Thursday, 30 April 2009

Review of "Norma"

My review of English Touring Opera's concert performance of Norma is here, on Music and Vision.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Endymion at 30

The Endymion Ensemble are celebrating their 30th birthday. Not only do they have a celebratory concert at the Temple Church on 7th May, when Mendelssohn and Haydn are on offer, but they have an entire mini-festival at Kings Place from 3rd to 6th London.

At Kings Place they will be performing a huge range of works. Brahms Horn Trio, Poulenc's Sextet and Mendelssohn's String Quintet No. 1 are there. But more interestingly, Endymion are including large number of contemporary works, by composers including Simon Holt, Simon Bainbridge, Edward Cowie, Maxwell Davies, Bayan Northcott, Philip Cashian, Brian Elias and Anthony Payne. Some are commissions from Endymion and the concerts will also include new music by London teenagers. If you like late night concerts then you have the chance to hear Birtwistle's Orpheus Elegies, Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time and Morton Feldman's Crippled Symmetry

The festival will be premiering some 20 new works! And they'll be recording things for a commemorative CD. A fine way to celebrate your birthday.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Recent CD Review

My review of Ave Maria, a disc of 17th century sacred music dedicated to the Virgin, performed by Nuria Rial and Bell'Arte Salzburg, is here on MusicWeb International.

Entrancing ...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Syllabicity

Now, some years ago I submitted a piece to a competition and the comment came back that my word setting was too syllabic; i.e. 1 note per syllable, rather than setting a syllable across a number of notes. I must confess that at the time I didn't really think about it, but last year a writer I was working with commented on the same thing. They suggested that, my having set their text, they would go back and remove some words/syllables so that the setting was had more than one note per syllable. I experimented with this in some songs and made a determined effort to write in a rather more melismatic manner. The result was successful, in that one of the songs won a competition. But the mechanism for doing this feels wrong, I have to struggle against my instincts each time I'm setting a text.

Currently I'm working on a short opera/oratorio which has long sections of recitative. Again the syllable thing came up and I have made a conscious effort to increase the number of notes. Often I've being doing this by repeating so that the words get the setting I want and are then repeated more melodically. This is something I'm going to have to continue to experiment with. Its obvious that people don't see/hear the relation between text and music in the same way that I do. I could, of course, ignore this but each time I set a line of text I start worrying that it comes over as too syllabic. In some ways, maybe, this is a good thing as it makes me thing again about the relationship between text and music.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Recent CD Review

My review of an historic recording of Haydn's Stabat Mater, Symphony 44 and Concerto for Violin and Harpsichord is here, on MusicWeb International.
Too many problems ...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Independent Opera's production of Pelleas et Melisande, with Andrew Foster-Williams' powerful performance as Golaud, is on the short list for the Royal Philharmonic Society's awards. The list is here. The list also includes the ENO and the ROH's production of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur.

The production of Pelleas et Melisandeis also going to make an appearance at the Buxton Festival next year, which is more good news.

Recent CD Review

My review of Red Priest's Priest on the Run is here, on MusicWeb International.

The suspicion of an adolescent desire to shock ...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Gleanings from this month's Opera magazine

A clutch of obits for sadly young musicians. David-Alexandre Borloz, a Swiss baritone who we saw at Grange Park was only 32. Australian soprano Deborah Riedel was only 50. Phyllida Ritter, who I first knew of as the Covent Garden Friends Administrator, was 49. Richard Salter, a British baritone hardly known in this country, was 65.

In Argentina they revived an opera sacra (!) by Monsignor Licino Refice based on the life of St. Cecilia; it was premiered in Rome in 1934 with Claudia Muzio, no less, in the title role. In Mexico they've just premiered an opera by Jose Maria Vitier with a libretto by the writer Carlos Fuentes. The opera, Santa Anna, was part of Fuentes 80th birthday celebrations.

