The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Boesch and Martineau Schubert Complete Songs, Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert Songs series of 40 concerts began with a recital by Florian Boesch and Graham Johnson. (Read my review here). If anything, though, the second concert, where Boesch was accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, was even better. The programme was beautifully planned, and the performance exceptional, even by the very high standards of the Wigmore Hall.

Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - ENO London

It took artistic courage to choose Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtensk to start the ENO's 2015-2016 season. Shostakovich isn't an easy sell, and so full of sex and violence that some minds - like Josef Stalin - would be aghast. But Mark Wigglesworth is passionate about Shostakovich , and as new Music Director of the ENO, he's making a point. Good opera needs artistic vision.

Berg Wozzeck Fabio Luisi Zurich Opera

Zurich Opera brought Alban Berg Wozzeck to the Royal Festival Hall, London . Fabio Luisi conducted Philharmonia Zurich and a very good cast in a concert performance. With all pretence at staging removed (apart from natural good acting) we could focus on the sheer musical audacity of Berg's writing, and pick up on the processes the music employs to create the drama.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Sondra Radvanovsky Stars in the Title Role of Anna Bolena

The First of Three Donizetti Queens She Will Sing at the Met This Season

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.


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Welsh National Opera explores Madness for autumn season

Madness descends upon Welsh National Opera for its autumn 2015 season, with three new productions that will explore human turmoil through some of the finest musical expressions of madness and the human condition.

The season launches WNO’s 70th birthday year which will see the company stage seven new productions over the course of the year — including two world premières — and a classic revival.

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New Releases from Opera Rara

This month, Opera Rara embark on back-to-back recording projects — Donizetti’s Le duc d’Albe and Gounod’s La Colombe — with their Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder conducting the Hallé. Following last year’s release of Donizetti’s Rita which marked the company’s 50th complete opera recording to date, this is Opera Rara’s second collaboration with the Hallé. La Colombe will be released in November while Le duc d’Albe will be available next spring.

Click here for more information.

A Time-Out With Isabel Leonard: In 'L'Heure Espagnole' at San Francisco Symphony

By Sean Martinfield [Huffington Post, 2 June 2015]

Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard appears with conductor Charles Dutoit and the San Francisco Symphony this week in Ravel's one-act comic opera, L'Heure espagnole. (The Spanish Hour). The program opens with Ravel's brief "morning song," Alborado del gracioso and concludes with Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain featuring pianist Javier Perianes. The opera (not quite an hour) also features tenors Jean Paul Fouchécourt and John Mark Ainsley, along with baritones Jean-Luc Ballestra and David Wilson-Johnson. Isabel sings the role of Concepion, a clockmaker's wife with way-too-much time on her hands. And with three potential lovers in the shop - two of them hidden in tall standing clocks - each counting the minutes until her buffoon of a husband returns, Isabel says, "She's hysterical! A woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown."

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On Site Opera Presents 'Barber of Seville' at Fabbri Mansion on New York’s Upper East Side

By K. Young [Classicalite, 31 May 2015]

This summer, On Site Opera (OSO) will present a new production that personifies the company's mission to produce operas in non-traditional locations ideally suited to the stories they tell. This June (9-13), OSO will stage a site-specific production of The Barber of Seville at the opulent Fabbri Mansion (House of the Redeemer) on New York City's Upper East Side.

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Il Trittico: Puccini's most underrated opera

By Rupert Christiansen [The Telegraph, 29 May 2015]

La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly - and oh yes, “the one with ‘Nessun dorma’ in it”, Turandot - make Puccini the world’s most popular opera composer, and one who earns ever more admiration as a musical dramatist and expressive melodist. Is there still some residual snobbery about his genius? Thirty years ago, I remember being shocked to hear William Walton confess in a television interview that in old age, he had come to love Puccini’s music even more than Verdi’s. Now I begin to sympathise.

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Metropolitan Opera Stars Join Opera Las Vegas in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

Four stars of the Metropolitan Opera will headline the Opera Las Vegas fully-staged, live orchestra production of Puccini’s tragic love story Madama Butterfly at Judy Bayley Theatre on the UNLV campus on June 12th and 14th.

Click here for additional information.

Lowering the tone

By Laura Battle [FT, 8 May 2015]

Given the enormous enthusiasm for countertenors and, increasingly, male sopranos that has flourished in recent decades, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the female vocal range. Of course, the trend has been largely dictated by the range of available repertoire. Opera companies and period ensembles, keen to emulate the sound of 17th- and 18th-century castrati, are now spoilt for choice of high male voices. Over the same period of time, true contraltos, considered by many to mark the lower limits of the female vocal range, appear to have all but disappeared.

