Songs and Fragments at the Aix Festival
Opera Today
by Michael Milenski
14h ago
That’s Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969) by Peter Maxwell Davies and Kafka-Fragmente (1987) by György Kurtág, an inspired pairing by Pierre Audi, the artistic director of the Aix Festival who directed György Kurtág’s only opera Fin de Partie (Beckett’s Endgame) for La Scala and Dutch National Opera in 2018. A violin unites the two pieces. The seventh song of Davies’ monodrama instructs the singer to smash a violin. The Kafka-Fragmente — 40 brief statements from Franz Kafka’s diaries — is a duet for soprano and violin. Though in Aix, in the seventh song the mad king seemed to shove the violin u ..read more
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Idomeneo, rè di Creta in Munich
Opera Today
by Mark Berry
3d ago
Take a stroll around central Munich and you may come upon a plaque on Altenhofstrasse indicating the spot where Mozart lived in the winter of 1780-81 whilst at work on Idomeneo. The opera was written for the Residenztheater, now generally known as the Cuvilliés-Theater, although now we saw it at the Nationaltheater, home since its 1818 opening to most of the Bavarian Court – latterly the State – Opera’s activities. Both theatres were eventually rebuilt after Allied bombing, although Mozart’s apartment building was destroyed for good in 1944.  A different staging of Idomeneo would have bee ..read more
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Le grand macabre in Munich
Opera Today
by Mark Berry
3d ago
The Fourth of July has obvious political meaning in the United States. This year, it also offered the date of the long-awaited British General Election: a curious event, strangely without drama given the near-certainty of its result, in strong contrast to others over the past two decades, yet with deeply ominous hints at what might be come, as well as the occasional moment of hope. Ligeti’s apocalyptic anti-anti-opera Le grand macabre could add a little piquancy to the date, its activity, and its commemoration—and certainly did, in what, perhaps surprisingly, is its Munich premiere production ..read more
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Madama Butterfly at the Aix Festival
Opera Today
by Michael Milenski
3d ago
Well, why not? Why not place this iconic statement of Italian verismo in the hands of a hyper-teutonic, avant-garde (ish) stage director, adding in a new-age Italian conductor for good measure. Not to mention a 50 year-old high-artifice diva, a heavy dose of anti-Americanism with a squawking tenor and a cold, sharp voiced baritone. The ancillary personages included an all-knowing Asian mezzo soprano, a motionless Asian bass, and two blatantly non-Asian tenors — an Italian and a Swede. But there were six, distinctly Asian black clad supernumerary dancer types, one or some of whom stood motionle ..read more
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Iphigénie at the Aix Festival
Opera Today
by Michael Milenski
5d ago
Both of them — her death in Aulide and her resurrection in Tauride, back to back, in a surreal world created by Russian stage director Dimitri Tcherniakov, rendered in overdrive within Gluck’s reformed operatic world by conductor Emanuelle Hahn and Le Concert d’Astrée. In Aix just now the diptych was twice as long but no less shattering than the Richard Strauss Elektra — though Gluck’s voiceless Elektra had been abandoned back in Aulide. In Tcherniakov’s Tauride a brutal Oreste, haunted by having killed his mother, was given ample rein to re-enact, repeatedly, the murder of Clytemnestra in a g ..read more
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A finely sung and staged Rake’s Progress from The Grange Festival
Opera Today
by David Truslove
1w ago
Based on Hogarth’s 18th-century morality tale in eight paintings and with a pithy libretto by WH Auden and Chester Kallman, Stravinsky’s operatic farewell to neo-classicism charts Tom Rakewell’s ironic “progress” from blissful ignorance to Bedlam. On the way he discards the ever-faithful and appropriately named Anne Trulove and succumbs to the temptations of Nick Shadow in the guise of the devil, whose news of a windfall inheritance catapults Tom to a dissolute life in London where he marries the bearded Baba-the-Turk, plunges into a wallet-emptying bread-making scheme and, after defeating his ..read more
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Puccini’s flawed Edgar from Opera Holland Park
Opera Today
by David Truslove
1w ago
A “blunder” was the verdict from Puccini’s biographer Mosco Carner in relation to the composer’s rarely performed second opera. Much has been voiced about the shortcomings of Edgar, Puccini himself declaring it a dud. That doesn’t mean we should not occasionally hear performances of a work once maligned by an early critic as a “sin against art”. That kind of pompous assessment doesn’t allow for considerations of sympathetic performance or direction. Of course, no matter how effective those qualities are, they cannot redeem a work for its poor libretto or its failure, as Charles Osbourne once c ..read more
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Tosca Revived: Angel Blue, Russell Thomas and Andrea Battistoni at the Royal Opera
Opera Today
by Marc Bridle
1w ago
The Royal Opera’s venerable production of Tosca – now in its seventeenth revival – is still a great one, but after my third visit in five or so years I did wonder if I could manage a fourth in the future. There was nothing much wrong with the quality of the singing here – rather, Peter Relton’s revival of it (and Mark Henderson’s lighting) distinctly challenged what I saw of it on stage. Having just a week earlier complained in a review about lighting that was too blazingly bright in an opera at the Royal College of Music, I now found myself in exactly the opposite place but with strikingly si ..read more
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A vivid concert performance of Handel’s Orlando brings out its magical elements
Opera Today
by Curtis Rogers
1w ago
In the midst of appearances at Garsington Opera as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Iestyn Davies took the title role in one of the sorts of Baroque opera that served Britten as a musical inspiration in the unusual decision, in the middle of the 20th century, for writing an operatic countertenor role. Like Britten’s adaptation of Shakespeare, Handel’s Orlando also comprises a scenario of fantasy and magic, ultimately based upon a great literary source (Ariosto’s Orlando furioso) and featuring confused, jealous pairs of lovers. Despite spending much of the narrative in a distracted state be ..read more
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Maximum emotional impact concludes a magnificent Ring cycle from Longborough
Opera Today
by David Truslove
1w ago
Longborough’s last two segments of Der Ring des Nibelungen outline the rise and fall of Siegfried, the demise of the Gods and the eventual return of the Ring to the Rhine. Its dramatic curve, foreshadowed in Das Rheingold, brings the curse of the Ring to an inevitable conclusion, a thirst for power ultimately yielding to human love. Serious as that sounds, Amy Lane’s Siegfried (rebooted from 2022) underlined the work’s comic elements, most obviously in the first two acts. In many ways this reflects an observation by Rupert Christiansen (The Faber Pocket Guide to Opera) that Siegfried is “often ..read more
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