Wednesday, July 31, 2019 | This production of Das Rheingold is Grimeborn’s first venture into Wagner, and it is the biggest thing this ever-adventurous festival has crammed into the larger of the Arcola’s studios. The preliminary evening to the Ring Cycle is performed in the reduced version (of score, cast and orchestra) devised by Jonathan Dove in the 1990s...
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 | Since his 2002 appointment as Music Director of the Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Louis Langrée has worked closely with Artistic Director Jane Moss. They have brought fresh thinking and much-needed vigor to this series. This fifty-third season Langrée continues his four-summer exploration of Brahms’s Symphonies along with imaginative inter-connected programming. ... Then Martin Helmchen played K466.
Monday, July 29, 2019 | Of nearly thirty surviving operas by Cavalli, La Calisto (1651) remains, so far, about the only one to have secured a regular place in the repertoire, notwithstanding sporadic outings for Giasone and Hypermestra. Mathilde Lopez’s Longborough production ingeniously demonstrates that this bawdy re-telling of a Classical myth is readily adaptable to the modern age, as the narrative of Jupiter’s seduction of the nymph Calisto (who has vowed to become a virgin follower of the hunter-goddess Diana) is transplanted to a contemporary setting in what appears to be a seedy private club.
Monday, July 29, 2019 | Grimeborn Opera launches its summer season with Alison Thorman’s Violetta, her reduction of Verdi’s La traviata, which also marked Opera Allegra’s debut at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. It runs for ninety minutes straight through, and gives the two leads the chance to showcase their talents in familiar numbers.
Sunday, July 28, 2019 | Playing to a rapt full house, this final concert of the current Wigmore season, a morning affair, proved something of a gold-plated experience. Unsurprisingly, given the four pedigree European players making up the always welcome Chiaroscuro Quartet, getting on now for fifteen years together.
Saturday, July 27, 2019 | Rather than focus so much on the physical, personal transformation of Cinderella (Angelina) from the scruffy servant girl (as she is treated) in Don Magnifico’s household, to princess, via her mysterious appearance, incognito, at the ball, it is the contrast effected by her rags to riches story which remains the abiding idea of Victoria Newlyn’s production of Rossini’s opera.
Saturday, July 27, 2019 | Different summer opera festivals tend to ring the changes imaginatively from each other in terms of repertoire, according to the resources at hand. With its delightful and intimate gardens, West Green has been able to make a worthwhile foray into smaller-scale one-Act stage-works, alongside the main couple of productions offered annually in its larger auditorium. ... Complementing Rossini’s La Cenerentola this year is his earlier farsa L’Inganno Felice...
Friday, July 26, 2019 | St Petersburg rather than Moscow trained, the Siberian pianist and composer Sergey Redkin was joint-bronze medallist at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. A studious, bespectacled young man, given to neither emoting nor posturing, he's an artist of refined finish, inventive resource, and story-telling imagination.
Friday, July 26, 2019 | In his opening remarks, Andrew Manze said this concert was going to be unusual. In fact it was totally original, presenting two familiar works in an unconventional framework. ... Pekka Kuusisto and Knut Erik Sundquist seamlessly interspersed folk-inspired improvisations between each number... ... As varied and enjoyable as this was, The Four Seasons was even more remarkable. Manze’s vivacious conducting and Kuusisto’s affectionate/faultless playing were spectacularly effective...
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | The partnership of Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis is guaranteed to offer fresh perspectives on Lieder repertoire and this Wigmore Hall recital put the focus on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, set so differently by Brahms and Schumann.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | There are song recitals and then there are great song recitals. Sarah Connolly’s final programme in her Wigmore Hall residency, with Malcolm Martineau, exploded into life with a selection of Brahms Lieder exposing the most intimate and humane aspects of the composer’s musical personality.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | What is the difference between Russia and the (for-now) United Kingdom? Not everyone in the UK has read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Russians would have no difficulty in filling in the gaping chasms as the novel morphs into Prokofiev’s opera. David Pountney’s production for Welsh National Opera was first seen in Cardiff in September last year, and this massive, four-hour show touched down for its final two performances in London.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | This first of four Mostly Mozart concerts conducted by Andrew Manze showcased two of Beethoven’s masterworks, opening with an uncommonly gentle reading of the Violin Concerto. Following a superbly rendered orchestral introduction, Vilde Frang made a radiant entry. ... With his highly energetic and totally committed conducting, Manze then delivered a gracefully lyrical account of the ‘Eroica’...
Monday, July 22, 2019 | For its final offering this summer, Opera Holland Park is signing off in style with a slick staging of Wolf-Ferrari’s pro-smoking Susanna’s Secret, capped by a blistering account of Tchaikovsky’s ultimate stage-work, Iolanta.
Sunday, July 21, 2019 | This annual showcase for the singers, musicians and directors on the Jette Parker Young Artists scheme is always fascinating. One can observe these young performers developing their skills and huge potential as they gain experience and mentoring, whilst having tantalising glimpses as to paths where their careers may possibly lead them.