In her review of Handel's Orlando from Melbourne, the reviewer suggests that Handel's treatment of Orlando is a subtle and ironic form of humour - the incongruity of a great warrior worrying about affairs of the heart. Interesting, I'd need to think about that one, but it makes you realise that Handel's original audience would have come to the opera with an entirely different set of mental baggage to us.

And over in Dresden history of a different sort came up. Evidently Boris Godunov may not have killed the Tsarevich after all and the new production at the Semper Opera used this fact.

In the review of Palestrina from Munich, the opera is described as a gloomy re-write of Die Meistersinger, another idea to go away and cogitate on.

In Rome, they've just had their first production of Verdi's Otello since 1968 and their first Der Rosenkavalier for 45 years.

In Pamplona you could hear Bellini's I Puritani in the 900 seater theatre - bliss.

Stockholm saw a new opera based on Torgny Lindgren's novel Batseba. As usual, it sounds as if the transformation of the novel to operatic stage was problematic. Novels usually have so much material in them that you end up having to jettison far too much material for comfort.

In Zurich, a new production of Tristan und Isolde set in the Villa Wesendonck, dealing with Wagner's affair with Mathilde Wesendonck - fascinating idea, and it sounds as if they production worked well.

The Haydn and Handel Society of Boston (USA) gave the first American performance of Haydn's The Creation 190 years ago.
Seattle saw Rosalind Plowright's Kytemnestra (in Elektra) - now, when can we hear it please!

Some more dates. Covent Garden's 1897 staging of La Boheme was not replaced until 1967 and the 1900 Tosca lasted until 1966!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sylvia

To the Coliseum on Friday to see David Bintley's new version of Sylvia. I have always found Delibes' score to be delightful, the horn melody for the first appearance of the nymphs is one of the great ballet music moments. And there are more. Though Delibes is content to give us bonnes bouches and neither develops nor digs as deep as Tchaikovsky.

I had not seen Bintley's original 1993 version of the ballet, so don't know how much it differs from the new version. Bintley prefaces the classical myth with a prologue (danced the the overture and scene one) set in an Italian villa with badly behaved count and countess, nanny, valet, children and sundry guests. The gardener is Eros, in retirement and he presents the story of Sylvia as an instructive moral tale for the Count and his family. At the end they reappear, suitably chastened and each with their correct partner. This works surprisingly well and for the opening gives us one of the longest sequences of classical ballet I've seen where the women are all wearing stilleto heels!

The main telling of the tale uses Delibes music slightly differently to Ashton, the role of Diana (the Countess) is far bigger, there are no peasants and in Act 3 there are a hilarious group of pirates along with Eros pretending to be a one legged pirate, complete with peg leg. The classical dance is lovely and serijavascript:void(0)ous, but Bintley keeps the comic moments moving so that the result is charming and entertaining.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Brumel's Earthquake Mass

On Saturday I joined a group of singers in Cambridge to give a scratch performance of Antoine Brumel's Earthquake Mass. It sounds an unlikely event, given that the mass is a substantial work in 12 parts, but having spent the day rehearsing we managed a very creditable performance of the work.

The piece gets its name because Brumel uses the plainchant Antiphon from Lauds for Easter which includes the bit from St. Matthew's Gospel about the veil of the temple being rent and the earth quaking. Brumel uses a lot of canonic effects so that the work sound tremendous. Rather curiously, the majority of parts lie in the tenor range. The soprano parts are low. The counter-tenor and tenor parts are all pretty much in the same range and the bass parts, for the most part, lie high. So instead of using 12 parts to cover a wide vocal range, Brumel uses 12 parts to create an amazing wodge of sound in the middle of the choral range.

Royal Opera new season

New Productions
The first new production of the season is Tristan und Isolde with Nina Stemme and Ben Heppner, conducted by Antonio Pappano. Unfortunately the production is in the hands of Christoph Loy, so we will be firmly in concept land. Pappano conducts.

