Saturday 30 December 2017

Review of the year - 2017 in opera and concert reviews

English Touring Opera - Handel: Giulio Cesare - Christopher Ainslie,(Photo Richard Hubert Smith)
English Touring Opera - Handel: Giulio Cesare - Christopher Ainslie - (Photo Richard Hubert Smith)
2017 was the year that saw the creation of a brand new theatre at Grange Park Opera's new home in Surrey, alongside the creation of a new festival, The Grange Festival in Hampshire. 

Joyce DiDonato as Semiramide - Royal Opera (Photo Bill Cooper)
Joyce DiDonato as Semiramide - Royal Opera (Photo Bill Cooper)
Covent Garden gave us the first staging of Rossini's Semiramide for over a century, Buxton presented Verdi's original version of Verdi's Macbeth and Opera Holland Park staged Leoncavallo's Zaza.

In Dresden, Beethoven's Leonore brought the 40th Dresden Music Festival to a striking close, whilst in Riga an F.W. Murnau-inspired production of Gounod's Faust opened the Riga Opera Festival. Tony's travels this year took in both Bayreuth and Berlin, giving us reviews of the final outing of Frank Castorf's production of The Ring, and the Deutsche Oper's new production of Meyerbeer's Le prophète.

At the BBC Proms, William Christie gave us a rare chance to hear Handel's original three part version of Israel in Egypt. Rosenblatt Recitals at the Wigmore Hall sadly came to an end, but not before we had some memorable concerts, and the London Song Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with some imaginative programming. 
Here is a selection of our opera and concert reviews from 2017, the ones which have stayed in our memories.

Ginastera: Bomarzo - German Olvera, John Daszak, Hilary Summers - Teatro Real, Madrid (Photo Teatro Real)
Ginastera: Bomarzo - German Olvera, John Daszak, Hilary Summers
Teatro Real, Madrid (Photo Teatro Real)


  • Joyce DiDonato thrills as Rossini's Semiramide. On the Covent Garden stage for the first time in over a century; Rossini's last Italian opera benefits from some spectacular vocal and dramatic fireworks.
  • Giulio Cesare uncut: English Touring Opera in top form in Handel's opera split over two evenings 
  • La Clemenza di Tito in the Glyndebourne production at the BBC Proms; Strong musical values, and intense performances in this semi-staging at the Proms from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Robin Ticciati, with Alice Coote as Vitellia, a role she seems born to play
  • Rethinking early Verdi: gripping 1847 Macbeth at Buxton. Verdi's original version of Macbeth in a rare staging which brings out the subtlety and complexity of the work directed by Elijah Moshinsky, conducted by Stephen Barlow with Stephen Gadd in the title role.
  • A remarkable ensemble: Janacek's Jenufa at Grange Park Opera's new home. A quartet of strong performance illuminates a superb ensemble performance with Natalya Romaniw and Susan Bullock
  • Beethoven's Leonore brings the 40th Dresden Music Festival to a thrilling conclusion
    The original version of Beethoven's opera in a thrilling performance which combined period instruments with modern interventions
  • Respecting the drama: Annabel Arden's production of Carmen at the Grange Festival. A vividly engaging account of Bizet's opera performed with a sure sense of style
  • Immersive and thought-provoking: Silent Opera's Vixen. A radical yet vivid re-invention of Janacek's opera in an immersive setting on the streets of London directed by Daisy Evans
  • Powerful Murnau-inspired re-invention: Gounod's Faust in Riga
    German expressionist horror films inspire a striking production by a young Latvian director
  • Strong stuff: Ginastera's Bomarzo returns. A towering performance from John Daszak sets off this psychologically acute production of Ginastera's rarely performed opera at the Teatro Real in Madrid
  • On stage at last: Leoncavallo's Zaza from Opera Holland Park with Anne Sophie Duprels and Joel Montero.
  • Pointed delight: Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience from English Touring Opera. Taking itself seriously, but not too much so; ETO's sparkling production of its first G&S opera