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The Rake’s Progress, Metropolitan Opera, New York

By Martin Bernheimer [FT, 4 May 2015]

The Met season is gasping to a close, but the final major gasp — a revival of The Rake’s Progress — offers some degree of exhilaration.

Only “some degree”? Blame the qualification on the size of the house. Stravinsky’s quixotic faux-baroque masterpiece had its premiere, back in 1951, at La Fenice in Venice (with none less than Elisabeth Schwarzkopf heading the cast). At the time, the capacity of that theatre was 840. The all-too-mighty Met accommodates 4,000. Enough said, and, alas, enough badly heard.

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Three Tales, Imax Cinema, Science Museum, London

By David Cheal [FT, 24 April 2015]

Steve Reich and Beryl Korot tackle hubris with 2002 ‘video opera’ about science and technology

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Die beste hochdramatische Sopranistin der Gegenwart

By Manuel Brug [Die Welt]

Sie entäußert sich auf der Bühne, gibt perfekt eine vollkommen gestörte Frau, die moderne Mörderin: Die Schwedin Nina Stemme ist die ideale Heroine. Zu Hause mag sie das komplette Gegenteil.

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“Tarquin” an der Berliner Staatsoper: Vom Werden eines Diktators

By Benedikt von Bernstorff [Der Tagesspiegel]

Ernst Krenek hat seine Kammeroper „Tarquin“ 1940 im US-Exil geschrieben, nach der Uraufführung 1950 präsentiert die Werkstatt der Staatsoper im Schillertheater erst die dritte Produktion des Werks. Dabei beweist Krenek, dass sich mit der Zwölftontechnik der Schönberg-Schule effektvolles Musiktheater schreiben lässt. Die Partitur ist für zwei Klaviere, Geige, Klarinette, Trompete und Schlagzeug instrumentiert, die musikalische Dramaturgie suggestiv, tonale Anklänge und ein leitmotivisch eingesetztes Thema mit Sehnsuchtsintervall und Rosenkavalier-Appeal erleichtern den Zugang.

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Moses und Aron, Komische Oper Berlin

By Shirley Apthorp [FT, 21 April 2015]

Holocaust references are a delicate matter on any stage, but a defensible choice in a production of Arnold Schoenberg’s monolithic Moses und Aron. Here, the mountain that Moses descends is a vast pile of Jewish corpses.

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Death Clown for Cutie (Cav and Pag at the Met)

By Micaela [Likely Impossibilities, 19 April 2015]

Men are sensitive and easily injured souls, as ten minutes in any internet comment section would tell you. Such is also the gist of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, the august double bill of verismo which presents us twice with the even more august situation of baritones interfering with soprano-tenor relationships and it all getting very bloody. In the Met's new production, Fabio Luisi makes these high octane scores sound quite classy, but otherwise the two diverge: a dreary, clunky Cav is followed by a fun and punchy Pag. Oh, one other thing in common: for better and for worse, Marcelo Alvarez is the tenor. I shouldn't be putting that last, which might give you an idea of what is going on here.

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A broken heart in a bloodstained nightgown

By Phillip Larrimore [14 April 2015, The Charlotte Observer]

Opera Carolina’s production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Belk Theater is elegantly set, handsomely lit, fleetly conducted, and sung with high virtuosity, especially among the principals.

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Voices in space: Meredith Monk & friends construct musical cathedrals at 50-year anniversary concert

By Rebecca Lentjes [bachtrack, 5 April 2015]

“The rhythm of words takes away from my sense of rhythm,” Meredith Monk explained after a riveting performance of her piece Things Heaven and Hell by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. The third part of Ms. Monk’s 1992 work Three Heavens and Hells, this piece was one of only a handful to incorporate real words in the entirety of the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall last weekend.

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Beyond Falstaff in ‘Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor’: Otto Nicolai’s Revolutionary ‘Wives’

By John R Severn [Music & Letters, February 2015]

This article explores how Otto Nicolai and Salomon Hermann von Mosenthal’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Berlin, 1849) might contribute to an alternative reception history of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which the play’s unusual features—in particular the central role it gives to female agency, family life, and the natural world—are positively valued.

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Scheherazade.2: Violin, cimbalom and female empowerment star in John Adams’ new work

By Rebecca Lentjes [Bachtrack, 28 March 2015]

John Adams has been known to draw inspiration from American writers—Walt Whitman, E. Annie Proulx—for his works, but his most recent composition, Scheherazade.2, is presented as a musical sequel of sorts to the sprawling Middle Eastern collection One Thousand and One Nights. Mr Adams explained at the piece’s world première on Thursday…

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