Opera Genesis are presenting a new opera by Eleanor Alberga in the Linbury. Their track record so far has been patchy, but it is entirely laudable that they continue to try out new operas. Also in the Linbury is a rare outing for Arne's Artaxerxes with Christopher Ainslie in the title role. Conducted by the Ian Page and in association with his Classical Opera Company - make a date in the diary now.

Also, new, also in the Linbury is a revival of Jonathan Dove's perfectly wonderful The Enchanted Pig. We loved it at the Old Vic and look forward to seeing it again.

Tchaikovsky's Cherevichki is arriving in a new production by Francesca Zamballo with a mainly Russian speaking cast. I have happy memories of the ENO version of this with a memorable appearance of the Tsarina, or rather just her giant shoes. Except of course, that was Rimsky Korsakov's telling of the same tale!

Next new production is Prokofiev's The Gambler, being done In English! With John Tomlinson as the General, Susan Bickley as Babulenka, Roberto Sacca as Alexei and Angela Denoke as Polina. Richard Jones directs, with Antonio Pappano conducting.

For me, the potential highlight is the new production of Handel's Tamerlano. Except of course the production is not new and has travelled a bit. The guide has a rather ominous picture of the stage set with a giant purple elephant. Tamerlano is NOT a comedy. So fingers crossed. Ivor Bolton conducts a cast which includes Christianna Stotijn, Sara Mingardo, Christina Schafer and Renata Pokupic. But the name everyone will be following is Placido Domingo as Bajazet. Luckily the role is double cast so those of us who prefer to avoid Domingo can catch Kurt Streit who has proved himself a decent Handelian in the past.

A not so exciting new production. David McVicar's Aida; the opera is typically the elephant's graveyard at the Royal Opera so it will be interesting if McVicar can create something worthwhile (cue lots of dancing girls perhaps).


Laurent Pelly is directing the new Manon, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon (so we're not holding our breath too hard for the casting to stay in place).

Revivals

The premium revival must be Don Carlo, still in Italian alas. But now boasting Jonas Kaufmann as Don Caro. The remainder of the cast are pretty much as before (Marina Poplavskaya, Simon Keenlyside, Ferrucio Furlanetto, Sonia Ganassi, Robert Lloyd) with John Tomlinson as the Grand Inquisitor.

Prime Revival no. 2 is Der Rosenkavalier with Soile Isokoski, Sophie Koch and Lucy Crowe. I keep telling myself that I don't need to see the production again but then we get these fabulous casts!

Another good revival is Sir Charles Mackerras conducting Bill Bryden's wonderful production of The Cunning Little Vixen, this time with Emma Matthews and Christopher Maltman as the Gamekeeper. Emma Bell is luxury casting as the Fox and all the smaller roles are very strongly cast.

Carmen comes back with Elina Garanca, who made a memorable Romeo; she might make the production worth seeing. L'heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi are coming back with the same casts, another example of the terrible modern tendency to cast revivals with the same cast as the premiere.

Turco in Italia makes a welcome return (with a different cast!). Aleksandra Kurzak, who impressed in Mathilde di Shabran is Fiorella and Colin Lee, finally getting a decent run of something, as Don Narciso.

La Fille du Regiment comes back, but with Florez and Natalie Dessay again, though this time Colin Lee gets 3 performances rather than 1. Dawn French is off the menu as the Duchess and I suppose that we can't hope for Caballe who was the Duchess in Vienna.

Robert Lepage's dreary, pointless but realistic 1950's The Rakes Progress is coming back. It has Toby Spence in the title role and I think I might almost get over my dislike of the production just to hear him in the role. His Anne Trulove is Kate Royal.

There is a strong double-cast revival of McVicar's eminently intelligent Le Nozze di Figaro, with Erwin Schrott and Camilla Tilling as Figaro and his inamorata. Soile Isokoski does some performances of the Countess.