Gounod: Faust - closing of Act One - (Photo: Agnese Zeltina (c) Latvian National Opera and Ballet)
Gounod: Faust - closing of Act One
(Photo: Agnese Zeltina (c) Latvian National Opera and Ballet)

Concert reviews
  • A Housman Dichterliebe - Gareth Brynmor John, Nigel Foster & Gabriel Woolf; A generously lyrical account of Schumann's great song-cycle interleaved with Housman poems at the London Song Festival
  • Lieder von Orient - Benjamin Appl and Graham Johnson at the Oxford Lieder Festival. A wonderful exploration; inspired by Middle-Eastern poetry, German poets provided 19th century composers with striking material
  • Glass & more - Baltic Sea Philharmonic's Waterworks at the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg. Kristjan Järvi and his young players fill the Elbphilharmonie with vibrant music-making
  • Back to the original -  Handel's three-part version of Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms; Superb choral singing in a virtuoso account of the original version of Handel's popular oratorio
  • Amazing line-up, wonderful evening - A serenade to music at Wigmore Hall. Seventeen singers, and two pianists in a magical evening which moved from Schubert's solo songs to RVW's serenade with some intriguing rarities on the way
  • Michael Spyres & Joyce El-Khoury in Auber, Halévy, Hérold, Donizetti & Rossini. Rare mid-19th century French opera and superb singing in an evening from Opera Rara at Cadogan Hall
  • Martynas Levickis at Club Inégales -  The young Lithuanian accordionist joins with composer Peter Wiegold's club to create some electric music making
  • Music & movement at Conway Hall - the Gildas Quartet brings a final twist to its programme of Haydn, Janacek & Bridge; The young string quartet bring energy, verve and a refreshing approach
  • Tallinn Spring - Vox Clamantis at the Estonian Music Days; a stunning start to our Tallinn visit, concentrated intensity in a century of Estonian choral music with Galina Grigorjeva, Cyrillus Kreek, Arvo Pärt
  • Tara Erraught at Rosenblatt Recitals - An imaginative and engaging programme gave us the opportunity to hear the Irish mezzo-soprano in a wide range of repertoire from Louis Spohr and Franz Lachner to Mozart, Rossini and Schubert
  • Diverse and engaging - Alina Ibragimova and the Scottish Ensemble. Two contrasting violin concertos by Bach and Hartmann form the centrepiece of a fascinating programme
  • First fruits - Tim Mead and James Baillieu in recital at Wigmore Hall. Twentieth century Romantic English song at the centre of this engaging recital from counter-tenor Tim Mead
aul Curievici, Pauls Putnins, Owain Browne - Maxwell Davies: The Lighthouse - Shadwell Opera (photo Nick Rutter)
Paul Curievici, Pauls Putnins, Owain Browne -
Maxwell Davies: The Lighthouse - Shadwell Opera (photo Nick Rutter)
Anthony's picks
  • Leaving you an emotional wreck: La Boheme at Covent Garden, a beautiful, collaborative work; Richard Jones new production  
  • A raw spine tingling delight: Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse from Shadwell Opera; an eloquent and emotionally brutal piece of theatre
  • Russian Revolution Centenary Concert: Ilona Domnich, Paul Whelan, Nigel Foster & Gabriel Woolf; A rare & intimate evening, first-hand accounts of the Russian Revolution interwoven with song. 
Ruth's picks
  • Solomon’s Knot having a ball with Bach's B minor Mass at St John’s Smith Square
  • I Musicanti putting together programmes of new and old repertoire for different combinations of instruments – and thoroughly enjoying themselves in the process
  • Lise Davidsen’s Rosenblatt Recital at Wigmore Hall – for the sense that we were hearing a big name of the future
Tony's picks
  • Thoughtfully directed and wonderfully sung: Meyerbeer's Le prophète from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin 
  • Ideas and creative energy: the final Frank Castorf directed Ring Cycle at the Bayreuth Festival

The new theatre at Grange Park Opera
The new theatre at Grange Park Opera
Elsewhere on this blog:

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