sat 15/12/2018

Opera Features

theartsdesk in Brno: Czech 100th feted through Janáček and Smetana

David Nice

Five of Leoš Janáček's 10 operas are staples of the worldwide repertoire. Two I'd never seen on stage, so the slice I chose of the19-day festival devoted to all of them for the second time in the history of Brno, the cultured Moravian capital where he spent most of his life, tended to the rare and local.

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'I’ve told everyone that it’s a comedy – but will anyone laugh?' Jonathan Dove on his new Marx opera

Jonathan Dove

Marx is having a terrible day. He is supposed to be finishing volume two of Capital but he’s distracted by his lust for the maid, workmen are taking away the furniture, his daughter thinks she’s caught a spy.... and what will his wife say when she discovers he’s taken her silver to the pawnbroker?  Where is Engels when Marx needs him most?

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theartsdesk in Gothenburg - Wagner's gold turns green

Boyd Tonkin

Before we hear a note, extras dressed as maintenance staff potter about the stage. They try to erase a scrawled slogan on a wall that reads “Hur allt började”: how it all began. “It” is the story of Wagner’s Ring cycle as presaged in the introductory drama of Das Rheingold, which kicks off the tetralogy.

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theartsdesk in Stockholm: the Birgit Nilsson Prize unites two great Wagnerian sopranos

David Nice

Why are great Wagnerian singers the most down-to-earth and collegial in the world of opera? Perhaps you have to be to master and sustain the biggest roles in the business, ones which can't be performed in isolation, and a strong constitution helps, too. Birgit Nilsson, the farmer's daughter born in rural Sweden 100 years ago, had all those qualities and many more.

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Montserrat Caballé (1933-2018): from Bellini to 'Barcelona'

David Nice

Her special claim to fame was the most luminous pianissimo in the business, but that often went hand in velvet glove with fabulous breath control and a peerless sense of bel canto line. To know Maria de Montserrat Viviana Concepción Caballé i Folch, born in Barcelona 85 years ago, was clearly to love her. I never did (know her, that is), and I only saw her once, in a 1986 recital at the Edinburgh Festival.

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theartsdesk at the Suoni dal Golfo Festival - romantics shine in the Bay of Poets

David Nice

If only Liszt had started at the end of his Byron-inspired opera Sardanapalo. The mass immolation of Assyrian concubines might have been something to compare with the end of Wagner's Götterdämmerung. Instead he only sketched out the first act, complete until nearly the end, and the inevitable comparisons with the Wagner of the late 1840s are not unfavourable by any means.

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'I wanted a juke box that plays nothing but flip-sides' - Jeremy Sams on The Enchanted Island

Jeremy Sams

I have many files, in bulging boxes and dusty corners of my computer, of projects that, for whatever reason, never came to fruition. To be honest I’ve forgotten most of them. And I wrongly assumed that The Enchanted Island would be one of those abandoned orphans. On the face of it the notion was fanciful.

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theartsdesk at Itinéraire Baroque 2018 - canaries in front of a Périgord altar

David Nice

Brits are the folk you expect to encounter the most in the rural-England-on-steroids of the beautiful Dordogne. In my experience they outnumber the French, at least in high summer, not just as visitors and retired homeowners but also as artisans selling their wares in Riberac's big Friday market.

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Greed as the keynote: Robert Carsen on the timelessness of 'The Beggar's Opera'

Robert Carsen

In the time of composer John Gay, greed and self-interest were the main motives for life; and his work The Beggar’s Opera is an open critique on the way that society behaved. The work’s opening number sets the tone, basically saying: “we all abuse each other, we all steal from each other, we all want to get as much as we can and to hell with everybody else.”

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theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival - Italians, Ukrainians and an American promote peace

David Nice

Everything is political in the world's current turbulent freefall. The aim of Riccardo Muti's "Roads of Friendship" series, taking the young players of his Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra to cities from Sarajevo in 1997 to Moscow in 2000 and Tehran last year, has simply been "to perform with musicians from different cultures and religions" in a community of peace.

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