Salome is coming back with Angela Denoke in the title role. I think Denoke is a real soprano not a converted mezzo, so I look forward to her account.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Review of "Jephtha"

My review of Jephtha from the London Handel Festival is here, on Music and Vision.

Recent CD Review

My review of Pirates of the Baroque from Red Priest is here.
Exciting and invigorating ...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Over the Easter weekend we travelled to Norfolk and spent a few days touring, staying in a hotel in North Walsham. As the church (St. Nicholas's) is listed in Simon Jenkin's book of churches we decided to go to a service, Evensong on Sunday 12th.

It was a sung, solemn evensong with a choir, but the delightful surprise was that St. Nicholas still maintains a choir of men and boys. North Walsham is not a huge town and it is heartening to find that, in this modern age, the church still manages to maintain a lively boys choir.

The choir were notably hard working at the Solemn Evensong we attended. With just 7 men and 6 boys they gave us a Mag and Nunc, plus a Te Deum and the requisite Psalms along with hymns (including a processional one). The service concluded with a dashing French showpiece on the organ from the young organist.
Handel's own parish church, St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London, was the only place to be last night, the 250th anniversary of the composer's death. St. George's is one of the few performing interiors left in London which are associated with the composer and, as such, is the venue for the London Handel Festival. Last night the festival celebrated the end of the 2009 festival and the composer's anniversary with a tremendous performance of Jephtha with John Mark Ainsley in the title role. A full review will appear shortly

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Recent CD Review

My review of a disc of Domenico Scarlatti's choral music from the choir of King's College, Cambridge, is here, on MusicWeb International.
A programme worth investigating ...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Review of "Dido and Aeneas" and "Acis and Galatea"

Frankly, last night's double bill of Acis and Galatea and Dido and Aeneas at the Royal Opera House was something of a disappointment.

Dido looked stunning in Hildegard Bechtler's spare designs and the singers were all kitted out in slightly Japanese-esque long costumes (men and women) by Fontini Dimou. Wayne McGregor's view of Dido predominantly sombre which worked well with Sarah Connolly's superb Dido. But McGregor is also a choreographer and Dido included a group of dancers from the Royal Ballet, and of course the ballet includes dance music.

I think it was Ian Caddy who once said of the role of Aeneas, that it had never made sense to him until he had realised that Josiah Priest was a dancing master and that if he had taken Aeneas, dancing would have been as important as singing. But McGregor seems to have decided to take a 'divide and rule' option. The dancers danced and the singers sang and rarely did the two meet. In fact, apart from a little tentative movement, the singers were pretty static.

The dancers, wearing costumes which looked like stylish gym kit, appeared danced and went away again, rarely relating to the singers. Also their dance was all aerobic gymnastics, which did not seem to relate to the court atmosphere which McGregor needed to be creating. Perhaps some of this can put attributed to whatever the requirements and working conditions were in Milan where the production originated.

But all in all this was a Dido where the pleasures were mainly musical. In addition to Connolly's Dido there as Lucy Crowe's superb Belinda, bright, clear and brilliant. Lucas Meachem's Aeneas looked that part but seemed a little stiff, though neither Purcell nor McGregor really gave him much to do. Sara Fulgoni made a genuinely creepy sorceress, rather than a guyed one and Iestyn Davies was luxury casting as the Spirit.

After the interval the look change as Bechtler produced a series of translucent drops, evoking the pastoral beauties of the landscape lived in by Acis and Galatea. The opening chorus was danced with the singers invisible off stage, always an annoying event. I like to see the singers even if they are not required to act. The dancers all wore customised all-in-one leotards making them look unclothed and emphasising the fine lines of many of the bodies. Even if you didn't like Handel, this was a good evening provided you liked pert bottoms.

