On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.
English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.
It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).
There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.
In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.
Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.
On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.
The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.
Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.
The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings
On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!
"Although there are now more people on this planet than there have ever been before, there are fewer dramatic voices. Something is wrong with that equation. I thought there needs to be some sort of helping hand so that dramatic voices don’t fall through the cracks in the system as they advance through their various stages of development."
At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
Ossia Il barbiere di Siviglia. Why waste a good tune.
By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.
In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.
Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?
By Tom Huizenga [NPR Music]
Musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen once quipped: "The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition." But it's tough to see much gloom when faced with the diversity of premieres and provocative programming around the country in the 2014-2015 season.
By Amelia Glaser [2 September 2014, The Calvert Journal]
This year, Russia has revelled in grand demonstrations. If Sochi’s opening ceremony is now a distant memory, the annexation of Crimea has offered a theme for mass spectacle to rival those of the Soviet Union. The Night Wolves motorcycle club (Russia’s Hells Angels) recently hosted their annual bike show in Sevastopol in Crimea, dedicated to the defenders of the fatherland from 1941 to 2014. Poems celebrating Russia’s historical struggle for Crimea were interspersed with black-clad “fascists” dancing to soundbites from Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. President Vladimir Putin sent a greeting; Steven Seagal made an appearance. These larger-than-life images of a triumphant fatherland, venerated leader and glorious history suggested a new return to Socialist Realism, albeit with a post-socialist twist.
By Alex Ross [8 September 2014, The New Yorker]
Recently, while moving my CD collection to new shelving, I struggled with feelings of obsolescence and futility. Why bother with space-devouring, planet-harming plastic objects when so much music can be had at the touch of a trackpad—on Spotify, Pandora, Beats Music, and other streaming services that rain sonic data from the virtual entity known as the Cloud?
By David Ng [31 August 2014, LA Times]
The winners of the 2014 Operalia competition were announced Saturday evening at the conclusion of the finals competition held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Tenor Mario Chang from Guatemala and soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen of the U.S. took home the two first-place prizes.
By Andrew Clements [31 August 2014, The Guardian]
Heiner Goebbels has been a regular visitor to the Edinburgh festival since the 1990s; a succession of his unique music-theatre hybrids, from Black on White in 1997 onwards, have had their British premieres there. But his latest visit was the most extraordinary yet - the staging of Delusion of the Fury, Harry Partch's only completed opera, which Goebbels created last year with Ensemble musikFabrik as part of his three-year directorship of the Ruhrtriennale.
By Tom Service [6 August 2014, The Guardian]
Some aperçus and soupçons based on those of Paul Morley, with whom I was talking recently for a film I’m making for BBC4 on Mozart. As well as Paul’s Mozartian epiphany - thanks to a darkened room and a Google-lottery of K numbers, but you’ll have to wait until the autumn for more on that - Morley suggested something that got me thinking: that today’s era of technological fluidity, flexibility, and almost-instant access to an entire world of musical possibility suits classical musical culture better, potentially, than it does rock and pop.
[The Telegraph, 5 August 2014]
Opera star Christiane Karg took the old saying "the show must go on" to painful extremes recently when she completed a performance with a broken leg.
By Mark Lowry [TheaterJones, 20 June 2014]
The Dallas Opera's previously announced world premiere of Great Scott in 2015 will now be co-produced with the recently saved San Diego Opera.
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New York, NY (June 17, 2014 ) — After an outpouring of concern that its plans to transmit John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer might be used to fan global anti-Semitism, the Metropolitan Opera announced the decision today to cancel its Live in HD transmission, scheduled for November 15, 2014. The opera, which premiered in 1991, is about the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the murder of one of its Jewish passengers, Leon Klinghoffer, at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.
“I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic,” said the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb. “But I’ve also become convinced that there is genuine concern in the international Jewish community that the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.” The final decision was made after a series of discussions between Mr. Gelb and Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, representing the wishes of the Klinghoffer daughters.
In recent seasons, the Metropolitan Opera has championed contemporary operatic masterpieces as part of its ongoing efforts to keep opera artistically current. Previously, the Met has presented John Adams’s other two major operas, Doctor Atomic (in 2008) and Nixon in China (in 2011). “John Adams is one of America’s greatest composers and The Death of Klinghoffer is one of his greatest works,” said Gelb. The Met will go forward with its stage presentation of The Death of Klinghoffer in its scheduled run of eight performances from October 20 to November 15. In deference to the daughters of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, the Met has agreed to include a message from them both in the Met’s Playbill and on its website.
In recent years, The Death of Klinghoffer has been presented without incident at The Juilliard School (2009), the Opera Theatre of St. Louis (2011), and as recently as this March in Long Beach, California. The Met’s new production was first seen in London at the English National Opera in 2012, and received widespread critical acclaim.
By Michael Cooper [NY Times, 11 June 2014]
Nothing about Wagner’s epic “Ring” cycle is small in scale, but when a would-be impresario came up with the idea of staging it in West Hartford, Conn., he envisioned replacing its massive orchestral forces with the digital sounds of sampled instruments.
By John Suchet [Classic FM, 11 June 2014]
I love opera, but sometimes even the thought of going to see it is nerve-wracking. Are the tickets going to bankrupt me? Do I have to dress up? And how much will I actually see (if I am up in the gods will the action be too far away and if I use those little binoculars, will I be able to read the surtitles)? In short: is it worth the hassle?
In 2014, American baritone Thomas Hampson celebrates Richard Strauss’ 150th anniversary.