tue 11/08/2020

Opera Features

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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theartsdesk in Paris - following in the footsteps of Gounod

alexandra Coghlan

It’s a truism that history is written by the victors, but nowhere in classical music is the argument made more persuasively than in the legacy and reputation of Charles Gounod.

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Michael Chance on continuing opera in Hampshire: 'good people like to work with good people'

Michael Chance

Out of the blue comes a phone call. A freelance career is based on those to a certain extent. Certainly mine has been. But this one was a bit different. “Would you come and talk to us about the way forward?”. I soon learnt that what this actually meant was, “would you launch and run a new opera festival for us?”

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Franco Fagioli on performing the Baroque: 'a challenge is to interpret beyond the musical notation'

Franco Fagioli

I started singing when I was nine years old in my primary school choir. I sang plenty of solos there before moving on to another children’s choir; that was a formative experience for me. At this point, I was singing the soprano part and from here I was invited to sing in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. This was my first experience of opera, and one that gave me great joy and satisfaction.

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