I must confess that Danielle de Niese and I have got off to a bad start. I first saw her live in David McVicar's Giulio Cesare for Glyndebourne (though we saw it at the Proms). I hated on sight the Bollywoodisation of Cleopatra's arias; I felt, and still feel, that this does not work emotionally and that we never really take Cleopatra seriously. That said, you can't fault de Niese for her ability to sing coloratura and dance. (Though Lisa Milne did similar when she played Morgana in the McVicar Alcina at ENO).

So Acis and Galatea was another opportunity to reassess de Niese. She came on wearing an ugly blond wig with a plait (one reviewer said it looked as if she was channelling Heidi). Not only was the wig ugly, but its flaxen blond colour was just not flattering to de Niese's complexion.

De Niese has a noticeable vibrato which gives her voice a rich, luxurious feel; you can understand why she plays sexy parts. She can do the complicated passagework, but it does not have the pinprick sharpness that I think it requires in this role. Many reviewers have compliments about her performance, but for me it seemed lacking. I longed to hear someone like Lucy Crowe in the role, she has the sort of bright, crisp delivery that I like (AND she can do sexy, just look at her Poppea in the ENO Agrippina).

Each singer got an attendant dancer to shadow them, so that even though de Niese trained as a dancer she was required, mostly, to be stationary whilst her shadow partner moved. This left one wondering where to look.

Acis was played by Charles Workman who looked the part. I found myself, however, less in tune with his voice. He sang with admirable firmness, but there was a quality in the voice which made it seem as if his voice was about to crack. I felt that his vocal quality would be ideal in later music, notably 19th century, but that he was not ideal in Handel.

Costumes were modern, as if the cast came in their street clothes. But this meant that Paul Agnew's Damon looked as if he had wandered of the set off Last of the Summer Wine. Agnew seemed luxury casting as Damon.

Matthew Rose has largeness of physique to play Polyphemus and he has the largeness of personality as well. Add to this a fine Handelian technique and I found that it was Rose's performance which I enjoyed the most. You felt profoundly sorry for the monster as he set his few treasures out only for Galatea to dismiss them.

There was another problem with the staging - its sheer busyness. We had both singers and dancers on stage all the time. And though McGregor's choreography was more plastic than in Dido, the results were sometimes overly busy. He seemed to need to fill every moment, and didn't trust Handel's music or really give it space.

Acis and Galatea is a masque, so its not the most dramatic of piece. Staged in such a hyperactive way, there were moments in the middle when the tempo simply sagged and you wished that McGregor had staged it in a more austere, less decoratorly fashion.

Musically things were in the safe hands of Christopher Hogwood with the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment, though I did wonder whether a few more instrumentalists might have made a richer sound in Covent Garden's cavernous acoustics.

So, all in all, not an ideal evening. But one that piqued one's interest; I would be happy to give a revised version of the show another go.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Chelsea Opera Group new season

Chelsea Opera Group have announced their 2009/2010 season. On 28/11/2009 they are performing Gluck's Alceste in the French version, conducted by Nicholas Collon. This will be a welcome chance to hear the opera in London as I don't think it has had a proper outing since the production for Janet Baker at the Royal Opera House.

Then on 21st February 2010 they are celebrating 10 years of their association with the soprano Nelly Miricioiu and presenting her in La Traviata. Finally, on 23 May 2010 we have Rossini's Guillaume Tell with Majella Cullagh as Mathilde, conducted by Dominic Wheeler. A mammoth undertaking but one which will be well worth it as this wonderful opera deserves to be performed more. Both these 2010 concerts are at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

COG's next concert is on 7th June 2009 when they are doing Verdi's original version of Simon Boccanegra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Recent CD Review

My review of a disc of Hildegard of Bingen's music given a new dressing up by percussionist Christoph Haas is here on MusicWeb International.

Hildegard’s music in dialogue with contemporary percussion ...

