feb 2012

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Based on performances given on 2 and 3 March 2011 (at the Barbican, London), Valery Gergiev’s recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is an engaging and persuasive reading of the score.  »

24 Feb 2012

Fleming in Strauss’s Capriccio

Is there somewhere in Italian opera repertory where, as a comic interlude, the portentous clichés of German opera come in for a skewering amid the luscious sunshine of Italianate lyricism?  »

24 Feb 2012

Michael Spyres — A Fool for Love

Tenor Michael Spyres’ star is on the rise and his highly enjoyable debut recital disc offers ample proof as to why. »

16 Feb 2012

Pountney directs Verdi’s Forza for Vienna

One of the guiding principles of the revisionist (if not intervisionist) school of opera directing commonly called “regie-theater” is that certain outdated dramatic conventions in the librettos of many great operas can actually interfere with a contemporary audience’s ability to perceive the true artistic worth of the work of art.  »

08 Feb 2012

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Recorded on 14 June 1964 at the Großer Saal of the Musikverein, Vienna, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, this legendary performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was released in 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon.  »

08 Feb 2012

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 4

If Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is arguably one of his more familiar pieces, live performances of the work can vary depending on the abilities of the performers to meet the various challenges of the piece.  »

02 Feb 2012

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Released in 2011, this disc reproduces a performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde that was recorded on 10 November 1989 at the Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice [Poland].  »

28 Dec 2011

Leoncavallo’s I Medici

Ruggero Leoncavallo’s name is forever tied to that of Pietro Mascagni.  »

28 Dec 2011

“‘I Heard a Voice’: the Music of the Golden Age”

In contrast to much music-making on the continent, English composers born in the last quarter of the sixteenth century seem to have embraced a notable degree of stylistic continuity.  »

28 Dec 2011

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina e la Compagnia dei Musici di Roma, Messa di Santa Cecilia

Homage could take diverse forms in Counter-Reformation Rome, and this excellent recording by ensemble officium, Messa di Santa Cecilia, focuses on a particular instance that was interestingly polyvalent.  »

22 Dec 2011

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Cantatas

In Wilhelm Weitsch’s well-known painting of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the eldest son of Johann Sebastian seems far distant from the cantorial world of his father.  »

19 Dec 2011

Operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau, an organist and music theoretician, was active for much of his life in musical centers distant from the cultural juggernaut of Paris.  »

19 Dec 2011

San Marco in Hamburg: Motets by Hieronymus Praetorius

In the first part of the seventeenth century, the north German city of Hamburg spawned an unusually rich organ culture, with Jacob Praetorius, the younger, and Heinrich Scheidemann both pupils of the famous Dutch organist, Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, as leading figures.  »

18 Dec 2011

“A Year at King’s”

This recent recording of the men and boys from King’s College, Cambridge, is an anthology organized around the texts and themes of the liturgical year, a scheme that offers ample opportunity for diverse works—in that sense the recording feels something like a “sampler”—but a scheme that also reflects the real experience of the daily life of the choir which sings demanding choral services six days of the week in term time.  »

16 Dec 2011

Randal Turner Sings the Songs of Living American Composers

A self-published recording, baritone Randal Turner’s traversal of contemporary songs in English, Living American Composers, makes for a fine vocal calling card.  »

13 Dec 2011

Call Her Flott — Felicity Lott sings in English

Soprano Felicity Lott has concentrated her career in her UK homeland and in Europe, although she certainly has had her share of US appearances.  »

05 Dec 2011

Anne Sofie von Otter and Brad Mehldau: Love Songs

Brad Mehldau seems to be the “go to” jazz pianist for classically trained singers who want to venture into other musical territory than opera and lieder.  »

13 Nov 2011

Jonas Kaufmann as Werther and Cavaradossi

For some years now the opera world has reveled in the appearance of many fine lyric tenors, with Juan Diego Florez leading the charge.  »

09 Nov 2011

David Alden directs Cavalli’s Ercole Amante for Amsterdam, 2009

The operas of a composer born before the settlement of Jamestown face dim prospects of getting staged at the larger American houses.  »

05 Nov 2011

Lieberson’s Neruda Songs and Theofandis’s Symphony No. 1

In 2006 classical music lost one of its great singers — American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, taken at the height of her career.  »

27 Oct 2011

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Exactly what makes this entertaining, handsome video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming in concert an “odyssey”?  »

27 Oct 2011

Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera

Luciano Pavarotti died in September 2007, just short of his 72nd birthday and only a few years after his last performance at the Metropolitan Opera, in Tosca.  »

27 Oct 2011

Carmen returns to the Opéra Comique

“Historically Informed Performance” sure has a nice ring — not only does the acronym capture the trendiness of the movement (“HIP”), but one has to admire the subtle put-down the term encapsulates. »

12 Oct 2011

Simon Rattle’s Mahler 9

Recorded between 24 and 27 October 2008 at the Philhamonie in Berlin, this release offers the dynamism of a concert performance with the sound quality associated with EMI’s fine recordings.  »

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…”  »