mon 20/05/2019

Opera Reviews

The Rake's Progress, Royal Opera House

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Not everyone was playing for the same team in last night's revival production of The Rake's Progress. On the one side were the conductor, choir and soloists, all focused in their service and submission to unravelling this quietly brilliant piece of neoclassicism by Stravinsky - mostly pretty effectively.

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Phaedra, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

In 2005, having completed the first act of his opera Phaedra and killed off his lead Hippolyte, Hans Werner Henze contracted a mystery illness. No one understood it or saw a way out of it. He stopped eating, then speaking. His eyes began to fail him. He fell into a coma. The musical world began to fly out to his Italian village outside Rome to pay their last respects and prepare for his funeral. Then, two inert months into the grief and the start of the obsequies, Henze "just...

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Popstar to Operastar, ITV1

Adam Sweeting

Naturally it would be impossible to reach an objective verdict on what is the worst programme ever shown on television, but it is at least safe to say that Popstar To Operastar is determined not to get left behind in the race to the bottom. This could also be said of some of its contestants, whose unfamiliarity with the concept of "singing" seemed surprising in people who perform music for a living, albeit of the non-operatic kind.

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La Bohème, Opera North

graham Rickson An improbably attractive cast: Bülent Bezdüz as Rodolfo and Anne Sophie Duprels as Mimì

This is a revival of the 1993 production originally directed by Phyllida Lloyd (of Mamma Mia! fame). Directed on this occasion by Peter Relton, it still works brilliantly. Lloyd has updated the setting to 1950s Paris with her young bohemians wearing polo necks, jeans and berets. A gleaming motorbike is one of the objects adorning their living space, its condition degenerating along with the health of Mìmi until it is replaced by a pedal cycle in the final act.

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Elektra, Gergiev, LSO, Barbican Hall

ismene Brown Richard Strauss's Elektra (1909): 'It can and should be moving, as well as unsettling'

Richard Strauss’s 1909 opera Elektra is a diabolical piece of work - less an opera than an event determined to cut its mark. A vast orchestra of 112 players unleashes a two-hour tsunami of sound across the stage, on which female voices are buffeted like pieces of driftwood, shrieking of mothers who murder husbands, daughters who want to murder mothers, rivers of blood, flayed horses, dogs, bodies. Subtle it isn’t. Loud it is. In the hands of Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra...

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The Seckerson Tapes: Edward and Igor look back at 2009

Igor Toronyi-Lalic Nina Stemme gives a career-defining performance as Isolde at Covent Garden in Autumn 2009

Since before Christmas theartsdesk has been reviewing the past decade and previewing the year to come in the arts. As an extra we offer this special edition of The Seckerson Tapes, in which Edward Seckerson and Igor Toronyi-Lalic discuss the year in music, which, in the concert hall, saw the triumph of the new romantics in conductors Riccardo Chailly and Yannick Nezet-Seguin and, operatically, saw the arrival of three penetrating new productions of operatic classics: the...

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Classical and Opera 2000-9: The Highs and Lows

theartsdesk

 

No great new movements or radically transformational figures emerged to dominate classical music in the Noughties (not even him up there). Just one small nagging question bedevilled us: will the art form survive? Well, it has. What appeared to be a late 20th-century decline in audience interest in the classical tradition was in fact a consumer weariness with the choices on offer.

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La Bohème, Royal Opera

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Very few of the staged goings-on in Covent Garden’s revival production of La Bohème this weekend rose above the level of mediocrity. The singing was blighted by illness and Eastern European bad habits. The 1970s set was as fresh as a fridge full of condemned meats. The 1970s vision of 19th century costume was extraordinary, as if the set of Abigail's Party had been emptied over the singers' heads. And yet, what an enjoyable evening.

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Imagine: Placido Domingo - The Time of My Life, BBC One

David Nice

How old Placido Domingo? Old Placido Domingo in not bad vocal health, to paraphrase Cary Grant's celebrated telegram reply. The other answer depends on your source of reference. Domingo is 68 in the eyes of last night's rather lazy, over-reverent Imagine, but 75 according to my not so New Everyman Dictionary of Music. Where did that come from?

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Carmen, Live from La Scala broadcast

Adam Sweeting Jonas Kaufmann as Don Jose clashes violently with Anita Rachvelishvili's Carmen

It was well worth a dash down a rain-deluged Shaftesbury Avenue to catch this live digital broadcast from Milan at the Odeon, Covent Garden. For a start it meant saving a plane fare and a ticket at 250 euros or (much) more, and it also meant eavesdropping in vivid close-up on what may have been a nugget of history in the making at the grand old opera house.

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