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

St. Matthew Passion from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

To the Barbican on Sunday to hear Bach's St. Matthew Passion performed by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly. Generally I prefer small forces in this work, particularly when it comes to singers. My preferred recording is Paul McCreesh's account with 1 voice to a part; we heard McCreesh and his forces perform the work at St. Johns Smith Square and were bowled over. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are currently touring their own St. Matthew Passion, again with just 8-singers but unfortunately we are going to miss the performance at the South Bank on Thursday, though seeing it performed with just 8 singers in the vast cavern of the Royal Festival Hall is not ideal.

So why, do you ask, were we at the Barbican on Sunday to hear the work sung by 90 singers and an orchestra of some 90 players. Well, I've never been completely dogmatic on the issue and my main response is 'convince me'. The a notable large scale version of the work that I saw was a performance at the Edinburgh Festival in the 1970's which had Jessye Norman singing the alto solos and this was, in many ways, profoundly moving.

Also, the Leipzig players have a special connection with Bach. Not only do the come from Leipzig where Bach spent his final great period of his life, but the orchestra was founded not long after he died. They are still involved in performing Bach cantatas at the St. Thomas Church.

One aspect of the performance that I had not anticipated was one which, frankly, made it most special. The two choirs were made up of boys from the St. Thomas Church and the Tölz Boys Choir, though in the case of the latter you had to stretch the word boy a little when it came to their tenors and basses. This meant that not only were the organisers arranging a tour for some 180 singers and musicians, but half of these were boys and some 60 were pre-pubertal boys. This was one of the biggest choir of boys that I have seen for a long time.

Would they be up to it? The answer was a resounding yes. St Thomas's provided Choir 1 with the Tölz Boys Choir making up choir 2. The choral sound was bright, clear, flexible and firm. They were responsive to Riccardo Chailly's shaping of the music, could spin long lines where necessary and had a brilliant attack in the turbae. All in all, I have never heard a performance quite like it.

The choir was beautifully counter-balanced by the Leipzig Orchestra. They provided some superb solo playing in the various arias and accompanied finely. Under Chailly's direction this was a highly shaped performance. Not for Chailly the emulation of period performance practice, he shaped the music as he would any later piece in the repertoire. And you have to respect him for it, this is a genuine performance style and if I have to have symphonic Bach, then I want it as good as this. As with Sir Colin Davis's Messiah with the LSO, the sheer quality of the music making and the superb way the singers and players responded to Chailly's vision made the whole thing worth while.

My only problem with this style performance is the nature of the extreme contrasts which it engenders. The Evangelist (Johannes Chum) sings accompanied by a few continuo instruments and then the chorus come blasting in with one of the turbae. You can't change it, if you want symphonic Bach then you get these extremes of contrast.

If I have left the soloists till last it is because they provided a well integrated, but not showy, ensemble which meshed in with Chailly's vision. You never felt that any of them were chafing under his direction and all shaped their musical lines accordingly, resulting in some moments of great beauty. Soprano Sibylla Rubens was a last minute replacement, but she still produced some beautifully refined tone. Mezzo Marie-Claude Chappuis was similarly refined. I did not feel that her performance reached the depth of expression that someone like Janet Baker brought to the role, but you sensed that refinement, stillness and great beauty were the keynotes of this performance. Tenor Maximillian Schmitt was a good equal to these. Extremely noteable was the bass soloist, Thomas Quasthoff, who contributed some of the finest singing of the evening, though his tendency to croon the quieter passages may not have been to everyone's taste (I'm in two minds about it myself!).

Johannes Chum contributed a vivid Evangelist, but stillness and beauty were still the watchwords and he never got over-wrought as some Evangelists can. I sensed that the part might lie a little high for him, there was a feeling that the top notes were carefully shaded off. But he never sounded strained and maintained his musical elegance to the end. Hanno Muller-Brachman was a Christus of noble demeanor with a voice which resembled the young John Tomlinson.

The same forces will be going into the studio to record the work and I can't wait to hear the results. Whilst symphonic Bach will remain something of a speciality for me, when performed like this who can resist.