Saturday, July 20, 2019 | Opera Holland Park continues to venture where most summer companies fear to tread – this season's novelty being L'arlesiana, the third (and second most popular) opera by Francesco Cilea whose 1897 premiere confirmed him as a composer second to few of his generation.
Saturday, July 20, 2019 | A lurex and animal-print-clad audience filed into the art-deco glory of the Eventim Apollo. Marc Almond glided onto the stage in a black Nehru suit. He cheerfully welcomed us to a "night of glamour under the flyover", a Talk of the Town show...
Friday, July 19, 2019 | On the evidence of Gli sposi malcontenti (1785), Mozart had a faithful disciple and imitator in Stephen Storace. That is not intended as a slighting or back-handed comment, but rather recognition of the younger composer's achievement. It pre-dates The Marriage of Figaro by a year, and is already a fully-fledged opera buffa, with all the exuberance and dramatic flexibility that entails, paving the way for Mozart's masterworks. Storace's first opera – commissioned by Emperor Joseph II for Vienna's Burgtheater – anticipates Figaro in several respects, particularly in Act Two's escapade around the sofa when Artidoro has to hide from Rosmondo, as Cherubino has to do the same to eschew the irate Count; and also in the Finale where various subterfuges play out in the dark, with characters in disguise, to comic confusion. Indeed it seems likely that the librettist had read Beaumarchais's Figaro play.
Thursday, July 18, 2019 | One of the great joys of the forty-six miniatures that comprise Hugo Wolf’s chameleon Italian Songbook is the huge variety of interpretations that each number can support. This Wigmore Hall recital was a most engaging presentation, largely devoid of grand theatricality or an overarching concept, opting for a relaxed sequence yet providing a satisfying grouping that allowed reactive interplay between the trio of artists.
Thursday, July 18, 2019 | This new production of Die Zauberflöte is extravagantly designed and directed by André Barbe & Renaud Doucet, making their Glyndebourne debut. ... I felt swamped by the over-the-top pantomime/television-inspired concept (MasterChef meets Downton Abbey) which trivialises the creative genius of Mozart and Schikaneder, the narratives on morals, misogyny and power (amongst others) submerged by a constant need to claim attention for clever puppetry that periodically arrests the eye. ... The Grand cru of these performances is Brindley Sherratt as a cavernous Sarastro, a voice of luxurious depth, ‘O Isis und Osiris’ saturated with authority and benevolence.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | This Mostly Mozart performance marked the New York premiere of this highly arresting and well-traveled production of The Magic Flute. Premiered as part of Komische Oper Berlin’s 2012-13 season, it’s a collaboration between Barrie Kosky and the UK theater troupe 1927. Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder envisaged Die Zauberflöte as a theatrical extravaganza full of extraordinary stage effects, and that is precisely what Kosky, Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt deliver.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | It is only in the past couple of years that Elisabeth Leonskaja has made Mozart prominent in her recitals, and apart from a recording with her friend and mentor Sviatoslav Richter of Sonatas arranged for two pianos, Mozart does not figure in her discography. ... You wonder why this seventy-three-year-old Russian-Austrian keyboard aristocrat, with a hotline via Richter to a noble virtuosity reaching back to the nineteenth-century, should take on the Classical style at its most limpid and most cruelly exposed at this stage of her career and then share it with a masterpiece by Alban Berg and a serial creation by Philip Herschkowitz.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019 | Under a Hellenic sun, with indoor temperatures apt for the subject matter (the recent refurbishment of Blackheath Halls didn’t go so far as to install air-conditioning), Blackheath Opera returns in two senses with this new production of Offenbach’s La belle Hélène in honour of the composer’s 200th-anniversary. It was a return to the venue after last year’s sojourn in Deptford; and a return to classical mythology, turning the clock back a generation from last year’s subject, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. From the aftermath of the Trojan War, here we got back to the origins of the War, albeit seen through the humorously skewed vision of Meillac & Halévy but also Jeremy Sams.
Sunday, July 14, 2019 | The Munich Philharmonic's annual open-air summer concert – this year an affair in three flats: C-minor, E-flat – got the crowd going with Beethoven at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. ... Some in this large Munich audience will no doubt have been chancing their first taste of Beethoven. So what did they get? A class orchestra at largely full throttle, cellos and double-basses at left back, Celibidache's characterful former concertmaster, Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici, leading. Daniil Trifonov, bearded pianist of the hour. Valery Gergiev, generalissimo without baton... ... Following a broad, tightly controlled Coriolan – the orchestra full-throated and eloquent, an epic poem unfolded in solemn tragedy – Trifonov strode on, ever so slightly mischievous in manner, to tackle the 'Emperor'.
