Elsewhere

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.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

A culinary coupling from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

What a treat the London Music Conservatoires serve up for opera-goers each season. After the Royal Academy’s Bizet double-bill of Le docteur Miracle and La tragédie de Carmen, and in advance of the Royal College’s forthcoming pairing of Huw Watkins’ new opera, In the Locked Room, based on a short story by Thomas Hardy, and The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have delivered a culinary coupling of Paul Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner and Sir Lennox Berkeley’s The Dinner Engagement which the Conservatoire last presented for our delectation in November 2006.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

Feverish love at Opera Holland Park: a fine La traviata opens the 2018 season

If there were any doubts that it was soon to be curtains for Verdi’s titular, tubercular heroine then the tortured gasps of laboured, languishing breath which preceded Rodula Gaitanou’s new production of La traviata for Opera Holland Park would have swiftly served to dispel them.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.


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BLACK OPERA: HISTORY, POWER, ENGAGEMENT

 

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From the University of Illinois Press:

From classic films like Carmen Jones to contemporary works like The Diary of Sally Hemmings and U-Carmen eKhayelitsa, American and South African artists and composers have used opera to reclaim black people's place in history.

Naomi André draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore this music's resonance with today's listeners. Interacting with creators and performers, as well as with the works themselves, André reveals how black opera unearths suppressed truths. These truths provoke complex, if uncomfortable, reconsideration of racial, gender, sexual, and other oppressive ideologies. Opera, in turn, operates as a cultural and political force that employs an immense, transformative power to represent or even liberate.

Viewing opera as a fertile site for critical inquiry, political activism, and social change, Black Opera lays the foundation for innovative new approaches to applied scholarship.


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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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