Monday, 6 April 2009

ENO new Season

ENO have announced their 2009/10 season and, such is the way of these things, Autumn 2009 is already open for booking for Patrons.

Overall its a bit of a mixed bag, plenty of new stuff but rather too much mixture as before as well.

Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre in a production by the Catalan group La Fura del Baus arrives in the UK in September, having already had an outing on the Continent. Its a co-production, so comes with a polyglot cast, which might not be ideal. Still it will be interesting to see the work. Edward Gardner conducts.

Also keenly anticipated is Turandot in a production by theatre director Richard Goold. The title role is being sung by the German soprano Kirsten Blanck in what is also her role debut. Blanck has been gradually moving into heavier territory and I will be interested to hear her in the role. Her Calaf is Gwyn Hughes Jones, with Amanda Echalaz as Liu. Edward Gardner conducts. I have not yet been able to learn which edition they are using. It is too much to hope that they will use the uncut Alfano ending, which has not received a proper staging in the UK yet.

New in the autumn also is a double bill of Bluebeards Castle directed by Daniel Kramer, with The Rite of Spring, in a production by Michael Keegan Dolan and his Fabulous Beast company. Edward Gardner conducts. Curious combination, but then Bluebeard is always difficult to place.

Finally the Christmas offering is Messiah in a production by Deborah Warner. The only comment on this one can be why? When Handel has so many amazing theatre works which remain unperformed at the Coliseum, why try to perform on of his non-theatre works, and one which isn't even built around a dramatic narrative. Oh, well, at least it has a fine cast, Sophie Bevan, Catherine Wyn Rogeors, John Mark Ainsley and Brindley Sherratt conducted by Laurence Cummings.

After Christmas Jonathan Miller's L'Elisir d'Amore comes from New York City Opera. Set in 1950's America, I'm not sure why we need the new production when the previous one worked adequately. Still get get to hear Sarah Tynan, John Tessier and Andrew Shore in the leads.

Having done so well with Jenufa, David Alden is being let loose on Katya Kabanova, with Patricia Racette in the title role and Susan Bickley as the mother-in-law from hell.

More excitingly Fiona Shaw is directing Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers.

Another new Tosca hoves into sight, this time a production by Catherine Malfitano with Amanda Echalaz repeating her Opera Holland Park triumph, along with Julian Gavin and Anthony Michaels Moore. Edward Gardner conducts. Certainly a cast to look forward to.

Penny Woolcock is directing The Pearl Fishers, though its no longer the rarity that ENO think it is. No word yet on which edition they are using, but I do hope that they use Brad Cohen's edition which re-creates Bizet's original last Act rather then the confection generally used. Rory Macdonald conducts.

The final new production is Mozart's Idomeneo, directed by Katie Mitchell with Paul Nilon, Emma Bell and Sarah Tynan. Edward Gardner conducts. For this one we do know which edition they are using, they have chosen Mozart's Vienna version, which turns Idamante into a tenor and makes the casting rather too tenor heavy.

Actually there is one more new production, but this is going to be a site specific piece done in collaboration with Punchdrunk.

Revivals: Anthony Michaels Moore in Rigoletto. Turn of the Screw is back with the same 4 principals as when it was new, but with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting. Lucia di Lammermoor is back, again with Barry Banks and Anna Christy.

So we have two new productions (Tosca, L'Elisir d'Amore) which replace apparently viable existing ones. At least two revivals with near identical casts to the work's first outing. The only English operas are Turn of the Screw and Handel's Messiah.

There is enough in the season to generate interest, but the season includes no Strauss, no Wagner and no Verdi apart from Rigoletto. The management seem to have an unhealthy interest in Puccini. There is lots of interest in this season, but the overall shape is odd.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Recent CD Review

My review of Jake Heggie's opera Three Decembers is here.

Tuneful and accessible but would have benefited from a little more grit ...