Saturday, July 13, 2019 | Andris Nelsons began this often-fiery Boston Symphony Verdi Requiem by caressing the Tanglewood Festival Chorus’s quietly enunciated lines in ‘Requiem aeternam’ and the ensuing ‘Te decet hymnus’, only taking up his baton for the ‘Dies irae’, bass drum pounding.
Saturday, July 13, 2019 | Despite holding several prominent positions in Italy and Spain before ending up at the Habsburg Court in Vienna, and writing a number of operas which were often the first to set many important librettos by Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Metastasio before countless other composers turned to them (La clemenza di Tito was one such), Antonio Caldara (1670-1736) has remained very little known. Some of his vast output has been recorded, but the Buxton International Festival continues to fulfil its mission to unearth rare repertoire and provides a welcome opportunity in its fortieth-anniversary year to encounter one of his many operas in the capable hands of Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima.
Friday, July 12, 2019 | This Boston Symphony at Tanglewood concert began with Andris Nelsons leading an atmospheric rendition of Aaron Copland’s Quiet City... ... Jan Lisiecki then gave Grieg’s Piano Concerto a reading capturing the exuberance of the outer movements and the lyricism of the Adagio... ... Following intermission, further Copland, his Third Symphony, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky during World War Two, completed soon after the War ended, and premiered by the BSO in 1946. To reflect the euphoric mood Copland interpolated his Fanfare for the Common Man into the Finale.
Thursday, July 11, 2019 | This is the fourth revival of Laurent Pelly’s engaging 2007 production of Donizetti’s fizzing comic opera, which has much to offer. True, the plot is a little flimsy, the end a bit peremptory and some of the humour obvious, but Donizetti’s score enchants because of its deft mix of bravura arias and ensembles that allow great (and they need to be great) bel canto singers to dazzle and enthral contrasting with passages of surprising seriousness, heart and pathos.
Thursday, July 11, 2019 | Martin Constantine’s rampant production of Don Giovanni seizes political correctness by the throat and casts it aside. That’s not to suggest we shouldn’t be repelled by the Don’s attempts at rape and murder, and serial abuses, but Constantine fully underlines Mozart’s Dramma giocoso element in thick marker pen and allows us to laugh at this predatory character brimming with testosterone.
Saturday, July 06, 2019 | This Boston Symphony at Tanglewood concert began with the first of Joan Tower’s six (so far) Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman. ... This concert was planned to mark the ninetieth-birthday of André Previn, but he passed away in February (announced by the LSO). Anne-Sophie Mutter gave an impassioned reading of the forty-minute Violin Concerto Previn wrote for her in 2001... ... Following intermission Nelsons led a superb account of Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony.
Friday, July 05, 2019 | It says something for the reputation of John Wilson and his Orchestra that this joyful appendage to this year’s Grange Festival could sell like hot cakes without punters having much idea what they would hear. The Grange website gave nothing away. Might the players be offering a sneak preview of their forthcoming Proms appearances? Given that their conductor and onlie begetter is part way through a Glyndebourne stint, something plucked mainly from the back catalogue was perhaps always more likely.
Friday, July 05, 2019 | This was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Opening Night at Tanglewood, its summer home in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Andris Nelsons and Emanuel Ax collaborated on a delightful performance of K482. ... After intermission, Nelsons led a Mahler Fifth that showcased the virtuosity of the BSO, not least trumpeter Thomas Rolfs whose playing was extraordinary.
Friday, July 05, 2019 | Stephen Sondheim has never given himself an easy life when it comes to writing musicals. It goes without saying that anybody trying to stage any musical has probably had a tough time, even, say, Rodgers & Hammerstein who made their shows so successful that they ran and (in revivals) are still running for years on end, such as Oklahoma! and Carousel. ... After the successes of West Side Story, Gypsy and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (all of which were initially difficult to stage), Sondheim had a major flop with Anyone Can Whistle... ... And so we come to Merrily We Roll Along which in 1981, following fifty-two previews, survived a mere sixteen showings, which is not the worst record for a Sondheim show. ... However, the UK premiere was in 1983 by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama... ... Now, Guildhall School is revisiting the show. Today Merrily... doesn’t seem so revolutionary, perhaps because we have become used to Sondheim’s regular branching out on a limb.
Thursday, July 04, 2019 | This was the final programme in Mark Bebbington’s three-concert series of Pianograms, made up of music by Schubert and Chopin. It was, quite simply, a choice that appeared to be straightforwardly chosen, but in practice presented the artist with challenges of many interpretative difficulties – in short, of profound musicianship – all of which Bebbington surmounted with notable artistry.
Monday, July 01, 2019 | Louisa Muller’s new production of Britten’s nerve-shredding take on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw scores almost on too many points. The glass exterior of Garsington’s Opera Pavilion opens out onto sky, parkland, and a lake, so that the audience could just as well be in the park at Bly, the great house where a new governess and the ghosts of a servant and the previous governess do battle over the souls of Miles and Flora, the two isolated, orphaned children who live there with their housekeeper Mrs Grose.